Youth employability – July 31 2019

Brewing a new career

For Elin Yurtdas, 19, her job as a barista is more than just a job – it is an opportunity to learn something new every day.

Northern Cyprus, where Elin lives, has a youth unemployment rate of 20%[1]. Many young people struggle to find a job after leaving school, which is why SOS Children’s Villages Northern Cyprus established a Youth and Resource Centre in the coastal city of Kyrenia, known as GIGEM. The centre offers young people aged between 15-26 free training for a number of professions, including the barista training that Elin did.

“Being a barista is amazing. I haven’t enjoyed work like this before,” she says. “The best thing about my job is that I learn something every day,” she adds. “We learn how to communicate with people and about healthy eating.”

Developing skills and ideas

The Kyrenia Youth and Resource Centre was established in May 2017 in response to the high youth unemployment rate and a lack of social spaces for young people, says Ismail Bayramoğlu, project coordinator of the centre. “We wanted to create a place where young people can build their skills and also develop their own ideas and initiatives,” he says.

The centre offers English and information technology classes, as well as vocational training for professions such as barista, mechanic and electrician. Over the last two years, the centre has reached about 400 young people.

Students also learn how to develop start-ups and become an entrepreneur. “One young person created an NGO to clean small ponds and get rid of plastic,” says Ismail. “He developed his ideas and networks here. It’s a place of civic engagement.”

Vocational courses, accredited by local trade associations, last eight months and include a weekly theory class, practical classes and an exam. Students work in their chosen field while they study, allowing them to take home a wage as well as receive on-the-job training.

“This is one of the first centres of its kind [in Northern Cyprus]”, Ismail says. “We’re like pioneers – and we’re starting to see other projects replicating us.”

“I can find a job anywhere”

Elin’s barista training included weekly classes. She then found out about the job opportunity from the centre and applied to work in the café.

“Being a barista is a very good job, because I can find a job anywhere, so GIGEM helped me for that,” she says. “We learned new things about coffee – where did it come from, where did it travel to, and also the practical part was very helpful.”  

When she is not working at the café, Elin studies plastic arts at the local university, making sculptures and ceramics. She hopes to one day bring together her love of coffee and of art. “Maybe one day I can open my own place, which will include art and coffee. But right now I want to focus on my job and what I am learning at university,” she says.

Photo: Leonora Barclay.


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The “Social inclusion and economic empowerment of youngsters at risk in the Kyrenia district’’ project was financed by the Innovation and change in Education VI programme of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any information contained here.


[1] Youth Unemployment in Cyprus, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2016.