Vocational Education - Key to Georgia's Unemployment Problems


Olivier Bürki, the Regional Director of Cooperation at the Swiss Cooperation Office in Georgia was on hand to deliver more Swiss know-how on the finer details of vocational education in a joint interview with GEORGIA TODAY and Businesscode TV show.

"Let me start by explaining why we think VET is important for Georgia: more than 50 percent of the Georgian population still lives in rural areas. If you take the example of Switzerland, there is a sharp contrast between Georgia and my country – in Switzerland, 2/3 of all youth opt for vocational rather than for universities. 60 percent of Swiss people chooses vocational education over a university diploma. Why? Because they get excellent education, invaluable practical knowledge and then they have the possibility to get their desired job, which happens at the end of their apprenticeship. And you know what? We in Switzerland have a less than 4 percent unemployment rate, so there’s a direct correlation between having young people possessing necessary knowledge and skills adapted for the private sector and them finding a job at the end of their education."

How long till we have things up and running like this in Georgia?

Well, fine-tuning this system has taken decades in Switzerland. But while there is no blueprint, I can assure you that there is immense potential for Georgia to reap the benefits of the vocational system. The basis is most certainly there, with the 50 percent still employed in the field of agriculture, what you need is more small and medium enterprises for more job opportunities. And vocational education is a key aspect of that. We need to find a proper system for Georgia, and in Georgia it’s called Workbased Learning.

Yet there is a mentality problem in Georgia. In your average Georgian family, having a university diploma is a thing of prestige, despite the ways of acquiring it. Taxi drivers with two diplomas are a common occurrence, and physical labor is often looked on disdainfully. How do you plan to change this?

The short answer to that question is this – IF the young people see that they'll find a job at the end of their education, then they’ll opt for vocational education, social misconceptions notwithstanding. We have to tell the people of Georgia that vocational education is good, but on the other hand, we also need to deliver proof of it.

That’s a big IF. What’s the Swiss side doing to turn this IF into a When?

Switzerland is a longtime supporter of Georgia’s agricultural development. And we believe that vocational education is one key aspect of developing and expanding this sector. This is an opportunity to gain crucial knowledge and capacity at the vocational colleges and then be able to translate this knowledge into practice and enterprise. Over the last five years, we, together with the UNDP, committed more than 6 million Swiss Francs to promote and support the development of vocational education. The first step was enhanced coordination and cooperation between the ministries of agriculture and education, the second was the development of a proper curriculum for teaching students at the colleges, organizing various trainings and so on, and now we are finally reaching the stage where we can, so to say, actually touch the very core and essence of vocational education – to have a possibility to actively have youth gaining real experience in whatever their chosen area is in the agriculture field.

Vazha Tavberidze

12 June 2017 17:47