Marko Čadež, President Of The Chamber Of Commerce & Industry:

Companies Will Have The Workers They Need

The Chamber will play an active role during all implementation phases of the new vocational education model: by assessing the needs of the economy for existing and new occupations; keeping a register of accredited jobs; education; organising exams; licensing mentors and supervising contracts between companies and students

The dual education project has reached a milestone at which it should pass from a pilot phase into the regular education system. The next step, and a precondition for that, is establishing a new regulatory framework, says CCIS (PKS) President Marko Čadež. The proposed draft of a new Law on dual education was created this January and should be adopted by mid-year. At the same time, the necessary amendments of other laws should be completed in order to precisely define the rights and obligations of all participants in the Serbian dual education model, with its full implementation planned for the start of the 2017/18 academic year.

How is the SCC taking part in that process?

– In cooperation with industry, the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbian has identified the necessary changes to the regulatory framework and the way of implementing vocational education, as good groundwork to start creating legislative solutions for the dual education model. We have taken an active part in drafting the first version of that future law.

At this stage, during implementation and later in realising dual education, the CCIS will represent a link between businesses and the state, i.e. the educational authorities, in order to adjust the education system to the needs of industry and the modern market, to educate the youth for professions needed on the market and to enable them to become integrated with production processes after finishing school.

The new vocational education model will be constantly evaluated and assessed by the CCIS, in order to identify changes in requirements of the industry and new job profiles, and to analyse the possibility of introducing new educational profiles for such occupations under the dual model. The CCIS will maintain a Register of accredited jobs. It will organise education and exams, certify mentors and maintain a register for them. It will supervise the contracts companies conclude with students or with their parents. It will take part in professional orientation programmes for primary school pupils…

How up-to-date is the data on the needs of the economy that the CCIS, NES and the Ministry of Education have, and how will it be updated in future?

– When the enrolment plan for high schools in the next school year is drafted, a new methodology will be implemented based on a consideration of the current and development requirements of the economy at the local, regional and national levels. The enrolment plan is being jointly developed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, in cooperation with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities.

In cooperation with representatives of local government authorities and the National Employment Service, the goal of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia and its regional offices is to assess the real needs of the economy and collect data on required and lacking profiles. The information we receive from companies, through questionnaires and direct contacts, is the basis on which we create the enrolment policies and enrolment plans for municipalities or cities.

In this way we acquire the most accurate data on the profile requirements of companies, which will be updated annually. In addition, the SCC has established sector groups with the task of defining the needs of the economy for skills and profiles, to overcome the shortcomings of the formal education system through informal education, and to identify educational profiles that need to be modernised or cancelled, and new ones to be introduced.

The new vocational education model will be constantly evaluated and assessed by the SCC, to identify changes in the demands of the economy and new job vocations, and to analyse the possibility of introducing new educational profiles for such occupations under the dual model

What is the experience of students and companies that took part in the pilot project for dual education?

– Both companies and students have recognised the multiple benefits of this educational model. Companies have gained workers with competencies needed for particular jobs. Students gained new skills more easily, progressing quicker and further than in the classic vocational education model. At the same time,they received remuneration for their work in those companies and were quicker in finding employment in companies where they were in training. For example, the Robert Bosch Company has already hired all students of the Milenko Verkić Neša Technical School in Pećinci who did their vocational training at that company and graduated last June, as the first dual model generation for the Industrial Mechanic profile.

According to current data, which occupational profiles are the most sought-after in industry, but are not being educated in our system?

– Companies currently demand mostly production workers. These are mostly three-year intermediate occupational profiles in the construction industry (carpenters, re-bar benders, masons, joiners, tilers), textile industry (tailors, seamstresses), electrical and mechanical industry, meat industry… For many of these professions, students can still be educated in the classic education system, or through projects organized according to the dual model, but unfortunately the children are not motivated enough for such profiles. Although modern production is essentially automated, working conditions in those factories are safe and such jobs are better paid than the Serbian average, students and especially their parents have the wrong perception of occupational profiles in production. So it is important that we dedicate special focus on the promotion of these profiles in future, because the dual education model can only be efficient if there are enough students for occupations that companies really need.

Are domestic companies showing enough interest in getting involved in this educational model, and what is your opinion of their technical and professional capacities for joining the process?

– Thanks to the realisation of the pilot project, supported by Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the national companies have started to recognise the benefits of the dual education model, which has raised their motivation to get involved in educating the workforce based on this model. Large and medium-sized enterprises were the first to adopt the innovation, and gradually more and more small companies, even individual entrepreneurs, are becoming motivated to accept students at their production facilities and train them for the occupations they need in a real-life working environment.

Naturally, technical capacities in companies are definitely better than those in vocational schools, because to survive in the market companies must keep pace with the competition, which means they must continually invest as much as they can afford, in tools, equipment, technology, product development, marketing. Unfortunately, high schools don’t have the means to keep pace with the dynamics of all technical advances in production even though some of them have received donations from companies, had their facilities renovated and continually get supplied with the necessary machines and materials. Training practice in school workshops cannot properly substitute real life working conditions, where students are taught to produce something or to provide a certain service, but also to adopt rules of behaviour in the workplace, teamwork, business ethics, communication, responsibility. These are essential skills and knowledge for a high quality workforce, as much as the knowledge acquired in the classroom.

Apart from technical capacities, companies must also provide mentors to work with the students, previously trained staff. Since the Serbian economy is dominated by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, many of them would like to participate in the dual model but cannot spare an employee to be a trainer, because of the small number of employees. This issue could be addressed by cooperation of schools and companies, where educational workers would be engaged in those companies as mentors and have shorter working hours in their schools because of the transfer of training practice to the companies.

For this year, there is a plan to found a Business Academy, with programmes not found in formal education, which will significantly improve the competences of workers, raising their competitiveness and employment opportunities

Currently, the schools educate those occupational profiles that directly correspond to the requirements of mostly foreign companies operating in the vicinity. Does it carry a certain risk, knowing that the investors could decide at any given moment to move their business to a country with a more competitive workforce?

– If we accept such a mindset, the question could be “What if a local company goes bankrupt or changes its field of work?”

Foreign companies operate here in the same way as local companies, and are a part of our economy. The fact that they are willing to invest in human resources and bear the costs of dual education which will largely be relying on the industry, is actually a proof of their intention to expand their businesses, make further investment, plan their stay here in the long term.

When identifying lacking occupations or profiles and introducing them into the education system, we interview and consult both companies with foreign capital and domestic companies that tend to have the same or similar workforce requirements as foreign investors do. After all, the dual education pilot project currently involves more than 40 companies, both foreign – such as Bosch, Siemens and Fiat, and domestic, such as Inmold, Milanović Engineering, Amiga, Energotehnika-Južna Bačka.

How can the CCIS help companies find the necessary workforce, plan their staffing requirements better, and develop and manage human resources more efficiently?

– Chambers of commerce play an important role in the development and implementation of professional education and training policies. The CCIS also has a long tradition of organising seminars, courses and workshops, with a range of programmes designed according to the specific needs of entrepreneurs and adjusted to changes in the business and regulatory environment. In future we will focus on promoting the importance of business education, developing a method for identifying the training needs and conducting impact analysis of the effects of the training on work performance. We will improve cooperation with the National Employment Service in organising additional education and training programmes so that job seekers can acquire new knowledge, skills and work experience, and so employers can find the workers they need. For this year, there is a plan to establish a Business Academy, offering programmes not found in formal education, which will significantly improve the competencies of workers, raising their competitiveness and employment opportunities.