Morten Skovgaard Hansen, Head Of Mission At The Embassy Of Denmark In Belgrade:

Good Practice Creates More Job Opportunities

More and more Danish companies and investors are now interested in business opportunities in Serbia, thereby also often creating jobs in Serbia. Therefore Serbia’s interest in strengthening dual education will benefit companies, employees and the society

All theoretical knowledge has to be tried in practice. That’s why dual education is part of all kinds of education in Denmark. When it comes to VET, there are more than 100 programmes with more than 300 specialisations. Most often it is small and medium-sized companies that take on the most apprentices, but even the Danish Foreign Ministry employs office trainees – says Morten Skovgaard Hansen, Head of Mission at the Embassy of Denmark in Belgrade. The underlying value of the Danish approach is good cooperation between social partners and the devotion of Danish companies to the lifelong learning of their employees and their satisfaction with working conditions, adds our interlocutor.

In the Danish VET programme, social partners have a considerable influence on VET and, thus, great responsibility for it. Could you please tell us more about their role in VET?

– In Denmark there is a long tradition of companies, labour unions and the state working together for the benefit of everyone. The same is the case when it comes to dual education. Social partners often discuss and reach agreement about how to ensure students get opportunities and that the required qualifications are provided in the future. For example, in 2016 they made an agreement on how to secure enough apprenticeships for the VET programmes.

How many VET programmes are there and which of them are the most popular among students?

– In Denmark there are more than 100 VET programmes with more than 300 specialisations. The VET programmes normally last between three or four years. It is possible to gain an education in all kind of areas, from IT and crafts to food or social work. Some of the most popular VET courses in Denmark are, for instant, those for smiths, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, chefs and social and healthcare workers. However, in Denmark dual education is not only for the VET programmes – it is part of all kinds of education!

For example, we at the embassy have two university students each semester and as of this year we will also have a Serbian student trainee. That’s because in Denmark it is very important to try to use your theoretical knowledge in practice, so most students also have a student job in addition to their education.

Do students receive reimbursement during their training and what percentage of them gains employment with the companies where they receive their training?

– The apprentices receive a wage during their education. Payment of this wage is shared between the state and the companies, with the company paying around 20 per cent of the wage. Apprentices receive the wage both when they are at school and when they are working on their apprenticeship. The wage increases each year during the education. The apprentice’s general working condition is secured by a collective agreement between the labour unions and the companies, and all apprentices are covered. As such, the apprentices also receive payment for holidays, sick leave and overtime.

The employment rate for students after graduation is very good and around 80 per cent of them gain their first jobs after graduation at the companies where they received their training.

What interests Danish companies in being part of VET programmes and which type of companies are involved in these educational programmes the most?

– Danish companies are interested in the VET programme for several reasons. First of all, in Denmark there is a long tradition of companies taking responsibility for educating the workforce, while Danish companies also invest a lot in their workers. Secondly, because the students contributed with work during their training they are therefore an asset for a company, especially during the last part of their education.

Small and medium-sized companies take on the most apprentices. That’s because a huge part of these companies are craft firms that traditionally have more apprentices than industry. But all kinds of companies have apprentices. The Danish Foreign Ministry employs office trainees, for example.

Serbia can benefit from the Danish experience by taking into account how effective it is when companies, the state and labour unions work together to find good solutions in all areas, including dual education

What kind of support do children receive when deciding which VET school to choose?

– In Denmark all children receive educational guidance during primary school. There are transition programmes, where children visit the VET school and also visit a potential workplace for a week to see what the work is like.

How important are the HR services of Danish companies?

– In Denmark there is a tradition of lifelong learning, where companies invest in the development of their employees’ skills. In Denmark there is also a huge focus on employee satisfaction, because happy people perform better.

To what extent are external HR companies involved in shaping labour force supply and demand?

– External HR companies have a role to play, but the extent to which they are used in the process varies.

What portion of Danish experience and knowhow could be transferred to Serbia?

– All countries have to find their own model, but I think Serbia can benefit from the Danish experience by taking into account how effective it is when companies, the state and labour unions work together to find good solutions. There are already many relevant initiatives in this area in Serbia. In general, we have seen some positive reforms related to the business environment. I am glad to see that more and more Danish companies and investors are now interested in business opportunities in Serbia, thereby also often creating jobs in Serbia.