Comment: Could vocational education save Romania’s high school grads from unemployment?
Dana Tudose – Tianu writes about vocational education and how much is left from Romania’s vocational workers compared to the 19th century.
Youth unemployment in Romania is, according to a 2018 Eurostat data release, among top 10 highest E.U. unemployment rates for the 15-25 age category. One in six Romanians in this age group does not work nor study.
This year, we just on January 24 the 1859 Unification. Only 6 short years after that historical moment, in 1866, Romania's population was 4.4 million (compared to 20 million today). The most populated areas were around capital city, Bucharest, and cultural metropolis, Iasi. There were 141,754 people living in Bucharest and 90,236 in Iasi. Now for the real treat - here's what jobs Romanians had 150 years ago:
Farmers and various agriculture-related jobs: 648,168; Vocational workers(tailors, carpenters, shoemakers etc.)- 50,869;Merchants(what, today, we would call small business owners): 30,417; Apprentices: 23,192; Public workers: 22,811; Priests: 9,702; Professors: 6,066; Monks: 4,672; Nuns: 4,078; Belle-Arte: 2,156; Lawyers: 318; Doctors: 272; Doulas: 204; Surgeons: 151; Pharmacists: 95.
Today, with a population of 20 million, Romania has 170,000 public workers, 21,000 lawyers (members of the Romanian Bar Association) and 20,648 doctors working in 396 hospitals! However, where doctors are concerned, Romania ranks at the bottom of the list among the EU states.
Romania lost its valuable vocational (professional) workers strata after 1990, when everybody wanted to go to college.
The top 5 E.U. countries with the lowest unemployment rate among young people under the age of 25 are Malta, Germany, Estonia, Netherlands and Czech Republic, with unemployment rates varying between 4.8% and 7.6%.
But the real success story in youth unemployment was and still remains Switzerland, averaging 3.49% unemployment rate between 2000 and 2018.
What does Switzerland do to bring and keep its high school grads in the workforce, making a decent living?
In opposition to most other capitalist countries, today, in Switzerland, only 30% of high school graduates go on to college, while 70% follow vocational studies and become professional workers with various specialties.
The structure of society most often reflects the most important categories and types of work performed in one's country, or culture.
We complain that the middle class is disappearing slowly, but we fail to look at our society from the anthropological perspective rather than from the economic perspective. What is today's appetite, among young people, for becoming tailors, nurses, electricians, potters, mechanics, hairdressers, shoemakers, plumbers, construction workers?
The speed of today's world has distorted the vision we have of ourselves at 20 or 25, while the social-media enabled, instant communication, such as personal YouTube tutorial channels, give young people the false notion that one can "become" a professional in an area just by putting together some information and sharing it on social media. The confusing (for any other generation but the millennials), but also exciting new job titles that are related to online marketing and social media (aka Influencer), have destroyed the idea that, in order to be a professional in any field, you have to have (as per Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice") thousands of hours of practice, apprenticeships, internships, and then years of actual experience serving clients and communities.
Why would the younger generations still choose a profession that requires 3-5 years of apprenticeship and/or academic studies, when technology has been providing the tools to build online businesses in days, create content that attracts people with a similar "fast-paced" learning and working style?
Looking at the Swiss model may help us with the answer. In trying to learn more about VET (the Swiss Vocational Education and Training System), I talked to Dino Ebneter, the Switzerland-born CEO of Mazars Romania. Mazars promotes vocational education within its own organization – training young accountants who enter the company as interns.
Seventy percent of young Swiss people participate in the Swiss VET system right after high school. The system prepares the students for a wide array of professions, such as manufacturing, healthcare, construction, IT, trades and crafts. But what it really does is connect the students to their future jobs through nation-wide apprenticeship programs where companies across Switzerland take in and train high school graduates, offering jobs to the best performers after the apprenticeship is over.
During their apprenticeship, which can last 3-4 years, depending on the industry, the students are paid. At the end of the apprenticeship, they have a nationally recognized qualification and the opportunity to move directly into full-time employment or to continue on into higher education.
This system wouldn’t work if companies wouldn’t partner with the government to create this highly skilled workforce. China and the United States are just two of the largest countries to start the process of re-designing their own vocational education system based on the Swiss “Golden Standard”.
In the United States, during the Obama administration, and under the patronage of Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, 800 community colleges aligned their curriculum with the detailed needs of thousands of employers across the country.
Dino Ebneter talks about VET for Romania Insider.
Article & video by Dana Tudose - Tianu
Photo source: Shutterstock