Mirjana Kovačević, CCIS: Dual education – education tailored to the economy

About 3,000 students completed dual education, and about 70% found jobs that they were educated for

Mirjana Kovačević, Head of the Centre for Education, Dual Education and Education Policies and Director of the CCIS Business Academy

The incorporation of dual education in the education system of the Republic of Serbia was initiated by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS) at the request of the country’s business sector to harmonize education with the needs of the labour market and reduce youth unemployment. We talked with Mirjana Kovačević, Head of the Centre for Education, Dual Education and Education Policies and Director of the CCIS Business Academy, about the initial results and the further development of the dual education system.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has initiated the implementation of a dual model of education over five years ago. Who were all your partners along the way?

Partners from Germany (through the GIZ project “Vocational Education Reform”) were among the first to support secondary vocational schools in establishing and improving cooperation with companies and continued, during the process of developing dual education in Serbia, to boost the capacity of secondary vocational schools. Partners from Austria provided expert (Austrian Chamber of Commerce and IBW Institute for Educational Development) and financial support (Austrian Development Agency) to building the capacity of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia. As for Switzerland, it contributed to the development of dual education in Serbia through the implementation of the Master Plan, an act for management and coordination of the entire reform process. The Master Plan was developed by the Swiss Economic Institute KOF, under the leadership of expert Ursula Renold, and for Serbia, it was made in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia and the Center for Educational Policies (COP).

35% of students continued working in the companies in which they did learning through work

By coordinating the project activities of donors, first by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and then through constructive cooperation with the line ministry, we set a common goal, that is the incorporation of a dual model in the education system of Serbia.

The result of this cooperation is the Law on Dual Education, which was passed in 2017, and has been in force since the academic year 2019/2020. This law meets all 14 criteria from the recommendations of the European Council for quality and effective learning through work.

In which way does the dual education model benefit young people and in which was the economy?

The goals of dual education are to create prerequisites for the acquisition and development of competencies following the needs of the labour market, to contribute to boosting the competitiveness of the Serbian economy, as well as to provide employment after graduation.

Employers, who take on students in dual education, will not need to allocate significant funds for their additional training when hiring new workers, because they can choose their future employees among students who have already acquired the necessary work knowledge and skills by learning through work in their facilities. In that way, they shorten the time of introducing a new worker to the job.

Also, by the more active engagement of employers in drafting job descriptions as the first steps in the preparation of new qualification standards, given inputs contribute to harmonizing curricula with business & technological processes, and the education process is put in the function of economic growth and development.

As for the young people (students), the advantages are quick and easy integration into the job after graduation, as well as having more options in career development, namely to work immediately after graduation or to continue education, often with the support of the same companies in which they studied through work.

How many students and companies have applied so far? Which job profiles are most in demand?

The first significant steps in the development of this model were made in 2013, and in the period until 2016, we already had 400 students who were educated for one of the three job profiles in 16 schools and 40 companies. In the current school year, about 6,900 high school students are learning through work in almost 900 companies, for one of the 47 educational profiles.

The number of students, schools and companies involved in the dual education system has grown year-on-year, and today, dual education accounts for 10% of all vocational education in high schools, the share of dual education profiles is 16% in relation to the total number of profiles for which high school students in Serbia are studying for, and almost a fifth (18%) of schools have dual profiles in their offer.

For the academic year 2021/2022, 51 dual educational profiles have been prepared. Jobs like locksmith-welder, industrial mechanic and machining operator have traditionally been in demand for years. Also, companies need sales staff and catering staff (cooks and waiters). Motor vehicle mechanics are also in demand, especially by small service stations. At the same time, inclusion in dual education is a bigger challenge for them, because a micro or small company can rarely independently achieve all the outcomes defined by the curriculum, so it is necessary to form training alliances between companies.

In previous years, the demand for textile industry jobs was higher. This year, furniture companies are more active. The needs of businesses for certain kinds of workers are changing, and dual education is just that – education tailored to the economy. This year, there was less demand for a technician for computerized control of CNC machines.

Diplomacy&Commerce magazine is also read by the business community. How can they apply to participate in this programme? 

Businesses can apply to participate in dual education throughout the year, but the applications are done mostly in the second half of the year. The CCIS has launched a special web portal – http://portal.dualnoobrazovanje.rs/ – where interested employers can obtain more information and create a profile and in a simple way, in only three steps, submit an application for inclusion in the dual education system.

When applying, employers have to submit a Statement of Readiness for Inclusion in Dual Education and a request for accreditation. The documentation for accreditation should be submitted by employers no later than 10 days from the date of submission of the statement and request, electronically, to the e-mail address: obrazovanje@pks.rs or the postal address of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, 13-15 Resavska Street, Belgrade.

Employers can submit an application for inclusion in the dual education system in only three steps

Did you receive feedback from students? What are the first visible results of the programme? 

Students who were among the first to attend dual education were usually schooled for production occupations such as industrial technicians, machinists-welders and electricians. These students saw for themselves that engaging in a productive occupation does not mean doing hard physical work. Modern production is based on a high degree of automation and safety standards and working conditions are significantly different than they used to be.

The students also point out that they socialized quickly, i.e. got accustomed to the industrial culture, gained self-confidence, were able to propose some improvements and changes in the production process, and thought it was good that older colleagues took their suggestions seriously. By being in a real work environment, they learned responsibilities and teamwork and realized that due to their lack of commitment or poor work, other members of the team can be badly affected.

Just over 3,000 students already completed dual education. Research on the selected sample showed that about 70% of these students, after completing their education, got a job for work they were educated for and that close to 35% of them continued working in the companies in which they did learning through work.

What else needs to be done to further develop the dual education model?

Although we can say that we are satisfied with the accomplishments so far, as well as the fact that the dual model of vocational education in Serbia is no longer viewed met with prejudice, but rather as a way to build a competitive economy, there are still many challenges to overcome. First of all, we need to have a larger number of micro and small business entities involved (which is why we are now working on the development of training alliance concepts). Due to demographic changes, we need to create classes with less than 30 students (for example 10 to 15). Also, if businesses in a certain area need a certain job profile we have to facilitate a better selection of students by companies. Plus, we need to carry out the digitization of educational profiles and ensure health and safety in the workplace, which, in certain cases, should be addressed by introducing virtual classes.

For teachers and professors to be able to adequately prepare students to continue their studies in companies, they need to be trained on modern technical and technological solutions in companies. It’s not good if students know more about new production technologies than their teachers.

Also, the success of dual education requires good cooperation between schools and companies, not only in education but also in the promotion of dual educational profiles, which should begin with activities during the professional orientation that is carried out in primary schools.


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