3 Questions with Florin Cazac and Andrei Copaci: Economic Opportunity for Youth


Florin Cazac and Andrei Copaci are youth in Moldova with a passion for robotics. Through the Moldova Competitiveness Project (MCP), a collaboration between USAID and the Government of Sweden, they are gaining experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In this blog series highlighting youth economic opportunity, Florin and Andrei reflect on how robotics is shaping their personal and professional growth.

Can you tell us about your background with youth development and your career goals?

Florin Cazac: My name is Florin Cazac and I currently work as a robotics mentor at the Artico Children and Youth Center in Moldova. I am also a robotics programs manager at Tekwill. It is by chance that I ended up working with children; my educational background is in computer science. Everything started in August 2015 when I was recommended and employed with Artico. At that time, I didn’t know much about LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics. It is a series of kits for building, programming, and commanding your own LEGO robots. Artico was one of the first institutions to pilot extracurricular activities using these robotics sets. I had to learn it very quickly to be able to teach children. Gradually, it became a big success. Currently, the team I mentor has won multiple championships in local robotics competitions. Also, we had the opportunity to take part in several international contests in Estonia, Spain, Denmark, and the United States. Now my goal has broadened. In addition to preparing teams for competitions, I am involved in promoting STEM careers and developing programs to improve the quality of robotics education in my country.

 Andrei Copaci: I am a 14-year-old school student in seventh grade. In the future, I would like to become an engineer, because I have been interested in the technology field since I was a young child.

How has your relationship with the Moldova Competitiveness Project (MCP) helped you work toward these goals?

Florin Cazac: MCP has helped me a lot in my professional growth. The project has supported my initiatives and responded to the needs of the robotics club I was mentoring. They helped us upgrade the equipment used for our classes. They also encouraged me to develop and test new types of practical activities, which will later be proposed to other teachers for implementation. I was also very happy when MCP supported me in the organization of a three day robotics camp during the school vacation. The camp ended with a Sumo Bot Challenge, a very fun and engaging competition where students learn how to work as engineers. They learn to apply their knowledge in designing, building, and programming strong robots that are capable of pushing other robots out of a ring. One year later, we are already organizing this challenge at a national level.

Andrei Copaci: The Competitiveness Project has helped me a lot in clarifying my career aspirations. My passion for robotics started developing three years ago when I joined the robotics club at Artico, established with support from MCP. My role in the team is mechanical engineering, but I am also involved in robot programming. During our robotics classes and preparation for competitions, I am very much engaged in creating robots. My performance and dedication for robotics has helped me not only become part of the best robotics team in Moldova, but also to participate in various international competitions in Estonia, Spain, Denmark, and even the United States. I participated in the largest science and technology competitions in the world for the high school teams with youth between nine and 16 years old — FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Global Challenge. These are the robotics Olympics, supported by the U.S. FIRST Foundation and many other partners.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for the “future of work” in Moldova, especially for young STEM professionals?

Florin Cazac: In my opinion — as a mentor involved in robotics education in Moldova — the biggest challenge is for our students to be able to continue their STEM education and to build future careers in STEM fields in our country. They need to be able to apply the knowledge and skills they are learning in robotics classes. This will only be possible if the higher education institutions’ programs and infrastructure get upgraded and the information and communications technology (ICT) sector continues to develop rapidly, providing more opportunities for future engineers and technology leaders.

Andrei Copaci: The biggest challenge for me, and my biggest dream, is to create robots that would replace or make easier many difficult professions. I think the future of Moldova depends a lot on robotics and I envision advanced robots will appear in our country, helping our lives improve. Until then, I am trying to promote engineering fields and engage as many children as possible with robotics so they can see how interesting and fun it is.

Learn more about the Moldova Competitiveness Project and Chemonics’ work related to youth and economic growth.

Posted in: Education and Youth
Leave a Comment

To Lower Youth Unemployment, Play the Matchmaker


This blog post was originally published by Making Cents International as part of their Future of Work blog series ahead of the Youth Economic Opportunities Summit. Youth unemployment is a huge issue in the developing world. According to the International Labour Organization, 71 million youth were estimated to be unemployed in 2016 and 37 percent of working youth live in poverty, suggesting underemployment. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs don’t exist — often, a mismatch between the...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

What It Takes to Beat the Odds


In May, I had the chance to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Having previously worked on an ex-combatant reintegration project in the DRC from 2004 to 2006, I was eager to see the progress the country had made in recovering from its protracted civil war. I went to the DRC with Chemonics President and CEO Susi Mudge to visit our early grade reading project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), ACCELERE! 1, which is co-funded by USAID and DFID. These site visits serve...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Questions with Maram Khalil and Al’a Ghazi Hussain Essa: Economic Opportunity for Youth


Maram Khalil and Al’a Ghazi Hussain Essa are young professionals in Jordan’s hospitality industry. Through the USAID Jordan Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism (BEST) project, they are gaining opportunities for professional development and personal growth. In this blog series highlighting youth economic opportunity, Maram and Al’a reflect on their experience with Jordan BEST’s Pathways to Professionalism Program. Can you tell us about your career goals and experience as a young...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Questions with Gratian Nareeba and Fatuma Namutosi: Economic Opportunity for Youth


Gratian Nareeba is a partnerships manager for the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture Activity (YLA). Fatuma Namutosi is the founder of Byeffe Foods Company, a YLA grant recipient. In this blog series highlighting youth economic opportunity, these young entrepreneurs reflect on their experience with youth-led private sector development. Can you tell us about your background working in youth development and your career goals? Gratian Nareeba: As an entrepreneur and a market...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Assessing for Success: Education in Crisis and Conflict Environments


The number of displaced persons in the world has reached historic highs, with one out of every four school-aged children living in countries affected by conflict and crisis, where access to education is frequently a challenge. The International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) states that “funding for education response should be given equal priority with water, food, shelter, and health responses to ensure education provision for affected populations.” Consequently, international...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Imperatives for Gender Programming in Education


Successful and sustainable gender-sensitive policies in education that promote equity require commitment from all stakeholders of the education ecosystem within a country context. Without incorporating commitment, understanding, and partnership into the development of gender-sensitive policies, there is no guarantee that program initiatives will be sustained after the project lifecycle. Often, even though gender policies might exist at the national level, local school personnel, parents,...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How to Prepare Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Job Market


After setting the global development agenda in 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations highlighted the need to focus on enhancing economic growth through sustainable and meaningful work in its 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today, the UN calls for the “promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all,” and seeks to address the 470 million jobs that need to be created for youth entering the workforce from 2016 to 2030....

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Making Schools Safe Across the Democratic Republic of the Congo


By Rebecca Malinick and Jennifer Swift-Morgan Overheard at a recent workshop: “Girls who are having sex with their teachers need to be coached to make better choices.” A debate ensued. Do they? Is that really a choice they are making? Or is it the teachers who need to change their behavior, school administration that needs to be part of the solution, education and justice systems that must enforce policies and laws, and families and communities who need to let girls know that this is not normal or...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Questions with Lilian Likicho and Isaiah Oliver: Trends in Youth Development


Lilian Likicho is the monitoring, evaluation, and learning director for USAID’s Uganda Youth Leadership in Agriculture project, which aims to increase economic opportunities for approximately 350,000 Ugandan female and male youth ages 10 to 35 in agriculture related fields to increase their incomes and build entrepreneurship, leadership, and workforce readiness skills. Isaiah Oliver is the deputy chief of party for the USAID Asia and Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices (AMEG) project,...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Every Child Deserves a Favorite Teacher


What do you remember about your favorite teacher? Maybe you remember their passion for the subject they taught, the way they pushed you to accomplish something that you thought was outside of your capabilities, or the way they probably were tough on you at some point, helping you grow when it felt most difficult. What you probably remember most is how they made you feel. I have vivid memories of my favorite teacher. I was a senior in high school, stressed about applying to college, and ready to...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How Can We Get Youth Interested in Agriculture?


Despite the remarkable progress the world has made in its fight against poverty, it is a challenging time to be young. Youth face high unemployment in many parts of the world today. In Africa, for example, young people account for 60 percent of all unemployed. The youth unemployment rates in countries like Botswana, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and South Africa exceed 30 percent.  Making agriculture a more viable and attractive source of tomorrow's jobs is critical to young people’s...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How We Get to 100 Million Improved Readers


Reading is essential for learning across all academic subject areas. As children progress through school, schools, teachers, and communities must help them to become critical and independent readers and learners. Their future depends on it. This is why USAID and its partners, like Chemonics, aim to improve literacy for 100 million children. Research suggests that we have a good understanding of what children need to become proficient readers. USAID’s approach to reading instruction is based on...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Lessons in Empowering Youth Around the World


August 12 is International Youth Day, an exciting occasion meant for governments and intuitions to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. More than half the world’s population is now under the age of 30 years old, and it is critical to review successes in working with youth populations to empower young people as tomorrow’s leaders. Below are three strands of success I found in Chemonics work with youth in workforce development, livelihood, and agripreneurship initiatives in 70 countries...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Business Is for Kids Too: What Business Leaders Are Teaching Young Students in Georgia


By Indira Amiranashvili and Nikoloz Chachkhiani Is business just for adults? In many countries, the business community’s involvement in education is limited to the secondary or post-secondary levels. Under USAID’s Georgia Primary Education (G-PriEd) program, however, we are trying another approach: engaging local businesses in primary education (Grades 1-6) with the goal of equipping children with basic business skills that will help them realize their full potential as adults. There are many...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Teacher Learning Circles: A Locally Owned Complement to Coaching


By Emet Mohr and Paige Morency Notario Coaching is a welcomed response to the need for active and continuous teacher professional development, which is linked to student achievement gains. Coaching provides significant short-term impact on instruction, but comes with potential long-term sustainability issues due to its high price tag and possible lack of local ownership. Teacher learning circles (TLCs) can serve as a promising addition to the existing coaching model by addressing these two...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Radical Transparency: 3 Benefits of Formative Assessment in Promoting Student Learning


By Sarah Grausz and Nikita Soman Education is a fundamental building block for human development and a vital precursor for a country’s overall growth and advancement. When countries prioritize the provision of high-quality primary education, they experience long-term positive correlations in workforce development, economic growth, life expectancy, and democracy and governance processes. USAID’s Education Strategy reflects this fact through a strong commitment to improving early grade reading...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Reading Is Thinking: Using Read-Alouds for Comprehensive Literacy Instruction


By Kathryn Camp and Laura Conrad Phonics teaches kids the most basic building blocks of literacy: how to read and pronounce the letters, letter groups, and syllables that come together to create meaning. But phonics-based education for children can and should be more than learning to recognize words. When coupled with interactive exercises, learning to read can unlock children’s imaginations and intellects, and spur critical thinking skills that bring lifelong benefits. Read-alouds can be...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Breaking Glass Ceilings in Higher Education


By Linda Flynn and Rebecca Jeudin Statistics for many regions around the world show that although women make up a significant percentage of undergraduate student enrollment, they hold only 10 percent of leadership positions in higher education. Globally, men outnumber women in higher education management, at about 5 to 1 in middle management and 20 to 1 at senior management levels. Why is this an issue? While women have excelled in post-secondary settings, the opportunities for women to be...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Universal Children’s Day: The Right to Learn in a Safe School


Universal Children’s Day, established by the United Nations in 1954, is a day to devote to the welfare of the children. While we formally recognize the importance of child welfare on November 20, this is a concept that should be reinforced every day and is an essential element to all education work around the world. The global development community, including USAID, has made progress in children’s access to education. However, it’s not enough to simply have access to education, especially in...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »