For Vahagn Hovhannisyan, the Torino Process is a tool for peace. ‘We come together to develop together – especially by partnership – and it contributes to peace, ’ the official, from Armenia’s State Employment Service Agency, says.
It may seem an unusual statement to come from a bureaucrat involved in what many outside observers perceive as a relatively dry area of educational policy development, but for those who are part of the Torino Process it will come as no surprise.
‘First of all, the Torino Process is about people. We come from different countries and become part of a big, big European Training Foundation family.’
To November 2016, when Vahagn and his Armenian colleagues took part in the Eastern Partnership regional Torino Process conference in Tbilisi, Georgia.
(Re-visit the regional meeting in this special blog post: A Growing Sense of Ownership – Pt 3.)
They were joined by representatives from Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine as well as Azerbaijan – the neighbouring country with which Armenia has an unresolved conflict with over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
(Read the Nagorno-Karabakh briefing to the European Parliament here)
There was no tension at the Torino Process regional conference however, where working groups of specialists cooperated. At the team-building evening at a Tbilisi catering centre, participants eagerly rolled their sleeves up to learn how to make khachapuri – a cheese-filled flatbread – and other delicious traditional Georgian sweet and savoury dishes.
Vahagn continues to warm to his theme: ‘The Torino Process is a career. It is not only a job; it is all about the ability to navigate in the labour market. While working with the ETF, I have developed my professional knowledge and skills as well core work skills: communication, learning to learn, problem solving, team work.’
Business on board
He came to the State Employment Service Agency after working in the private sector for the Armenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he was involved in business development. ‘The Torino Process emphasises the importance of human resources for business development,’ he observes.
‘We had a big imbalance between labour market supply and demand; the Torino Process had helped us establish links between the world of business and education, institutionalising the role of business – especially by involving social partners in the educational process.’
At the State Employment Service Agency, part of Armenia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, his key task is ensuring positive cooperation between employers and the providers of educational services, for the benefit of the labour market.
The peaceful, purposeful way in which the Torino Process promotes cooperation runs through his work. ‘The Torino Process does not impose, but guides.’ Its approach is based on evidence. The ETF brings together peoples from different countries. By collaborating together we understood common problems and, based on this, develop our own strategies, using best practice.’
Armenia has been involved in the Torino Process since its launch in 2010, just a few years after it began substantive vocational education reforms in the mid 2000s.
The Torino Process coordinator for Armenia is Armenuhi Poghosyan, who heads up the policy and strategy development of vocational education at the Ministry of Education and Science.
For Poghosyan, the Torino Process facilitates ‘swift analysis of the VET system; the more deeply we understand our system, the faster we can make progress on VET reforms in our country.’
European support for Armenia’s VET reform process has been critically important to its success, she says. ‘Launching these reforms would have been much more complex without the support of the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme, the ETF and other international agencies. Starting from scratch we needed to work hand-in-hand with experts to support the reform process.’
The collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago had left Armenia’s VET system in tatters and there was little or no connection between it and the labour market for decades, she remarks. ‘The Torino Process came at the right moment when we needed this intensive monitoring and evaluation.’
‘The process can be summed up as one that brings stimulus, progress and evaluation to reform.’
‘The Torino Process stimulates us by giving us concrete steps and aims for our reform. That is a key stimulus for action. Progress comes from having a clear idea through the analysis of how far we have come, and where we need to go. And thanks to the evaluation we can see that we are on track and understand where we need to go next.’
Sharing experience with other countries involved in the Torino Process provides an indication of where Armenia can improve further: the Kyrgyz experience with introducing an innovative VET tracer study, for example, is something Armenia is keen to adopt.
Find out how the Kyrgyz tracer study is pointing the way to the of vocational education in Issue 39 of Live&Learn here.
By Nick Holdsworth – @etfeuropa’s roving reporter