Oya Ünlü Kızıl, Director of Corporate Communications and External Affairs for Koç Holding, shares how and what Koç has learned about Employee Volunteering in Turkey from the experience of their award winning programme "Vocational Education: A crutial Matter for the Nation".
What was the inspiration for Koç Holding to design this programme?
Koç Group has committed itself to taking action on two intertwined issues that present an obstacle to the development of Turkey as well as Koç Holding itself: High rates of youth unemployment, and insufficiency of qualified employees on the labor market.
Koç Group found that many issues, including the low enrollment rate and gender disparity in secondary education, raised expectations from university degree and consequently high unemployment rates and skills gap have a common ground, that is, the low quality and public perception of vocational education in Turkey.
Accordingly, as Turkey’s largest industrial and services company group, Koç decided to mobilize the expertise, assets and skills it possesses in different sectors including automotive, tourism, food, energy, consumer durables and finance for tackling with these developmental challenges.
What does the experience mean to the employees involved in this activity? What do they get out of it?
The Project provided benefit to the employees in various levels. 350 volunteers from 21 Group companies worked as Vocational High School Coaches in the Project so as to increase the employability of the vocational high school students through developing their personnel and professional skills. The coaches served as a bridge between the schools and workplaces. They analyzed the needs of both of the institutions, developed solutions and played a key role in the steering of the Project. The immediate impacts of the Project over the employees have been the increase in their motivation, the sense of self-fulfillment and sense of responsible citizenship.
Were there any specific benefits to Koç the business as a result of the development of this programme?
The most important lesson learned throughout the project has been the importance of monitoring activities and flexibility of the project design. This lesson will be used in other CSR activities of the Group. Secondly, the involvement of companies from different sectors in the Project showed the fact that the sector specific approaches are needed to be developed in order to attain highest benefit from public-private partnerships. In this regard, in some cases, laboratory requirements gained currency while in others the need for sectoral collaborations became obvious. Another proposal was that companies may take into consideration not only the high schools, but other vocational education vehicles in their own field of activity. After this and similar propositions, the Koç Companies have been given the go-ahead to develop more employment-focused micro-vocational education projects, which will contribute to the development of high-qualified workforce.
How does the Employee Volunteering programme support people facing barriers to employment?
350 volunteers from 21 Group companies, who themselves are vocational school graduates, developed the personal and professional skills of vocational education students. 12 interactive modules were developed, each responds to the needs of the students in different grades.
8000 young people from socially disadvantaged sections of the society benefited from the scholarship support. According to the results of the school surveys, the Project positively impacted not only the grantees but the vocational education students in various levels.
80 percent of the grantees requesting internship completed their internship term within the Koç Group. 11 Fiat (Tofaş), 4 Tüpraş, and 2 Ford Laboratories were opened in order to provide the students with the opportunity to develop their technical skills and to increase the quality of vocational education in line with the contemporary production methods.
In addition to the coaching and internship supports, the grantees also benefited from various skills development opportunities provided throughout the project. In this regard, 2.461 grantees were trained on environmental issues, entrepreneurship, and IT.
While all these efforts combined, the qualitative researches conducted with grantees, their families and Koç Group employees reveal the facts that:
- The personal and professional skills of the students improved. Their level of employability increased.
- The awareness of young people on social responsibility issues and volunteering increased.
- The level of self-esteem of the grantees improved significantly throughout the project. Their relations with their friends and families improved.In addition to the increase in the employability of the young people, all those partnership efforts of Koç Group provided Koç Group companies and other private sector institutions with qualified labor force.
How do you plan to develop the programme further and create a larger impact?
Since the start of the Project 2006, there has been a significant increase in the amount of public-private partnerships in the field of vocational education. The Ministry of Education declared the Project as a best practice for similar projects. The model developed in the project provided input for two draft strategy documents and one operational document of governmental organizations in the fields of employment and education.
The project yielded results consistent with its purposes. However, the success of the vocational education in Turkey requires expansion and definition of new horizons. In this regard, efforts for the next period of the Project focus on the extension of the shareholders and establish a second phase with new schools; encouraging these pilot practices with EU grants, as they may attract other companies outside Koç Group via the Ministry of Education; and the roll-out of the project model across Turkey to ensure its sustainability.
Since 2009, modeling efforts are conducted to reinforce awareness and the cooperation of public-private sector/non-governmental organizations/schools based on the knowledge gained nationwide due to the project.
Do you have any advice for companies on how to engage/involve their workforce in these sorts of activities?
The activities must be based on the common goal of making our country a global power with competitive, dynamic, knowledge-based and sustainable economic growth, by improving both the quality and quantity of vocational and technical education.
In addition to the Vocational Competencies Authority, the Ministry of Education, the Council for Higher Education, the Student Selection and Placement Center, and the Employment Agency, all of whom will make significant contributions; this project must also include non-governmental organizations. The cooperation with the private sector is particularly crucial in addressing the not-yet-fully established relationship between the educational system and the labor market. We will direct our subsequent efforts in this direction and call for every other company to join forces with us.