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Professional opportunities in their own country

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.

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    Skills for Jobs (S4J) supports vocational schools in Albania to adopt modern teaching methods and vocational education and training courses that meet the demands of the modern labour market. This image gallery showcases how the approach benefits trainees, teachers, and private businesses equally.


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    S4J supports vocational schools in generating long-term relations with private companies in their regions. Together, they are modernising the school curriculum and improving efforts to prepare students for the labour market.


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    16-year-old Sara Palaj recently began her apprenticeship as an IT specialist at a furniture factory in Lezha. Her master instructor, Silvestra Gjeçi, supports trainees through continuous coaching and mentoring, helping them to grow both professionally and personally.


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    “I always look forward to my apprenticeship. All my colleagues know me and treat me well. After finishing my apprenticeship, I hope that I will be able to continue working there.”
    Dritan Jaupaj, 15, a student at the Pavarësia vocational school in Vlore and trainee at the Vlora Alumin company.


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    “I prefer practising over just reading recipes. I love learning by doing, and I can do that here.”
    Enkeleda Dervishi, 16, at Kristo Isak vocational school in Berat


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    S4J encourages student-centered teaching methods. Teachers are no longer “owners” of the information, but have gradually assumed the role of facilitators. They promote constructive dialogue in the classroom.


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    “I love working at reception. As many foreign tourists visit the hotel, I’ve also improved my English language skills since starting my apprenticeship.”
    Ema Shtëmbari, 17, Kristo Isak vocational school in Berat.


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    “During my apprenticeship at the Hotel Regina I have had the opportunity to try out various professions, from cook to receptionist. This made it easier for me to decide what I really want to do in the future.”
    Enxhela Coco, student at a vocational school in Vlore.


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    S4J is supporting modernisation of vocational IT training. Apprenticeships now have to focus on programming and no longer on hardware or maintenance alone, as this is a sector with good employment prospects for young men and women in Albania.


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    Teacher Elsa Duka shows 12th grade students in Lezha how to maintain computer hardware. Until now, few girls have enrolled in traditionally “male professions” such as IT. S4J encourages schools to move beyond this mentality and offer boys and girls equal opportunity in professional development.


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    “Prior to my apprenticeship it was difficult for me to imagine how an Internet service provider works. The apprenticeship helped me develop my skills and update my knowledge.”
    Anxhela Imeraj, 17, student at the Pavarësia vocational school in Vlore.


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    “My parents believe classroom teaching should take precedence. But I love being in the kitchen. And I’m really good at it.”
    Andrea Marashi (left) from the vocational school in Shkodra, is completing an apprenticeship as a cook.


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    “Autoservis Allushaj uses the latest technology and equipment to repair its clients’ cars. At school we do not have such modern equipment. I’m happy that I can do my apprenticeship in this company.”
    Kristi Hoxholli, 18, a student at the Pavarësia vocational school in Vlore.


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    Sara Palaj and Denada Gjini, students at the der Kolin Gjoka-school in Lezha, are both completing their apprenticeship at a local furniture manufacturer. The goal of the S4J project is to make young women aware that they are free to choose any profession they want.


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    The S4J project is introducing many new didactic methods in Albania, such as blended learning, group projects, or gamification. This improves the learning experience for students.


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    “I could never have imagined in secondary school that we could use computers at school for anything beyond IT classes. Through videos and practical examples, I’m better able to understand the subject in the classroom.”
    Gentjan Gjini, Kolin Gjoka vocational school in Lezha.


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    “My mentor Suzana is always available to show me how to do things properly. I learn step by step. Perhaps one day I will have my own fashion studio.”
    Desara Ftoni, Hamdi Bushati vocational school in Shkodra.


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    “Before I started at the vocational school, I went out every day with my friends and hung out at cafes. This has changed; now I am fully devoted to cooking. I don’t even think about hanging out or using my smartphone when I’m working.”
    Edsabian Kalej at the Hamdi Bushati vocational school in Shkodra is apprenticing under Izmir Luli, a cook at the Casablanca Restaurant in Shkodra.


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    S4J encourages teachers to offer interactive learning in the classroom. This makes the learning process more effective, interactive, and attractive. Here, teacher Merita Koço from the vocational business school in Vlore explains the components of a cook’s outfit to 10th graders.


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    “My activities as a receptionist include welcoming guests and handing over the room keys. Then I tell them about the services available at the hotel. This is the first interaction with hotel guests – a very important moment. It’s my job to ensure the guest experience is as good as it can be.”
    Adriano Vulaj, Kolin Gjoka vocational school in Lezha.


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    “Setting tables was one of the very first tasks they taught me during my apprenticeship. However, what I like most is to help guests order food. I seem to always know what they want.”

    Berjan Nazari, 16, Kristo Isak vocational school in Berat.


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.


Skills needed in the labour market

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.


Learning to trust each other

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.


Teachers motivated for reforms

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.

This is how the apprenticeship model becomes a success in Albania

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.


Building business relations

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.


Collaboration with industry leaders

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.


Win-win situation for all participants

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.


Creating a nurturing environment

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.


Career Centres in the schools

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.”


Engaged parents

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.


Trained master instructors

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.

Kledia’s opportunity: the apprenticeship

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.

Project example: Colombia

Swiss expertise opens up opportunities for global markets

To improve the enabling environment for exports, Swisscontact is connecting and strengthening organisations both locally and nationally. This will also result in jobs being created in economically disadvantaged regions and a more diversified economy.

Learn more

Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
Hardturmstrasse 123
CH-8005 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 454 17 17
Fax +41 44 454 17 97
E-Mail info@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org