6 most successful projects from Albania being proposed for finance in the first call of Regional Challenge Fund, allocating approximately 2.4 million Euros for the investments in equipment, infrastructure and training at the vocational training institutes implementing cooperative training.
The Regional Challenge Fund (the RCF) organised the National Grant Award Ceremony in Tirana, Albania, on February 4th, in order to share the results of the first call and to award the grants to winning consortia. In the first call for expressions of interest the RCF opened the call and received 205 applications from consortia of vocational training institutes and enterprises from all Western Balkan economies. The Award Ceremony took place at Hotel Rogner and gathered the officials from the WB6 CIF, German Embassy, KfW, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Chambers, Donor community, Regional Challenge Fund and the winning consortia from Albania, to mark their success.
The Selection Committee`s decision about the funds available for the first call resulted in 37 projects being proposed for finance, allocating approximately 15,4 million Euros to the region. Out of this number 6 projects are from Albania allocating approximately 2.4 million Euros for the investments in equipment, infrastructure and training at the vocational training institutes implementing cooperative training. This allocation of projects represents the highest success rate in the WB6 region.
Ms. Ines Muçostepa, President of Albania Union of Chambers, expressed her gratitude to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and KfW for the continuous support provided to all Western Balkans countries and in particular to Albania. Germany has a long tradition of dual education, key in providing businesses with qualified and skilled workers and therefore building a strong foundation for their professional careers. We are confident, she stated, that long-term cooperation between companies and vocational training institutions is a solid base for a stable and stronger economy and therefore we consider it very important to improve dual education in Albania. Today the unemployment rate of young people in the Western Balkans, varies from 24% – 49% and this project is very important to help young people to acquire the skills required by the labor market. Ms. Muçostepa further said: “I am really happy to see that in the expression of interest phase 111 companies joined 38 consortia and today the 6 winning consortia who partnered with 25 Albanian companies, are proposed for financing at an amount of 2.4 million euro. We can really say that we succeeded in the first call and we hope that in the second call more VTI consortia will be established and will apply to benefit from Regional Challenge Fund financing support”.
Taking advantage of this ceremony let me express my gratitude to the German Government, which through KfW has made available 30.5 million euros to the Western Balkans countries, through an innovative instrument that aims to increase employment of graduates who have obtained qualifications through vocation, and educational training stated Ms. Olta Manjani, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy. She said that it is worth mentioning the unique opportunity to public VET providers through Regional Challenge Fund financing to increase and intensify cooperation with the business community, which is very important and today’s ceremony is a finalization of a great deal of work done by both Regional Challenge Fund and the consortia. Furthermore, Ms. Manjani said: “On behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Economy I want to thank all winning consortia and particularly the VET public providers which have been very active during the application process, an effort reflected in the results of the first call number, with 4 out of 6 winning consortia coming from the public sector. This is a good opportunity to increase and intensify the cooperation with the business community and with other partners”.
Ms. Judith Hoffmann, Head of Development Cooperation in the German Embassy in Albania, congratulated the winning consortia on behalf of the German Embassy and the German Ambassador. She said: “In the long-standing cooperation of Germany with Albania, the Federal Government has given high priority to the area of vocation and educational training and sustainable job growth. In the Western Balkans 6 countries we face a paradoxical situation. On one hand, high youth unemployment rates and on the other hand an increasingly high need for qualified workers. A key reason for this mismatch between supply and demand in the labor market are the education systems, which are not yet adequately tailored to the needs of a developing private sector”. Ms. Hoffmann added that the Regional Challenge Fund as a new instrument of German financial cooperation was created with the objective to promote employability in the Western Balkans and to deal with the problem of skill mismatch in the labor market. For this reason, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) allocated through KfW 30,5 mil. EUR for the grants to increase the employability of graduates. She concluded by saying: “We are proud that this new instrument has attracted so many interested schools and companies from WB6 countries.”
Mr. Balsa Culafic, Program Coordinator of WB6 CIF expressed his gratitude for the first national grant award ceremony in Albania. He stated that CIF represents 350,000 companies, mostly small and medium sized enterprises, opening up new opportunities for stronger networking business community in the region. He confirmed that the CIF as implementation partner will support the realization of the now selected joint projects between VTIs and enterprises and expressed his expectation that these will be followed by additional projects to be selected in future calls.
I’d like to congratulate again the successful 6 consortia from Albania who will receive a total of 2.4 million euro funding from Regional Challenge Fund for market oriented cooperative training programs. The promotion of employment and educational training has become increasingly important topic for KFW in the recent years and we have always been looking for new initiatives and new instruments to promote training and private sector development at the same time, stated Ms. Brit Horschke , Director of the KfW Office in Albania. She added that a close cooperation between the VET schools and the private sector is a challenge as we know but is also the key to a successful employment of the graduates from the training programmes and thus ensures the sustainability of the programme. In this regard the Regional Challenge Fund is a very innovative financing instrument in bringing training institutions and companies together and thus implementing, most importantly a demand driven approach. She concluded by saying that: “We as KFW are likewise very glad that the companies recognize the importance of a well-trained, high qualified workforce as a key factor for their own success. It is also great to see that demand was so high for RCF financing, and especially here in Albania. I want to congratulate once again all the stakeholders involved, the 6 consortia of course but also the project team of RCF for this first successful call. I would like to also encourage all the interested parties to take part in the next call”.
The Regional Challenge Fund is an innovative program that seeks to increase the productivity and competitiveness of businesses in the Western Balkans 6. The RCF is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to 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.