The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) has recently conducted an analysis of the applications received during the First and the Second Calls for Expressions of Interest. The overview brought an interesting insight into the challenges of the cooperative and dual training arrangements in the WB6 that the RCF will continue to provide support for during the project itself.
The application and selection process is one of the most important steps in the RCF programme as it clarifies the vocational training institutes’ (VTI) needs in correlation to the state of the companies, and the market. During this process, applicants describe their cooperative training arrangements and mechanisms for sharing responsibility among education and business partners, existing capacities on both sides and other relevant information.
Analyzing the successful project proposals submitted during 2021 and 2022, we bring you the highlights from the VET state of project applications in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
Even though there are certain limitations in sample size and composition, the data provided is meaningful due to its representation on the regional level. In addition, they provide valuable insight into the state of the art of VTIs who are particularly motivated to introduce innovative aspects in the teaching process.
One of the most prominent challenges that the RCF helps support, regarding cooperative or dual education in the Western Balkan 6, is under-equipped VET institutions. Due to the lack of financial resources, VET schools struggle to keep up with the technological level of companies in the region. Using outdated technologies and inadequate equipment prevents students from developing skills that meet labour market needs putting an issue into their later employment opportunities.
Together with providing resources for the equipment, VTIs stated the RCF would help them implement new technologies and provide support through digitalization. They see RCF benefit the development of digital skills of both students and teachers. In addition to developing practical skills, the RCF programme motivates the development of soft skills (such as creativity and critical thinking).
Greening VET, and designing sustainable environmental-friendly solutions for VET in the Western Balkans is another important aspect of the RCF’s support programme.
Compared to other educational institutions, universities typically offer more learning opportunities to their students, the main topics being waste management and recycling benefits.
However, with the support of the RCF, VTIs do plan to incorporate the courses concerning the “Green Agenda” and Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards, circular economy, and energy efficiency. VTIs see the development of green skills as a benefit in the long term.
In order to effectively contribute to the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkan, VTIs who applied for funding with the help of RCF will focus on developing skills related to sustainability practices and environmental protection procedures. This involves educational activities for students, as well as for teachers and trainers, to ensure that emerging green skills have long-term effects. Lining with the UNEVOC recommendations, greening the institutions – including vocational training providers and enterprises in cases of work-based learning programs – is essential, while embracing the broader concept of education for sustainable development. By prioritizing developing of green skills and promoting sustainable practices, VTIs can play a significant role in protecting the environment and contributing to a more sustainable future for the region.
The major finding is that most applicants report that they apply procedures that comply with sustainable and environmental practices and need support in continuing these efforts and that with the support of the RCF VET institutes will continue to provide more learning opportunities on environmental topics.
In conclusion, the analysis of successful project proposals submitted to the RCF during 2021 and 2022 reveals the challenges and opportunities facing VET in the Western Balkans. The RCF support programme plays a vital role in addressing these challenges, helping to bridge the gap between VET institutions and the evolving needs of the labour market. By focusing on developing digital and green skills, the RCF is contributing to the creation of a more sustainable future for the region, while providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the workforce. As such, the RCF represents an important step forward in strengthening VET in the Western Balkans and promoting sustainable development in the region.
The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) is a financing facility designed to increase youth employability and boost the competitiveness of enterprises in Western Balkan 6 by funding investments in selected cooperative training projects that are implemented through partnerships between vocational training institutes and the enterprises. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development commissioned 64.43 million EUR for the RCF, and the Swiss Government, represented by the SDC Swiss Development Cooperation, co-financed an additional 9.7 million CHF. The funds were commissioned to the KfW Development Bank and executed by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6-CIF), a joint initiative of chambers of commerce from the region.