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At 25, Aleksandar Vrhovac, a resident of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had no previous work experience. He knew nothing about how to prepare a resume, look for a job or present himself in an interview—until he went to one of the new centres for information, counselling and education opening up across the country.

“The only choice I’ve had for the last two years has been to stay without a job or to work illegally,” says Aleksandar. “In the end I started to look for work in another country. I really had no hope that anything would change.”

The centres emerged from a collaborative initiative launched in 2009, in partnership with the Government and with financial support from the Government of Spain. Different UN agencies contributed their expertise to plan and deliver services specifically tailored to young people new to the job market.

UNDP offered help on assessing the market and providing training to the centres’ staff to ensure the new services would be relevant to young people and stimulate demand.

The Government helped find space for several centres, and the country’s Public Employment Institutes began incorporating the centres’ operating expenses within their own budgets to ensure sustainability.

Across the country, 16 centres now provide standardized quality services to unemployed youth, teaching them to write resumes, succeed in job interviews, develop job searches, and find work placements and internships. In their first 14 months of operation, the centres have provided career counselling and skills training to more than 6,800 young people, of whom almost 1,800 gained their first work experience.

“I’m so happy to be able to work,” says Aleksandar, who found employment in a food distribution company. “The staff at the local centre really encouraged me and built up my confidence.”

Plans call for opening an additional 14 centres across Bosnia and Herzegovina, while staff at some of the centres are able to travel and provide services in areas that do not yet have their own centres.