The basis for the discussion of professional stakeholders was presented by Mr Aleš Vidmar MA from the Public HR Development and Scholarship Fund of the Republic of Slovenia (Javnega sklada RS za razvoj kadrov in štipendiranje (JSRKŠ)). That the human factor is key to success has been identified and confirmed by the project team members of the project entitled “Through the development of people – We can” (Z razvojem ljudi – uspevamo) (see journal). Mr Vidmar presented the competence centres for the development of staff, which have been established within the project and highlighted the fact that the association in such groups provides for the vitality of an individual, company and industry. Another good feature of the competence centres is also the cooperation of companies in the investment in human resources, since small companies often lack adequate funding. “Education and training of employees is an investment” he stressed and continued that “when knowledge shall become recognised as the highest value and when employees strive to become or remain members of the winning team, this investment is successful and continuous”. He also expressed the opinion that the acquisition of knowledge on its own has no practical effect if it lacks a specific purpose or fails to bring additional benefits. However, the potential for the latter must be established through a careful analysis of the working processes in combination with the development of the motivational aspects.
Mihaela Anclin from the UPI Žalec AEC described the project “Identification and evaluation of informally acquired knowledge, which facilitated the discovery of hidden potential or knowledge and skills, which individuals acquired in different ways. The project chartered the path for procedures and connections, which should now be further upgraded with tools, certificates, awareness-raising and training of external experts. Ms Anclin believes that “learning to learn is the main competence which refers to self-realisation and getting to know oneself”. She also warned about the care for vulnerable groups, which include employees if their education is inadequate or irrelevant.
The opinions of other participating representatives of employers and support institutions (i.e Savinja Development Agency, and the Local Chamber of Craft and Small Businesses) were also interesting. Competent employees must be generated by the education system, while employers often find that young people have not been adequately prepared for work. They should establish a greater contact with practice, while counselling and career guidance services should provide for better information and orientation. Upon completion of the formal education students require professional initiation to enter the labour market and the businesses should know better that a part of this is also their responsibility and investment in suitable employees. One of the increasingly popular approaches in this respect is mentorship.
However, the participants in the discussion stated that the appeal of education programmes leading to vocational qualifications must be improved as well as facilitate vertical progression and not lead to a dead-end. It must be based on analyses of demand for specific qualifications in the Slovenian labour market. Another interesting option is also self-employment, however, it must be based on the actual demand; therefore, we should promote an encouraging entrepreneurial environment on one hand, and face the entrepreneurs with the sustainability of their ideas from the legal, financial and business perspective.
The most commonly mentioned knowledge and skills included: foreign language skills linked to a specific profession or industry, other communication and digital skills, as well as soft competencies, such as: honesty, interpersonal relationships, taking responsibility, work attitude, positive and winning orientation, self-realisation and self-understanding, problem solving, organisation, team work, leadership and management, learning to learn, self-initiative and entrepreneurial competencies, functional literacy, knowledge of fundamental legislation, etc. Business ethics was also mentioned, esp. due to the current state of mind in the country, which is characterised by excessive competitiveness, acquisition of benefits to the detriment of others, excessive expectations and impatience of youth.
Nevertheless, lifelong learning has been recognised as a tool, which helps compensate deficiencies, while offering the required flexibility to meet the constant change. However, its role can be implemented only through a strong partnership among the education and labour sector and the support institutions. Participants also expressed the initiative that each institution should specialise for its role and then act in synergy with other institutions, while the state should contribute to the solution of problems.
The latter will be enabled by the funding from the European Social Fund, which will be allocated to the employees through the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, therefore we look forward to the Public tender for the financing of information and counselling activities, and the identification and evaluation of the non-formally acquired knowledge from 2016 to 2022 and the Public tender for acquisition of basic and vocational skills from 2016 to 2019. The optimism is further strengthened by the new EU Skills Agenda for Europe, especially the one of its ten initiatives which is focused on low-educated adults, i.e. Skills Guarantee. It refers to the evaluation of their knowledge and skills, counselling and career guidance, as well as provision of the relevant offer of education and training programmes which will improve their employability, while fostering their personal development and active symbiosis within their communities.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik works at the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the field of promotional and information activities. She is the national coordinator for the implementation of the European Agenda on Adult Learning. She is interested in effective promotional approaches and promotion of cooperation and connecting of stakeholders in adult education.