Under the leadership of Confindustria Serbia and supported by the Italian Embassy in Belgrade, Italian companies have been contributing strongly to the development of dual education in the country, through cooperation with both schools and the Serbian Ministry of education
Consider this: in 2015 a then small offshoot of Jagodina-based Italian company Aunde employed 200 workers, while its entire production was directed towards the local market. Over the course of the next three years, the number of employees grew to 750, while exports soon expanded to account for 80% of the company’s production. Along the way, in 2017, the company started cooperating with the Italian Embassy, Confindustria and the Serbian Ministry of Education, with the aim of implementing the dual education programme. Aunde provided industrial machines for the school it collaborates with, and has employed 40 young students over the past five years. At the beginning of 2020, Aunde won the award for “Contribution to the Implementation of the Dual Education System”, which is presented to the most successful members of Confindustria Serbia.
In a nutshell, this is how the win-win story of dual education in Serbia looks. But there are many more Italian companies that have been contributing to the development of dual education in Serbia. Among them are Fulgar, Modital, Dafar, Tehnostruture, Promeks and many others.
Italy’s contribution to the development of dual education in Serbia is both practical and envisages support for schools to procure state-of-the-art equipment for school training and experts. Specifically, as of 2017, Confindustria Serbia, as the most important association of Italian manufacturing and service companies, was included in the team of the Ministry of Education. Italian executives thus gained an opportunity, through the association, to influence the creation and establishment of a more efficient education system in Serbia, which will serve in the function of economic development.
One of the examples of the cooperation between the Ministry of Education, and Confindustria is the launch of the “National Day of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises”, which – from 2017 onwards – became a series of events bringing together numerous Italian SMEs and local communities. On this occasion, Italian SMEs open their doors to students, professors and the local community, in an effort to raise awareness among younger generations about the importance of also learning within companies. Participants are given an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of a business environment and the way particular companies operate. This event also serves as an opportunity to establish a dialogue between the business world, education and local communities, while encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit and the development of critical and creative thinking among young future professionals.
Indeed, Italy has rich experience in this field. The two main forms of the dual system in Italy are “school-work alternation” and “apprenticeships”. The Italian “school-work alternation” was introduced with the aim of improving the work-related skills of young learners. It starts with an agreement between a school and companies. As of 2015, school-work alternation became mandatory in secondary education in Italy.
On the other hand, Italian apprenticeships represent a labour and training contract with specific supporting legislation; active mainly in the labour market, these apprenticeships have limited connections with the education system. Italian apprentices are paid workers who participate in training courses/experiences in order to acquire different kinds of qualifications. The target group for apprenticeships are young people aged from 15 to 29 when entering the workplace, and such apprenticeships can last up to three years, according to collective bargaining.
With young people now enrolling in dual education throughout Serbia, it is good to know that the whole process is well supported by Italian companies that are looking forward to welcoming new entrants and future employees
Such an approach offers reduced costs for new entrants and training opportunities, increases the work-related capabilities of young employees (learning-by-doing) and provides the opportunity for companies to test new entrants through on-the-job training.
The Serbian approach to dual education has certainly learnt from different perspectives and experiences that have led to a specific model. Within that model, dual education only serves to complement the current model of vocational education and differs from the model employed in other European countries. Specifically, the National Model of Dual Education protects the general education system, while the fund of hours of professional subjects is divided into learning in an educational institution and learning in a real work environment. In the words of Gabriela Grujić Ph.D., Assistant Minister of Education responsible for dual education and upbringing, education does not mean only the acquisition of knowledge, but also the way we teach young people to use their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
The Serbian concept got its legislative form in the Law on Dual Education, which was adopted by the National Assembly of Serbia on 8th November 2017 and began being implemented at the start of the 2019/2020 school year. In the meantime, the number of dual educational profiles implemented in 104 secondary vocational schools has grown to 37, while the number of companies participating in the implementation of learning through work has reached a total of 880. Some 2,533 pupils were enrolled in the first year of high school in the 2019/2020 school year. This September marks the second year of the concept, which Italian companies are contributing to strongly.