Rabota-i is a social recruitment agency, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which helps Russian and international companies recruit job applicants from disadvantaged social backgrounds. It seeks to provide employment to young people who’ve recently left state-run orphanages or NGOs, and also young disabled people with no prior work experience—both social groups find it difficult to secure employment on their own, mainly due to a lack of practical skills and low motivation.
Tatyana, 19, a recent graduate from the SOS Children’s Village Pushkin, outside St. Petersburg, now works as a cashier at an IKEA store. “Before this I only worked unofficially and this is my first proper job—I really had to fight hard against my fears, but I tried and it worked out,” she said. For the first nine months of her employment, she was under the supervision of her IKEA colleagues and the Rabota-i specialists.
“If you grow up in an orphanage in Russia, you end up having practically no skills by the time you leave. Public care systems are very strictly structured and socially isolating, which means that you also tend to have very low motivation for finding a job. You end up living on social welfare and communicating with a handful of other leavers,” said Mikhail Krivonos, founder of Rabota-i.
Six years ago Mikhail started a job at an international consulting company. He set up a social enterprise, Rabota-i (“rabota” meaning “work” in Russian), which helps match companies with young people with low employment prospects. The social enterprise was modeled on similar large-scale Scandinavian organizations—Samhall from Sweden, Vates from Finland and Klapjob from Denmark.
Every year in Russia some 10,000 to 15,000 young people leave state-run social care institutions (between 300 and 400 in St. Petersburg), with only seven to 10 percent finding employment and actively contributing to society. The majority of young graduates live on social welfare and socialize in closed groups. Some of them go onto engage in criminal activities and suffer from alcohol or drug abuse.
“When we first started in 2011 we would interview 30 or so young graduates for existing job vacancies with only five of them getting back to us after the interview and only one securing a job—and then later leaving the position on the second day. But it is different now,” said Mikhail. Rabota-i invests in training and coaching candidates; it also assists companies with adapting to their new employees, providing consultancy and coaching at the workplace for the first six to nine months. “We are working to fulfill the demand of businesses—the financial support and control of Rabota-i also comes from a number of Russian and international companies (including Melon Fashion Group, IKEA, Gazprom Neft, East Capital and Jochnick foundation),” Mikhail said.
The second target group of Rabota-i is young people with disabilities, who’ve grown up either in care institutions or at home. Still, most of them find it extremely difficult to enter job market. “I have always felt ashamed of my disability, which prevented me from communicating with people and any chances of finding a job. However, when I came for a job interview with Maersk Line, I finally felt comfortable, as if they didn’t notice that I was disabled,” said Alexander, 25, one of the applicants.
Last year, Rabota-i provided employment training for around 700 young people in St. Petersburg. “We try to help those who find it the most difficult to find jobs—young people up to age 29 who’ve not held employment for longer than six months,” said Mikhail. Most of the applicants have found jobs as junior shop assistants, administrative assistants, cleaning personnel, cloakroom attendants and cooks, or working in security, delivery and repairs.
“Our main aim is to help these disadvantaged young people lead normal lives, to actively participate in society and to start a financially independent life,” Mikhail adds. Among the employers are big international and Russian companies, including Ahlers, be free, IKEA, JTI, KFC, Ulmart, Vaillant, ZARINA and many others.
So far Rabota-i has only been active in the St. Petersburg area, but it plans to expand to other regions of Russia. “Both St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia’s largest cities, have almost zero unemployment, making it easier for companies to open up for inclusive employment,” Mikhail Krivonos argued.
The company has also been actively cooperating with other social enterprises and NGOs that provide social adaptation programs. Rabota-i has attracted more than 600 NGO employees engaged in working for social care institutions or with disabled youth to spread the word about employment opportunities for young people.
“We hope to create a framework available for organizations around Russia, including relevant approaches to vacancies and candidates, and ultimately to turn the organization into a kind of a network as well as into a sustainable model which can easily be reproduced,” Mikhail explained.
This article was originally published in Kommersant and shared by Egypt Independent as part of our participation in Impact Journalism Day on which 50 of the world’s leading newspapers feature 60 social innovators who come up with innovative, beneficial solutions for better access to health and education, respect for the environment, good nutrition, sustainable energy.