Regional Challenge Fund – Interview with President Ahmet Egrlic

1. What are the benefits of cooperative training for learners, and how can it contribute to a higher employability rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

As it is well known, even before the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we could often hear in public that there was a significant mismatch between the needs of the labor market and the education system. Employers and educational institutions warn of this burning problem present in our country and the environment.

When looking for workers with the appropriate qualifications, employers notice that, despite many unemployed, it is challenging to find adequate-professional, satisfactory, and purposefully educated staff. According to the research results, the biggest problem of employers during new employment is the lack of workers with the required occupation (profile) and lack of workers with the required experience, etc.
In addition, to make the problem complete, many unemployed in the required occupations are de facto unemployable because they do not have the necessary experience or knowledge to get involved in work processes quickly.

We see the organization of cooperative training as one of the ways to overcome these problems. The advantages of cooperative training for students, which includes combining practical training in school with learning through work in the company, are certainly reflected in the development of skills and knowledge, or expertise of our students that they will use and apply in their further work after school. Furthermore, the increase of professionally trained young people has a positive impact on the labor market. It provides preconditions for increasing the employment rate, especially considering the current situation and the problem of increasing mass departure of young, able-bodied people from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2. The involvement of the business sector is crucial for the successful implementation of a cooperative training strategy. What are the benefits of cooperative training for enterprises?

We can say for sure that implementing the joint training strategy is possible only with the involvement of the business sector. This is because the need for certain qualifications and expertise comes from the business sector, which is, unfortunately, facing a major problem of unskilled labor. Therefore, the advantages of cooperative training for companies are reflected primarily in obtaining quality future employees who will contribute to better business results and higher productivity of the company with their expertise and efficiency. Therefore, during cooperative education, companies, in addition to creating a workforce following their needs, also have the opportunity to improve the skills of their employees – mentors, coaches, or instructors. It is inevitable to mention the exchange of knowledge and technology transfer that the company exchanges with educational institutions, which also contributes to innovation in its business. Companies that are participating in cooperative training enable improvement of existing models of education by providing understanding the practical needs of companies and specific industries. In short, practice brings new knowledge, and companies play a key role in that.

3. What challenges do secondary VET schools and other vocational training institutes face in implementing a cooperative training approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The biggest challenge in education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is generally its decentralization because education is under the jurisdiction of the entities and Brcko District and cantons, which results in a diversity of curricula in educational institutions and a diversity of vocational training. Therefore, it is difficult to harmonize and create a uniform education system, which is reflected in the slow implementation, or even the impossibility of implementing certain projects.
At the same time, given the rapid development of technology, educational institutions have a problem of competence of practical classes teachers, the problem of obsolescence of equipment for conducting practical classes, as well as insufficient material for conducting such classes.

4. Regional Challenge Fund in Western Balkans 6 has successfully launched the first open call for the Expressions of Interest which encouraged the applications from consortia of vocational training institutes and enterprises from WB6 economies, implementing cooperative VET courses that result in nationally recognized certificates. How important is this initiative for developing and implementing a cooperative or work-based learning approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

This initiative is extremely important for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as evidenced by the great interest of BiH educational institutions and companies, which in a very short time formed consortia and joined the project. We remind you that 42 consortia from Bosnia and Herzegovina have expressed interest in participating in the Regional Challenge Fund project, that 9 of them have completed the application process, and 8 of them have passed for further consideration. The interest is above expectations, and we are happy to learn that 3 consortia from Bosnia and Herzegovina are approved the grant funds. Considering that the RCF project lasts for 5 years and that a new call is expected at the end of the year, we believe that the interest will be even greater. In addition to financial resources, which are certainly of great importance, the provision of skilled labor for companies and the expertise of young people are of much greater importance. Only through cooperation of educational institutions, business, and the competent B&H institution the problem of mismatch between the needs of the labor market and the education system can be solved.


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