Establishment and support of education networks

5 Personen am Panel (opens larger image) © OeAD/Projektbüro Belgrad/OeAD/Projektbüro Belgrad

The exchange of experiences between experts and decision-makers at national, regional and European level and the development of corresponding networks are an increasingly important element of successful educational reforms.

Thanks to the cooperation with ERI SEE, the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe, the OeAD contributes to regional cooperation at educational policy level. By pooling resources with relevant partner institutions in so-called “clusters of knowledge” regional focuses in the EU integration process can be supported.

Project example: Western Balkans Alliance for Work Based Learning
Conference in Vienna: Building a Western Balkans Alliance for Work-Based Learning – Austria supports Western Balkan countries in improving their vocational and training systems (18 May 2015, at the invitation of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy; the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs; the Austrian Development Agency; the Federal Economic Chamber; and OeAD).

From a press release from the Austrian Ministry of Education: “A sound education is the foundation for a successful career and the best protection against unemployment. In-company apprenticeship is an area of particular exemplary efficacy that attracts great interest internationally. For this reason we want to support other countries in establishing a successful system. Integrating Austrian companies with their production facilities also creates added value for the domestic economy,” emphasised Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner on the occasion of the international Western Balkans conference taking place today in Vienna. The conference’s motto is “Dual vocational training and other forms of workplace-related learning”.

As part of the Berlin process, Austria agreed in August 2015 to provide relevant support to the Western Balkan countries. At the invitation of the Federal Ministries of Science, Research and Economy (BMWFW), Education and Women’s Affairs (BMBF) and Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA) international experts in the fields of labour law and education as well as high-ranking representatives from the Western Balkan countries met in Vienna on 18 May 2016. The conference, organised jointly with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and the OeAD/KKA, focuses on the regional dialogue among actors in politics, vocational training institutions, the private sector, and civil society. As a result of innovative partnerships between the education and private sectors future cooperation is to be intensified and the identification and utilisation of synergies from ongoing activities, in particular those with Austrian support, is to be promoted. Vocational training has been a focus in Austria for many years and is an integral part of development cooperation. In the partner countries of the Austrian Development Cooperation, for example, reforms in education are actively supported by a wide variety of projects and programmes.

“Well-educated skilled workers are the prerequisite for investments and thus for economic growth, jobs. A stable economy in our immediate neighbourhood in the Western Balkans is in our own interest, so it is all the more important to contribute to this through the promotion of dual training,” said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. “A good education broadens people’s perspectives where they are and equips them to meet the requirements of an increasingly globalised economy.” “It is crucial to ensure that vocational education and training includes a wide range of offerings and that young people can receive an education that suits their interests and talents.

This is exactly what the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs) focuses on in its cooperation with the Western Balkan countries. For more than 25 years the OeAD and Austria’s education officials have been supporting reforms in education and training in the partner countries on our behalf through long-term projects. For example, close coordination with relevant authorities and social partners improves the quality of company internships in around 60 tourism schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia.

One focus of the work in Albania is increasing girls’ access to IT professions. More than 130 vocational schools in Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia are supported in the promotion of entrepreneurship education. These types of measures significantly improve young people’s prospects and access to the labour market in the affected countries,” said Hanspeter Huber, head of the International Affairs Division of the BMBWF. At the end of the conference all participants of the Western Balkans Alliance for Work-Based Learning agreed on common principles and initiatives for the further development of high-quality vocational training systems in the area of workplace-related learning in the Western Balkans. The joint statement that was developed was presented at the third Western Balkans summit in Paris in July 2016.

» Link to Joint Statement