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Future proofing skills and qualifications

Year/Date: 13/10/2017


Youth unemployment is high in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with around 7 in 10 young people out of work. Faced with an uncertain future, many graduates are leaving the country to find work. For these young people, having their skills, competencies and qualifications easily recognised is essential.

‘This is very important because today’s working environment is international - we need international relationships and recognition,’ says Eldar Pezer, 16, a physiotherapy technician student at a vocational school in Tešanj, in the country’s north.

Eldar, who aspires to become a doctor, is one of four young vocational students who joined ETF’s ‘Qualifications for the Future’ workshop in the coastal town of Neum. The students shared their voice, aspirations and ideas, with representatives from the government, the European Union, international organisations and ETF experts, gathering to discuss the findings of a new inventory of vocational qualifications.

As an EU-accession country, Bosnia and Herzegovina is working to reference its system to the European Qualifications Framework to make qualifications more readable and understandable across countries.

Like Eldar, Semir Omic, 18, is taking a medical technician course but aspires to continue his studies at university to become a doctor. ‘I wanted to study medicine because it gives you the opportunity to help people,’ says Semir, a student at a vocational school in Brčko in the country’s north.

Semic is set to graduate from the four year course in 2018. He, just like the other students, is not very optimistic about his immediate job prospects. ‘We see medical technicians leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina to places like Germany and Austria to work.’ A high quality and internationally recognised qualification is ‘very important,’ he says. ‘Especially in medicine, because it is a profession that is in need everywhere.’

Taking stock

The medical technician qualification is one of 16 that have been analysed in-depth in the new inventory, compiled by the ETF in cooperation with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and responsible educational authorities. The analysis covers two dimensions: content and quality. The latter looks at labour market relevance, learning processes, assessment and certification, and qualifications standards and structure.

While elements of a modern and good quality vocational qualification system are evident, the overall system should be strengthened, the analysis shows. Additional efforts are needed to link qualifications to learning outcomes, and recognise skills obtained through non-formal trainings. The relevance of qualifications for the labour market should also be assessed, with tools such as regular employer surveys.

Daria Duilovic from the Ministry of Civil Affairs says the state of qualifications can be discussed as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty.'Educational institutions are working together and we are moving to the right direction to improve qualifications for the future of education.'

Mate Krizanac, Assistant Minister of Education of Canton 10 says employability is a problem. ‘The key issue is to address is the interaction between vocational education and training and the labour market.’

Forward looking

The students want to see links with employers strengthened, with more opportunities for work experience. For Gabriela Coric, 17, who is studying economics at a vocational school in Posušje, in the country’s west, the only practical experience she has gained so far is working at her father’s small business. ‘I like economics, and the idea of working for a large company, in a bank for example. So I would like to have more practical experience working in big companies.’

Zorana Pelemis, 17, who is studying at a gymnasium school in Zvornik, in the country’s northeast, says work experience is also missing from the secondary education system. ‘We need more practical experience, and an ability to choose some elective subjects ourselves. For example, I like ecology, and I would like to take that.’

In addition to increased practical training, the students say more is needed to ensure that the voices of young people are heard throughout the education system.

ETF Qualifications expert Carmo Gomes says we cannot talk about qualifications and qualification systems without thinking about the final beneficiaries: the future generation. 'The EU needs young leaders, the Balkans need young leaders.'



The two-day workshop is part of European Vocational Skills Week – the European Commission’s initiative highlighting the benefits of better VET. The ETF is a partner in the initiative, and all of its 29 partner countries bordering Europe are encouraged to get on-board by hosting their own event.

Running from September through to December, the #EUVocationalSkillsWeek campaign is helping to show how VET is a smart choice, fun, and leads to excellence in education, high-quality jobs and increased employability. For more info, visit the website here.



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