Vocational Education Equips Youth for Careers
Last year, 19-year old Nino Narmania learnt that she needed computer skills to do her favourite job—sewing and making clothes. Intrigued and excited by the project, she enrolled in a college-level professional tailoring programme in Poti, a provincial town in western Georgia.
Together with 50 other young women, she was the first to reap the benefits of quality education supported by practical training in a well-equipped tailoring workshop.
“I am learning how to work in Photoshop and Corel, and how to use modern sewing machines,” Narmania says. “That is not always easy but our teachers are great. We have university professors to teach us computer technology and there are online classes from a professional college in Germany.”
- Professional training is one of the most direct ways for the displaced to find employment and rebuild their lives disrupted by violence.
- With UNDP assistance, nine professional colleges across Georgia upgraded training in 25 most demanded professions.
- Of the 3,000 people who have graduated so far, 70 percent have quickly found employment.
Up-to-date curricula, modern equipment and qualified trainers make Phazisi College one of the most reputable educational institutions in the region. The tailoring programme accepts 50 students at a time and classes fill up eight months in advance.
Almost half of the college students are, like Narmania, from families displaced by conflict, known as internally displaced persons or IDPs. For them, professional training is one of the most direct ways to find employment and rebuild their lives disrupted by violence.
“Two years ago, I would not imagine that it was possible to get an education like that in our city. Now I feel confident that I can become a good professional and find a nice job. This college is my future,” Narmania says.
Georgia’s system of professional education has been questioned by advocates who argue that it needs to do much more to equip people for the labour market.
In 2006, with funds from the European Union, the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, and the Governments of Norway and Romania, UNDP began collaborating with the Ministry of Education to reform Georgia’s system of professional education. As a result, participating colleges are now better aligned to the demands of the local labour market, there are uniform standards for qualifications, teachers have received critical retraining and vocational training sites have been refurbished.
After the outbreak of military conflict in 2008, UNDP began aiming these efforts at conflict-affected areas, where a professional education would help people return to self-reliance, especially those experiencing disruptions in education and careers due to displacement.
One of the first initiatives took place at Gori University in Shida Kartli, the region most affected by war. Now recognized as one of the best-equipped professional education sites in the country, it offers a full range of vocational courses.
On-the-job training includes mini workshops for the production of agricultural products, such as traditional Georgian cheeses and canned fruit and vegetables, some of which sell in the largest supermarkets of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. The workshops allow students to begin work while learning the practical application of new skills.
They are also viable as small enterprises, offering a double return by contributing to the income of the university.
By the end of 2011, as part of its support to Samegrelo, a region in western Georgia that hosts around 80,000 displaced people, UNDP had helped professional colleges in Poti and Zugdidi establish their own new curricula. About 1,500 students—half of them IDPs—can enrol in the courses each year. The colleges have opened furniture-making and tailoring workshops based on the model in Gori.
By 2012, upgraded training in 25 professions—mainly in higher demand sectors like agriculture, food-processing and construction—was available in nine professional education centres across the country.
Each of the educational courses was equipped with new training programmes, guidebooks for instructors and students, and special qualification courses for teachers.
Of the 3,000 people who have graduated so far, 70 percent have quickly found employment.
Levan Lakia, 22, lives in a small village with his parents and two younger brothers. Today, he is the only person in his family with a job, having started work on a school rehabilitation project after completing vocational training at the college in Poti.
“Vocational training changed my life for the better,” he says. “I feel more confident and know what to do. It’s not only about income. It’s about experience that improves my chances to become professional and competitive.”
People like Nino Narmania and Levan Lakia are making full use of their chances for a better future. An underlying belief that it is never too late to learn is helping thousands of people in Georgia to cultivate hope and skills to reshape their lives.