From 2010 to 2016, EDC’s Youth Employability Skills (YES) Network improved educational and workforce opportunities for over 11,000 youth in Macedonia. Notably, this tally included 450 youth with disabilities—a population that has historically been marginalized in the country’s schools and industry.
Gjorgji Kusevski, chief of party for the project, says that the YES Network has done more than just train youth. It has also changed attitudes about people with disabilities all across the country.
“We found initial resistance to inclusion on the part of teachers, facilitators, businesses, and others,” he says. “However, once youth with disabilities were included in activities, their inclusion catalyzed change, and many formerly reluctant stakeholders became champions of inclusion.”
To support youth with disabilities, the project distributed assistive technology devices and software—such as big-button, large-print keyboards, computer mouse alternatives, and screen reading software—to school-based career centers and job clubs in employment centers. Before the YES Network, most employment centers lacked any accommodations for youth with disabilities.
During its six-year run, the YES Network collaborated with the Macedonian government and industry partners. These partners gathered on June 7 to celebrate the program’s accomplishments.
“Macedonia has done an incredible job building a system where education, the government, and the private sector are all working together to support a population that needed it,” says Kusevski. “We are confident that these gains will last.”