Jessica is a young single mother of two kids living in the surroundings of Liège in southern Belgium, a region touched by the economic crisis and subsequent unemployment. Microsoft BeLux was struck by her courage in this testimonial, as she spoke in the name of the thousands of unemployed people that often lost hope, but also for those who found it again. Life has not always been easy for Jessica as she has had to manage her youngest son’s rare disease, difficulties at school in the past and a recurrent feeling that due to these circumstances, she wouldn’t find a real job anytime soon.
It is really COF and Microsoft that made me see that there is a world of opportunities out there.
– Jessica, from Liège
But that was before Jessica discovered COF (Centre d’Orientation et de Formation), now called CISP (Centre d’Insertion Socio-Professionnelle), a Belgian non-profit organisation created in 1993 with the support of the European Union and the FOREM, the Walloon employment agency. CISP organises and constantly adapts a large array of professional trainings for unemployed young people and adults lacking skills and certifications to find a decent job. The organisation accepts more than 2,000 trainees every year and shares Microsoft’s conviction and vision that ICT skills and an entrepreneurial attitude are key to finding a job. COF also wanted to be mobile and transformed buses into training centres to be able to reach people that couldn’t reach them. The idea was met with great success and the transformed buses roared and rolled back to life.
In 2012 by Microsoft BeLux decided to make COF a YouthSpark grantee under the defined goal of ‘Empowering Youth’ through awareness, trainings and the creation of opportunities. Thanks to Microsoft’s participation with direct funding and software donations, COF has been able to reach about 900 job seekers per year through different levels of trainings in ICT (sensitisation and advanced courses in Word and Excel, among others) and through participation in road shows around the country.
This collaboration with COF constitutes a perfect example of a very effective partnership in the framework of YouthSpark, achieving positive impact on all parties involved: COF, Microsoft, and most importantly, people like Jessica.