A Good Response to the First Challenges of the Pandemic

Local news, 29.10.2020

Some 100 participants attended the conference, representing national institutions, international development partners, vocational education experts, bilateral chambers of commerce, schools, companies and students. The event was opened by Professor Dr. Gabrijela Grujic, assistant minister for dual education within the Ministry of education, science and technological development, Deputy Head of cooperation of the Swiss embassy, Derek George and president of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce Majo Micovic.

Online conference on Dual Education
Online conference on Dual Education ©CEP

Derek George stressed that skills development for young people in Serbia is an important area within the Swiss cooperation program with the Republic of Serbia. Switzerland has great experience in the area of dual education and dual education is an important factor in the development of the Swiss economy while at the same time contributing to the wellbeing of both the students and the wider society. In line with its experience, Switzerland took great pleasure in accepting the invitation to provide expert support to Serbia as it introduces dual education. For Switzerland, Serbia’s progress in dual education is impressive, and Serbia is one of the best practice example countries for the strategic introduction of dual education.

Assistant Minister for dual education Gabrijela Grujic, presented the work of the Ministry of education, science and technological development in the area of dual education during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the academic year a team was formed which coordinates the whole process of filming material for dual educational profiles and ensures the quality of the recorded material. During the state of emergency alone, some 270 lessons were filmed that are available on the national TV RTS portal. At this moment, 25 schools are involved in filming lessons for dual educational profiles with their corporate partners.

The conference premiered video material on the students’ experience of online dual education. They highlighted how important it is to be able to repeat lessons and to do the practical tasks more than once.

Professor Ursula Renold of the ETH Zurich Chair of education systems (CES), spoke about the influence of COVID-19 on dual education in Switzerland. She began by praising Serbia’s efforts in developing dual education and fighting COVID-19 and said that in April a project started in Switzerland that is following the effects of COVID-19 on vocational education at monthly intervals. The main research questions focus on the extent to which different industrial sectors and cantons in Switzerland have been impacted by the pandemic. The innovations that have been introduced by the companies to ensure the best possible work-based learning under current circumstances are of particular significance. Professor Renold pointed out that tourism and hospitality have endured the greatest losses and that a certain number of companies in these sectors have withdrawn from the work placement programs for students.

The presentations and video were followed by discussion with representatives of the companies. Majo Micovic, president of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and director of the IT security company Sky Express, said it has been noticed that areas of work which have undergone a greater degree of digitalization are overcoming the challenges of the pandemic more easily. The young people who go through a dual education program are also developing soft skills in the process of learning, such as independence, inventiveness, and communication skills that are all important for youth entering the labor market today.

Jovana Uzelac, director of Human resources for Nestlé south-east region said that Nestlé has been interested in joining dual education from the outset. Nestlé in Bulgaria, for example, has already been involved in dual education for four years. Uzelac stated that Nestlé also supports the continuation of education for the students after the completion of their secondary education.

Edin Dacic, president of the assembly of the company Standard Furniture Serbia emphasized that dual education is of great importance for his organization since there is a shortage of skilled workers on the Serbian labor market, especially in the wood sector. In future, more must be done to bring vocational education into alignment with the needs of the labor market.

The online conference, Dual Education - Challenges and Opportunities During and After the COVID-19 pandemic was organized within the SDC Project, Policy Advice for an Efficient VET Reform (Support for the Establishment of a National Model for Dual Education) which is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of education, science and technological development, the Center for education policies (CEP) from Belgrade, and the Swiss Chair for education systems (CES) of the ETH Zurich.

More information about the conference can be found within the TV shows Pravac dedicated to this topic here, as well as on the website of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce here. (Available only in Serbian language.)