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Active youth in the labor market - simulation methods for improving the quality of vocational and entrepreneurial education in Ukrainian educational facilities

Ukraine’s economic prospects have deteriorated due to the ongoing armed conflict in the east of the country: in August 2016, the Fitch rating agency lowered its sovereign rating, thus signalling that Ukraine’s risk of insolvency was high. JP Morgan assumed that Ukraine’s economy would continue to shrink by 5.2 per cent year-on-year and that its debt would reach the equivalent of 80 per cent of its GDP by the end of 2015. The country’s problems include a growing trade deficit, decreased industrial production, shrinking foreign currency reserves and a weakening hryvnia. These factors are deepening stagnation in terms of economic activity in Ukrainian society, especially in rural areas and small towns.

These unfavourable trends can be reversed primarily through measures that provide support to the younger generation currently entering adulthood. This is exemplified by Poland’s experience, which, in an era of global economic crisis and an environment of complicated procedures continues to achieve positive economic indicators, and where the number of newly established companies is growing (companies in the innovation, technology and hi-tech sectors are being started primarily by young people). This is why the project was mainly aimed at students from Ukrainian vocational schools, as well as their teachers, as they have an influence on the younger generation’s attitudes.

The project was a continuation of the activities carried out under the earlier Young People with Initiative projects (PPR 2012, 2013/2014 and 2015). In the course of the project, representatives of the project’s Ukrainian partner pointed to the need for implementation of an effective methodology for training concerning occupational competency for jobs now predominant in the economy of western Ukraine. As a result, the proposal focused on the development of a methodology for training in occupational competencies (for selected occupations), based on effective and practical solutions, such as simulation of work under realistic working conditions. Such instruments were recommended by the Ukrainian educational community as well as regional authorities as important for the modernisation of the methodologies used in vocational education. The project was intended to contribute to better use of the younger generation’s potential and to a gradual realignment of vocational education to the needs of the regional labour markets in western Ukraine: in the Lviv Oblast, the Asyn Oblast, the Volhynia Oblast, the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, the Ternopil Oblast and the Chernivtsi Oblast.

Active youth in the labor market - simulation methods for improving the quality of vocational and entrepreneurial education in Ukrainian educational facilities

This project complemented previous and ongoing activities carried out by the project initiator (including three editions of the Young People with Initiative project, implemented as part of PPR 2012, 2013/2014 and 2015).

The project provided for the development of a methodology for training on occupational competencies (by major occupational groups) as well as for universal work and business competencies in about 20 vocational schools located in six regions of western Ukraine. The methodology was to rely on effective teaching techniques, including work simulation. Such measures are still perceived as novel in the Ukrainian vocational education system.

The following measures were included in the project:

  • research on regional labour markets and vocational education institutions;
  • a round table with the participation of entrepreneurs, administrations and vocational schools, a platform for cooperation in adjusting the vocational education methodologies to the needs of the labour market;
  • training courses for Ukrainian vocational training teachers in the teaching of occupational and business competencies (40 people from six regions);
  • development of a modern methodology for vocational and business education, along with teaching aids and curricula; organisation of two work simulation laboratories;
  • pilot lessons for young people, and traineeship visits for teachers and young people to Poland.

The project also provided for the organisation of new editions of the inter-regional Business Junior Competition for schoolchildren, which is popular throughout Ukraine. As designed, the project concluded with a final summary conference that was aimed at disseminating a new (effective) approach to teaching vocational and business competencies to young people. The participants included representatives of the local and central government, the education system and the business community.

It was concluded that gaining the interest of vocational schools in the practical aspects of teaching occupational and business competencies while using new educational instruments and safeguarding consistency in following that approach (through, for example, trained staff, the methodology, simulation laboratories, a collaborative network) would benefit the Ukrainian economy.

Active youth in the labor market - simulation methods for improving the quality of vocational and entrepreneurial education in Ukrainian educational facilities

The following results were achieved within the first project module implemented in 2016:

  1. The needs of Ukrainian vocational schools were confirmed in terms of upgrading the quality of their vocational education and the requirements of employers in terms of competencies of school graduates through qualitative and quantitative research.
  2. A quantitative and qualitative study of the labour and employment markets of west Ukraine was carried out and a report on the research study was drafted.
  3. The major occupational groups to be addressed through the project were specified through a series of training workshops, and the education system and the business sector were both consulted regarding the proposed approach to vocational education.
  4. A list of criteria was developed for recruitment at vocational schools in western Ukraine and for vocational training teachers, and a group of vocational education institutions and vocational trainers were recruited.
  5. A group of vocational trainers from western Ukraine were trained in the teaching of occupational and business competencies, and training and workshop materials in that field were developed.
  6. The Business Junior 2016 Competition for young Ukrainians, including students from vocational schools, was organised, including two gala ceremonies and a study tour of Poland for the competition winners.
  7. The business community and regional and local Ukrainian authorities were involved in sponsoring the inter-regional Business Junior 2016 Competition, as well as other project activities.

Results within the second module, implemented in 2017:

  1. Preparation of a document on methodology of training in vocational competences together with teaching aids for Ukrainian vocational education institutions.
  2. Organisation of a base for innovative practical activities within training of vocational competences, universal vocational and business competences.
  3. Implementation of innovative educational instruments in training vocational and business competences into school curricula in selected vocational schools in West Ukraine.
  4. Establishing contacts between Ukrainian and Polish vocational education institutions in project cooperation.
  5. Organised competition ”Business Junior 2017” for young Ukrainians, also from vocational schools, two final galas, study visit of winners to Poland.
  6. Established contacts between Ukrainian and Polish youth groups taking part in vocational and business competitions – cooperation in participation in international competitions.
  7. Publication in Ukrainian of a practical manual on effective training on vocational and business competences in educational institutions.
  8. Dissemination of concept of vocational and business education that takes into consideration a knowledge-based economy among decision-makers of regional and district administrations as well as educational institutions.