There were three presentations on VET as an asset for the national economy and the employers, followed by a panel discussion on “how to generalize VET in Georgia”. The importance of organizing an interactive debate on this subject was confirmed by the interest shown by the numerous persons who attended the event.
The first presentation was given by the Swiss expert Marc Bloch. Comparative statistical data at hand, he demonstrated the superior performance and outcomes of Switzerland’s dual system in terms of youth employment and economic competitiveness. He pointed out that countries with a dual education and training system, such Austria, Germany and Switzerland, have by far the lowest rates of youth unemployment in Europe. He added that the private sector, i.e. branch associations, and not the government, should be responsible for developing the vocational curricula and carrying out exams, because they have the necessary expertise and knowledge of sector-specific labor market requirements. As a consequence, in Switzerland, the private sector bears 60% of the overall cost of VET, whereas the government’s share is only 40%. He emphasized that in Switzerland, compared to Georgia and many other countries, VET is highly appreciated and is not considered an "inferior" type of education; in fact, two thirds of Swiss youth choose this path rather than an academic education, but they retain the option of obtaining an academic degree or other higher education diplomas during their professional career (permeability of the system). Furthermore, he quoted the interesting Swiss “paradox” – which actually is not – that despite a comparatively low academic quota, Switzerland holds a lead position in capacity for innovation in the economy. With regard to Georgia, the expert explained that one of the biggest challenges is to overcome the lack of well-trained teachers and of adequate infrastructure. In agriculture, the labor market is small, since 90% of people working in this sector are self-employed. In order to be successful, governmental reforms in education need time to be implemented and require a higher involvement of the private sector. Last but not least, the general social perception of VET as an educational model, which is traditionally considered inferior to academic education, must be changed.