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Since 2005 we have been supporting Turkey 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.

Vocational education and skills are high on the policy agenda of the Turkish Government. The ETF’s work in Turkey is determined by the Turkish National Action Plan for EU Accession presented to the Commission in March 2016. The EU Education and Training 2020 priorities, the Bruges and Riga MTD follow-up and the new EU Skills Agenda are also informing new strategies. We offer thematic support and EU/EUD funded instruments and programmes to nationally driven reforms.

Political context and priorities

Turkey is facing national and international challenges. The influx of 3 million Syrian refuges in 2015-2016 created new social, economic and political demands, particularly in urban centres. Key priorities are the revitalising of private investment, boosting growth and achieving Turkey’s accession to the EU. Negotiations began in October 2005 for this “long-lasting and open-ended process”, meaning that membership is not automatically guaranteed. Intensive work by technical groups is establishing new communication channels between Turkey and EU and accelerating the reform process necessary for accession.

Socio-economic situation

Although Turkey’s growth prospects are reasonably robust, with an expected 4.7% growth rate for 2018 and the medium term, it faces challenges to moving into high-income status. Turkey’s macroeconomic achievements are also being tested by an uncertain outlook. Domestic challenges and a deteriorating geopolitical environment have negatively impacted exports, investment, and growth. Low rates of labour market participation and employment, high informality and precarious and vulnerable employment disproportionately affect young people. Turkey continues to lag behind EU averages, and though economic growth has stimulated job creation, unemployment remains at 10.9%.

Education and labour policies

Progress has been made especially on the EU 2020 twofold target on education (i.e. reducing the early leavers and increasing tertiary attainment) and adult participation in lifelong learning (albeit from relatively low levels).To realize its underlying growth potential, Turkey needs to accelerate structural reforms in education and training and employment and improve trust in its institutions. Current focus is on better use of human capital through the pursuit of the education agenda and the deepening and widening of labour market reforms.

Targeted training will improve the qualifications of low-skilled workers and female labour force participation stimulated through flexible working conditions. In order to address these challenges, the implementation of strategies to align education and training policies with labour market needs is much needed.

EU support and the ETF

Turkey has been receiving substantial funds from the EU since 2001.

Human capital development remains high on the agenda of the 2014-20 programming period of EU external assistance to Turkey. The ETF supports the EU delegation’s agenda with the following interventions, cooperating with both public and private Turkish institutions:

  • promoting work-based learning
  • ensuring the quality of VET
  • enhancing access to VET including validation
  • strengthening key competencies including entrepreneurial learning and initial and continuous professional development of teachers and trainers. Small Business Act (SBA) assessment and related initiatives are part of this cooperation.

The ETF has signed a strategic partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with the aim of increasing the role of the private sector in supporting young people, especially young women, to integrate into the workforce. The ETF and EBRD have identified three priorities:

  • the development of technical and vocational education and training skills standards, as well the geographic expansion of facilities for testing vocational skills
  • increasing the availability of high-quality work-based opportunities for learning, including apprenticeships
  • supporting youth employment through career guidance with private sector involvement and implementation of the youth guarantee.