THE INTERNSHIP PROGRAM AT STARLABS, A TECH LAB IN KOSOVO

March 6, 2022

In addition to contributing to the technology market, with the services it provides, StarLabs has opened its doors to young people who want to work in this field, enabling them to prepare for the labor market.

Prishtina, February 2022 – It’s a normal day of work at StarLabs. And Emini, a 23-year-old from Gjilan, is sitting at his desk. His big headphones are on his shoulders. You never know when he’ll need them.

The 23-year-old from Gjilan has been part of the StarLabs team of programmers since 2020. It was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdown period, the time when And decided to apply for a program he had heard of online, which StarLabs was offering to students and new graduates of the Faculty of Computer Science and beyond.

“I saw the application and to be honest it was very accessible,” And says. “It was the beginning of the pandemic, and in the application, it stated that we could get into an online internship program. Another thing, that distinguishes this application from others I have seen, is that it was an advantage for us, the newly graduates since it required very little or no experience at all,” explains And enthusiastically.
He had successfully completed the first phase of the StarLabs internship program, which started in March 2020.

The co-founder and the CTO of Starlabs, Darsej Rizaj, explains that the internship program was first born as a need of the company to recruit talents, but also as a contribution that StarLabs has decided to make to the technology community and young people in Kosovo, providing vocational training.

“We’ve been building a community, it’s an investment and it’s important to understand that it’s very easy to hire employees, but at some point, we exhaust the market, as was the case. So it’s good to have some sort of Corporate Responsibility and to create resources, and the second thing is that we are building a community for these people, these young talents who want to work in the field of technology,” says Rizaj.

Darsej Rizaj, co-founder and CTO of StarLabs. Photo: Kushtrim Tërnava/Q&A Media for StarLabs

The access to a community that shares common values and visions – as Erina Gashi, the backend and the beneficiary of the internship program at Starlabs explains – is a must, especially for young people who are introduced to this profession. “I’ve perhaps had an advantage compared to others because I grew up in a family of programmers, and I got to know how to talk about technology. But we also definitely need a society and a community outside the family and here at StarLabs, I’ve found it. We know each other, we have very good relations and we understand each other well,” says Erina, 20, from Prishtina.

Erina is in the third year of her studies at the Faculty of Computer Sciences, and among other things she says that the StarLabs internship program, which she started in August last year, has helped her enormously to understand the concepts that she had learned in theory, to now practice them, but also to expand this knowledge.

“Certainly, both of them matter, you must have a basis to be able to get a job and start well. It’s good to know the theoretical fundamentals of programming to know how to access it, the things you learn at the university, but it’s still not enough. It’s somewhat vague, it’s like you’re not dealing with something concrete, we have had some projects at the faculty that were shorter, etc. While at work it’s different, you have more information, you have more time, etc.,” says Erina.

Erinë Gashi, 20, from Prishtina, grew up in a family of programmers, but in StarLabs she found her community. Photo: Kushtrim Tërnava/Q&A Media for StarLabs

“There were cases when – in the middle or at the end of the program – out of the 50 candidates we had, 10 got employed at StarLabs, while up to 10 or 5 others were immediately employed in other companies,” Neziraj points out, stressing that through this program, which is completely free for those selected, they are recruiting professionals for the entire technology market in Kosovo.

Since 2020 to date, StarLabs has delivered 6 internship programs. The last one started in February this year.

Kujtim Neziraj, technical director at StarLabs, explained that the programs are implemented quarterly, and sometimes more often, depending on the space and the needs. Neziraj added that there are over 100 applications for each program. “We have had up to 400 applications in several programs, and usually we filter applications and reach groups of 50 to 100 people for one internship program,” he said.

Neziraj also says that each participant in the internship program, who is subject to a certain, routine task of developing a profile of his/her own, becomes part of a team and is monitored and mentored by a leader, who is a StarLabs employee. The entire internship program process lasts 6 months, with three opportunities for the invitation to a paid internship at the company. The first is through an interview if the candidates are considered to be able to start immediately with the paid internship and the work with clients of the company; the other two possibilities are with demos where the candidates have space to introduce themselves and the work they have done during the program.

Kujtim Neziraj, Technical Director at StarLabs. Photo: Kushtrim Tërnava/Q&A Media for StarLabs

St: A Technology Lab

The internship program, in addition to being a good opportunity for StarLabs but also for the technology market to benefit professionals and talents, provides tremendous opportunities for skill-building, disciplining, creating a working culture, networking, and leadership opportunities for both young people and their mentors.

Darsej Rizaj, the co-founder of StarLabs, explains how.”The other side of the coin is that the program is an opportunity for everyone, not just the young people who are developing but also their mentors because these 50 people, regardless of who is monitoring and mentoring them, are members of a StarLabs team getting ready for leadership. The best opportunity to become a leader at StarLabs is if you work with interns and show yourself,” explains Rizaj, who emphasizes that they intentionally establish teams through some kind of contest between them for the best products. “It’s a very good playground because these teams of interns work with the same methods as we do with clients – the difference is that they work with us, not with our clients directly,” says Rizaj, convinced that this is the best form of training for these young people for what awaits them in their future profession. Students of Digital School have an advantage in the internship program, as they get the basic knowledge at school and through the program, they are prepared for the labor market as well as for employment opportunities.

This is very important given that youth unemployment in Kosovo is still very high, with some 49.1% of young people aged 15-24 unemployed, according to the Kosovo Statistics Agency.

Given the high number of youth unemployment, the 19-year-old from Prishtina, Art Rrustemi, considers himself lucky to have joined the StarLabs team after completing the internship program. Art has been part of the Digital School for more than four years, and thanks to his good performance, he has been offered the opportunity to become part of the internship program.

Art Rrustemi, 19, was hired after completing the internship program as a former student of Digital School. Photo: Kushtrim Tërnava/Q&A Media for StarLabs

“As far as I know, there are not many companies that provide this kind of free training opportunities. It’s like winning a scholarship to get knowledge,” he says, stressing that he has benefitted a lot.

“You benefit a lot and you gain experience, and that helps you find a job. If not at StarLabs then in other companies because you just have a good basis and you don’t start from scratch. I was hired after six months and now it is three weeks that I have been part of a team where I feel like home, “Art Rrustemi explains.

StarLabs internship programs will continue and open calls will be announced through the company’s communication channels, on social networks, or on the official website.

StarLabs was founded in 2015 and provides technology services, primarily to corporations. In March 2020 StarLabs had 50 employees, and today it has 150 employees. It’s a growing company, which added to the services it provides but also to the demands for more talents in the field.

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