A Game Changer in the Struggle to Reduce Unemployment

Monday the third of September saw three kick-offs in one day in the municipality of Struga—the opening of a newly renovated school sports hall; the signing of an agreement to train up five educated but unemployed youngsters; and a football match between UNDP and a team representing Struga.

The match was played to mark the re-opening of the sports hall of the local Niko Nestor secondary school which was badly damaged last winter and subsequently renovated in a joint effort by UNDP and the municipality of Struga—a successful cooperation that completed the project in only 45 days.

The school’s two directors, who also played in the football match after the opening, welcomed the re-opening of the sports hall and thanked UNDP, the mayor and staff of the municipality, and the Kingdom of Spain which provided the funding for the renovation within the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund. UNDP undertook the project in the framework of the joint programme for promoting inter-ethnic tolerance and celebrating diversity.

The match provided an excellent opportunity for UNDP and the local government of Struga to sign up five young people to a new job-creation scheme—the Community Work Programme. This programme aims to help the young, long-term unemployed gain new skills and become more competitive on the labor market. It is implemented with the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Employment Service Agency.

The Municipality of Struga is piloting the programme to give educated but unemployed youth valuable work experience that will give them  new social and communication skills that should help them find future, long-term work. For five months they will work part-time in Struga’s newly established tourist information centres.

After graduating I couldn’t find any work and it was starting to get really disheartening,” says Ardit Mustafai, one of the five successful applicants for the scheme, “But this is an opportunity that’s going to look great on my CV. I feel like I’m going places at last.”


“We all came away with a good result today,” said Alessandro Fracassetti after the game, proving that some football clichés aren’t just empty words.


And last but not least, about the football results…Despite the presence of two of the country’s international soccer stars on the Struga team—Artim Shakiri, Artim Pollozhani–as well as the mayor of the municipality himself, Ramiz Merko, the visiting team from UNDP managed to muster up a respectable result when goals delivered by Alessandro Fracassetti, our Deputy Resident Representative, and Ardian Skikuli from our Self-Employment project brought the final score to 2-2.