International Vocational Education & Training
Deutsch English
Change to Desktop view

Vocational training partnership with Albania: project work for sustainability in times of pandemic

Since December 2019, the Dortmund Chamber of Skilled Crafts (HWK) has had a vocational training partnership with the Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania and with the Tirana Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) finances the vocational training partnership through sequa. In this interview, Tobias Schmidt, head of international projects at the HWK Dortmund, talks about the project.

We have summarised the most important points for you below:

Vocational training is an effective instrument against unemployment and a shortage of skilled workers and also an important prerequisite for the competitiveness of companies. What is the importance of crafts and vocational training in Albania?

Albania suffers from high youth unemployment. The proximity to Europe means that many young people emigrate and try to get an education in Germany, for example. The tradition of vocational training has been lost to some extent in Albania in the course of the war in the 1990s. We had already observed similar developments in our project in Kosovo. However, skilled crafts and trades are very important in Albania and are a guarantee for a quick entry into the labour market, because the entire Balkan region is an up-and-coming region – also because of investments in tourism. There is a lot of construction going on and a very high demand for qualified skilled workers, especially in commercial and technical professions. Unfortunately, there are also many commercial and academic programmes whose graduates do not find suitable jobs and then work as unskilled labour in other areas. Albania, and especially the region around Rrëshen, is therefore a very good place to promote vocational training.

Photo: Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania

Photo: Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania

How did the project come about?  

Our project coordinator Franc Musolli, who worked for us in Kosovo for a long time, built up a very large local network. In this way, the Catholic Church, which runs the school in Rrëshen, also learned about our activities and entered into dialogue with us. A phase of getting to know each other followed with mutual visits. In this phase we benefited from the fact that Rrëshen and the project location in Kosovo are only about three hours away from each other by car.

The project application was submitted to sequa in 2014. There were various supporters of the project. In September 2019, we conducted the project identification mission with the external evaluator Wolfgang Dürig and sequa’s project manager Christopher Nowak. We held on-site talks with various stakeholders and also brought the Tirana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) on board as a potential partner. We then started the project in December 2019. 

What are the goals of the project? 

The aim of the project is to enable the vocational school “Shën Jozefi Punëtor” and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tirana to offer high-quality education and training, taking into account the needs of the regional economy of Northern Albania. The Tirana Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the central actor of the local economy. When it comes to labour market-compatible education and training offers, we have always led the way with them.

In concrete terms, solid workshop capacities are to be built up on site and train-the-trainer courses are to be held, for example in welding technology, precision mechanics, plumbing, heating and air conditioning as well as electrical engineering. We want to improve the training conditions on site and, in parallel, also set up concrete further training offers. This includes working on a welding training centre that qualifies according to the rules and regulations of the German Association for Welding and related processes (Deutscher Verband für Schweißen und verwandte Verfahren e.V. – DVS). Therefore, a workshop is being built with the school’s own funds and the funds of the Catholic Church. The qualifications and certifications are necessary, especially in the metal construction sector, in order to be able to trade with other European countries.

Through networking with the local business community and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, an attempt is being made to integrate students more quickly into the labour market and to qualify existing staff.

Photo: Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania

What are the most important results of the project so far and what hurdles have you already overcome in the course of the project work? 

We started the project in the last months before the corona pandemic. We had just set up the structures on site and written the operational plan when the Corona pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

What did we do in this situation? We did a virtual workshop analysis. This means that the people on site went through the workshops with their smartphones or iPads during a video conference and took stock with our trainers in Dortmund. We got an idea of the situation and equipment, whether there is compatibility with our inter-company training courses and what we can actually do.

Based on these activities, the first thing we did was to draw up procurement lists and arrange for installation and assembly so that we could start after the Corona pandemic had subsided. In addition, some older and depreciated equipment from the welding training centre in Dortmund was refurbished and donated to the partner vocational school.

Due to the uncertain pandemic situation, we then started to offer online seminars and have so far trained over 150 people in train-the-trainer courses. In various areas, such as plant mechanics, sanitary, heating, air-conditioning and electrical engineering, precision mechanics and welding technology, we then held virtual training courses on site. This enabled us to map the major theoretical areas. Practical training was also carried out with a welding trainer with whom we had already worked in the Kosovo project. We also had the great advantage of having an Albanian-speaking welding trainer here who could accompany these training sessions virtually and coordinate with the trainer on site.

In summary, we can say that our very well-functioning network has contributed to the fact that our activities could be permanently continued.

Photo: Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania

Who are your key supporters in the project?

These were mainly the individual actors on site. The school in Rrëshen itself is very well positioned and, especially in the first investment phase of the project, took care of the corresponding purchasing processes for the workshop equipment and all other organisational things. This simplified the procurement processes enormously.

Here in Germany, we also had support from the Albanian diaspora community. They showed a lot of commitment, including an on-site presentation to the BMZ, in order to be able to start the project in the first place. In addition to the internal staff of the HWK, there are also external Albanian-speaking short-term experts who provide support on site in Albania. Because we notice again and again that the Balkans are very close to us. So we have trainees from the Albanian-speaking region again and again. And these people, who have learned a trade in Germany, are the ideal short-term experts for our projects because they don’t need translators on site.

What challenges does Corona bring to project work?

The Corona pandemic means that we cannot travel. This is particularly difficult because personal dialogue is what counts most in communicating with the locally based companies. That means you have to travel to the companies; you have to organise smaller events. As a project, it is essential for us to be directly active there to get in touch with people, to see the workshops and what is produced there. Furthermore, we naturally support the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and explain how the HWK Dortmund works, for example during company visits, training and business advice.

Our aim is not to package German training in Albanian garb and have it accredited and then offer it locally. The aim is to selectively extract certain elements, to change and improve them and, of course, to offer smaller components locally that the market will then accept. It is not possible to offer a fully comprehensive German training. In particular, however, we are trying to introduce a network between practical training in schools and longer-term internships in companies – similar to dual vocational training. 

Environmental protection and social and economic sustainability are important topics for the skilled crafts sector. What role do the topics of environmental protection and sustainability play in the project? 

Sustainability plays a very important role, especially in the areas of sanitation, heating and air conditioning as well as automotive technology. We took a close look at the concepts on site. One important aspect is energy efficiency. A big advantage is that solar thermal systems and photovoltaic panels are already available in the school. We have also contacted the regionally based manufacturers to discuss whether a kind of competence centre on the subject of renewable energies could be set up in the form of sponsorship.


On the other hand, we have also noticed that travel times are no longer necessary to the extent they were before the Corona pandemic. It has become apparent that certain meeting formats and parts of trainings can also be conducted online. This therefore also has great advantages in terms of sustainability and environmental protection.

It is a mixture of the operational things on site in the workshop and of course the procedural organisational things around it. The Corona pandemic has certainly helped to change such things. So we see sustainability in the process of project work, but also in building up the handicraft skills in Albania in order to disseminate sustainable technologies.

It should also be mentioned in this context that there are many KfW projects in the region that are generally intended to contribute to sustainability and energy efficiency and resource conservation. We make a contribution to this, because qualified skilled workers can carry out installation work in the electricity and water grids in such a way that losses can be avoided.

Photo: Shën Jozefi Punëtor Vocational School in Rrëshen in Albania

How could the current project develop further and how could the cooperation be shaped in the future?

We are counting on new impulses arising from the activities. One idea, for example, would be a plastics training centre that qualifies employees from civil engineering companies or companies in the energy sector that work on the pipeline network.

First and foremost, of course, it is a question of continuing the activities on site and investing sustainably in the processes of operational training so that a lighthouse is created there. As a further step, one could develop smaller qualifications that are seen as “best practice”. Since the political attention and interest in the project has become very great – especially in a conversation with the Albanian Minister of the Interior – I see a lot of potential in the fact that building blocks of dual training are taken over and the region is thus given new impulses and development opportunities. I could imagine, for example, state-recognised courses in the field of air-conditioning maintenance or in the installation and safety monitoring of gas boilers or similar. These are safety-relevant areas. Therefore, I assume that the local society recognises the value of having these jobs done by qualified professionals. Albania is increasingly developing into a service and tourism country, and European standards are at the top of the list.

In Germany we do not work with partial qualifications, but other countries have different conditions, which are also related to the state financing mechanisms there. That is why short-term qualifications can work in Albania.

What interest does the Dortmund Chamber of Skilled Crafts have in this cooperation? What benefits do you derive from it?

First and foremost, the Dortmund Chamber of Skilled Crafts has been involved in international development projects for quite some time. On the one hand, we see ourselves as having a social responsibility and, of course, we also follow the call of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for competent institutions here on site to get involved in development cooperation. We have already been able to gain experience through projects in various countries such as Cuba, Mexico, Kosovo, Serbia, Greece and Turkey. As a result, there is a broad pool of knowledge that has been gathered on the topics of vocational training, economic development and the promotion of micro and small enterprises in the respective countries of origin. We want to continue to contribute this knowledge.

On the other hand, we see international projects as a kind of “human resources development tool” to offer people who are very interested in participating in such projects this opportunity. This also has something to do with self-development.

As a chamber, we also want to participate in the fight against the causes of flight. But we also want to give people who cannot be stopped in their migration process the opportunity to integrate into the labour market here as quickly as possible. From 2015 to 2017, we were intensively involved in the BMZ’s special measures to offer people with a refugee background the opportunity to complete good, qualified training as quickly as possible, which will give them the opportunity to pursue a good job anywhere in the world.


Tobias Schmidt

Head of the department “Ausbildungsberatung”, Chamber of Crafts Dortmund

Ich stimme der Verwendung von Cookies zu. Informationen über Cookies und Ihre Rechte erhalten Sie im Datenschutzhinweis.