Empowering Vocational Education Schools for Better Training
Vocational education (VET) colleges see their role as providing general education, as well as work-related skills demanded by the labor markets. In order to match the international best practices, the Armenian educational system needs to reassess the roles of general education and the VET system; schools need to develop general education curricula, while VET system needs to focus on the skills needed in non-academic professions and required by the labor market.
During the Soviet times, most of the colleges and preliminary craftsmanship schools had well-functioning workshops and laboratories. However, after the transition to a market-based economy, most of the workshops became dysfunctional, equipment obsolete and teaching in these colleges mainly theoretical. During the first years after the independence, the VET sector in Armenia was modeled on out-dated learning conditions and pedagogy and had limited up-to-date industrial facilities. Moreover, UNDP Armenia field visits revealed that in many cases donated equipment in the VET schools was found still unpacked, and faculty and students unable to install and use them.
- Upgraded 21 VET schools have all the potential to make vocational education more attractive for young generation and to ensure competitive employment opportunities in urban and rural areas of Armenia.
- UNDP VET project has rapidly grown into one of the most ambitious educational projects in Armenia.
In light of this, UNDP Armenia over the recent years has exercised a policy of supplying new equipment to the selected VET colleges based on well established social partnership models along with introduction of associated changes in state qualification standards, modular programs and development of Armenian language professional manuals to display a comprehensive approach to the ongoing reforms in the VET sector.
During the last six years, the UNDP “Vocational Education and Training” project, thanks to bilateral donor assistance from Denmark and Norway, has secured funding for refurbishment of 21 VET colleges in Armenia and supplying them with an equipment necessary to introduce state competency-based qualification standards relevant for the growth of various economic sectors with strong impact on employment in urban and rural areas of Armenia.
UNDP Armenia in a series of meetings with national authorities and the private sector representatives discussed many factors required to set up industrial capacities at the premises of the selected VET institutions, such as guarantee of maintenance cost, obvious demand for the professions in the labor market, strong linkages to regional economic development, commitment of the VET colleges’ management to run short-term training programs for adults to generate extra funds to cover expenses required for development programs of the colleges, etc.
After these extensive discussions with relevant stakeholders, the UNDP VET project started a broad-scope procurement aimed at the acquisition of state-of-art educational laboratory equipment (31 technical VET labs addressing more than 11 different professional occupations and 12 packages of modern IT equipment) for VET colleges across the country, thus substantively contributing to the upgrade of about 24 percent of the country’s state VET schools. UNDP’s investment makes the learning process more attractive and practice-based and aligns professional trainings to employers’ requirements.
All acquired equipment is designed for needs of certain specialties highly demanded by the local labor market, such as welders, constructor-technicians, agro-mechanics and tractor-drivers, food and beverage processors, hotel managers and servants, cosmetologists, tailors, wood designers and wood cutters, auto-mechanics and drivers, etc.
“We have received the necessary technical support throughout the entire VET reform process. As we see now, we have got educational didactic packages, including qualification standards, modular programs with manuals, and the country’s VET institutions have the necessary technical upgrade that energizes the VET system in the country,” said Director of Craftsmanship School in the town of Alaverdi, reflecting on the impact that UNDP has on the VET sector reforms in the country.
Gyumri State Technical College, Gyumri Artisan College and Yerevan State Industrial College, being specialized in construction, welding and radio-techniques, received an opportunity to enrich the teaching process with new physics laboratory equipment for conducting practical classes on mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thus making the learning process more result-oriented and innovative. “We are very happy to be among the direct beneficiaries of the UNDP VET project, which provides support aimed at provision of high quality vocational education”, stressed Mkhitar Sargsyan, principal of Gyumri State Technical College.
The UNDP support made possible to increase twice the total number of VET students and faculty in Shirak region - reaching more than 600 people. Noteworthy to mention that Gyumri State Technical College is the only college in the country that offers vocational occupations in railway transport and closely cooperates with the “Armenian Railway” CJSC assuring smooth supply of labor force. This mutually beneficial cooperation is one of a few successful examples of social partnership in the VET system in Armenia.
Lori State Technological College was one of the leading VET schools in the former Soviet Union to provide education in the clothes design and manufacturing. It had a strategic importance in attracting youth to Lori region and in providing specialists to be further involved in textile industry in Armenia. The college is the first VET school in Armenia to provide modular teaching for the clothes design and modeling, as well as for technology of garments. “The Lori State Technological College after receiving a sewing lab from UNDP VET project, as well as a mini printing house, became self-sustainable and even makes profit from operational workshops. The profit led to initiation of renovation works in the college and to organization of extra-classes for students. We appreciate very much the assistance provided both by the Government of Denmark and the UNDP. These new laboratories have given us an opportunity to respond to recent trends of the local labor market and demonstrate our products in the local market,” said Hovhannes Tadevosyan, principal of the college.
UNDP VET project has rapidly grown into one of the most ambitious educational projects in Armenia. As such, it has a major impact on the overall rehabilitation of the country’s VET system, making it sustainable and market oriented. The upgrade of facilities within VET institutions also gave an opportunity to impact community development through enrichment of the specialization scope and provision with necessary practices and knowledge aimed at training of more professionals demanded by the labor market.
Upgraded 21 VET schools have all the potential to make vocational education more attractive for young generation and to ensure competitive employment opportunities in urban and rural areas of Armenia.