'Windows of opportunity' for entrepreneurs

01 Jun 2006

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Since 2002, hundreds of people in Southeast Turkey have received training on entrepreneurship which provided them the opportunity to set up businesses or acquire jobs; dozens of companies in the region have also received training on commerce and investment making, as well as capacity building, management and new trends in trading; and an equal number of other companies benefited from consultancy services which helped them prepare feasibility studies and work plans to improve their businesses.

New Horizons  - Entrepreneur Support Centres (GİDEMs) in four major cities of the GAP Region, established within the framework of the project jointly conducted by the UNDP, the European Commission and the GAP Regional Development Agency, have opened up "windows of opportunity" in the truest sense for the potential entrepreneurs of the region. The Textile Training Centre in Adıyaman, the Centre for the Development of Agriculture-based Industries in Adıyaman and Şanlıurfa, the Centre for the Development of Women's Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurship Centre of Dicle University, both in Diyarbakır, and Silver-Working and Home Wine-Making Centre in Mardin are a few of these "windows of opportunity". We visited and toured the Textile Training Centre in Adıyaman with GIDEM's Adıyaman Office Coordinator Mr. Sırrı Özen. Here is what he told the New Horizons about the activities of this important training centre:

Sırrı Özen, Coordinator of GİDEM in Adıyaman

Sırrı Özen (S.Ö.): Here, at Adıyaman Textile Training Centre, we educate young people to become qualified workers in the ready-to-wear sector. We have 52 machines, including sewing machines, as well as overlook, fitting, cutting, button and buttonhole and stiching machines and press irons.

UNDP Turkey: How did this project begin?

S.Ö.: When GİDEMs started their "Windows of Opportunity" projects, they asked us if we would want to develop a project for Adıyaman, too. I was already familiar with the state of the ready-to-wear textile business in our town; during a previous inventory study we carried out in this sector, companies mostly complained about lack of qualified personnel to employ.

UNDP Turkey: Which year was this?

S.Ö.: It was in 2003. Well, so we decided to ask for the support of the Textile Industrialists' Association -because they had all the necessary machinery park- and having gained it, we launched on a project of our own, and named it "Adıyaman Textile Training Centre". We created a detailed project, with the help of the Governer, the Mayor and the Deputy-Mayor of Adıyaman, and prepared the budget of the project. As a GIDEM office, we were only able to train the teaching staff and supply necessary training materials; but we could not afford to pay wages to the staff. We consulted the university administrators and agreed with them to hire their graduates, as well as professionals of the sector, following an examination to choose the right trainers for this purpose. The exam was prepared and given by the experts of KOSGEB from Istanbul, of the Ministry of National Education and the EU's Vocational Technical Education Project specialists. The exam had three sections: written, oral and general aptitude. After having passed the exam, the selected trainer candidates, there were 18 of them at the time, attended a special course here for two months, and received their certificates. So we gave our certificates, appointed our trainers, readied our machines and searched for a location to start our classes. The Town Council allocated this building to us and we began our training courses. KOSGEB paid our trainers' wages. The important thing was to connect all these different institutions. We were able to bring together 9 different establishments for this purpose. We trained 370 people, 200 of them are currently employed.

UNDP Turkey: Still, 200 of them are working.

S.Ö.: Yes, and the rest is not working because they don't want to. For example, at the end of the first training period, only 7 of the graduates acquired jobs in the industry, the rest simply disappeared! I guess, the attitude was "now that I have the certificate, sound and strong, why should I work?" We discussed this situation with the trainers, and decided that the certificates should be given, not by us, but by the factory or company, and only to those who actually work there. And this worked! Gradually the men began to take up jobs; now there are 200 of them, maybe even more.

UNDP Turkey: So, the industry needs workers, but there's little demand for jobs?

S.Ö.: Exactly, the sector desparately needs more employees! While we were conducting the courses here, I used to recieve letters from factories and workshops, saying they need 40-50 workers.

UNDP Turkey: But why don't they work?

S.Ö.: This is a social problem. Some consider it disgraceful to work for others. Some fathers offer to pay their sons the amount (say, 200-250 YTL) which they could earn from factory jobs. Some consider it more profitable to work in seasonal jobs, instead of a regular one. They work for several months each year, collect a lump sum and use it for the rest of the year. This shows that industrial culture hasn't been truly adopted in Adıyaman, yet. We are still in the initial stage.

UNDP Turkey: Do some people want to get these certificates for other purposes? For example, to show off a diploma?

S.Ö.: Certainly! It's a common situation... Some fathers require this certificate from the bridegroom as a condition to marry their daugther off. Some young men come to these courses just to get the diploma, so he can get married. Then he invites his teachers to the wedding! I remember a 40-year-old man coming here and literally crying and begging to be admitted to the training courses, saying that otherwise he had no chance of moving ahead in life. So our certificate is almost valued as a university diploma! Whether they get a job afterwards is not so important. This place is like a school. Not all students graduating from formal textile schools become employed in the textile sector; same is the case here, we have shrinkages, too. Our centre is really like a university, some 1,700 people have applied to be admitted to our courses, and the number increases every day.

UNDP Turkey: How many trainers do you have?

S.Ö.: Presently, we have 12 of them.

UNDP Turkey: Are similar activities carried out at the other two GİDEM centres?

S.Ö.: No, ours is the only one which conducts a vocational training project. The GİDEM in Mardin works on wine-making and filigree craftsmanship. There is the development of women's entrepreneurship project and marble-working project in Diyarbakır, and ecological agriculture project in Urfa.