Retraining leads to career reinvention

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Through his participation in the “Education to Employment” project, Milan Aksentijević made a big shift in his career, moving away from hospitality, a sector which took a big hit during COVID, to welding where he see great opportunities for his future.

Thirty-five-year-old Milan Aksentijević has spent the last 15 years in the hospitality sector. It's all he's known. Starting as a waiter in his youth, Milan was the proud owner of a popular inn in the suburbs of Kragujevac, Serbia, until COVID put an end to his success.

“It all went very well, my inn was popular, some music stars made their appearance in it … Then due to the coronavirus epidemic in the last year, everything was closed and our business was shuttered,” Milan said. “I have a wife and two small children. I came to a point where I didn’t know where to go and what to do,” he recalls.

Facing a serious life challenge, Milan decide to look for opportunities wherever they could be found. 

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Simply put, if you want or must do something – as it was with me – you can learn.

Milan Aksentijević, E2E in-company training participant

Milan came across a public announcement for an “Education to Employment” (E2E) training at a local company in newspapers as well as on Facebook. Supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Serbian Government, E2E provides work-based learning programmes to increase employability of youth. 

“I decided to apply and whatever will be, will be,”  Milan recalls. He registered for two training courses, CNC (computer numerical control) operators and welders, intending – as he said – to attend whichever training he got accepted to.

Milan was accepted to onsite training in welding with Euro Heat company.

"I had no pre-knowledge about welding. . . Any connection I had with trades came from doing small repairs round the house. But I learned, step by step, with the help of school teachers in theoretical part of the training and my mentor Aleksandar and other colleagues in the practical training in Euro Heat company," he explains.

At Euro Heat, Milan and other trainees learned all kinds of welding. Those who do well are offered a position in the firm. A steady hand, sharp eye, and meticulousness are what counts most in the job of a welder. Milan was surprised by how quickly and easily he learned. 

“It’s also important to love what you do. In these three months, I really got to love this job,” Milan announces.

Preokret U Milanovoj Karijeri Milan Aksentijević, Mentor Aleksandar, Janko Gavrilović

Milan has decided to definitively make the shift away from hospitality to welding. He added that ten years ago it never occurred to him that he could do this job or any other trade. But his life took another direction. “Welders are in high demand. The employment is more secure and many opportunities are offered. Maybe I will start my own business once I get some ideas of my own,” Milan said.

He recommends the E2E training to young people so that they try and present themselves in the best possible light. “Your employment depends on you proving yourself ... I absolutely tried my best."

Thanks to Gordana Mirović and Sandra Vlatković of E2E for sharing this story with us. 

For more information on E2E, visit the project website

Oliver Streit

Oliver Streit

Sector Lead Education, Skills & Employment

Stuttgart, Germany