Social Responsibility Inspires Hope for the Future
Social responsibility has been a driving force in much of Sezai Hazir's life. A graduate of the Geodesy Engineering Department at Yıldız Technical University, Hazir has 16 years of experience in social development and working with disadvantaged groups through projects he has initiated in 81 Turkish cities. In addition, Hazır served as a member of the official commission of the Turkish Government at the United Nations summits between 1997 and 2003.
When asked how he became involved in education and training, Hazir says: "I started to get to know my own country and saw that many of the young people were unemployed and needed information technology [IT] skills. I had to do something about it."
Spreading the Word and Meeting the Youth of Turkey
Once it was announced that Istanbul was to host the Habitat II United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in 1996, Hazir became actively involved in preparations for the conference and visited 35 cities in Turkey, informing people about the summit. Hazir says: "I met a lot of young people and realized they are not well-informed about most social projects. Further, they don't even have a system to communicate with one another." In 1995, these impressions inspired Hazir to found Youth for Habitat to help young people communicate with one another, understand the importance of IT in their lives, and start their own social responsibility projects.
IT Training for Employment and Information Access
Hazir firmly believes that to prepare youth for the global competitiveness of the world, education must be expanded to include IT training. To that end, Hazir met with Cisco and learned about Cisco Networking Academy.
In Turkey, close to 20 percent of the young people ages 15 to 24 are unemployed (Index Mundi, 2010). Hazir states: "Many Turkish youth are not skilled. IT training could help them find a job. They also need IT to access information. So we set two major goals: educating people in IT so they can acquire a job, and educating them so they can acquire information and survive in the information-based world."
Youth for Habitat Starts Informatics Project with Cisco
In 1996, Youth for Habitat started the SPARK (Youth Movement in Informatics) project with Cisco and initiated Networking Academy classes in 20 cities. In all of these locations, volunteers provide the training. Hazir notes, "It doesn't matter if the young people are on the other side of Turkey; they receive up-to-date information including all new IT developments." More than 1600 young people have been trained, and almost half of them are women.
Hazir has worked with IT companies other than just Cisco to provide training. However, he points out a major difference with the Networking Academy training at SPARK: Economically disadvantaged young people receive training without paying anything. The instructors are volunteers; the classroom space is donated through partnerships with local government, and Cisco provides the training program. Hazir adds: "Once they are trained, they volunteer to teach other disadvantaged people like themselves, their peers. The volunteers, from one to another, pass on IT skills and the concept of social responsibility."
Success Story: SPARK and Networking Academy Launch Student's Career
Twenty-nine-year-old Dincer Yilmaz has always been interested in IT, so when he heard about SPARK, he decided to take the Cisco IT Essentials course. He became a volunteer instructor in 2008 and later became a master trainer. With his new skills, he received a job offer to work full time at an IT company's help desk. He later learned that his Networking Academy training and volunteer instructor status were the main reasons he was offered the job.
Building Collaboration and Self-Confidence
Hazir says: "In Turkey there is not much of an understanding of working together, of teamwork. These are new concepts. Before there was only 'me.' But now, thanks to Networking Academy, young people realize that when they work together, they actually create a positive value. And as a team, they create better results."
For a young person living on the outskirts of Turkey, institutions like the United Nations and companies like Cisco seem unreachable. Hazir explains: "But with Networking Academy training, young people realize they aren't so far away; they become part of the process. They have a chance to see the vision of these institutions. And this actually gives them another perspective, another point of view, which improves their self-esteem and their vision for the future."