The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the Kyrgyz Republic has had a busy few months. After learning that the current education system isn’t preparing students to compete for private sector jobs, AmCham – with the assistance of CIPE – has been working with universities and its own member companies to address this challenge. Since there is no simple solution to eliminating the gap between what students learn in classrooms and what is expected of them in the job market, AmCham’s youth-mentorship and educational reform project has taken a multifaceted approach to tackling this issue.
Aiming to establish a stronger connection between the private sector and youth in the country, AmCham organized a program bringing the two groups together. This entailed leading a lecture series on career development for university students and visiting member companies’ offices to meet with top executives in Bishkek. At the end, students were asked to write essays detailing how they can become successful in the private sector based on what they learned from all the activities.
The essay contest was the highlight of the program because it proved that both the youth and companies deeply care about investing in the future of the Kyrgyz Republic’s economy. The essays composed by the participating students reflected how motivated they had become after meeting and hearing success stories from top corporate managers. Likewise, companies (including Hyatt Hotel and KPMG) also showed enthusiasm about engaging with youth. Not only did 15 AmCham member companies (in addition to CIPE) serve as judges for the contest, but they also funded the two first-place winners for a month-long English language program in London. Several companies also offered internships to few of the finalists – and internships are not as common in the country as one may think.
AmCham is also facilitating a dialogue between policy-makers, universities, and the private sector to address the educational gap. Members of the business community have started engaging with economics schools and the Ministry of Education to create a “Trustees Council” in order to review curriculums and establish a working partnership between employers and the youth. In the coming months, AmCham will host a roundtable discussion with stakeholders to discuss the current state of the education law and will continue to work to improve the education system to better prepare students for life in the real world.
Bringing together the youth, the private sector, and the government to address some of the pressing issues is not an easy task, but thus far Kyrgyzstan seems to be on the right track.