Vocational education making a comeback

Photo: dominoproject.bg

Since the middle of the past century, vocational education has existed in Bulgaria together with traditional one. In the early 1980s, the two systems were united in the so-called educational and professional complexes. Elite technical high schools became a successful model, and together with vocational schools attracted many students.

Disciplines included industry, agriculture, commerce, construction, food and beverage industry, etc. At the beginning of democracy, interest in this model declined, but in recent years unemployment and shortage of staff in certain sectors of the economy have once again brought interest in this type of training. Since 2015 it has been implemented with the financial support of the Bulgarian-Swiss program DOMINO (Dual education for the modern requirements and needs of society). Thanks to the "learning at work" system, more than 1500 students throughout the country are being trained in 12 professions.

“The project started in 2015 at the request of Bulgaria,” says Petya Evtimova, head of the Bulgarian-Swiss project DOMINO. “The idea was to see if the model works in 10 Bulgarian schools. For the four years, the interest has grown so much increased that we already have 32 schools participating in the project. 78 schools outside the framework of the project also started applying the same model. During the last two years of their education, students in the vocational high schools have 2 -3 days of internship and 2-3 days of school classes every week. Over 250 enterprises in the country have started to cooperate with such schools and last but not least to give pupils opportunities to start work after graduation. Within the project, we already have graduates and their employment rate is 70 percent.”

In order to continue the successful operation of the model and after the completion of the project, significant changes were made to the Vocational Education Act with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and Science. Among the professions involved in dual training are those of machine technicians, electricians, car technicians and electric vehicle technicians. Dual learning has also been developing well in the fields of furniture production and tourism.

17-year-old Eleonora Angelova from Dobrich is being trained under the dual model at the Vocational High School of Tourism, specializing as a chef. She told us what attracted her to the profession:

"It is about love, passion, having fun in the kitchen. This profession is interesting, pleasant and it fills me with satisfaction."

Eleonora’s mentor in cooking is Viktor Zhechev, chief instructor at the HRC Culinary Academy restaurant:

Photo:  Darina Grigorova

“I hope the training I provide to the next generation of chefs is open enough so that they could later choose the type of cuisine they want to focus on. We pay special attention to local Bulgarian products and seasonal food. Now there are many farmers who put all their energy into the quality of food they produce. We try to focus on the products that really are the basis of many recipes, whether Bulgarian or Balkan. For example forgotten herbs like honey garlic a making a comeback to modern dishes. All these products can be incorporated in a way that keeps the spirit of tradition.

Overall, the boys and girls I train have incredible talents; many of them are now successful chefs. I'm very glad I can call them colleagues and friends.”

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: dominoproject.bg

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