The Chamber of Crafts Muenster (HWK Muenster) has been running the successful ‘Graeducation’ vocational education and training project in Greece since 2017. Sabine Heine, Project Manager for Graeducation at HBZ Muenster, reports on the experiences in the project. She explains how the collaboration went, what has been achieved in the project so far and which requirements are necessary for a follow-up project.
1) How did the Graeducation project come about and what are its goals?
There is a great need for green technology in Greece, which also requires adjustments in the education system.
Our Graeducation Lead Partner FIAP (Research Institute for Innovative Work Design and Prevention e.V. Gelsenkirchen) is very active and experienced in international projects. FIAPs offices are situated in the Science Park in Gelsenkirchen with which our HBZ has a long-term cooperation. Thus we met FIAP and talked to them about Greece. We were able to agree on a partnership in Graeducation. The project is co-finanzed by the German Ministry for Education and Research’s funding program for the internationalization of vocational education and training.
The aim of the project is to research, develop and test educational services that contribute to improving the training of environmental engineering professions in Greece.
2) What hurdles had to be overcome in the decision-making process at the start of the project?
The project idea had great potential for Greece when we handed in the appliecation for funding. However, the political framework at the beginning of the project had shifted so that the Greek Ministry of Education, which was originally supposed to be a central partner, indicated little interest in working together. Ultimately, the process of finding partners and defining topics at the start of the project took several months longer than expected.
Technical career orientation
3) Who were your main supporters in the project?
Many different partners have contributed to the success of Graeducation. The project partners in Greece were not only the Greek employment agency OAED (responsible for EPAS vocational schools), but also the German-Greece Chamber of Commerce as an on-site broker and door opener, the German Embassy, the German School Athens, and the IEP, the Greek vocational training institute. In the end, the ICON-Group – a pioneer in construction and sanitary, heating and climate technology and a member of the Greek Society for Sustainable Building – and the Winds of Renewal Foundation helped us to reach out to additional target groups.
4) What is the importance of skilled crafts in Greece?
Skilled crafts are a broad economic sector in Greece. However it is comprised of mainly small to very small companies with one to three employees.The crafts sector is organized to a small extent – there are only a few chambers of crafts and hardly any special craft-oriented educational institutions. Chambers in Greece stand for trade, craft and industry at the same time. In Greece there exists no law that is comparable to the German Trade and Crafts Code.
Train-the-trainer course in electrical engineering
5) The quality standards of international vocational training in handicrafts are very high. How does the implementation / adjustment succeed in the area of conflict between German quality standards and local framework conditions and how do you proceed?
Until recently, only a small proportion of Greek companies saw the need to get involved in shaping vocational education and training. A lot has changed for the better in Greece since the change of government last June: While the Syriza government previously made it very difficult to get inovlved in shaping VET, the current government is trying to motivate companies to work together. They are additionally changing many old laws. In the area of EPAS training, in addition to the vocational schools of the OAED, companies are also involved, each of which organizes the practical part of the training for half a day. However, since there is still no general training plan for in-company training, our project initially focused on the vocational school’s part of the training. Here we were able to renew an existing curriculum and promote the transfer of the innovations to the vocational schools. We did this by conducting corresponding train-the-teacher courses.
6) What are the biggest hurdles? Where do you see the biggest challenges so far?
The greatest difficulties arose from delays in planning due to prolonged periods of political uncertainty and paralysis of decision-making, especially by the previous government’s Ministry of Education. Along with this, a frequent change of areas of responsibility and of the players on the Greek side slowed down the planned activities.
7) What experiences have you had in the project with the SCIVET instruments?
Halfway through our project, we also had the freshly completed SCIVET instruments at our disposal, so that we were able to compare some of the steps that had already been taken with the SCIVET standards in retrospect: we had taken many of these into account when researching and approximating the Greek framework conditions. The systematic approach and depth of detail of the SCIVET instruments convinced us. The SCIVET instruments were therefore a very useful reference for us to compare whether we took into account all the relevant steps in the Greek context.
GirlsDay: Youngsters in conversation with Dr. Klaus Landrath
8) Vocational training is an effective tool against unemployment and skills shortages and a necessary condition for the competitiveness of companies. How could the project be developed further and how could the cooperation look like in the future?
In Greece there is a great need for knowledge and qualifications with regard to sustainable construction. While in Germany there is still a need to disseminate existing knowledge. For both matters we have to find workable concepts, that will be accapted by clients for whom a building is being built. That means improving the qualifications of skilled workers. It will also take some convincing.
9) What are the most important result of the project by now?
In the context of the three years cooperation important goals were achieved:
- a new electrical engineering curriculum
- different train-the-trainer courses (TtT)
- further training for sanitary, heating and climate technology installation
- joint career orientation events for pupils and teachers’ trainings for organizing such events
- a big event Girls Day
In addition, a very well-functioning network was built by the German-Greek project partnership. One result is the cooperation in drawing up the transfer-oriented publication TRANSITIONE. Furthermore Graeducation acts as a source of inspiration for new topics education policy concerning vocational training. It takes part in the German embassies round table for VET as well as the German-Greek vocational training cooperation conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) on behalf of the German Ministry of Education and Research.
Project team in cooperation with TU Athens
10) What are the interests of your HWK in this collaboration? What benefit do you get from the project? Are you open to future projects?
The new courses required for Greece focus on innovation topics: the result is revisions that can also be used in Germany in the future. As part of the project, innovative topics will be examined, and their preparation and updating have high relevance for VET on the Greek as well as on the German side. For further cooperation the focus could be on new developments, where the pressure to innovate is very high for us. To mention just a few: climate protection and climate control issues, sustainable building, didactics with digital learning units, webinars, augmented reality supplements etc. While only 80% of our work as a chamber of crafts in the Graeducation project was refinanced, we would need full funding for such services in the future. For the follow-up program this is agreed by the funding agency. In addition, we take care a win-win situation arises for Greek and German partners and that our Chamber of Crafts achieves clear benefits for the work here on site. We owe this to our member companies.