End of the beginning for work based learning In Eastern Europe
To improve the employability of its young people and provide businesses with the skills they need, Moldova has been working to enhance the role of workplace learning in its vocational training programmes.
‘It’s impossible for schools like ours to keep up with technological change in industry. We can’t have the latest equipment in our workshops. We need to partner with businesses to provide our students with the practical part of their training,’ says Dumitru Lupei, Director of Nisporeni Vocational School, 70 kilometres north west of the Moldovan capital Chisinau. The school, which trains some 400 young people in agriculture, winemaking, ICT, catering and industrial trades, has two ways of providing its students with real-life work practice.
Under agreements with local companies, the school offers one-year programmes where students divide their time each week between theoretical training and general education in the school, and hands-on practical training under the supervision of a tutor in the workplace. At the end of their training, students obtain a state-recognised qualification opening the door to employment with local footwear and garment producers. The school is negotiating a similar agreement with berry producers, a growing industry in the region.
The school also has its own winery where students on a three-year oenology course get hands-on experience of every stage in the wine-making process from growing and harvesting the grapes to bottling and marketing the wine, which is sold commercially under the Crescendo label and has won three gold and two silver medals in national wine competitions. The school has plans to expand its winery in the near future.
‘For a country at our stage of development, work-based learning is a good way to equip young people with real-life work skills and provide employers with the labour force they need,’ says Dumitru Lupei. Alongside training for employment, all students receive entrepreneurship education to prepare them for the possibility of self-employment or starting their own business.
The visit to Nisporeni Vocational School was part of a conference organised by the ETF in Chisinau on September 19-21 to mark the end of the first phase of the three-year Skills Connexion project aimed at helping the countries of Eastern Europe and Kazakhstan embed work based learning in their vocational education systems. Work-based learning - ranging from apprenticeships to internships to in-school workplace simulation – is not a new phenomenon in these countries, but the transition from the Soviet model has left them with predominantly school-based systems. Working together with key stakeholders from government and business, the ETF has supported countries in assessing the state of play of work-based learning, defining options to expand it, and supporting them in doing so through capacity building, including a distance learning tool.
‘All countries have made measurable progress over the course of the project. There are many examples of good practice, but they still have some way to go before work-based learning becomes fully integrated in their systems,’ says ETF project coordinator, Didier Gélibert. ‘This is not the end of our support for work-based learning in our partner countries, but the end of the beginning.’ One objective of the meeting in Chisinau is to take stock of what has been achieved, look at what needs to be done next, and consider how the ETF can continue to support developments.