The Regional Fund for Challenge allocated 2.72 million euros for six Macedonian projects for the advancement of vocational education.
May 9th, 2023, Skopje – The six most successful projects from North Macedonia being proposed for financing in the Second call of Regional Challenge Fund, allocating approximately 2.27 million Euros for the investments in equipment, infrastructure and training at the vocational training institutes implementing cooperative training.
The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) organised the Second National Grant Award Ceremony in North Macedonia to share the Second call results and award the grants to winning consortia. The second round of applications attracted 123 Expressions of Interest from Western Balkan 6. Out of this number, 23 EoIs were received from North Macedonia. The Selection Committee’s decision about the funds available for the second call resulted in 6 most successful projects from North Macedonia being proposed for financing, allocating approximately 2.72 million Euros for the investments in equipment, infrastructure, and training at the vocational training institutes implementing cooperative training.
The grants were awarded to the consortia led by the High municipality school “Goce Delchev” Valandovo, SETUGS “Mihajlo Pupin” Skopje, Municipal High School (SOU) “Josif Josifovski” Gevgelija, Institute of Textile Engineering, Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia, Faculty of Mechanical engineering – Skopje, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Municipal Secondary Technical School “Gostivar”, for a total amount of EUR 2,27 millions in grants.
The Award Ceremony took place at Economic Chamber, Skopje and gathered the officials from the WB6 CIF, German Embassy, KfW, SDC, Ministry of Education and Science, Regional Challenge Fund and the awarded consortia from North Macedonia, to mark the success.
Mr. Jeton Shaqiri, Minister of Education and Science, stated that the reform in secondary vocational education in Macedonia is successful, and this is shown by the increasing number of enrolled students every year. The goal of the reform is to produce staff with the necessary skills and competencies that companies require, enabling young people to enter the labor market or continue their higher education. The minister emphasized the importance of the help from the European partners, thanks to which a dual model of vocational education is being introduced in vocational education. “The dual model of vocational education, introduced in 2017/2018, allows companies, secondary vocational schools, chambers of commerce and local governments to adapt new curricula every year according to needs, to improve the practical training of students”, said the minister and added: “Due to the growing interest in vocational education, 259 dual classes with a total of 6,475 student places are planned for 2023/2024, in cooperation with over 500 companies.” He pointed out the commitment of the Ministry of Education and Science to develop professional education into centers of excellence, innovation, and relevance. Additionally, changes in scholarship policies and the new Vocational Education and Training Law are aimed at increasing the attractiveness of secondary vocational education. Shaqiri welcomed the initiative of the Regional Challenge Fund by financing investments in equipment and infrastructure for institutions that provide practical training and that participate in joint activities for practical training with partner enterprises, thus supporting the commitment of the ministry for the reform of vocational education, to increase the employability of young people and the acquisition of appropriate skills and competencies, according to the needs of companies.
Mr. Antoni Peshev, Executive Director, Economic Chamber of North Macedonia, highlights the efforts and involvement of the Chamber to solve the problem of the lack of professional staff with practical experience. They demanded reforms in education through practical training of students in companies and dual education, which they consider to be the most effective model for providing professional staff. Peshev also emphasizes the importance of the link between business and education in terms of providing practical training, creating a relevant enrollment policy, and introducing new qualifications and skills. He calls for reforms in higher education, including hands-on training for students to acquire skills during the academic year, creating programs based on business needs and continuously improving staff skills through lifelong learning. In addition, he emphasizes that the power of business comes from education.
Mr. Otto Graf, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in North Macedonia, empahsised that the vocational training is something very close to the heart of the Germans, and that it unites all the producing countries in Europe, adding that the industrial production is only possible with a skilled workforce. He pointed out that this is the starting point for vocational education and training institutions in North Macedonia because the companies felt the need for additional manpower. “A recent analysis in Germany shows that the earnings of the people with vocational education will be slightly above the earnings of the ones academically educated. This type of education is very important to continue,” – he said. He welcomed the awarding ceremony idea, stating that this is a competition where the good idea win. Mr. Graf congratulated the consortia who won the second call and called on the unsuccessful consortia from previous years to participate again in the next call, stating that dual education will pay off for companies, economies, and the economic relations between them.
Mr. Moritz Remé, Country Director for Kosovo and North Macedonia, KfW, congratulated the 6 consortia in North Macedonia that won the second call of the Regional Challenge Fund, with a convincing and cooperative training program. He pointed out the great interest of consortia in North Macedonia, of which the six best were awarded with almost 2.7 million euros, which compared to the size of the economy and population represents a success. Remé emphasized the need for financing, but also for cooperation between VET and companies, which is essential for a successful transformation.
“Having seen this positive response of the 1st and 2nd call, we want to announce additional investments in the amount of 9.7 million CHF by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC),” he emphasized in his speech. “We are proud, that with this instrument we will align vocational schools more closely with the needs of economy and release the graduates into the labor market with better skills, in order to reduce unemployment of the youth and to eliminate the lack of the personnel in the companies. However, this instrument will not immediately transform the entire VET systems in the country, but will provide suggestions and stimulation for the further development of the VET system by the Ministry of Education and all actors in the sector. ”
Remé expressed his excitement for the next calls of the Regional Challenge Fund to see more flourishing training programs across North Macedonia. He also encouraged all consortia that were unsuccessful in the first or second call to participate in the next call, which will be announced at the end of this month. He thanked the Fund Management Unit and the Chamber Investment Forum (CIF) for their efforts and congratulated the winning consortia, wishing them success in implementing their programs.
Ms. Tatjana Shterjova Dushkovska, Secretary General of Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6-CIF), emphasized that several factors influenced reaching this stage today, to discuss the purchase of the most modern equipment and technologies in the schools where the practical teaching of the students will be realized. “Chambers of commerce throughout the region have a key role in the development of the entire process, long before the Regional Challenge Fund was established and before the inclusion of the Chamber Investment Forum of ZB6.” She emphasized that in addition to changing people’s perception of vocational education, it is necessary for companies to emphasize the importance of investing in the vocational education of young people at the earliest stage of their education. In that way, Dushkovska pointed out, these young people will become the added value of the company. At the end, Dushkovska announced the third call, which wll be announced at the end of May.
Photos from the event see on RCF social media: Facebook or LinkedIn.
A short film about the winners was also shown at the event:
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.