Sustainable competitiveness in today’s business environment is more and more dependent on one factor: highly skilled employees – because it is mainly them who drive the success of their respective companies. A solid grounding for equipping a nation’s workforce with the necessary skills is a vocational education and training system that foresees a possibility for combining theoretical and practical knowledge: While theoretical knowledge is taught in a classroom setting, students have the possibility of experiencing its practical application through working with an employer who acts as an instructor in the form of an apprenticeship.
Vocational education and training is highly valued in Austria and the country has established a reputation as one of the high performers in this area throughout Europe. Today, around 40 % of Austrian pupils opt for continuing their education through an apprenticeship after they finish compulsory education. The advantages are clear: Companies train new specialists according to their projected future demand and have in turn access to excellently trained and qualified employees who can immediately enter professional life after finishing their education. The apprentices themselves learn all the skills necessary to fulfill qualified jobs and hence acquire the ideal prerequisites for a successful start into their career. The positive benefits are of this model manifold, culminating in higher productivity and competitiveness on a national level, and are for example confirmed by the fact that Austria is continuously among the countries with the lowest youth unemployment rate within Europe.
ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA, the Austrian Embassy-Commercial Section, has also been actively promoting the implementation of a vocational education system in Romania and has worked alongside the Romanian Ministry of Education for the past five years, lending their support and actively proffering knowledge exchange. They have been in permanent dialogue with the Ministry of Education and its subordinated institutions, holding an active role in dedicated working groups and acting as a passionate advocate in public debates on the subject of vocational education. Besides their input on a strategic level, they have also started two pilot projects in cooperation with the Romanian authorities, two entrepreneurial schools and Austrian companies active on the Romanian market. These schools focus on vocational education in the fields of retail sales and industrial welding and metal working in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, respectively.
Currently, approximately 70 students are trained through the two pilot projects, gaining invaluable knowledge in their respective professions. So far, both projects have been a success, effectively engaging the students enrolled to live up to the best of their abilities. The first graduates will appear on the job market in the summer of 2018, finishing their three-year training. Participating companies have already extended job offers to their respective students and hope that they will take up the challenge of starting their professional lives with them, where they are expected to have a steep career.
In general, prospects for graduates of vocational education are excellent, with employers offering attractive salary and benefit packages as well as interesting career paths, as they have understood the true value of this form of education. However, vocational education still has a long way to cover to be a seal of quality rather than a training regarded as inferior to tertiary education among the general public. ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA, the Austrian Embassy – Commercial Section, therefore hopes that their pilot projects will support this shift towards a more positive image of vocational education which in turn results in a broader acceptance within the Romanian society and an intensified implantation of dedicated schools.