AFTER German and Swiss chambers of commerce in Slovakia introduced their projects of cooperation between schools and businesses, Austria has introduced its own proposal to increase employment among young people. The two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to support the establishment of a dual education system, which unlike in Slovakia, has a strong tradition in German-speaking countries.

State Secretary of Slovak Education Ministry Štefan Chudoba and Vice-President of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKÖ) Martha Schultz signed the memorandum of understanding on February 12, setting the framework for their mutual cooperation.

According to Schultz, dual education systems are particularly important in countries that struggle with high unemployment among young people.

“The key factor for competitiveness is a labour force with a good education level,” Schultz said, as quoted in the press release provided to The Slovak Spectator, adding that the Austrian dual education system has become a valued export and that “it is in our interest to support other countries in its implementation”.

A dual education system was adopted in Slovakia in 1989, but it ceased amid subsequent political changes. The country however plans to restore it, mostly because of the lack of professionals in the manufacturing sector and high youth unemployment, according to the press release.

In addition to legislative changes, the state and Austrian companies will also launch a pilot project, supported by the WIFI International and Aussenwirtschaft Austria, organisations of the WKÖ, as well as some Austrian companies located in Nitra Region that are active in the engineering and automotive sectors. It will be financed through the European project SMART NET as well as the go-international offensive run by the Austrian Economy Ministry and WKÖ.

The pilot project will start in autumn 2014 in classes focusing on metal processing and technology. It is expected to contribute to the expansion of practical education in companies and, with the consent of vocation schools, also to its new implementation. As a result, the schools should adopt the new system with dual education features in September 2015, Schultz explained.

During the first phase of the project, up to 60 students can obtain a practical education in Austrian firms, Chudoba said.

According to the state secretary, Slovakia can learn much from the Austrian education system. At the moment up to 60 percent of young people study at grammar schools. Only about 16,000 students graduate from professional vocational schools every year, though businesses demand at least 40,000 students every year, he said.

Several companies, like MIBA Steeltec Slovakia, ZKW Slovakia, Scheuch Slowakei, Pankl Automotive Slovakia, HTP Slovakia and Matador Slowakei, as well as the Institute for Supporting the Economy Studies (Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft – ibw), the business department of the Austrian Embassy in Bratislava and the Slovak Education Ministry partner the project.

Peter Mitterbauer from MIBA Steeltec Slovakia, who also attended the February 12 press conference, said that their participation in the pilot project “is based on the company’s interest, since we need high-quality employees in our premises who would be connected to our firm and would be interested in securing its operation”.

The company launched its own project of dual education in 2007, and it currently educates about 40 students, Mitterbauer said.