By Angelina Davydova
“Rabota-i” is a social recruitment agency, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which helps international and Russian companies recruit job applicants from disadvantaged social backgrounds. It seeks to provide employment to youth who’ve recently left state-run orphanages or NGOs, and also to young disabled people with no prior work experience - both social groups find it difficult to secure employment on their own, mainly due to a lack of practical skills and low motivation.
Tatyana, 19, a recent graduate from the SOS Children village Pushkin, outside St. Petersburg, now works as a cashier at an IKEA store. “Before this I only worked unofficially, and this is my first proper job – I really had to fight hard against my fears, but I tried and it worked out”, she says. For the first nine months of her employment, she was under the supervision of her IKEA colleagues and the specialists of “Rabota-i”.
“If you grow up in an orphanage in Russia, you end up having practically no skills by the time you leave. Public care systems are very strictly structured and socially isolating, which means that you also tend to have very low motivation for finding a job. You end up living on social welfare and communicating with a handful of other leavers”, says Mikhail Krivonos, founder of “Rabota-i”.
Six years ago Mikhail left his job at an international consulting company. He set up a social enterprise “Rabota-i” (“rabota” meaning “work” in Russian). ‘Rabota-i’ helps match companies with young people with low employment prospects. The social enterprise was created following the model of similar large-scale Scandinavian organizations– Samhall from Sweden, Vates from Finland or Klapjob from Denmark.
Every year in Russia some 10,000 to 15,000 young people leave state-run social care institutions (between 300 and 400 in St. Petersburg), with only 7% to 10% finding employment and becoming part of actively contributing to society. The majority of young graduates lives on social welfare and socializes in closed groups. Some of them go onto engage in criminal activities and suffer from alcohol or drug abuse.
“When we first started in 2011 we might interview 30 young graduates for existing job vacancies with only five of them getting back to us after the interview and only one securing a job – and then later leaving the position on the second day. But it is different now”, says Mikhail. “Rabota-i” invests in training and coaching candidates. “Rabota-i” also assists companies with adapting to their new employees, providing consultancy and coaching at the workplace for the first six to nine months. “We are working to fulfill the demand of businesses – the financial support and control of “Rabota-i” also comes from a number of Russian and international companies (including Melon Fashion Group, IKEA, Gazprom Neft, East Capital and Jochnick foundation)”, Mikhail says.
The second target group of “Rabota-i” is young people with disabilities, who’ve grown up either in care institutions or at home. Still, most of them also find it extremely difficult to enter job market. “I have always felt ashamed of my disability, which prevented my communication with people and chances of finding a job. However, when I came for a job interview with Maersk Line I finally felt comfortable, as if they didn’t notice that I was disabled”, says one of the applicants, Alexander, 25.
Last year “Rabota-i” provided employment training for around 700 young people in St. Petersburg. “We try to help the ones who find it the most difficult to find jobs, young people up to 29 years old, who’ve not had an employment experience of longer than six months”, says Mikhail. Most of the applicants have found their jobs as junior shop assistants, administrative assistants, cleaning personnel, cloakroom attendants, watchmen, delivery men, cooks, repairmen.
“Our main aim is to help these disadvantaged young people have normal lives, to actively participate in society and to start a financially independent life”, Mikhail adds. Among the employers are big international and Russian companies, including Ahlers, befree, IKEA, JTI, KFC, Ulmart, Vaillant, ZARINA, and many others.
So far “Rabota-i” has only been active in the St. Petersburg area, but it plans to expand to other regions of Russia. “Both St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia’s largest cities, have almost zero unemployment, making it easier for companies to open up for inclusive employment”, Mikhail Krivonos argues.
The company has also been actively cooperating with other social enterprises and NGOs that provide social adaptation programs. “Rabota-i” has attracted more than 600 NGO social workers engaged in working for social care institutions or with disabled youth to spread the word about employment opportunities for young people.
“We hope to create a framework available for organizations around Russia, including relevant approaches to vacancies and candidates, and ultimately to turn the organization into both a kind of a network, and also into a sustainable model which can easily be reproduced”, Mikhail also adds.