Dual education – challenges and opportunities

“Dual education – challenges and opportunities during and after COVID-19” conference

On Thursday, October 29, 2020, an online conference “Dual education – challenges and opportunities during and after COVID-19” was held

The online conference “Dual Education – Challenges and Opportunities during and after COVID-19” was organized as part of the project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation “Support in Development and Establishment of the National Model of Dual Education” in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

The event was opened by Professor Dr. Gabrijela Grujić, Assistant Minister for Dual Education of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Derek George, Deputy Head of Cooperation in Swiss Embassy and Majo Mićović, President of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Derek George pointed out that skills development is one of the important areas of the Swiss international support strategy. He stated that the Swiss experience in dual education is vast, and that dual education, as an important factor in the development of the Swiss economy, enhances the well-being of students and society as a whole. In accordance with its expertise, Switzerland gladly accepted to provide expert support to Serbia in the introduction of dual education. Mr. George pointed out that Serbia’s progress in dual education is impressive and that Serbia is one of the countries with examples of good practice in introducing dual education in a strategic way.

Assistant Minister for Dual Education Gabrijela Grujić presented the work of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development during the COVID-19 pandemic in the field of dual education. She stated that immediately upon the declaration of the state of emergency the Commission for Development and Implementation of Dual Education formed the Crisis Staff for Dual Education, which seriously undertook the development of a plan for recording lessons for learning through work and the development of a unique methodology for recording materials that would be broadcast on the national platform RTS Planeta. During the state of emergency, a total of 270 lessons were recorded and uploaded on the RTS Planet portal. The videos were recorded in schools and partner companies.
Since the beginning of the school year, an appointed team has coordinated the entire process of recording lessons for dual educational profiles and checked the quality of the recorded material. Currently, 25 schools are engaged in recording classes for dual education profiles with their partner companies. Video material for each subject is prepared and recorded in line with the national curriculum.

After the presentation given by the Assistant Minister, a video was shown in which students who attend dual educational profiles shared their experiences in online learning and how satisfied they were with it. The students pointed out that it was very useful that they could revisit the learning content and redo the same tasks. What is also important for them is to be able to gain insight into the entire work process in a company, make a connection between theory and practice, and be provided with real-life examples of working in the company, which can prepare them for the work environment and their future jobs.

Dr. Ursula Renold, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on dual education in Switzerland. First, she praised the efforts of Serbia in the development of dual education and the efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
She stated that in April the Apprenticeship Pulse project was launched in Switzerland, which measures the impact of COVID-19 on vocational education by assessing the current situation on a monthly basis. The main issues covered by the project are the following: To what extent have different industries and cantons in Switzerland been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? To what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic affected young people in apprenticeship? What kind of innovations do companies use to ensure the best possible programme for students at the beginning, during and at the end of their apprenticeship? Ms. Renold emphasized that the tourism and hospitality sectors suffered the greatest losses and that a number of companies in the two sectors stopped accepting students for apprenticeship.

The two presentations and videos were followed by a discussion in which representatives of companies participated.

Mr. Majo Mićović, President of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce spoke about the activities carried out by the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce to support dual education. He mentioned the conferences and events organized by this chamber aimed at informing the representatives of companies and other relevant stakeholders about the achieved results, and plans for the future in the field of dual education. These events brought together representatives of ministries, chambers of commerce, companies, experts in vocational education, bilateral chambers. He pointed out that digitalization is very important in work processes and that it had been noticed that the areas of work largely digitalized had more easily overcome the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He pointed out that young people who complete dual education have developed soft skills while learning through work, i.e. that independence, inventiveness, types of communication are very important for young people entering the labor market.

Ms. Jovana Uzelac, Head of HR Southeast Market in Nestlé company, said that from the beginning, Nestlé had been willing to take part in dual education and training of students who would later be employed. She emphasized that Nestlé is involved in dual education in other countries as well, and gave the example of Bulgaria as a country in the region where Nestlé has been part of the dual education process for four years. Ms. Uzelac stated that they, as a company, also support the continuation of students’ education after high school. She also mentioned that Nestlé has been implementing a global youth employment strategy since 2013, and accordingly plans to employ more young people in the coming period.

Mr. Edin Dacić, President of the Assembly of the company “Standard Furniture Serbia” said that dual education is very important for his company because the labor market in Serbia lacks qualified staff in certain areas of work (wood processing). He pointed out that in the coming period, more work should be done on harmonizing the needs of the labor market and vocational education.

During the conference, the participants had the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers in a special section, which were all answered.

The event was attended by over 100 participants, representatives of institutions, international development partners, vocational education experts, bilateral chambers of commerce, schools, companies, students.