Towards regionally-based occupational standards – TO REGOS project
The project plans to contribute to the enhancement of the employability and labour mobility of young people (aged 14 – 18) by investing in quality and labour market relevance of VET in the SEE region. One of the reasons for high unemployment rates is the inadequacy of the education systems to deliver for the needs of the labour market. In order to change this, it is crucial to have strong cooperation mechanisms between private and public sector in VET, and strong involvement of adequate business representatives in the definition of the skills needed on the labour market. This is stressed out by Austrian Development Cooperation regional cooperation strategy for the Danube Region/Western Balkans, with its two policy objectives being strengthening regional cooperation and supporting EU accession, in thematic areas focusing on employment, labour market-oriented and socially inclusive vocational education (and higher education, not tackled by this project). Apart from the thematic priority areas, the project also integrates the cross-cutting issues of gender equality, social inclusion and environment sustainability, prioritized by the cooperation strategy.
A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’ flagship initiative Supporting socio-economic development stresses out the role of education, particularly vocational education and training and skills for the European pathway of the region, while the flagship initiative Reconciliation, good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation stresses out the need for the neighbourly relations and cooperation to be driven from within, with the full ownership of the Western Balkans itself, in which regional initiatives play an important role. In addition, European Commission Country Reports 2018 in Chapter 26 Education and Culture for all of the economies stress out the need to adjust the VET sector to the needs of the business sector due to the skills mismatch. The modernization processes in the standards and qualifications are recognised however in all of the economies furthers efforts in this respect are needed.
All this is tackled within this project. Regional cooperation, regional initiative and regional outputs form the foundation of this project, which thematically focuses on the standards of occupations to be developed in strong partnership between business and education, thus ensuring the definition of the labour market-relevant skills. In turn, standards of occupations make the core of standards of qualifications and consequently curricula taught at schools, which contributes to the learning outcomes being responsive to the needs of the labour market, and employability of young people.
The project also plans to enable the continuation of the process – translation of regionally-based standards of occupations into national standards of qualifications and their adoptions, following national procedures, which would ensure the sustainability and impact of the project results. The project would also go a step further and explore the grounds for development of regionally-based standards of qualifications, where the possibilities of a unified regionally-agreed template for standards of qualifications, and even more consistent regional structure, would be explored (as opposed to the process described in the previous paragraph, where each economy continues with standards of qualifications following their own national regulations). In this process of exploration, already running projects funded within the Erasmus+ programme on a similar subject will be consulted.
In more concrete terms, the project expects to result in enhanced cooperation between private and public sector in VET at regional and national level, Common Regional Framework for the development of regionally-based occupational standards, 5 regionally-based occupational standards, adoption of regionally-based standards of occupations on national level, translation of adopted standards of occupations into standards of qualifications at national level and adoption, and analysis of the feasibility of developing regionally-based standards of qualifications and action plan.
The project focuses on the following target groups:
- VET centres from the region, currently in charge of the development of standards of occupations and qualifications at the national level and implementation of curricula, as implementing partners
- Chambers of commerce from the region, presenting the liaison to the adequate representatives of the business sector from whom the input on skills is needed; also playing an important role in the implementation of the work-based learning in some economies, as implementing partners
- Private sector organisations and companies from identified priority sectors, as implementing partners
- Other target groups relevant at national levels for the modernization and adoption of standards of occupations and qualifications, such as:
- Ministries of Education, in charge of the process of modernizing the standards at the policy level
- Ministries of Labour, in some economies in charge of the standards of occupations
- Employment services, providing input on the unemployment figures and market trends and needs
- National Qualification Agencies, national Quality Assurance Agencies, in charge of the adoption/monitoring the implementation of the new standards, as local partners, involved in national consultations regarding the adoption, potential adaptation and implementation of regionally-based standards of occupations.
Their number is roughly expected to reach more than 250. As for the indirect target groups, the project aims at supporting young people’s (14 – 18 years of age) employability through relevant skills acquisition. The expected number of this target group is 1000 per year.
The activities that are planned within the project include regional conferences gathering all the relevant stakeholders, project management meetings, regional workshop for finetuning the methodology (called Common Regional Framework – CRF in order to avoid confusion with the nationally defined and proscribed methodologies) for regionally-based standards of occupations, national and regional workshops for actual development of regionally-based standards of occupations, national consultation processes for the adoption of these standards of occupations, study for exploring potentials of regionally-based standards of qualifications and regional event validating its results, and continuous update of the WBA4WBL portal (developed prior to the beginning of the project) as an information and visibility tool.
With these interventions, it is believed that, in the long run, socio-economic conditions of young people in the region would be affected: the skills acquired during the education pro-cess would be labour market-relevant, they would have greater employment potential and lower the risk of poverty, with prospects of employment in national and regional contexts, allowing for greater labour mobility within the region. Employability and labour mobility are stressed as priorities within the SEE 2020 Strategy and endorsed by all the participating economies.
The above-mentioned impact is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) stressing the importance of Quality Education. In addition, the project is also going to tackle the goal 5 Gender equality (by making sure that the standards of occupations envisage on an equal basis access by both boys and girls, and that the language used is such as to support gender equality) and goal 13 Climate Action (by making sure that the standards of occupations are including green skills and competences).
The economies included in this intervention include the Western Balkans 6: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia, and Moldova. Moldova is the member of the ERI SEE initiative and in this project participates as an observer in the regional events and conferences for capacity building purposes; however, it does not participate in the development of regionally-based standards of occupations.
Outcomes/ Outputs/ Inputs
Outcome: Enhanced labour-market relevance of VET based on regionally-based standards of occupations
Output 1: Increased cooperation between business and education sector in VET at regional and national level
– Kick-off conference for all relevant stakeholders
– Project management meetings of the Western Balkans Alliance for Work-based Learning
– Updating of the WBA4WBL on-line portal with the activities and results achieved within the project
– Closing conference
Output 2: Developed Common Regional Framework for the development of regionally-based occupational standards
– Workshop for finetuning the Common Regional Framework
– Publication of the Common Regional Framework
Output 3: 5 regionally-based standards of occupations
– 2-3 national events per economy per occupation on the definition of skills and competences needed by the business sector (number depending on national circumstances)
– 1 regional event per occupation to map the skills and competences at the regional level (creation of the regionally-based standard of occupations and regional basis of skills and competences)
– 1 national event per economy per occupation to finalize the process of regionally-based standards of occupations (80% regional basis and 20% national)
Output 4: Adoption of regionally-based standards of occupations on the national level
– 1 national event per economy per occupation with the relevant stakeholders for verification and adoption purposes
– publication of /making decisions on the adoption of regionally-based standards occupations at official sites at national level
Output 5: Translation of adopted standards of occupations into standards of qualifications at the national level
– 2-3 national events per economy per occupation for the translation of adopted occupational standards into standards of qualifications (number depending on national contexts)
– Publication of standards of qualifications/decisions on the adoption of standards of qualifications
Output 6: Feasibility study on developing regionally-based standards of qualifications and an action plan
– developing Terms of Reference for the feasibility study
– developing the recommendations/action plan for the development of regionally-based standards of qualifications
– 1 regional workshop on the validation of the feasibility study, recommendations/action plan and including peer learning activities with the support of EU countries