Preparing young Kazakhs for the modern workplace
As in much of the world, COVID-19 dramatically disrupted the education system in Kazakhstan, affecting young people’s opportunities and future job prospects. While many educators saw the transition to online learning as a temporary set-back, John Smith Trust Fellow Diana Tsoy (Kazakhstan, 2019) has used the challenging circumstances created by the pandemic to establish a forward-looking online training resource for her country’s young population. Alpharabius.kz is an online support resource for young people entering the professional world.
As Head of the Learning Pillar at the Bureau for Continuing Professional Development (BCPD) within the Astana International Financial Centre, Diana is focused on professional education, working with partners to design and implement new strategies and business models. She has designed several unique educational capacity-building programmes for students and professionals. With her background in science, engineering and finance, Diana is passionate about increasing financial literacy and numeracy education, particularly among girls.
During her JST Fellowship Programme in 2019, Diana’s Action Plan creating an accessible financial literacy campaign that targets citizens in both cities and the regions. Diana tells us: “People are taking payday loans for 700% interest to buy a new iphone model, while earning in average 3 GBP per hour.” While in the UK, Diana spent time with several organisations providing tools and activities to help young and adult learners with employability skills, improve their career prospects and empower them with money management and financial knowledge they need to live independently and thrive financially. She met with Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Institute for Enterprise and she spoke to counterparts running Barclays LifeSkills programme as well as to Money Advice Service. The UK charity MyBnk, which delivers expert-led financial education programmes for 5 to 25-year-olds, made the biggest impression on Diana. She says, “We would like to create content with ‘MyBnk’s methodological advice and want to visit them as a team for training.” Overall, Diana reflects: “The meetings gave me an opportunity to learn different approaches in developing financial literacy programs and were very useful. I met people responsible for financial education in schools and for adults. I was shown models I can use to evaluate my Action Plan results and was advised on approaches to attracting funds from the private sector. People were very engaged and helpful.”
Although the pandemic disrupted some elements of her Action Plan, upon her return home Diana was able to put the experience and information she’d gained into immediate use: she developed a new specific project on financial literacy and she and her team trained over 500 people, including teenagers from rural areas of Kazakhstan. But Diana didn’t stop there. The JST Leadership Weekend and various sessions developing soft skills needed for leading change got Diana thinking about how her organisation could support young people in Kazakhstan to develop these vital skills too. This reflection sparked the idea for Alpharabius, which focuses on ‘life skills’ – problem solving, negotiation, empathy development and communication – rather than traditional academic skills, therefore helping young people to become agile, adaptive learners and citizens equipped to navigate personal, academic, social, and economic challenges. The funding model for the platform is a low-cost monthly subscription, meaning that it is accessible to young people from different backgrounds and from lower income families. Diana and her team are continuing to attract funds from the private sector to promote CSR activities and create more programmes for young people.
Diana says: ”JST has shown me on practical, real life examples how social projects are launched and executed, both from the UK side and from other countries of JST fellows. The experience I got during the program is invaluable in terms of how it helped me to make my first steps in launching Alpharabius and I hope my project will grow from Kazakhstan to other Central Asian Countries.”