The Women4IT Project in Latvia
In June 2022, 53 young women graduated from the Women4IT training program organized by the Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association (LIKTA), under which young women aged 18-29, who were not in employment or education (NEET) at the same time, had the opportunity to learn one of the eight jobs profiles of digital work and to receive career development support.
The Women4IT Training Programme in Latvia is implemented by LIKTA in cooperation with the State Employment Agency (SEA), and aimed to offer a space for women of all ages, but especially young women, to learn, participate in career days and attend career building seminars and workshops. The third and last phase of the project started in March 2022, offering an opportunity for participants to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in 1 of the 3 most sought after digital profiles - within the space of 3 months. The most popular job profile was the job of the Information Systems' Tester with 20 participants marking it as a preference. Another 18 participants voted for the job the Digital Media Specialist, and 14 participants chose the profile of the Project Coordinator.
The online implementation of training and project activities enabled women from all over Latvia to participate in the programme, thus ensuring regional equality and support. It should be noted that SEA career advisers have been actively involved in informing participants, with 67% of course graduates being encouraged to apply for the training programme directly by SEA specialists. On the other hand, the desire to acquire new and up-to-date skills and the opportunity to change careers to IT were mentioned as the main reasons why young women applied for the project.
Learning approach and outcomes
In order to better choose the field of study and the job profile to learn, women assessed their existing digital skills and relevance to different job profiles before starting the course, using tailor-made tests. The tests that can be found on the digital platform have been established by LIKTA in the framework of the international partnerships for Women4IT. This platform provides not only self-evaluation tests, but also infographics and descriptions of each jobs profile, so that any interested party has the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their job duties in each job profile, what skills should be managed and what characteristics they need to possess. After the selection of the participants, young women started a three-month training programme on the selected profile.
The training programmes were developed in cooperation with industry experts and employers together with other international partners of the project. As an important asset, participants identified the professional experience of trainers and the opportunity to share the most recent practical experience of the sector. Participants specifically looked at the possibility of learning online and from anywhere: “The modern teaching style has shown that online learning is also valuable. I have really learned it, not that I just read something online. I was able to learn from anywhere, and if something was fully understood- watch the recording.’ 77 % of graduates thought that training would improve their career prospects and position on the labor market, while 94 % of graduates would recommend this training programme to other people.
Career support activities
In parallel to the training, participants had the possibility to receive support for finding a job upon completion of their training. Throughout the training period, participants worked individually with a mentor who helped to better prepare for employment, and attended empowerment seminars where professionals in the industry shared their experiences and advised young women to embark on a career in digital jobs. A total of 9 mentoring seminars were organized which looked at a variety of topics related to personal development and career development, such as awareness of their objectives, digital identity, lifelong learning opportunities, job-search strategies, advice on how to shape a CV and LinkedIn profile, etc. The participants in the empowerment seminars identified “How to prepare for a job interview?” as the most valuable seminar, not only providing practical advice and techniques, but also inspiring to overcome fears. Participants pointed out that regular informal meetings with other participants, mentors and inspiring speakers, helped to sustain motivation during their studies, encouraged “stepping out of their comfort zone” and inspired greater ownership of their own careers. Participants appreciated the availability of the mentor and a safe environment to ask questions, as well as community and new contacts resulting from the learning course. 90 % of participants would also recommend these seminars to other young women who would like to start a career in the IT field.
Empowerment seminars were organized in cooperation with industry professionals and career consultants of the State Employment Agency. Participants highlighted the following main benefits of empowerment workshops:
- “I have gained more knowledge of how to make better choices in my career.”
- “I have a better understanding of job-search strategies.”
- “I feel more confident about my goals and how to achieve them.”
- “I am better aware of my strengths and weaknesses.”
- “I have gained a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges in today’s labor market.”
- “The workshops allowed me to work together with other young women in a safe environment.”
The participants also had the opportunity to participate in the Career Info Days, organized in cooperation with the companies in the industry and giving them the opportunity to learn about the day to day life of the chosen profession. Career info days took place online and were attended in total by more than 50 girls who wanted to learn about the day-to-day life, tasks, pros and cons, pay, growth opportunities and challenges of the job area. During the career info days, representatives from SIA TestDevLab,If P&C Insurance, the Science and Education Innovation Center (ZIIC) of the Liepaja Municipal Education Department, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, SIA Tet, SIA TVNET Grupa and the Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association (LIKTA) participated in their career days.
To promote the involvement of young women in digital works, several tools were created under the project, which are also available to the wider public on the project platform:
- Eight digital jobs profiles
- Profiling tool — Knowledge and skills assessment tests
- Training roadmaps
- Employment toolkit
The Employment toolkit is designed for both young people who want to start their careers in the IT sector and digital jobs, and for companies and institutions wishing to recruit such young people.
The Employment toolkit can be read here.
The Women4IT project (No 2017-1-094) is being implemented in nine European countries since 2019, while in Latvia, training has taken place in five areas of digital profiles: an information systems tester, a data analyst, a digital media specialist, a data protection officer, and a project coordinator. 177 young women have graduated from the training programme in Latvia. A survey of participants shows that more than 75 % of learners have started digital work in both IT and non-IT sectors after graduating from the programme.
Training and guidance activities in Latvia are organized through the International Partnership Project “Women4IT” (No 2017-1-094), funded under the Youth Employment Programmed of the Norwegian, Icelandic and Liechtenstein Foundation, which aims to promote the participation of young women in ICT professions and digital works.