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Millennium Challenge Corporation; United States of America

Women in Energy Scholarship Program Kicks off with 28 Kosovar Students Joining Des Moines Area Community College

A woman from the Kosovo Women in Energy scholarship program is learning practical skills in the tool and die class at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), in Iowa. Photo: Rina Meta

Earlier this year in March, MCC, in partnership with Millennium Foundation Kosovo (MFK), launched the Women in Energy Scholarship program as part of MCC’s Kosovo Threshold Program. The program aims to increase women’s economic opportunities in Kosovo’s male-dominated energy sector. Starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, 28 women from Kosovo have received scholarships to study technology, science, math and electrical engineering at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), in Iowa.

We recently had the chance to meet with these scholarship recipients at an event organized by DMACC in September 2019. The event recognized the unique partnership between MCC, DMACC, and MFK, and also launched the “Kosovo Year at DMACC.” Marking the high level support from all partners, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi and the Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds both participated in the celebratory event.

Before the event kicked off, we were excited to meet with the 28 Kosovar students and get an inside look into how the program is being implemented. DMACC provides a strong community college structure, with an emphasis on both theoretical and practical education, including a focus on work experience and internships for its students. Many of the Kosovar students already have advanced degrees but sought more practical knowledge—and praised the hands-on practical experience that DMACC provides. In addition to in-class work on electricity circuitry, tool and die making, DMACC is placing each student in paid internships to apply their learning and gain practical work experience and skills.

DMACC has been a strong partner in this initiative, contributing significant resources that match MCC’s support.  And the scholarship is turning out to offer much more than a technical education. It is also proving to be a strong cultural exchange.

Many of the students from Kosovo were surprised to discover that being in the heartland of America turned out to be similar to home in some ways. They expressed sincere appreciation for the warm welcome and generosity they received in Iowa, saying this hospitality was very “similar to Kosovo.”  For many of the women, this is their first time outside of Kosovo, and DMACC is ensuring that their American experience is positive and welcoming.

This scholarship program is also proving to be a learning experience for local students. Through its Year in Kosovo theme, DMACC is making this an opportunity for American students to gain exposure to a different part of the world—even bringing in a five-star chef from Kosovo to work with the college’s culinary students.

Kosovo and Iowa have a special relationship that dates back to 2011 when they formed the Iowa-Kosovo National Guard Partnership. In 2016, Kosovo opened a consulate in Des Moines. And in 2018, Des Moines and Kosovo capital Pristina became sister cities.

Event attendees at Des Moines Area Community College celebrated the launch of the Women in Energy scholarship program. Photo: Dan Ivis

MCC’s Women in Energy scholarship program in Kosovo aligns with the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative, launched in February 2019.  The program supports the first pillar of W-GDP—to help women prosper in the workforce—by equipping women with the skills and enhancing their prospects to be employed in the energy sector when they return to Kosovo at the end of the program.

MCC’s Kosovo Threshold Program has also contributed to W-GDP goals through the Women in Science Camp Kosovo, held in Pristina in August this year. The camp, held in partnership with Girl Up, Intel, Bechtel, the U.S. Department of State, MFK, and others, brought together 100 girls from United States, Kosovo and other Balkan countries to build science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) and leadership skills. Going forward, MCC’s Kosovo Threshold Program will be investing in internship placements for female students in energy sector companies across Kosovo, and will support women entrepreneurs to invest in energy efficiency through financing and technical assistance. Firms implementing MCC’s investments in energy efficiency are contractually obligated to seek opportunities to hire women. We expect to see a meaningful boost in women’s employment in the sector through these efforts.

MCC always looks to leverage partnerships in both the public and private sector to increase the impact of our programs. DMACC has contributed greatly to the Women in Energy scholarship program, further amplifying what MCC would have been able to accomplish on its own.