Socioeconomic development and (non)corresponding professional education
Newly developed business and social changes create need for adequately qualified workers in new lines of work and with new competences. In order to answer such challenges and rapid changes adequately, active participation of all participants in connecting education and employment policies is of great importance in any society. One of the ways to perform harmonization are activities on preparation of occupational standards, qualification standards and development of the curricula, educational courses and programs where many actors take part. In addition to business associations such as chambers, schools and ministries important actors are representatives of the companies.
Role of companies in development of dual education
The greatest driving force behind changes in the education process of are companies, which consequently lead to reform of high school vocational education in direction of introducing dual education. Dual education enables the students to gain knowledge and specialization in theory and practice – in school, as well as practical part with the employers, in line with the standard classification of occupations and school curricula. There are several examples of such cooperation. One of them is MS&WOOD from Fojnica who initialised establishing of vocational high school for wood processing and who provides scholarships for students on annual basis and offers employment for all the graduates (source: Oslobodjenje.ba). In this example we can see readiness of schools to make additions to their curricula in form of new, practical elements, which, in return, opens possibilities for students to gain new theoretical and practical experience. On the other hand, despite positive examples, data of the follow-up studies for high school graduates in one year after completion of high school vocational education, the 2018 Tracer Study performed by GIZ suggests that only 39% of students are employed, out of which 49% of them stated their current job is not related to their TVET qualification[i].
Situation in the field is the following one: due to lack of foreign investment and inability to develop in line with their wishes, companies are not able to provide employment for all the people looking for job related to their profession. On the other hand, due to difficult economic circumstances and high living costs, workforce mobility in BiH is minimal and the unemployed remain in their home towns waiting the opportunity to get employment. In order to avoid such circumstances, it is important to understand requirements of the labour market and adequately respond the requirements of the economy in line with the changes in the market. Specifically, development of the technology related to a specific branch of industry should be envisaged bearing in mind requirements for workforce in the production process, but also the fact that there is an increase in IT experts demand. All of the above mentioned results in demand for regular updating of occupational standards.
Occupational standard is “definition of all the activities an individual performs in specific occupation and all the competences required for their successful performance”[ii]. So, occupational standard defines key job roles/duties of the workforce from the perspective of the employer and is a basis for development of qualifications and training programmes. In other words, it identifies key educational elements – knowledge, skills and attitudes required for success in specific occupation. It also defines desirable attitudes of a person engaged in specific occupation. Together with the description of working environment it also provides information about connection to other occupations.
Who develops the standards?
Coordinator for development of occupational standards based on the profession criteria and requirements of the BiH economy is BiH Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education (APOSO). It is competent for establishment of the occupational standards and evaluation of the results, development of common core for curricula in preschool, primary and secondary education, as well as other expert activities in the area of occupational standards and quality evaluation pursuant to dedicated laws and other legislation. In that manner, APOSO has developed standards for 30 occupations so far.
Occupational standard is developed by a working group consisting of 8 to 10 members: representatives of the companies, education sector/schools and APOSO. After workshops, developed standard in form of proposition is validated in the field, followed by development of final standard proposition. In terms of contents of the standard, it depends of the competences of the working group members. Therefore, it is crucial that working group members are from the industry, but also people who understand the importance of occupational standards for what follows after its adoption.
Occupational standard is a document fundamental for development of the curricula and curriculum for practical education. Coordinating the industry requirements, dialogue between industry representatives and education system representatives they achieve the goal of harmonising formal education and labour market requirements, due to emphasis placed on practice, i.e. learning through work. Development of standards in line with the labour market demands provides security in obtaining the required profile of students harmonised with skills required by certain profession which creates conditions for working and staying in the country of origin.
Practices from other countries
However, experience from other countries suggests the necessity of establishing the dialogue between different sides and planned moving towards common European approach to solving these issues. In case of Slovenia, companies are motivated to take part in process of developing occupational standards emphasizing the fact that education would be organized in line with their requirements. In majority of cases companies involved are aware of the fact that workers educated in such manner will help them increase the quality which would in return make them more competitive in the EU market. In Bosnia and Herzegovina such examples can be found – one of the participants in development of occupational standards in BiH is PREVENT GROUP, Prevent Components LLC Goražde, who established partnership with APOSO and school and delegated a member in the working group for the development of occupational standards.
Obligations and rights in relation to dual education are regulated by law in case of Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia since 2017 and in Croatia since 2018. One of the legal solutions for regulating this area in Bosnia and Herzegovina would be adoption of Framework Law on Dual Education at the same basis as previously adopted (at the state level): Framework Law on Preschool Care and Education in BiH, Framework Law on High School Education and Training and Framework Law on Higher Education.
In Montenegro, as we have previously mentioned, Law on Vocational Education regulates dual education as incentive for this type of education. In duration of first and second year students are paid by the state and the third year by the employer. Simultaneously, the state provides support to companies which take part in developing new enrolment policies and curricular reform. Hence, since the beginning of application of this law in 2017/2018 until today 250 companies in Montenegro are involved in the dual education system. Regarding the fact that said measures have been introduced in 2017, their outcomes are not possible to observe, but they existed in many countries because it is important for the state to enable smooth business activities.
The state provides lump sum subsidies (Slovenia) from EU grant funds in amount of 2400 EUR for period of three years, and from that budget companies cover the costs for mentoring. From that example we may conclude that it necessary to build sustainable system and in its development all the relevant actors should take part: employers, schools, ministries, competent institutions and chambers.
Chamber of commerce is competent for establishing the dialogue on this topic and providing support for development of efficient occupational standards through its network of chambers which is through daily activities in constant communication with its members, bearing in mind the importance of their participation in consultations with employers for the purpose of providing input for occupational standards. But, despite small number of positive examples, if we want to establish dual education system in BiH, it is necessary to find a single manner of assuming the responsibilities derived from it. In order to enable companies to fulfil their part of obligations towards dual education it is necessary to establish a support fund for development of dual education.
Some international organisations provide support to vocational education, and one of them is GiZ. In addition to providing professional support to development of vocational standards, education of teachers and other activities key to successful functioning of high school vocational education, GiZ – in cooperation with partners – supports development of long-term legal framework and strengthening technical vocational education and training in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Greatest challenge in BiH is time
Welfare of the society is mirrored in faster youth employment, shorter time spent on employment bureau, lower prequalification costs and timely intervention at rapid professional development.
According to opinion of PREVENT GROUP representative, Mr Anesa Bunjo, great support to realisation of this form of education is providing financial support from government to companies in form of subsidies, as in the case of countries in the region. There are many ways support can be provided by various institutions on different levels to companies involved in dual education. Joining forces and in cooperation with international organisations dedicated to providing support to development of dual education in BiH it is necessary to analytically examine all the available opportunities for providing support to companies and establish real model of support in order to enable an outcome favourable to all parties involved.
Greatest challenge is time – to make the period from the beginning of defining the occupational standards to their implementation shorter and followed by adoption of contemporary curricula, providing equipment for schools and workshops and education of teachers and mentors in companies which, together with educational institutions, create standardised concept of dual education. All of the above mentioned requires systematic coordination with the representatives of the industrial sector, shared analysis of demand at the labour market for the workforce and not under pressure created by social policies. Regarding the fact that it is necessary to take quick action on the activities at adjusting the educational system it is necessary to develop online platform – online dialogue, at disposal to representatives from the companies involved in the process of dual education in order to help them define specific requirements for certain type of workers and introduce the schools to their own capacities for taking part in joint educational concept.
Bearing in mind everything stated so far, it is necessary to start the standardization of occupations through the competent institution (APOSO) and its unification on the territory of BiH, adjusting the standards to innovative needs and real demands of modern production and services. It is also necessary to define and prescribe mutual competences and obligations between the educational institutions and companies.
In terms of advancements made, Sector for education of BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, established a web site where Framework occupational and qualification standards were published through a project financed with IPA funds. At the same time, it is necessary to have shared activities on development of common qualifications through single occupational standards – which serves as basis for preparation of qualifications and – and common learning outcomes which confirm obtained knowledge and competences and which are harmonised with European standards, which is being realised through project Towards regionally-based occupational standards implemented by ERISEE.
Opinion of Siniša Gatarić, deputy director of APOSO is that consequences in the area of activities performed on establishing occupational standards will be felt in five years. According to some of the available sources dynamics of changes will result in disappearance of 50% of existing occupations by 2025. In words of Mr Gatarić, cooperation between companies and competent institutions developing occupational standards is crucial. Business representatives are warning that if the changes in educational system fail to take place they will be forced to move production of companies which offer employment to many hundreds of workers to some other place, as Mrs Snježana Kopruner, executive director of company GS – Tvornica mašina Travnik emphasized.
Also, Mr Krešimir Bandić, director of company TIKT Manufaktura from Gradiška considers participation of representatives from their company important in development of occupational standards because they are able to provide their own contribution to development of high-quality standards, and such standards will enable young people to have education based on quality curricula. However, he stated that in order to have successful implementation of dual education it is necessary to provide additional education of the companies and organisation of separate rooms in companies where students could be adequately prepared and educated prior to practical work. Companies would require some support in that area.
Therefore, one conclusion must be reached – cooperation between business and academic community will contribute increasing the quality of educational courses and programs and in that manner regain the trust into quality of education. Some of the old crafts (professions) will disappear. Stable linear careers will no longer be possible and they will be subject to changes in cycles of 5 to 7 years. Contemporary professions influence development of new occupational standards and higher need for complex occupations. According to Elid Bandelj, trend is development of competences directed towards increase of knowledge, but not only of theoretical knowledge but in sense that the knowledge is applicable in practice.
Of course, economic development has no influence to success of dual education. Awaiting adoption of economic development strategy on state level as well as concomitant sector strategies, it is necessary to (keep) develop(ing) active dialogue with lower levels of government, i.e. between educational institutions, local communities and companies so the workforce created could have perspective for employment in their own surrounding. As it was emphasized throughout this paper, there are examples of dual education but they are scarce. It is necessary to work on promotion of specific occupations, i.e. those occupations with perspective to provide faster employment to students whose interest would therefore be increased for them. If the occupations involved fail to provide high income and good quality of life to a worker, but there is high demand for such occupations, it is necessary to ensure that all the actors are involved in the activities which would result in making the conditions better and making those occupations more desirable. Simultaneously, promoting and developing the idea of permanent education – lifelong learning should not be less important, nor less promoted.
Benefits for students
Trend of continuous learning and adapting to requirements and changes in the market is widely present in the world, and it enables faster manner of entering into the area of activities of similar occupations. Also, analysing this matter we must not forget key users of dual education and they are potential students.
Attitude of young people is to “educate in sought-after areas” and it is getting widely accepted. However, it is upon the institutions to provide education which would provide quality required for making them desirable and sought-after in the labour market. You can read more about experiences of project beneficiaries of I choose vocational education project HERE.
On trace of everything mentioned, in order to make vocational education better, it is necessary to design and implement measures which would motivate and organise all the participants in the standardisation and dual education development process (school, companies, civil society organisations, international development agencies, etc.).
[i]Graduates of technical and vocational schools in BiH – 2018 Tracer study report., Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Project Vocational education, October 2018, pg. 21-24.
[ii]S. Adam, M. Dželalija, Priručnik za izradu i upotrebu standard kvalifikacija i zanimanja u BiH, EU-CoE, June 2015, pg. 9.
Author: Elma Kovačević-Bajtal