Mrs. Janevska, you worked as a state advisor at the Ministry of Education and Science. Now, you are a leading expert from the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia in developing an education system tailored to the needs of the business. Considering your perspective, what are the benefits of cooperative training for learners, and how can it contribute to a higher employability rate in North Macedonia?
Natasha Janevska: The benefits of cooperative training for the students can be perceived from several aspects. First, through cooperative training, students can participate in modernized training programs and undergo quality training in an actual workplace. In this way, they get acquainted with modern technological processes and are trained to work with modern machines, equipment, and technology. In addition, students get familiar with the advantages of the profession and functioning of a particular company that may offer them employment upon graduation.
After graduation, the students will not only have attained a qualification but will truly possess the professional skills and competencies that companies need. They will be able to apply those skills in life, thus facilitating access to employment.
Furthermore, students will gain transversal skills that are very important for working in a company or organization. The students can obtain working habits that are crucial for fast adaptation to the work environment. This contributes to the knowledge and skills to become operational and be used by companies that will increase the employability of the graduated personnel.
The involvement of the business sector is crucial for the successful implementation of a cooperative training strategy. What are the benefits of cooperative training for enterprises?
Natasha Janevska: Cooperative training contributes to strengthening the public-private partnership and cooperation between vocational schools and companies and provides functional education according to the needs of companies. Companies participate in creating educational programs for the skills and competencies of the employees according to their technical-technological processes and sophisticated machines.
During cooperative training, companies prepare and shape the staff to suit their needs. Hence, the companies produce a future potential for hiring qualified staff trained on the machines, equipment, and technology they own and who will know how to operate it. This allows companies to generate new employees and enable existing staff to share their knowledge and build skills and expertise as mentors to future generations of employees.
Additionally, they recognize the organizational structure of the company. As a result, companies develop hiring strategies based on realistic indicators. As a result, they can plan future investments knowing they have potential employees enabled to work while reducing the costs of additional training for those new hires.
What challenges do secondary VET schools and other vocational training institutes face in implementing a cooperative training approach in N. Macedonia?
Natasha Janevska: Perhaps one of the challenges they face is connecting schools and companies because it is not easy to find a company verified for implementation of practical training or to convince the company to go through the whole quality assurance process. The process includes certification of mentors and verification of the company to fulfill the conditions for the realization of practical training before starting the cooperation with the school. This is why the Economic Chamber of North Macedonia brings together schools and companies and prepares the companies to undergo the whole process of quality assurance.
Regional Challenge Fund in Western Balkans 6 has successfully launched the first open call for the Expressions of Interest which encouraged the applications from consortia of vocational training institutes and enterprises from WB6 economies, implementing cooperative VET courses that result in nationally recognized certificates. How important is this initiative for developing and implementing a cooperative or work-based learning approach in N. Macedonia?
Natasha Janevska: This initiative has further strengthened the cooperation between companies and VET schools to promote vocational education and practical training. The focus has shifted from the classroom to acquiring knowledge and skills in companies with modern machinery and equipment in the real workplace. This way, students can acquire relevant skills and competencies for the new technical and technological processes and get familiar with the company’s organizational structure.
Training for the professional development of teachers and companies’ mentors adds value to the cooperation among schools and companies, strengthening the practical aspect of the training. This results in qualified VET teachers trained according to the needs of businesses. In addition, it can increase the attractiveness for the students to enroll in VET schools.
Training of qualified personnel is very important for every economy because companies require employees who can immediately be engaged in the working processes and contribute to increasing productivity. So, the companies will have available qualified personnel without further investments in additional time and resources.
Mrs. Janevska, you were also a Coordinator of the Working Group for Development and Implementation of the National Qualifications Framework and President of the Council for monitoring the implementation of the Vocational Education Strategy. Could you tell us what the future steps in vocational education and training in North Macedonia are? What are the plans for improving the cooperative, dual or work-based learning approach?
Natasha Janevska: The implementation of the National Qualifications Framework and establishing bodies (the National Qualifications Framework Board and the Sectoral Commissions) and linkage to the European Qualifications Framework in 2016 prompted significant reforms in vocational education and training. Vocational education curricula have started to be designed modularly, based on learning outcomes regarding what knowledge, skills, and competencies the student needs to achieve during the educational process.
Also, the focus is more on practical on-the-job training, and on-the-job learning hours have been increased. In addition, employers are involved in preparing educational programs according to their needs for skills and competencies.
Dual education is becoming a priority for securing employees for companies. As a result, specific educational programs are prepared with increased practical training hours. A new Law on Vocational Education and Training is being developed, systematically setting up and regulating dual education.
It is important to note that there is a change in creating the call for enrollment of students in vocational schools, which is devised according to the companies’ requirements for necessary qualifications. The Chamber is actively involved in that process providing data at the local and regional levels.