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European Year of Skills

Civil society organisation and business team up to upskill Ukrainian refugees

YMCA Refugee Skilling and Support

Following the Russian military aggression against Ukraine in 2022, the world saw an unprecedented wave of Ukrainian refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) seeking safety and shelter. Addressing the urgent need for their integration and empowerment, the "Refugee Skilling and Support" project emerged as a remarkable collaboration between civil society and the private sector. Developed by YMCA Europe and supported by the Accenture Foundation, this initiative has been providing vital assistance to those displaced from their homes. 

At its core, the project's mission is to offer comprehensive services designed to enhance employability skills and overall well-being. This multifaceted approach includes language learning, digital competency training, consultation sessions, skill development courses, and job fairs. In addition, recognising the psychological toll of displacement, the project extends its support to include mental health services, fostering a sense of belonging and integration within local communities. 

The project built on YMCA’s already significant pan-European presence by establishing community hubs in four countries, including five different cities and regions in Ukraine. These hubs serve as safe spaces, where Ukrainian refugees and IDPs can access skills-building programmes and support services. The project's adaptability is made evident by its mobile versions, enabling outreach to individuals living in rural areas, ensuring that no one is left behind. 

Victoria’s story 

Victoria, 24-year-old, fled from Zdolbuniv in Ukraine and relocated to Slovakia “I had a little experience in social media, and I worked as a store manager before. With the help of the project, I took a social media marketing course, improved my skills in Canva, graphic design, and learnt to work in a team. With the help of new acquaintances and connections, and the experience I gained, I found a job. I run several pages on social media and can earn money.” 

A replicable and scalable initiative 

The initial six months of implementation have yielded impressive results. With over 4,000 skilling and support activities conducted, nearly 15,000 participants have directly benefited from the project's offerings. This early success has set the stage for the project's scalability and replication potential. Encouragingly, other organisations are being motivated to join forces and expand this impactful model across Europe. YMCA's ongoing efforts to cultivate partnerships with local and national entities, including public employment agencies, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and businesses, further enhance the project's scope and effectiveness. 


The project was designed by YMCA Europe with the support of Accenture Foundation and implemented through a cooperation with YMCAs in Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Slovakia. Initially funded for six months, the positive evaluation of preliminary outcomes led to a year-long extension of the project until May 2024.