In the lead up to the Torino Process international conference on June 7-8, ETF partner countries have been taking part in a series of regional-level policy forums on vocational education and training (VET) and skills for economic development. Ownership has been a key feature running throughout.
Over the coming weeks we revisit the discussions – kicking off with South Eastern Europe and Turkey
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey
Wide-ranging reforms in VET and the labour markets appear to offer a promising picture for a region that includes five EU candidate countries. Growth of between 0.8% in Serbia and 6% in Turkey in 2015 comfortably brackets the EU 28 figure of 2.2% the same period. The seven ETF partner countries in the region show steady, sometimes improved rankings on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
But it masks a complex and challenging picture where youth unemployment remains alarmingly high – 33% in Albania, up to 62% in Bosnia and Herzegovina compared to the EU average of around 20%. The proportion of working-aged people in the informal economy is as high as 30%, VET is characterised by low achievement and high drop-out rates, and social exclusion and gender equality is prevalent.
‘Growth is mainly linked to development of sectors with high productivity and low or unstable job creation,’ the ETF’s Manuela Prina says. ‘Employment rates are not following the positive growth, in particular for young people not in employment education or training (NEETs).’
It is clear that VET policy experts, officials, schools, businesses and social partners need to do more to act on the evidence-based finding Torino Process country reports and continue calls for urgent policy reform.
The support and political goodwill from the EU is there. The EU has invested €25 million in Serbia over the last 15 years to support the modernisation of VET curricula. The IPA (the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) is investing €8 million annually for VET support in the region, with a focus on the Riga Conclusions – a set of five mid-term objectives for VET reform for the EU candidate countries.
Countries have a clear idea of what needs to be done. New flagship policies include the adoption in 2014 in Albania of a National Skills and Employment Strategy 2020. Bosnia and Herzegovina, has introduced a 2014-2020 Action Plan for the Development and Improvement of Qualifications Frameworks, an education development strategy 2016-21 in its constituent semi-autonomous Republika Srpska, and is developing six new occupational standards and learning outcomes in secondary VET.
The Comprehensive Education Strategy 2016-2020 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will modernise technical VET, a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is under development, as well as a concept for adult education that addresses the needs of those with non formal and informal learning experience.
Montenegro is making big strides in its work-based learning policy – with a focus on broadening apprenticeships and creating opportunities in small and micro businesses – in tourism, agriculture and construction – and has also fully referenced its national qualifications against those of the EU.
In Serbia though there has been ‘no major conceptual or strategic changes in VET’ in two years. Torino Process Coordinator, Rade Erceg, says. Developing a NQF law – expected to be approved later this year – is the focus, as is the shift towards dual education.
Turkey foresees progress in dual education after parliamentary approval in December 2016 of changes to work-based learning laws. Turkey lacks a VET monitoring system, so the Torino Process is really helping, says Özlem Kalkan, a VET expert with Turkey’s Ministry of National Education.
In her closing remarks Madlen Serban, ETF Director, referring to Roman philosopher Seneca, added: ‘If one does not know to which port he is sailing, no wind is favourable: what counts the most is to know which port you want to go to in vocational education and skills.’