Business Breakfast "Vocational education and training for better skills, growth and jobs"
Bilateral Chambers Engage with Vocational Education, Training
A business breakfast devoted to vocational education and training for better skills, growth and jobs was held on Sep. 27, 2017, at Hotel Novotel Sofia. It was organized jointly by the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria. The event is part of a funded project within the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.
In 2014 Bulgaria’s Parliament passed changes to the Law for Professional Education and Training to allow the professional high schools to sign contracts with companies and approved protected jobs list for “unattractive occupations” such as welders, mechanics, railroad builders, and elevator technicians. Amendments approved by the Parliament allowed for “informally” acquired experience, that is, skills gained out of the professional education system, to be acknowledged by employers.
At the business breakfast Maximilian Erhard of German-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry elaborated on a project called “Apprenticeship Coaches for SMEs” (AC4SME), aiming to create more interest for Vocational Education and Training (VET) especially within SMEs. The project’s objective is to strengthen the capacities of chambers of commerce and industry to provide consulting services for companies interested in VET. A pilot class training management assistants in office communication was held at the National High School in Finance and Economics in Sofia between 2015 and 2017.
The German Chamber won a second EU-project within the Erasmus+ program in July 2017 to start in November 2017. Series of workshops about VET and the importance of skilled workforce in general is yet to follow.
Dual education (learning by working) was introduced in Bulgaria in 2015 with the Swiss “Domino” project (dual education for the modern needs and requirements of the society), said Petya Evtimova, who leads the project. It is financed by Switzerland under the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Programme.
Over 60 leading Bulgarian and foreign companies are currently partners of Domino. By 2019, when it will be completed, it should involve at least 1,200 students in 15 vocational schools, as well as at least 10 professions. New educational programs and curricula are being developed, and teachers, mentors and experts on dual education receive special training.
Advantage Austria/Austrian Federal Economic Chamber continues in 2017 the already successfully launched project “Dual education in Bulgaria” under the slogan “Are you ready to study the practice?” It has successfully implemented the first two dual classes in Bulgaria in 2015-2016 (in Sofia with 27 students in the profession “Economist,” specialty “Trade,” and in Gabrovo with 26 students in the profession “Mechatronics”), said Sofia Damianova, project manager for dual education with the Austrian Embassy. In 2016-2017 Advantage Austria managed to launch another five classes in Gabrovo – profession “Mechanical Technician,” Sofia – profession “Economist,” specialty “Trade,” Yambol – profession “Mechatronics.”
In the current academic year 2017-2018 prospective high school students can also opt for a dual form of education in the Austrian project in the following professions and regions: “Electrician” in Yambol with partner company EVN Bulgaria, “Technician-technologist in the food industry,” specialty “Production of bread and bakery products” in the Sofia School of Bakery and Confectionery Technology and business partner Billa Bulgaria, “Economist,” specialty “Trade” at the School of Economics, Pernik.
Representatives of Kaolin EAD, LEM Bulgaria EOOD, dm Bulgaria and BGO Software participated in the discussion and shared their know-how and best VET practices.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, German-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Advantage Austria are united in their efforts to institutionalize the dual education in Bulgaria. They stand behind of a set of legislative proposals which will ensure its development and sustainability in the future. Furthermore, they support the cooperation of all stakeholders – state institutions, private companies, branch associations and business organizations, local authorities and NGOs – for the implementation of the dual education in Bulgaria.