It is a well-known secret that Armenian government agencies are in need of fresh ideas and expertise. It is not always an easy task in Armenia to match young specialists who are ready to work in the public sector and share their experience, ideas, and knowledge with government agencies.
EU-funded project “Young Experts Scheme” (YES) Armenia implemented by the Strategic Studies Centre provides an opportunity for young people, most of whom studied and gained experience abroad, to continue their career in government agencies. YES Armenia is connecting government agencies with young specialists from Diaspora and Armenia alike.
“YES Armenia is a first-ever pilot programme in Armenia for young professionals giving them a fast link to the public service and providing them with the opportunity to be part of the change and have a certain level of autonomy to conduct their projects,” Hamazasp Danielyan, the YES Armenia programme manager, says.
The selected 21 specialists from various fields including specific ones like tourism and science management are involved in the programmes. They are all currently engaged in their projects in some ministries and other government agencies. The selection of the specialists was a tough task for the selection committee composed of representatives from the host institutions, co-implementing partners, such as the Estonia-based DADA6 private company and from Centre for Strategic Initiatives, NGOs, like Repat Armenia and so on.
“We got around 500 applications, with more over 300 applicants: and we shortlisted about 60 interviews,” Hamazasp says, adding that the candidates were selected, also based on the needs of the government as well as the EU’s priorities in its assistance to Armenia which are centered around the ideas of economic development policy and planning.
The specialists involved in the YES Armenia are typically between the age of 25 and 35 years, mostly with Master’s degree while some have Ph.D., mostly from western universities. Very few among them have working experience in the public service whereas the majority of them have been engaged in private companies and non-profit sector.
“At the early stage, it was noticeable that there can be different dynamics and that the experts were less comfortable in the government agencies than in the sectors they used to work previously. But I think we are now at the end of the adjustment process. I think it is good that they did not take everything as given and tried to notice some shortcomings and even tried to come up with solutions,” Hamazasp says. He seems cautiously confident in the success of the programme which started as a pilot project in December 2017.
“If everything continues the way it went so far, it can be called a success,” հe notes, adding that some of the specialists already have invitations for employment from the government agencies where they are placed.
A Yes Armenia expert, Sona Khachatryan, currently involved in the SPIAC – Scientific Programs Integration Assistance Center Foundation under the State Committee of Science – notes the differences between the public and private sectors and points to the challenges as well.
“Things are moving forward pretty slowly in the public sector compared to business for instance,” she says while adding that this does not discourage her.
The Mission of the SPIAC is to increase the efficiency of integration of Armenian Research and Development and Research and Innovation sectors globally, specifically through the framework of the "Horizon-2020" programme of the European Union. Sona is happy to be one of those who will introduce that change in the sectors in Armenia. “What is being done by the SPIAC will have a long-term effect the Research and Development sector in Armenia,” she says.
YES Armenia is only one of the three major components of the EU-funded Development and Strategic Studies Project, which launched in 2014 and is expected to end in October 2018.
The other two components of the project support to the EU Delegation in Armenia for their programming, policy advise research and supporting the Armenian government in their strategic planning implemented in cooperation with the Centre for Strategic Initiatives. “We’ve also provided some advice for particular sectors, such as digital transformation, for functional review of the National Institute for Education and other ad-hoc types of things,” says Kristi Raidma, Senior Non-Key Expert of the project.
The Centre for Strategic Initiatives has implemented a review at the beginning of the project for 23 different sectors for EU’s Single Support framework programme, Kristi says, explaining that the review’s aim was to identify sectors with major challenges and bottlenecks and to suggest more concrete actions matching with the priorities of the development partners.
What the YES Armenia programme and the Development and Strategic Studies project have accomplished so far gives hope that the public sector in Armenia and government agencies, in particular, will become more efficient and creative in their efforts towards development.