The ETF’s support for Ukraine’s EU candidacy

The world is changing fast, and the right skills are needed to make the transition as economies go increasingly digital and green. Change has also been pushed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, triggered higher energy costs, inflation and uncertainty.  

For Ukraine, the devastating invasion has led to a 29% drop in its GDP1, caused poverty rates to soar (estimated at 24.1% in 2022 from 5.5% in 2021)2, and led to over 10 million refugees and internally displaced people. 

As a result of the invasion, the European Council granted the status of EU candidate country to Ukraine. As part of the EU enlargement policy, candidate countries enter into accession negotiations. This process involves 33 negotiating chapters, ranging from the free movement of goods, to the environment and financial services, and includes education and culture - Chapter 26

The European Training Foundation (ETF) – the EU agency supporting neighbouring countries to reform their education and training systems in the context of the EU’s external relations policies – is playing a key role in supporting Ukraine in the EU accession process, including input on the Enlargement Report. 

“The Enlargement Report has two objectives: it shows the progress achieved in the reporting period (normally one year) and reflects the overall state of preparedness for future membership in the given chapter. The ETF is providing valuable information relevant for both objectives,” as well as analysis on the availability of education and training indicators, said Fernando Fonseca, Programme Manager at the European Commission, and involved in the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR). 

The chapter on education focuses on cooperation through EU programmes, such as Erasmus+, and policy recommendations in the area of school and university education, he added.  

Data collection 

As for most of the EU neighbouring countries, the ETF is collating data and key indicators on education, skills and employment in Ukraine. 

“It is technical work but it is very important that we can support the European Commission with this data on Ukraine,” said Susanne Nielsen, Green Skills Expert and ETF Country Liaison Officer for Ukraine. 

The gathering of data in Ukraine has taken on great importance following the Russian invasion. The ETF collects education-related data from multiple data sets, including demographic changes – the internal displacement of people within the country, and those forced abroad – and the impact on infrastructure and the economy. 

Since March 2022, the ETF has released a weekly report that presents a snapshot of the unfolding situation in Ukraine, while also helping to direct future-orientated policies in terms of reconstruction and educational needs. The report shows that 3,259, or 10.4% of all educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict, and 114 vocational schools, or approx. 18.2%.  

“The Ukrainian government is doing a fantastic job collecting evidence of the various impacts. You can address the needs of people by knowing what their needs are,” said Stylianos Karagiannis, a Human Capital Development (HCD) Statistician at the ETF.  

The ETF is working to support VET programmes, develop micro-credentials, and develop new skills that will be needed for the reconstruction of Ukraine. Such work also includes the ETF campaign “Skills for a changing world”. 

The EU meanwhile has provided €100 million for budget support and humanitarian aid, and two conferences have been held on recovery, reconstruction and modernisation of Ukraine.  

EC advisory groups 

A further area where the ETF is providing Ukraine with support is in their attendance at European Commission advisory groups, which EU candidate countries are granted access to.  

“We support Ukraine nominate and get the paperwork done to be able to participate in these groups on vocational education and training. It is important for candidate countries to be at the right (advisory) tables and have conversations with EU Member States,” said Nielsen.   

Fonseca said such advisory or expert groups “help prepare Ukraine for accession. They give our Ukrainian counterparts an insight early on into how the EU is functioning and how they can contribute in the future as a Member State.” 

Centres of vocational excellence 

A further area in which the ETF is assisting Ukraine is through its Network for Excellence (ENE), which is a global network of centres of vocational excellence (CoVEs). 

“Ukraine is a very active member of the network, with 30 CoVEs,” said Nielsen. “CoVEs stand out for several reasons. Firstly, they tend to specialise in a particular vocational area which allow them to develop expertise and provide high quality vocational training. Secondly, CoVEs collaborate closely with industry partners, other VET institutions, and stakeholders to develop innovative training programmes. Finally, CoVEs have an international focus and aim to establish partnerships and collaborations with other CoVEs globally, enabling them to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in their field.”  

These unique characteristics make CoVEs valuable players in the VET sector, providing high quality training that meets the needs of industry and society.  

CoVEs will play an important role in the recovery of Ukraine through the provision of the skills needed to rebuild the country. ENEs facilitate partnerships, peer learning and the sharing of vocational excellence. This includes a the green initiative GRETA: Greening Responses to Excellence through Thematic Actions. 

On 6 July, ENE will host a public session on GRETA together with the VET Toolbox initiative focusing on green skills delivery in the construction and energy sector - two sectors of strategic importance in the recovery of Ukraine. 

The VET Directorate in the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science will take part and share insights on the skills needs for reconstruction and their vision for CoVEs in this process. 

Based on a peer learning approach, Nielsen explains, there will be CoVEs from other countries sharing their experience on the best and most efficient ways to deliver these skills.  

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