By Andreea Anca, IFRC

When Spanish DIY company AKI Bricolaje offered Hernin Rodriguez Girlado a job at the firm’s warehouse, he was relieved to put the long struggle to find regular work behind him. For the 26-year-old, whose parents divorced after the family moved from Columbia to Spain, a reliable income also means he can support his ailing father and school-age brother.

Hernin joined the Spanish Red Cross’ Employment Plan – a large-scale initiative designed to help people under 30 without formal qualifications to develop professional skills.

The plan was launched in 2001 and expanded in 2008 following the economic crisis, at a time when Spain had the second largest unemployment rate in Europe.

Hernin enrolled in a series of training sessions related to logistics and sales, and had a Red Cross mentor to advise him as he prepared for interviews. The Red Cross also liaises between the people on the programme and potential employers. In Hernin’s case, on-site training at the warehouse was arranged for him.

“I did my logistics training at the Red Cross for two months and then I completed one month of practical training at AKI,” explained Hernin.

“When I got a call from AKI to come in for a job interview, my family was very excited. They knew it was an opportunity to find the stability I was looking for.”

Between 2008 and 2015, more than 68,000 people found a job through the scheme and more than 195,000 completed the training.

A chance to start over

Vocational training and professional development are also the focus of the Happier Portugal Programme run by the Portuguese Red Cross. They have been supporting more than 400 families with a wide range of social services, including mentoring and counselling for unemployed people across the country.

At local level, Abrantes branch developed the Academy of Competences –  community-based training which includes entrepreneurship, networking, preparing for job interviews and active job search strategies.

Similarly, Fafe local branch developed a project called “Little Corner of Knowledge” that involves group activities focusing on personal and social skills development, thus supporting people to find their way back to the labour market.

“This programme is much needed in Portugal and we are glad to see that 30 per cent of the people who completed the course were able to find a job within a month”, said Daniela Costa, Programme Manager at the Portuguese Red Cross.