GABRIJELA GRUJIĆ Assistant Minister for Dual and Entrepreneurial Education in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development: TOGETHER WE CREATE SAFE JOBS

The cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and Confindustria
started with the launch of the first ever “National Day of Small and Medium Enterprises”, organized by Confindustria and its member companies based in Sremska Mitrovica.

The goal of the initiative was to bring together a number of Italian small and medium enterprises in one day which, on that occasion, opened their doors to students, professors and the local community in an effort to raise awareness among younger generations about the importance of learning in companies too. The participants had the opportunity to experience business environment first hand, and the way in which a particular company operates. This was also an opportunity to establish a dialogue between business world, education and local communities,
while encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the development of critical and creative thinking among
young future professionals.

“I am really glad to see that, in the space of only one year, since 2017, the National Day of Small and Medium Enterprises evolved from a one-day event to “The Year of the Open Doors of the Italian Businesses”.

Thanks to this, we also had the opportunity to visit companies in Velika Plana and Zrenjanin together with the students from technical high schools and elementary school pupils. The central event was held in November 2017 in Belgrade, with a business opportunity fair and professional practice organized for the pupils and students about to graduate,” says Gabrijela Grujić, Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development.

“All these activities, owing to which we had the opportunity to listen closely to the needs of Italian businesses, but also to promote dual education system, resulted in the creation of new and the modernization of the existing dual educational profiles in secondary vocational schools in accordance with the real needs of the Italian businesses that will provide safe jobs with renowned employers in the near future”, adds our interlocutor.

“The first ever created and modernized educational dual profiles support the metalworking industry, and we are already working on the development of a four-year programme for the automotive industry. Confindustria recognizes the efforts of our ministry in terms of adapting the education system to the needs of businesses. Last but not least, I would like to would add, hoping that I am not bragging too much, that in this regard I was honoured
with an award of recognition of the outstanding commitment and contribution to strengthening the cooperation
between education and business system last year, at the annual meeting of Confindustria”.

How many Italian companies have joined the dual curriculum so far and what educational profiles are they most interested in?

— It is difficult to give you the exact figures for all Italian companies in Serbia, but when it comes to companies
that are members of Confindustria, I can say with certains that companies from Zrenjanin, Jagodina, Sremska Mitrovica, Velika Plana and Sabac have been successfully implementing these programmes. It is important to note that many of the aforementioned companies had started cooperation with technical schools before we got on board,
and that these initiatives were later successfully integrated into the dual education system.

What are the Ministry’s further plans in terms of reforming the school system in line with the needs of businesses?

— Considering the previous results in the implementation of dual education in secondary vocational education,
as well as the strong interest of businesses for connecting with the education system, we think that dual education should be developed in other branches of industry too in accordance with the needs of businesses. I am mainly referring to introducing new educational profiles in automotive industry and digitization (cybersecurity profiles).
I would also like to underline that it is extremely important to have a comprehensive connection and networking
between education and businesses and that it is simply not enough to carry out this networking process only in high schools but to rather extend it to higher learning institutions too, and by this, I am mainly referring to vocational
colleges that have a strong, clear and active collaboration with businesses. We need to help university and vocational college students to acquire higher levels of competency because in doing so, their employability will be higher.

How important are the events like “The Day of Open Doors of Italian Businesses” for high school and university students for getting better acquired with the real business operations?

— They are extremely important! And to validate this claim, let me just say that, in Italy, Confindustria has been promoting this initiative since 2010 and that the number of companies joining the initiative has been growing year-on-year. As I said at the beginning of this interview, this is an opportunity for young people to see business environment and the way in which a company operates, first hand. They also have the opportunity to talk to company directors and owners who are selflessly sharing their experiences, ups, downs and challenges they had in their careers with these young people. Many students have never seen the insides of a factory before and you could
see on their faces how positively surprised they were when they did. For instance, in Sremska Mitrovica, after visiting a company’s factory, a fourth year high school student took an initiative to ask whom he had to contact in order to get a job there once they graduate. These are very important moments.

What are your experiences so far with businesses and the Ministry establishing an even closer cooperation? Which foreign cooperation formats do you look up to?

— The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development is proud to say that it has an excellent cooperation with businesses. The success of the introduction and implementation of the national dual education
model depends on the benefits that all the stakeholders involved in this process have or expect. This means that young people involved in the education process in two places – in schools, where they acquire theoretical knowledge, and in companies, where they acquire practical knowledge – benefit from improving the quality of their competences, that is, the quality of their knowledge. In this way, through three- and four-year cooperation with young people which is implemented together with instructors in line with the curriculum and the syllabus, companies gain young and qualified workers which makes their production process more sustainable and of course, more innovative. Serbian businesses have had a lot of problems with finding adequate workforce because for years, huge funds were poured only into informal education. Of course, it is a good thing that informal education
exists in the system, but only as a support to formal education in cases where the speed of technological development exceeds the possibility of modernizing educational profiles. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development has been enjoying a great support from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in developing and
implementing dual education. This support is mainly rendered in implementation of joint projects and engagement
of foreign experts.

How does the Ministry promote youth entrepreneurship?

— The Law on the Fundamentals of Education System clearly recognizes the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
as one of the eight key competences for lifelong learning. Entrepreneurship is defined as the ability to turn ideas into action through creativity, innovation and risk taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects. At the same
time, it is recognized by the law as a general interpersonal competence. In accordance with the aforementioned,
students are developing these competencies through more frequent application of active and interactive syllabus and learning methods where students are not passive recipients of knowledge and information but are actively searching for answers. Recognizing entrepreneurship as a key competence has created the need to learn content that is useful
in terms of developing this competence across all curriculum subjects, i.e. the syllabus content, whenever possible. Also, by implementing a project approach in lower grades and applying project teaching with a specific purpose, while respecting the general characteristics of each age group, students have an opportunity to realize their ideas.
The Rulebook on Student Cooperatives was adopted in 2018 which stipulates that schools can set up student cooperatives with the aim of encouraging the development of a positive student attitude towards work and professional orientation, establishing the links between classes and business world, developing awareness about personal responsibility for honouring commitments, and developing a positive attitude towards teamwork and entrepreneurship. Student cooperative activities aim to enable students to: master the basic elements of the production and service delivery process; professional guidance and development of entrepreneurial spirit; creating
and developing a positive attitude towards work and creativity; formation of working habits; developing
awareness about collective work, cooperation and mutual help and solidarity; as well as contribute to organizing and developing their schools, the local community and their living environment.

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