Vocational education and training - Challenges and opportunities in the Southern Caucasus

In 2005 the European Training Foundation (ETF) started in-depth studies on the challenges and prospects of labour market and vocational education and training (VET) in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In that period these reports filled an important gap in information and analysis concerning VET systems (situation, policy development and issues for reform processes prompted by the faster economic growth and closer European integration) and their linkages with employment and economic development. These country studies were finalised in 2006 and included a number of conclusions that remain partly valid at present . However, a series of significant policy developments occurred in each of the countries in 2006-08. In parallel the European Neighbourhood Policy as new framework for relations with the European Union, opened a number of opportunities as well as challenges for the countries in the region. The ETF decided to use the previous analyses and propose a cross-country analysis of key priorities for VET and employment policies, within the framework of the ENP Action Plans and the latest national reform orientations. The study hopes to contribute to strengthen the effectiveness of the ongoing VET reform processes. The question of whether a regional dimension can be outlined in the present study is certainly legitimate, given the outstanding political and territorial issues, and different economic development policies adopted by each country. However the countries share a number of challenges that could be better addressed in a wider regional perspective. Economies and labour markets tend to step over boundaries and get global, therefore national policies need to fit with such processes. Finally, and this is essential for our mandate of EU agency, the three countries have signed with the EU the ENP Action Plans. The education and training agenda of the three ENP Action Plans is comprehensive, embraces a reform perspective and share significant common priority areas. This is a new framework that does justify more common work across the region, and contributes to reduce disparities in the approach to co-operation, notwithstanding the known country specific engagement foreseen by the ENP.