Article by Capital.bg
Name: Anina Santova
The municipality is working with the Edu Compass Foundation to improve the image of vocational high schools and to direct students to them.
How do young people’s interest in education change? No one can give the exact recipe but in Plovdiv, they try. The city is constantly attracting new factories but staffing continues to decline. Part of the reason is the decline in vocational education and its poor image. In an attempt to change this, the municipality partnered with a private foundation to try to make vocational high schools more modern and interesting for students.
“There is no way to attract students with a basic set of methods used in the 19th century. We need to change the approach, use more technology, and develop different types of skills. We need different tactics because otherwise many children remain uneducated and unemployed”, Plovdiv Deputy Mayor Stefan Stoyanov explains for Capital.
One chance meeting
The same opinion is shared by Elitsa Kostova, who is the founder of the career training company Career Guide. According to her, another major challenge in the education system is that most young people have superficial skills and do not know how to create sustainable ones, even if they are willing. She meets Stoyanov by chance during the presentation of one of Kostova’s projects, where she accidentally mentions him about his work on a career guidance program for young people. “After telling him what I was doing, he exclaimed that I should come to Plovdiv immediately and do a project”, Kostova told to Capital.
So with one small step this year two projects are launched in Plovdiv that aim to improve education, make learning in vocational high schools more attractive and help students in their profession.
This is done through the Kostova- based Edu Compass Foundation, which receives partial funding from the municipality. In the first project “My career path” it is worth 13 thousand BGN. It started in May this year, with 40 students in grade 11 and 80 in grades 6, with a focus on the younger ones. They play a game of profiling to find their passion and work to transform it into something of added value. The municipality is looking for young people who want to go to vocational high schools in their early career guidance. “There are kids who just manage to do this kind of work. We want to help them find that and inspire them to grow”, Kostova says.
For kids and adults
For the younger ones, her team uses a hero code system where children collect different stones, similar to the ones in the Marvel movie The Avengers, at the end of each successfully completed course to imagine the talents as superpowers. This helps them understand what they are good at as well as choosing a high school.
Eleventh-grades are expected to make their own career plans. “We ask them what they will do and how much money they think they will receive. It turns out that they are actually quite interested in the labor market trends, it remains to motivate them. The truth is that most of them are inspired by the process”, Kostova says. An online environment with teacher tools for all 6 schools has also been created. It has to do with the overall project – in order to complete the course and get certified, students must also have videos uploaded to the online space that match their talents and interests.
“We partner with the “Trakia Economic Zone”- we also discuss with them the videos with different professionals who work there to attract more students. If one is motivated enough to reflect on their career development sometimes the first step is quite it helps,” Kostova explains.
Let’s do technical schools great again
The other project is also in May, with funding from the municipality of BGN 4 thousand. It is called “Vocational education is modern” and aims to increase the prestige of two vocational high schools – the one in woodworking and interior design and the one in food – flavoring technology. It is generally accepted that there are only children in these schools who can do nothing else. But the truth is different, Kostova argues.
Their education is very practical, some of the teachers teach lessons but at the same time, they have their own business. People underestimate the value that vocational high schools have and sometimes it is much greater than the value that high schools give. The reason – language can also be learned through a course while the technical schools develop children’s entrepreneurial skills – they have their own projects because the practice is intensive, she explains.
According to Deputy Mayor Stefan Stoyanov, the dual model is the only option to maintain vocational training and at the same time is a chance for overall reform.
The Edu Compass team is working on advertising on social networks to build a positive image and erase the bad associations that come to some people’s eyes when they hear the word “technical school”. “The truth is that what happens” inside” is good enough, it remains to eliminate this bad fame, to work on teachers’ methods of engaging students, and most of all to build another image. Enough to see the old socialist logo of the school to refuse to enroll their child to study here”, says Career Guide and Edu Compass, CEO.
Schools now have social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook where they advertise. This has a very big impact on the region and helps many students “fit in” with this type of education, which is why the foundation plans to attract corporate sponsorship and continue the project next year. However, some of the teachers who do not understand why the school needs to have a profile on social networks find themselves impeded, do not imagine they what the involvement of technology is in order to win new students. This is why Edu Compass also provides consultations to explain how to continue supporting social networks.
The good choice
Evidence of the results of such initiatives is that this year for the first time in Plovdiv there will be four full dual first – class lessons in vocational high schools. “Most likely, by the end of the campaign we will have 10 dual classes with the new locations in the main technical specialties such as electrical engineering, furniture, machinery and management, metal cutting, furniture and upholstery”, Stoyanov says.
“This is a very important choice for every student. Currently, in Plovdiv, there are very good chances for career development if you are doing something like that. You have a well-paid job – some students with vocational education start with a starting salary higher than this one-half of the university graduates”, he explains.