The DCFTA, Languages and Jobs

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between the EU and Ukraine is expected to go into effect January 1, 2016. All countries have not completed signing on to it, but it is proceeding well enough. Quite a few investors and corporations are not waiting, because irrespective of the DCFTA, there’s close to $75,000,000,000 of international aid and recently announced high-profile investments already on the table. So, how’s this going to play out for jobs and businesses in Ukraine?

There are a lot of angles to that, but for now – this mainly looks at the hurdle of the language barrier.

First, while it goes into effect in 2016, the entirety of the DCFTA will take 15 years to completely unfold. EU companies are already compliant to EU laws and regulations which rely heavily upon ISO (International Standards Organization) requirements. Where ISO leaves off, the European Committee for Standardization picks up. Most Ukrainian businesses, however, are not ISO compliant and will need to become so to have their products on European supermarket shelves, amongst other things. In many cases, they will need to have their product tested and licensed which itself can run from €10k - €100k or more.

So, right there, we have a catch. Someone will be needed to help Ukrainian businesses get ISO certification. Most of that documentation is not available in Ukrainian or Russian. There are, in fact, EU standards which apply to translations. I’ll just cite this from,

EUATC, the European Union Association of Translation Companies, was responsible for establishing EN 15038, the first European standard for translation services.  Note, presently Ukraine does not have a representative on the EUATC.  Ukrainian Translation Service Providers would do well to pick up a copy of The Translation Service Provider’s Guide to BS EN 15038  by Chris Cox.    This book provides “a step-by-step guide for TSPs to achieve conformity to the standard.”

The language barrier is not insurmountable, but neither is it simple. To be blunt the Ukrainian language is not extensively taught outside of Ukraine. As we should know by now, Ukrainian is not Russian. International businesses will rely heavily upon native multi-lingual Ukrainians who speak Ukrainian – and quite probably Russian. Besides translations of documents, there will be a need to translate reports and have interpreters on hand for interacting with clients. You can probably see where this is going.

Demand will steadily increase for multi-lingual translators. Simple enough. There is some question as to great that demand will be, but we between the 500+ million in the EU and the 40+ million in Ukraine, we are talking about some significant numbers.

While perhaps a third of Ukrainians (mostly between the ages of 16 and 30) are fluent in English, there is also a slight matter of quality of previous job experience. Supply and demand will eventually work everything out. This will probably come as good news to the English TEFL expats, suffice that interest in English and foreign languages will pick up…

It is appropriate to note that if DCFTA takes off (and it will), it will probably hasten Ukraine’s inclusion in the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) one way or the other.  It already is if you know where to look - formalized or not, the corporations with that interest are either already engaging or preparing to engage.  When the billions start getting tossed around like they are, everyone will want a piece of the pie.  That will automatically apply to the benefit of Ukraine but unfortunately, it appears that all too few Ukrainian companies are optimized for it.

It also needs to be pointed out that most companies, and foreign organizations, gravitate toward Kyiv.  There are pros and cons to that, but the considerations need to be much broader.  In any case, that might be an entry point and as most will advise, Kyiv does not always represent the rest of Ukraine very well.  Most western companies like to go where all the money is… not that it is all in Kyiv or shall we say, the smart money doesn’t go to Kyiv if you intend to be profitable.

For as many international companies that may be seeking to enter the Ukrainian market, Ukrainian companies will be aiming for the EU market. Put yourself in the shoes of a young Ukrainian with skills suddenly in substantial international demand wanting a good income and to boost their careers. Most, but not all, will be looking for opportunities abroad.

This is a queue for forward thinking human resource managers and hiring authorities to begin scouting the field now if you want the most qualified candidates. Truly smart managers will begin setting up internships now, so by the time you are ready to do business in Ukraine, you have your mission critical staff already onboard and up to speed. A wide variety of strategic partnerships with Ukrainian businesses – job swaps, are also worthy of exploration.

It should also be anticipated that as the DCFTA picks up steam, there will be as much job hopping for some of these mission critical jobs as there was contract hopping in LOGCAP III for Iraq. A lot – leading to a lot of delays in communication, lost emails, dropped processes, no handover time, etc.

But! The difference between Iraq and Ukraine is that everything in Iraq was centralized under KBR on a no-bid contract where “the cost” was not an issue. The greater the cost, the merrier!

In Ukraine, the benefits of DCFTA for everyone can only be realized (mostly) if those acting upon it find it profitable to do so. That is – most SME’s cannot indefinitely finance one or more startup offices. These efforts will need to break even and become profitable in a timely manner.

Tomorrow or Tuesday, I’ll try to get into more solutions for these issues.