Slovenia - A focus on employability

Background

The Biotechnical educational centre of  Ljubljana, Slovenia is a publicly-funded school offering upper secondary VET courses, higher VET courses and adult education. Organised into four units, the school is accredited to provide upper secondary VET programs in the field of veterinary science, food technology and nature protection. It offers technical subjects from the high school curriculum. It also provides higher vocational programmes in food technology and nutrition, catering (hospitality) and tourism. The school also has its own business centre – Centre for Adult Education - which provides upper secondary VET programs for adults (formal education) and short courses for adults seeking to improve their literacy in order to  return to education (a project co-financed through ESF), vocational and professional training courses for companies and short courses on food technology, cooking/culinary art, veterinary nursing etc.

The approach to quality assurance

The school introduced a quality assurance system in 2001 (in advance of the 2006 legislation which required all VET schools to introduce a systematic approach to quality assurance). The school has regularly cooperated and participated in a number of network initiatives in the field of quality assurance over the past ten years. Its quality assurance focus has been on the four stages of the quality cycle and measuring performance against two of hard to measure indicators: employability and the utilisation of acquired skills at the work place and in further education.

Information on these indicators is collected once per year through a telephone poll with students who have completed selected courses. For those in employment information is collected on issues such as:

  • destination of students;
  • type of contract (long or short term, part time etc.);
  • how they got the job (through an advert, with the help of acquaintanceship etc);
  • whether they are employed at the company where they completed their practical training;
  • how satisfied they are with the competences they gained during their VET training;
  • how they use these skills in their further studies, etc.

For those who are continuing with studies, information is collected on issues such as:

  • which educational programme they chose;
  • their reason for continuing with education;
  • how satisfied they are with the competences they gained during their VET training;
  • how they use these skills in their work etc.

This information is then analysed and present to the teachers and trainers. This leads to a series of action plans for the coming year. One of the most important consequences of this quality assurance approach has been much closer and more extensive cooperation with companies and their trainers. This is very important as these companies are training partners for the practical aspects of the VET provision. The evaluations identified that a significant number of the former students gained employment where they completed the practical aspects of their training. With a close working relationship between school trainers and those involved in practical training at the work place, the flow of information about students and courses has improved, and school trainers now visit students more often during their practical placements. The evaluations have also helped employers to identify the competences that they need and to make changes to the school-based part of the training programmes. The final benefit of this approach to quality assurance has been the school’s focus on training its own teachers and trainers.

How the approach improves quality assurance

The approach has improved quality assurance in a number of ways:

  • the culture of quality (assurance) is influenced directly by the self-evaluation procedures, as the development of a transparent methodology builds teachers’ understanding and confidence;
  • work on quality assurance is regularly and presented to the whole team of teachers and trainers;
  • the development of evaluation methods based on the two quality indicators which are among the more difficult to measure has developed colleagues’ experience in the field of quality assurance which can be used in other areas;
  • skills and expertise have been developed through gathering information and data, analysing it and formulating and implementing measures for improvement over the last five years.

What challenges were overcome?

Monitoring employability and the use of acquired skills has been demanding, both from a methodological point of view and in terms of practicalities. In the first year, the school used an online survey, but the response rate was very low. The switch to telephone interviews was much more time-consuming but much more informative and effective. It was also important to invest time and resources in making improvements, defining how these improvements would be measured and reporting on the improvements. This could only be done with clear and detailed plans. A specific lesson from this process was the impact on the curriculum - making changes in response to employers’ needs and ensuring the quality of these changes required a great deal of attention.

What were the lessons learnt?

Designing the best methodology which ensured the telephone interviews provided valid, accurate and reliable results was time consuming. In addition, responding to curriculum changes required a much closer and longer-term relationships with employers. The school increasingly values the importance of practical training in the work place and the contribution that local employers make to the design and delivery of training. The school also found that its former students were very willing to share their experiences in order to improve things for others.

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