30 years, 30+ stories: The ETF's support to recovery and reconstruction in Ukraine

The Russian aggression in Ukraine has inflicted severe consequences both demographic and geopolitical. To date, the repercussions have pushed upwards 6 million Ukrainians into the ranks of refugees, with an additional 3.7 million internally displaced. 

Unwavering commitment to Ukraine 

Reaffirming its full support to Ukraine two years after the Russian invasion, the European Union (EU) has recently adopted the Ukraine Facility that will mobilise up to €50 billion between 2024 and 2027 to sustain the country's recovery, reconstruction and modernisation. Moreover, the European Council's conclusions in December 2023 to open accession negotiations with Ukraine, underline the EU's commitment towards the country. 

The European Training Foundation (ETF) has a 30-year long history of close cooperation with Ukraine. And even more so in these challenging times, Ukraine remains a priority country for ETF support.

"There will be a huge demand for skills in Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction in the short and long term," says Georgios Zisimos, ETF Head of Policy Advice and EU Programming.  

"Thanks to our expertise and our established relationships with the authorities and stakeholders in the country, the ETF can be part of an alliance with other organisations, international financial institutions and EU Member States to rebuild a strong Ukraine.” 

ETF support to Ukraine 

"All ETF support actions should involve Ukrainian decision-makers, in line with the Ukraine Plan," adds Zisimos, who also leads the ETF's internal Ukraine Task Force, a group of experts with diverse professional expertise and knowledge of the country, addressing its education, training and labour market needs. 

ETF work in the country is organised around three support packages. As an immediate response to the Russian war on Ukraine, the ETF adopted the emergency support package, which addressed the immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced adults to facilitate their re-integration into employment.

"Now we are also working to support long-term reconstruction and assist Ukraine in its path to EU membership," says Susanne Nielsen, the ETF's country liaison for Ukraine. "We do so, also by providing advice on the processes of opened accession chapters, in particular the 26th on education and culture, to build Ukraine's capacity for accession.” 

"Ukraine is doing well in its alignment with EU standards, because over the past year, the Ukrainian authorities have been in a process of ongoing reforms that have laid the groundwork for today's progress," continues Nielsen.

Over the past decades, cooperation between the ETF and Ukraine has led to major developments in the country's qualification system, such as the establishment of the National Qualifications Agency in 2019, while Ukrainian qualifications and education and training have become more aligned with European practices and support European integration.  

The ETF's support in decentralising and optimising the VET system has attracted a lot of interest from official authorities and stakeholders. The implementation of the Torino Process, a periodical review of policies and practices in VET, is another example that demonstrates ETF support for evidence-based decision making at national level. 

In recent years, the ETF also assisted Ukraine in designing and launching the New Ukrainian School reform by supporting the development of the new National Education Standard that aligns with the EU policy framework for key competences in lifelong learning. Furthermore, initiatives continue to support work-based learning and the green agenda, despite the huge impact of the Russian aggression.

The impact on education and employment 

"3,798 education institutions have been damaged by bombs, 365 of which were completely destroyed," says Yuriy Balanyuk, Chairman of the National Qualifications Agency and Ukraine's National Coordinator for the European Year of Skills, in a recent interview with the ETF. 

Since 24 February 2022, the ETF has been monitoring and collecting evidence from a wide range of sources to assess the impact of the invasion on human capital development and education in Ukraine. Through regular reports, the ETF has been analysing the movement of people, the consequences for workers and the labour market, and the impact on schools and education. 

A forthcoming study on the employment, education and training patterns of Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people anticipates that two-thirds of Ukrainian refugees in Europe are either employed or seeking employment. In contrast, over 60% of temporarily displaced people remain inactive, mainly due to responsibilities such as caring for their families, retirement or health constraints that prevent them from working. 


The study also highlights the multiple challenges Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people face in accessing education and navigating the labour market. Almost half of the refugees in Europe cite a lack of knowledge of the local language as their main challenge, while for those temporarily displaced within Ukraine, caregiving constraints are the main reason for inactivity. Skills mismatches (many find themselves in jobs that do not match their profile and skills) also persist, albeit to a lesser extent, and affect both refugees and temporarily displaced people. 

Continuous support for the reconstruction of education and employment  

In its endeavours to provide support to Ukraine, the ETF has launched UA Re-Emerge(ncy): e-learning and skills development to rebuild Ukraine that aims at using micro-credentials for emergency reskilling and upskilling of temporarily displaced adults in the country. This has led to the introduction of eight micro-learning courses in the Dnipropetrovsk region, supporting jobs in energy efficiency, construction and restoration, as well as green energy sectors.

“One out of four participants undergoing the training are internally displaced people and, most importantly, three out of four are employed after obtaining the certificates. This work has triggered a new partnership between the ETF and three major European associations of VET providers (EVBB, EVTA and EfVET) to support the quality of training provision and certification in Ukraine," says Olena Bekh, Senior Human Capital Development Expert and Coordinator for Innovative Teaching and Learning, who is leading this initiative. 

"This year the ETF is supporting the development of new teaching standards, teacher certification and the professional development of educators through the New Ukrainian School reform programme, using a new innovative tool for teachers – Scaffold – a deck of cards developed under ETF Creating New Learning initiative together with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission,” Bekh continues.  

ETF Senior Specialist in Qualification Systems, Anatolii Garmash, stresses the importance of attracting labour and people from the EU back to Ukraine. He also emphasises the importance of skills validation for people returning from the EU.

"Thinking about how to attract and reintegrate Ukrainian people from EU countries is another urgent task for the Ukrainian authorities," says Garmash.

"Learning and work experience gained abroad are very important for the future needs of Ukraine. Recognition of this experience through the validation and certification of non-formal and informal learning will be important for their reintegration. The use of partial qualifications and micro-credentials will be key in this process," he adds. 

As for the future, it is still unclear how much more destruction the Russian invasion will bring to Ukraine.

"Ukraine is full of minefields and destroyed buildings, there will be a lot of reconstruction, but we still cannot predict how much. But one thing I'm sure of is that during the reconstruction process we will not only have to restore the destroyed infrastructure, but also rebuild it from scratch through innovation. I see the future of Ukraine as green, digital and highly advanced," concludes Bekh. 

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