Regional Challenge Fund (the RCF) organised its First Annual Regional conference in order to share the results and experience from the regional call that supported investments in cooperative training. Earlier this year, from February to April, the RCF opened the call and received 205 applications from consortia of vocational training institutes and enterprises from all Western Balkan economies. 66 consortia were shortlisted and invited to to prepare the full project proposals. In addition, the Selection Committee`s decision about the funds available for the first call resulted in 37 most successful projects being proposed for finance, allocating approximately 14,5 million Euros to the region.
Frieder Woehrmann, Team Leader of the RCF stated on this occasion „Mission of the The Fund and this project was to strengthen the quality and labour market relevance of vocational education and training, by funding investments in equipment and infrastructure for selected cooperative/dual training projects that are implemented through partnerships between vocational training institutes and the enterprises. We are extremely glad that so many applicants submitted their proposals and that we can stand behind more than 35 successful projects. We will continue with the Second Call in early 2022 and looking forward to provide support in this important area.”
The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) is a financing facility designed to increase youth employability. It boosts the competitiveness of enterprises in Western Balkan economies by funding investments in equipment and infrastructure for selected dual or cooperative training projects implemented through partnerships between vocational training institutes and enterprises. The grants are allocated through a competitive regional challenge.
The Regional Challenge Fund is the best example of the positive effects that can be achieved by developing synergies of all stakeholders in the educational process – the policy makers, the VET institutes and the private sector. The implementation of the regional economic agenda, but also the progress of the region in the fields of digitalization and green transformation, are deeply dependant on the supply of qualified workforce, trained through relevant and market suitable education including on the job training, and we as the regional association of the 6 national chambers of the WB region, are happy to have active participation in these processes through the RCF, stated Tatjana Shterjova Dushkovska, Secretary General of the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum.
Balsa Culafic, RCF Project Coordinator on behalf of the Chamber investment Forum of the WB6, said that “The Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum actually represents the response of the business community to the political and economic processes in the region. From the preparations for this project so far, it has become clear that the WB6 business community provides strong support to the free movement of goods and services throughout the region in order to reduce costs and enable our economies to be more competitive on the global market. The decision for CIF to coordinate the Regional Challenge Fund was made after a comprehensive review of the economic circumstances by our partners in cooperation with the German Development Bank (KFW).”
Mr. Santiago Alonso Rodrigues , Head of Division, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) stated „ The Regional Challenge Fund is about regional integration and opportunities for economic growth. We are talking about creating sustainable and fair opportunities for young people to take their future into their hands, especially young women. The RCF is our lighthouse program. We have already succeeded in the first months of implementation in bringing together the private sector and vocational training institutes for the benefit of all stakeholders. Therefore, I am glad to announce that we could mobilize an additional 13.5 million EUR for grants, which brings our support up to 33.5 million EUR.“
Klaus-Martin Müller, Director, Southeastern Europe and Turkey, KfW Development Bank noted “We often see it is not so easy to motivate the private sector to get actively engaged in vocational training. So we are giving a lot of thought to developing concepts and approaches. We are very happy that now with the RCF we were able to very successfully motivate the private sector to engage in vocal training and team up with vocational schools in submitting proposals. It goes far beyond the expectations we had.“

The RCF also recognizes three additional aspects that cut across economic sectors and boundaries and their potential for building labour-market relevant skills in line with the current policy initiatives: green transition, regional integration, and digit(al)ization. The First annual conference brough together officials and experts from EU, public institutions and organisatins actvie in the filed of vocational educations and training, Chambers of commerce, Intenrational and regional organisations, enteprises and CSO.
The Regional Challenge Fund is an innovative program that seeks to increase the productivity and competitiveness of businesses in the Western Balkans 6. The RCF is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to KfW Development Bank and executed by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6-CIF), a joint initiative of chambers of commerce from the region.

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