INTERVIEW - 5 questions to Karen Morice - Junior Programme Manager
Enabel’s Junior Programme – an initiative of the Belgian Development Cooperation - allows young experts to gain professional experience in international cooperation. Karen Morice explains what is new in the current edition: active contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, a more strongly targeted offer of Junior Experts and investment in the promotion of networks and partnerships.
For its 3rd edition (2018-2023) the Junior Programme starts recruitment of first participants on 10 September. What does this Programme consist of?
The Junior Programme offers some thirty young professionals aged 30 or less and originating from a country of the European Union an opportunity to acquire first field experience in international cooperation. The youths are assigned to one of our partner countries to contribute to a development project in the field for 1 to 2 years. Such a project is either implemented by Enabel or by one of the 24 partner NGOs affiliated to the Junior Programme. Today, more than half the world’s population is under 30. These young people are creative and idealistic and they can change the world. The Junior Programme aims to contribute to the emergence of a generation of young innovative experts who are committed to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The latest edition of the Junior Programme has a broader recruitment policy. Can you explain how it works?
Indeed, applications are not limited any more to youths who aim to pursue a career in development cooperation. In the past, the Programme was a stepping stone for a job in international cooperation. The desire to work in cooperation was a condition sine qua non to join the Junior Programme. Since this new of the Programme operates under the Sustainable Development Goals, we primarily expect participants to be actively and on the long run engaged with the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, they may very well, at the end of their Junior experience, work for the private sector, in a renewable energy company, for instance. Or even in a more traditional sector, but engage outside their career in sustainable development associations. We want them to become actors and spokespersons at the service of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We want to contribute to creating a generation that is aware, active and engaged and that daily incarnates the values of sustainable development.
Karen Morice - Junior Programme Manager
How is this process running?
We organise two calls for projects per year. With every call we invite our partner NGOs and Enabel to submit job openings for which they want a Junior Expert financed by the Junior Programme. If their request is accepted, we assign a young professional recruited for the job to them.
The number of jobs is lower than in earlier editions of the Junior Programme, but, instead, they will be of higher quality. We now use several criteria and an analytical grid to evaluate each proposed job. These criteria comprise the added value of the Junior Expert for the project, but also the added value of the project for the Junior Expert, the innovative nature of the job, the relation with local realities and with the Sustainable Development Goals, or networking/partnership development opportunities for the youths.
At the same time, qualifications also play an important role. Our survey of needs within Enabel and the partner NGOs helped us better understand which competencies are currently lacking. This way we can also guarantee the participants to the Programme that they get a professional opportunity which contributes to further their career in cooperation, if they want so. We know that management jobs and specialists constitute a genuine challenge for the sector. So we will balance on the one hand generalist profiles typical for future managers and on the other hand the specialist profiles such as bio-engineers, civil engineers and financial and digitisation specialists.
Recruitment comprises several steps. These are explained in detail on our website. https://www.juniorprogramme.be/ Applicants who are retained will have a 2-week pre-departure briefing, allowing them to better understand their job environment and its particulars.
Are the youths accompanied during their participation to the Programme?
Actually, the follow-up of these young people is at the very heart of our Programme. It starts right when they start the Junior Programme, and is further pursued with the mid-term debriefing and at the end of their assignment. Our goal is to really accompany them so they can develop their competencies and talents. For that purpose — and this is new in this Programme — a certified outside coach will accompany them from a distance in their professional development. This customised coaching of Junior Experts should allow them to speed up the development of their potential and to overcome certain obstacles in the field.
We also follow up participants after their Junior Programme term to find out what has become of them, whether they are still professionally engaged with and/or fostering the Sustainable Development Goals. We aim to have at least 75 % of them pursuing their engagement with the SDGs. We want to contribute to creating a generation that is aware, active and engaged and that daily incarnates the values of sustainable development.
You also want to develop networks and partnerships?
This is another important point of the new Programme. The Junior Programme indeed aims to put in place and promote multi-actor networks and partnerships related to the SDGs in Belgium but also in the partner countries with our Junior Experts. The goal is not solely to make known and promote the Junior Programme and the work of the Junior Experts but also to explore, by means of these exchanges, new collaboration opportunities. We are now working at a collaboration project with the private sector. We have selected 5 companies that we want to involve in a pilot project. The idea is to enter into a co-creation process with them to see how, for instance, their young workers can be involved and be put at the disposition of Enabel or one of our partner NGOs for a few months. The co-creation aspect is important since we want this collaboration to create added value for both the enterprise and the Junior Programme. Everything will therefore depend of the output of the ongoing discussions, but I am convinced that we will succeed in developing innovative win-win partnerships with a multiplier effect on young people getting involved in sustainable development: