In order for young people to have real opportunities in their country, Albania’s vocational education system must be reformed. Swisscontact is helping to link vocational schools with the private sector and ensures that vocational education better reflects the needs of the labour market.
In Tirana, there is a street called Rruga Skënderbeg, but everyone calls it “Embassy street” because it features one embassy after another. Each morning, long lines form in front of the embassy doors. These people see too few opportunities for themselves or their families, while the promises of Western Europe beckon strongly.
Swisscontact’s Albania office is also located in “Embassy street.” Every day our staff see with their own eyes, the challenges that need to be overcome: it is imperative to create opportunities in Albania. Young people are finding it especially difficult to enter the labour force. Youth unemployment has dropped slightly over the last few years, but at 23 per cent it is still quite high.
One reason for this is that vocational schools and universities do not teach the skills that the private sector needs. In the Skills for Jobs project, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) intends to improve the quality of the Albanian vocational education system, and they have commissioned Swisscontact with the task of implementation. Swisscontact has 25 years of experience in Albania and had already helped initiate reforms in the past. Skills for Jobs will now improve the quality and status of apprenticeship-based education, attract more young men and women to vocational schools and ensure the courses prepare students well for the labour market. To this end, close collaboration with the private sector is essential.
The Swisscontact team collaborates with seven vocational education institutions in various regions of the country. Before this collaboration, schools had no direct connections with the private sector. Teachers usually came straight from university and they were unable to offer their students any practical experience. For this reason, an important element of Skills for Jobs is connecting schools with businesses. This process takes time. Schools and businesses first need to learn to trust each other. Teachers and school administrators learn new and modern training methods in a collaborative process with the Swisscontact project team. For the time being, this development is limited to just the Swisscontact partner schools. The plan is for other schools to learn from the successes and emulate them.
The success is there for all to see: for the past three years that our partner schools have been collaborating with Swisscontact, they have gained 30% more trainees. This, in turn, presents them with other new challenges. But the motivation of trainers and directors, while initially somewhat halting, is quite palpable today. Business people are also spurred to action, offering apprenticeships, collaborating with the schools, and participating in their activities. Swisscontact is still there working as a facilitator, linking actors together and encouraging exchange. Once these processes become more of a second nature among the actors, Swisscontact’s role will become redundant and it will then withdraw.
Since 2017, Skills for Jobs in Albania has helped six vocational schools and partner businesses to pilot the apprenticeship model in Albania. Together with companies, the project is helping students to get exposed to the world of work, in order to obtain the necessary professional skills while being enrolled in the vocational school. The Albanian apprenticeship model, a Swiss-inspired model, is designed around the guiding principles applied in DACH+ countries for apprenticeships.
The following seven elements are what makes the Albanian apprenticeship-based vocational education system successful.
The basis of the Albanian apprenticeship-based vocational education system relies on a broad network of partner companies. The schools have all implemented a function responsible for building and coordinating these relations. It is part of the “Career Centers” concept (see section 5). Schools approach willing employers who see mutual benefits in collaboration.
Vocational schools aim, in particular, to attract the best private sector players in their regions. This is a central point to the success of the apprenticeship-based model of vocational education: the schools wish to connect with companies that have a clear vision for the future and are willing to invest in further growth.
A precondition for apprenticeships is to involve and benefit all three parties:
● Trainees improve their skills through apprenticeship.
● Companies invest in training their future employees.
● Public vocational education institutions help reduce public expenditures on practical training.
Before Skills for Jobs started up, practical training consisted of short-term internships. In order to better match the commitment and requirements of the companies, the project team has now designed full-year internships.
Our partner schools and the project team have a common objective: they want to create an environment in Albania where apprenticeship-based training takes on a life of its own. There are many efforts implemented to achieve this: the project team and schools sensitise all beneficiary groups, working together with employment agencies. To create apprenticeship agreements, they develop tools for teachers that make it possible to monitor over the apprenticeships and much more.
Skills for Jobs supported the creation of so-called “Career Centres” at each partner school. These units play a facilitative role in the education process: they establish the schools’ networks with private companies and they organise various activities to put students in touch with the world of work, in addition to guiding job interviews between the youth and companies. Furthermore, the Career Centres conduct publicity campaigns for the subjects on offer. The objective, on the one hand, is to enrol higher numbers of youth at the vocational schools, and on the other, to ensure future apprentices will know what to expect from the education. In 2017, the idea of the Career Centres had made its way into the local vocational education and training legislation under the name “Development Unit.”
The support provided by parents and family members during the apprenticeship period is highly important. The more engaged the parents are, the better the chances that the training will go well for an apprentice. Up to now in Albania, there were few efforts to involve parents in the academic and work life of the apprentices. In the future, Skills for Jobs will work even harder at this with the schools.
Training of master instructors is one of many aspects that the project takes on to enhance the quality of the trainings and ensure all involved will benefit from them. If master instructors are committed to their young trainees, this will encourage those trainees to then make a substantial contribution to the company.
Swisscontact creates opportunities – opportunities for youth in Albania to complete an education that will offer them good opportunities in the job market. It is up to young men and women to seize these opportunities by applying for apprenticeships, for example. This video shows how Kledia Prela from Lezha has mastered this challenge.
Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
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