Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme of German Business
Title: Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme of German Business
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia
Overall term: 2014 to 2016
Directly following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003, the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations (Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft, a joint organisation of the leading associations representing German business) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) launched the Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme. The two organisations wanted to honour the legacy of the Prime Minister and to draw the people of Serbia and the other countries in the region closer to the European Union.
The Western Balkan region continues to suffer from very high youth unemployment. At the same time, companies view the shortage of qualified workers as a major obstacle to conducting business in the region. In the Western Balkans, university education does not generally include any practical experience, so that university graduates often lack the practical skills they need to gain a foothold in the professional world and move forward with their careers. Their knowledge and skills do not meet the requirements of potential employers.
The knowledge and skills demonstrated by university graduates are increasingly closer to those required by employers.
The Internship Programme of German Business offers students and recent university graduates from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia the opportunity to enrol for three to six-month corporate internships at leading German companies. These internships give the students an insight into Germany's corporate culture and introduce them to up-to-date management methods and work organisation.
Following their stay in Germany, the interns return to their respective home countries, bringing with them the know-how and skills they have acquired in Germany. The experience they have gained and the contacts they have made contribute to the economic development of their home countries and pave the way for productive bilateral relations with Germany; they also foster the formation and cultivation of business connections within the region itself. To maintain the momentum of this potential once the interns have returned home, the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations and the Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme support an alumni network for former interns, with numerous activities in the countries in the region.
Through the internships and the intern alumni network, the programme makes an important contribution to regional reconciliation, vitalises business connections, and creates a pan-industrial network of young, internationally-minded professionals in the region.
Results achieved so far
Following three successful years, the internship programme was extended to encompass all the countries of the Western Balkans in 2007 and 2009.
Since 2004, around 450 young people from the Western Balkans have completed internships at more than 80 German companies.
The interns integrate their experience with German corporate culture into their everyday professional life. Thus the programme contributes significantly to advancing the skills of young people who think in international terms and want to help shape their country's economic and industrial development. In recent years the alumni network has developed successfully. To date it has more than 580 members, of whom 300 are active in local alumni clubs.
A 2012 follow-up survey showed that upon their return to their home countries, of some 250 participants interviewed 53.1 per cent - more than half - continued their studies, and 41.1 per cent found immediate employment. Particularly significant is the programme's major influence on regional understanding. Some 84 per cent of the participants reported that they had strengthened their regional connections and networks through the internship programme. The new contacts forged by the former interns' in their professional life are on a par with those newly formed in their social life. The programme has thus fostered intra-regional understanding to a measurable degree. All the region's countries take part in equal measure.