Numerous countries, including those that have multiple-year training programmes for skilled trade professions, just like Serbia, have responded to high youth unemployment by embarking on a deep reorganisation of their school system, relying on the most successful models of Austria, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, where well-established education is the key to low unemployment and the high efficiency and competitiveness of their economies.
Expert knowledge and experience have actually become among the most sought-after export products of these countries.
Although at first glance this appears to be about a simple task, somewhat improved teaching programmes for metal grinders, welders, seamstresses, tailors and shoemakers, with more practical experience with companies, the introduction of dual education is actually, according to the experience of successful countries, an extremely complex task that requires political and social consensus, as well as close cooperation between social partners and strong expertise that will form the basis to essentially manage this system and constantly innovate it to meet the needs of the economy and the wider objectives of educating part of the young generation.
The experience of donor countries shows that for the success of such an initiative it is extremely important to have cooperation between the Ministry of Education, the National Employment Service, trade unions, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the economy as a whole
Following the experimental phase, Serbia should this year also establish a defined legal framework for the introduction of dual education in the country’s education system.
The national economy’s interest in a highly skilled labour force subsided with the reduction of industrial production in Serbia in the 1980s. Thus, the first signal that the existing VET education system did not offer good solutions (although it was also previously built on the German model) came from foreign investors, who – despite the competitive price of labour – had trouble finding skilled, qualified workers.
Fortunately, through donor assistance from Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and then expert assistance from Scandinavian countries, Serbia was given the opportunity to gain access to knowledge that would allow it, without major roaming, to build a dual education system that could potentially bring it significant economic and social benefits – a higher employment rate, especially among young people, and a higher quality business environment in which, under partial reindustrialisation dependent on foreign and domestic investors, emerges a far more efficient economic system.
The experience of donor countries shows that for the success of such an initiative it is extremely important to have cooperation between the Ministry of Education, the National Employment Service, trade unions, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the economy as a whole. Each of these has their own role to play in the designing, analysing and constructing of high-quality education programmes, which, apart from school desks, rely primarily on practical work in companies. The last factor highlights the exceptional responsibility of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and companies that must build their own high-quality educational facilities and offer work-placement students the kind of knowledge that they will be able to use, not only in the companies where they carry out their training, but also beyond, in a relevant profession.
The first positive experience – with interested parents, governments and schools – showed that Serbia has the capacity and enthusiasm for change and tangible results – young people who acquire jobs immediately after leaving the classroom. Now it is important, with the assistance of donor countries, to make such a systemic framework that will make these kinds of results permanent.