Solutions 13:48 30 May 2024

Motivating students to stay in Ukraine: solution from Zhytomyr Polytechnic

What is the problem?

Russia's war in Ukraine has brought about many consequences for the Ukrainian society. According to the labor market research of the European Business Association, 74% of Ukrainian companies experience a shortage of personnel. Despite the obvious reasons, such as, for example, the mobilization of employees, there are two that have worried the Ukrainian labor market for a long time: the shortage of qualified personnel and their outflow abroad, in particular, the departure of students to study, which often resulted in their non-return to Ukraine.

In 2018, the Ukrainian service of Polish Radio, referring to the Polish Institute of Public Affairs, reported that the number of Ukrainian students in the country is increasing yearly. Only 9% of the interviewed youth planned to return home after studying in Poland.

Previously, Rubryka reported on how the shortage of specialists in technical fields affects Ukraine's defense capabilities. The Center for Economic Recovery and the Institute of Demography assess citizens' departures as one reason why Ukraine's economy may lose up to $113 billion by 2032—the country will lack workers.

What is the solution?

In the already mentioned survey, Ukrainian youth indicated the reasons that could contribute to their going to study abroad, namely the provision of scholarships and assistance in employment matters. Although the range of reasons for students to go abroad has expanded, these two factors still influence the choice of Ukrainian applicants.

Viktor Yevdokymov, rector of Zhytomyr Polytechnic University, notes that the scholarship program is a great opportunity to encourage Ukrainian youth to study in Ukraine. According to him, the university already has experience creating scholarship programs with other partners in specific specialties, as well as projects in its own scientific park (scientific research on the basis of the university), which companies order from it, financing the work of scientists.

Ректор університету

Viktor Yevdokymov. Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

That is why the university enlisted the support of the investment company BGV Group Management, allocating 13 scholarships for students representing all faculties.

The university itself determined scholarship recipients. It considered not only academic and scientific achievements but also public activity and, for example, volunteering.

"The scholarship program is a significant opportunity for talented students of the Zhytomyr Polytechnic. This allows us to support the most talented students who are participating in innovative developments and socially important projects. Today, the youth must be motivated and united because considerable tasks regarding the reconstruction of Ukraine are placed on their shoulders," he said.

The monthly stipend is $172; selected students began receiving it in April 2024. The scholarship fund per year is $32000. In particular, resettled students from Bakhmut and Kramatorsk received scholarships.

житомирська політехніка

Scholarship holders. Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

Rubryka learned what the scholarship holders themselves think about the solution and how they see their future in Ukraine.

How does it work?

To motivate students to go into specialties critical for Ukraine

"I chose my specialty because I understood that there are few such specialists, there is a war in my country, and we will be the ones who will really be involved in its restoration," says second-year student Volodymyr Makaruk about his decision to enroll in applied mechanics.

The student says that there is a shortage of students in this area, so he and his associates do everything possible to interest others in their specialty. They hold career orientation events for children and applicants, show laboratories, and demonstrate what can be learned.

"For example, we come to the robotics department and show exhibits made by students. You can come and fully program all the details so that the robot moves, carries something, or drives. Doing something with your hands is valuable in today's realities," says Makaruk.

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Volodymyr Makaruk (in the middle). Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

In the laboratories, students can work independently or with the help of teachers to research devices, assemble or disassemble them, and study their structure. Makaruk notes that students usually work on projects from A to Z, from the basic model in 3D to the physical model. The application of knowledge in practice and the help of teachers and senior students encourage further work on projects.

A wide variety of laboratories work at the university. One of them is PsyLab, a center where students and university employees can turn to for free social and psychological support. Alina Samsonyuk, a third-year student majoring in Extreme Psychology, helps there as an assistant in conducting training and managing social networks.

"I chose my specialty even before the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, but by then, there was already a war in our country. Extreme Psychology covers many specialties: it is not only work in the army or during a disaster but also work in the police," says the student. Samsonyuk is already practicing her profession: she worked with the children of soldiers, conducted emotional intelligence training for children from the Zhytomyr Volunteer Headquarters, etc.

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Alina Samsonyuk. Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

Samsonyuk is sure that the most important thing is to develop empathy and not be afraid of contact with people, and also to remember that this profession is about constant self-development, where every day you need to learn something new at the university, with the help of informal education, on your own. The student says that the scholarship is an external motivation for development. She will spend this money on donating to the military and improving her skills in psychology, particularly paid courses, to be a leading specialist in the future and realize her dream of becoming a military psychologist.

Motivate innovation

Ivan Novosyolov and Yaroslav Kozyar are also holders of the newly created scholarship. Their startup MechLab 3D is also implemented on the basis of the university, or rather, the university's Innovation Hub.

"One of the things for which the scholarship is given is the development of innovative socially important projects. MechLab 3D is about building PET recycling facilities and 3D printers and printing on them. That is, we take a simple plastic bottle, recycle it, and create a thread from it for 3D printing of various parts," says Novosyolov.

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Ivan Novosyolov. Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

In addition to developing the project itself, the students also popularize STEM education in schools, encouraging schoolchildren to engage in science and telling them about their experiences. The STEM approach in education is the study of technical and natural sciences through technology, an innovative approach, and the development of students' creative and artistic skills. The scientists plan to organize collections of plastic bottles in schools and teach students to sort garbage.

Also — together with other participants of the Innovation Hub, they develop a culture of entrepreneurship on the basis of the university and organize startup schools for students. Novosyolov believes that this is important for the educational institution itself. He believes that those students who were active at the university will help the university in the future by investing funds and becoming teachers or mentors.

"The scholarship gives personal motivation to work hard for the university, not to lose focus engaging in part-time jobs, but to continue to do science and study," notes Novosyolov.

Ukraine needs students

To encourage young people to stay in Ukraine and to show them opportunities for development and realization of their potential not only in the future but also now is something that needs to be worked on at all levels, not only in universities.

The BGV company, which financed the scholarship program, notes that this is not just motivation; it is an effort to use specific steps to convince students that the country and businesses in Ukraine need the knowledge and skills of young specialists ready to develop them, create conditions, and support them. After all, they all have a single goal: to make Ukrainian projects, companies, and entire industries more powerful, economically stable, and technologically advanced.

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From left to right: Viktor Yevdokymov, scholarship holder Alina, BGV company representative Tetiana Shapravska. Photo: Zhytomyr Polytechnic

Yevdokymov notes that the university is proud of its students staying in Ukraine, continuing their studies, and contributing to Ukraine's reconstruction. Scholarship programs are one way to help solve the problem of brain drain in Ukraine.

"We believe that Ukraine needs its best minds, and we are doing everything possible to create conditions for talented Ukrainian students to realize their potential here, at home, in Ukraine, and contribute to creating a new Ukraine," says the rector.


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