Since 2006 we have been supporting Azerbaijan in developing education and training to boost employability, increase access to opportunity and promote social cohesion. Complementing the work of the EU’s External Action Service, we bring together ministries and social partners to develop scalable projects.
The ETF works actively with the EU Delegation in Baku to support content monitoring of the Annual Action Programme (AAP) launched in 2014 to overhaul the Azerbaijan education system. The programme focuses on the quality and relevance of skills training, higher education and vocational training to match labour market demand. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Agency for Vocational Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, we implemented the Torino Process in 2016 to build understanding about the challenges surrounding education and training and to create opportunities for capacity development and implementation.
Political context and priorities
Azerbaijan faces challenges in the education and economic sectors. The economic recession in 2016, driven by the fall in oil prices and oil production, triggered the need for a ‘non-oil’ economy. This “knowledge-based economy” requires the development of human capital and calls for an improved, modern education system for the whole population. The ‘Strategic roadmaps for the national economy and main economic sectors’ were approved in December 2016. Government strategy on matching education and training to labour market requirements is further outlined in The ‘Azerbaijan 2020: Look to the future’ development concept, the Education Strategy and Action Plan and the Draft Employment Strategy for 2017 -30.
With a population of 9.81 million, Azerbaijan is one of the few countries in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States with a young population. Almost one quarter (22.5%) are children (0-14 years) and young people aged 14-29 make up 27% of the population. The business environment is vibrant, with proactive reforms such as a one-stop-shop company registration scheme and a best practice e-government portal making start-ups easier. Globally, Azerbaijan is in fifth place in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of starting a business and the country ranks 65th out of 190 countries in the 2017 Doing Business report.
Education and labour policies
Vocational training and skills are one of the top priorities of government policy, reflected in a recent strategy outlined in Strategic Roadmaps to boost the economy and competitiveness. The State Agency for Vocational Education was established in April 2016 and a new employment strategy for 2017-2030 set 16 targets for 2030. These targets aim to reduce the number of young people not in employment, education or training and lower unemployment rates, as well as increased employment in SMEs. Increasing the scope and scale of training and self-employment measures is also at the forefront, as well as validation of skills acquired in non-formal and informal learning.
EU support and the ETF
The EU funded Annual Action Programme focuses on the development of vocational education and training, covering:
- Technical assistance to support reform in vocational education and training (EUR 3.2 million).
- Technical assistance for the development and implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (EUR 2.8 million) started in January 2018.
- A grant scheme for multifunctional training centres to support the national strategy for education development (EUR 6.2 million).
As an agency of the EU, we are providing support to the EU delegation across this agenda, promoting:
- the significance of the EU support programme to the vocational education and training sector
- the importance of a holistic approach to VET reform in the context of a changing environment
- the importance of availability of skills and talents, capable of responding to the challenges of the regional and local labour market
ETF is also focusing on supporting the EU external assistance project cycle in the field of vocational education and training and skills; assisting the national key stakeholders in improving Inter-Agency/Inter-institutional cooperation in the National Qualifications Reform process and supporting national key stakeholders in developing sustainable observatory functions.