EU supports reform of vocational education and training reform in Ukraine

There are seven vacancies for one skilled metalworker, and ten vacancies for one welder. This is evidenced by the monthly vacancy-CV ratio on the job search website And according to another job search portal Headhunter Ukraine, vocational professions were in the top five most demanded in 2018. If for one vacancy of a lawyer there are 6.8 CVs, then for labor vacancies, this figure is 0.8.

The government also notes the shortage of skilled workers: in 2016 the Cabinet of Ministers approved a list of professions of national importance, consisting of 25 positions. And one year ago, in February 2018, it was complemented by six more. More than 90% of this list are professions taught in vocational education and training system (VET). First of all, the country needs welders, machine tool operators, metalworkers, installers, millers, motorists and machinists. Such specialists are trained for the state budget funds.


Meanwhile, as of December 2018, more than 340,000 unemployed were officially registered. Among the regions with the highest unemployment rates are Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Poltava and Vinnytsia oblasts. The State Employment Service states that there is a professional-qualification imbalance between demand and supply in Ukrainian labor market: 75% of graduates receive higher education, 25% – vocational one. As a result, almost 44% of the unemployed have higher education, and in some large cities this figure reaches 90%.

For most professions in the “shortage list” it is not necessary to study 5 or 6 years at the university, they are taught in vocational schools, colleges, lyceums and centers during 1 to 3 years. For 27 years of independence, the number of such educational institutions has decreased by 40% – from 1251 to 756. And the number of trained workers has decreased by more than half: if in 1991 there were 338,000 graduates of vocational education institutions, then in 2016 there were only 152,000. Minister of Education and Science Liliia Hrynevych admits that in Ukraine vocational training has always been regarded as non-prestigious. Although, according to her, after the vocational school it is possible to earn much more than with the diploma of higher education. For example, welders with vocational education are offered 30,000 hryvnias of wages in Kyiv oblast.

The market needs such staff. According to the World Bank, more than 40% of vacancies announced by the State Employment Service in 2015 required staff with secondary vocational education, and only 27% of vacancies – with higher education.


What is the problem?

This trend is confirmed by the Federation of Metallurgists: they have about 70% of workers with vocational education and 30% – with higher education.

“Earlier we used to say: do not produce so many diplomas of higher education. Graduates, then, are re-trained for labor professions at our enterprises, for our own money, and work as workers. But in terms of wages, career development at the enterprise, they have much more chances than if they were further sitting with their diplomas of, for example, lawyers and economists”, – Olena Kolesnikova, a representative of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, the Federation of Metallurgists, says. Although, according to her, the government already understands this situation on the labor market.

The Federation of Metallurgists of Ukraine points to the main problems of the Ukrainian vocational education and training system: obsolete equipment, outdated list of professions for which the staff is trained and the lack of upgrading and retraining programmes for the older generation.

For example, at the Zaporizhstal plant there work workers of about 200 professions, and the VET system can train staff for only 30 of these 200 professions. It turns out that business is forced to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education and teach those professions that are absent in the VET system.


Teachers are key

In addition, there is not enough teachers for vocational schools: in 2015, 13% of positions remained vacant. For example, in 2018, in Kyiv for a specialty “Vocational Education”, where potential teachers for vocational schools are trained, only 46 entrants were enrolled for the full-time form of education, even though there were 87 budget-funded places.

The problem of the lack of teachers for vocational education institutions in 2016 -2018 was partially covered by the project “Improvement of Practice-Oriented Training of Vocational Education and Training Teachers”, which received a grant of more than EUR 600,000 from Erasmus+ – the EU programme for education, vocational training, youth and sport.

Six universities took part in that project – three from Ukraine and three European ones – from Spain, Austria and Germany. Among Ukrainian participants there are Vadym Hetman Kyiv National Economic University (KNEU), Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, as well as experts from the Institute of Vocational Education and Training of the National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine and the Institute of Professional Qualifications representing the Confederation of Employers of Ukraine.

Within the framework of the project, the efforts were made, among other things, to solve the problem of the lack of teachers of economic disciplines. Such disciplines are taught to students at each of 756 (as of 2017) vocational schools, but there are not enough teachers.

For example, KNEU faced with a decrease in the number of entrants to the specialty “Vocational Education (Economics)” – its graduates can become teachers of economic disciplines at vocational schools. Therefore, within the framework of the project, a new educational programme “Economic and Business Education” was developed in KNEU for this specialty. There is no government order for this programme, so all students study only under contract. As a result, in 2018, 245 students expressed a desire to study under this programme, and 32 entrants were enrolled for the freshman year, while in 2016 there were only 10 such entrants.

Associate Professor of the Department of Pedagogy and Psychology at KNEU, Oksana Sarkisova, notes that the feature of this programme is the binarity of training. This means that after four years of study, students can simultaneously become economists and lecturers of economics and business coaches.


How is vocational education already reformed

At the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Education and Science announced the launch of a large-scale reform of vocational education. At its core is dual education, which has long been effectively used in European countries, in particular in Germany. Such a format allows students to get acquainted with the theory at the vocational school, and to master the practice in real production.

The Ministry of Education and Science has developed a model contract for receiving vocational education under a dual form of training. This is a trilateral document between the institution, the student and the employer. Under its terms, for example, the employer will be able to agree with the student about the job after training.

Three pilot schools from Kyiv, Lviv and Zaporizhzhia have switched to this format since 2015. And now, about one third of vocational schools – 250 institutions – have joined them.

The Ministry of Education and Science admits that equipment of vocational education institutions is worn out by 60%, and sometimes even by 100%. However, the situation with the technical base is gradually changing. From 2016, educational and practical centers are established on the basis of vocational schools at the expense of state budget and businesses. To date, their number is already 185. Students can study there with modern equipment and modern materials. It is about the professions of turner, miller, welder, painter, electrician, tractor driver, seamstress.

This year, at the expense of the budget, it is planned to establish 45 more educational and practical centers. 50 million hryvnias is provided for this purpose.


How does the EU help reform?

The reform is also supported by the European Union: in December 2018, the government signed an agreement with the European Commission on financing the seven-year project “EU4Skills: Better Skills for Modern Ukraine”. It will start in May 2019.

The EU and its member states – Germany, Finland and Poland – will provide €58 million to support the vocational education reform in Ukraine. The funds will be spent on the development of professional and educational standards, taking into account the needs of the labor market and the European Qualifications Framework, new training programmes, retraining of teachers and management staff, development of a multichannel financing mechanism for vocational training, and the provision of access for people with disabilities to VET institutions. Financial and advisory support will also be provided for the development of innovative approaches to career guidance, the creation of a system of information on the labor market, and the holding of profession festivals. In addition, these funds will be invested in the modernization of already existing and the establishment of new multifunctional centers of professional excellence with the necessary training equipment.

And one month ago, in February 2019, the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament supported the next Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027, in which Ukraine is a partner country. It is planned to increase its budget three times, and at the same time invest more in high-quality vocational education, in particular through the establishment of centers of professional excellence.

By Hanna Pervak