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Kharkiv business incubator - the chance for professional courses graduates

The overall weakness of the Ukrainian economy related to its specific ownership structure – the dominance of big business with complex vertical structure and poor development of small and medium enterprises – results in unemployment, which in the age group 15-24 reached almost 20% in 2011. Simultaneously, as the Ukrainian authorities recognise, approximately 40% of higher education graduates work in positions well below their qualifications. At the same time entrepreneurs look in vain for candidates with skills they require.

The Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy (KNAME) is one of those Ukrainian universities that try to keep up with changes in the labour market. The university has for example introduced courses for property managers and is considering introducing courses for valuers. The university’s structure includes the Centre for Energy Saving Technologies, which conducts research in applying specific solutions in the urban environment and prepares students to work for example as energy managers. KNAME is deeply interested in exploring the Polish experience in these thematic areas, believing that it would be of benefit to the quality of the student education process, which in turn would increase their chances on the labour market.

KNAME is trying to support the successful professional start of its graduates by organizing departmental job fairs, publishing handbooks and posting information on the university’s website. This assistance, however, is not of systemic or institutional nature. In this situation, KNAME expressed interest in the experience of university career centres and academic business incubators in Poland.

Kharkiv business incubator - the chance for professional courses graduates

The modular project was carried out between 1 March 2013 and 31 December 2014 in partnership with the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation PAUCI in Kyiv and the European Property Institute.

The main objective of the project’s module I was to increase self-employment opportunities of the graduates of the Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy (KNAME) by creating a modern form of support for their professional start and through knowledge transfer from the academia to the business environment. The project addressed the problems of entering the labour market, experienced by Kharkiv’s higher education graduates. Unemployment among this group in Ukraine amounts to 20%, while 40% of the higher education graduates work in positions well below their qualifications.

The project activities were addressed to students, graduates and employees of the Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy (KNAME).

In the course of module I implementation, project participants who took part in seminars and workshops in Kharkiv learned about the concepts and organization of academic business incubators in Poland, and students were encouraged to run their own business and trained in preparing business plans. KNAME authorities received a blueprint for the functioning of an academic incubator in Kharkiv, prepared by an Expert Committee established during the project implementation.

As part of module II, implemented in 2014, an Academic Business Incubator was established and became operational, supporting simultaneously the activities of five companies.

Kharkiv business incubator - the chance for professional courses graduates

Increased contacts between the Kharkiv academia (the Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Economy - KNAME), researchers from Krakow universities (e.g. the AGH University of Science and Technology, University of Economics) and Polish practitioners in the field of housing management helped reinforce the business education component of classes given at the Ukrainian university. The next step in improving the employability of KNAME graduates was to enable them to start activity within the university business incubator specializing in thematic areas such as public utilities and housing management, property management, energy audits, technologies related to thermal [...] upgrading and energy efficiency; use of research results in business.

Detailed results of the project activities in Module II include:

  • an incubator featuring four rooms was inaugurated, with an area of approx. 120 sq. m, furniture and office equipment and two employees,
  • 5 new companies that started their activity in Kharkiv’s incubator received support from Polish mentors,
  • 10 people associated with Kharkiv’s companies and incubator established contacts that may be useful in their activities at thematic fairs in Poland,
  • a basis of the incubator’s financial activity for the next two years was developed.