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UNICEF UPSHIFT program (© UNICEF)

Empowering young migrants and refugees in Italy through 21st century skills building

As a Signature Partner of UNICEF Norway, Hydro is supporting the UNICEF skills-building program UPSHIFT in Italy in 2021.

UPSHIFT is UNICEF’s flagship initiative, combining some of the leading approaches in skills development, social innovation, and entrepreneurship to empower marginalized youth and adolescents – including young migrants and refugees – to become social innovators and entrepreneurs.

For this school year, the program has been run in the regions of Latium and Lombardy in Italy.

The participants are unaccompanied children and young migrants and refugees. Through this program the participants have been:

  • Introduced to entrepreneurship education
  • Given 21st-century skills (creativity, innovation, teambuilding, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc.)
  • Taught how to acquire knowledge, capacities and resources needed to identify local problems and create innovative and sustainable solutions
  • Increased self-confidence, personal empowerment and capacity to identify opportunities for their socio-economic inclusion.
Young migrants presenting their ideas at the 'Demo Day'.
Young migrants presenting their ideas at the 'Demo Day'. (Photo: JA Italy)


On a call with UNICEF Migrant and Refugee Response in Italy (a part of the Europe and Central Asia Regional Office), Hydro colleagues in Building Systems and Extrusions Europe learned more about the results of the program so far.

The participants have undergone training and workshops to identify local problems and develop innovative solutions in the form of entrepreneurial ideas with social impact. Among 165 participants, 10 ideas were presented at a ‘Demo Day’.

These ranged from developing an app for learning Italian words and terms for driver’s licenses, recycling of clothes and marketplaces for food coming from their countries of origin. The common thread was ideas that would solve real-life problems in the participants’ local communities.

Usha with the proof of participation on UNICEF's UPSHIFT program.
Usha with the proof of participation on UNICEF's UPSHIFT program. (Photo: JA Italy)

“With UPSHIFT, I discovered who I am,” says Usha, one of the participants. She presented the idea of plastic-free boxes for natural cosmetic products at the ‘Demo Day’.

Usha’s passions and talents have been unlocked thanks to the support of UPSHIFT.

“I have a passion for medical plants.” she says. “I love henna, and organic products. So, when I was asked to reflect on the issue of waste and the use of materials that are harmful to the environment, I came up with the idea of a completely natural line of cosmetics, with the double objective to reduce consumption and increase quality.”

During the call Sarah Martelli, Youth and Adolescent Development Specialist in UNICEF Italy, expressed deep gratitude to Hydro’s support to the program:

“UPSHIFT aims to equip disadvantaged youth and adolescents, including young migrants and refugees, with 21st-century skills and abilities to transform local problems into opportunities to create innovative solutions. By doing so, it helps unlocking their potential and increasing their self-confidence and motivation, contributing to their social and economic inclusion in Italy. This is a great program, but we couldn’t have done it without our corporate partners.”

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