Issue 5, 2016. October-November



The Industry-led Skills and Workforce Development Project of the Millennium Challenge Account - Georgia (MCA-Georgia) has awarded grants to ten businesses and schools for new vocational education courses.

Ten programs to educate a new generation of workers across Georgia have been awarded grants by the Industry-led Skills and Workforce Development Project (ISWD) of the Millennium Challenge Account - Georgia (MCA-Georgia).

"One of the major challenges facing Georgian today is the level of technical and vocational training. We know there are talented young people looking for good jobs, but we also hear from Georgian and international businesses that they cannot find qualified people to fill skilled jobs," noted Nancy Lee, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation.

"To close that gap, MCC is supporting the Georgian Government's efforts to transform the technical and vocational education system here into one that produces a highly competitive and qualified workforce that meets the needs of businesses in Georgia."

Grants worth a total of $12 million from MCA-Georgia will finance education in maritime, engineering, tourism, information technologies, aviation and agriculture at the following schools: Georgian Technical University; Batumi State Maritime Academy; Georgian Aviation University; Georgian Institute of Public Affairs; Georgian Mountain Guide Association; Agriculture University of Georgia; Vocational College Phazisi; Railway Transport College; Community College Spektri; and Vocational College Tetnuldi.

The winning programs have also pledged to invest an additional $7.6 million in their educational programs.

"On top of MCC's own commitment, the private companies are investing a combined $7 million, a full 40 percent of the combined total budget for this activity to provide Georgians with the skills they need to compete," Lee said.

"This significant private sector co-contribution is a prime example of a market-oriented focus to education. And thanks to their commitments, we have a real opportunity to keep skilled labor and jobs in Georgia."

Working with businesses to educate new employees

The most innovative part of the program is that all grantees will work closely with businesses "from start to finish to ensure their programs meet industry's needs," Lee said.

"These grantees and their partners will be working in key growth sectors such as tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, aviation and construction and they will bring new approaches to job training in Georgia," she said.

"In total, our grantees will establish 27 new programs and bring 19 other programs up to international standards. Industries like tourism, transport and energy will be developing occupational standards that will set clear expectations for employers and educators."

The participating of industry partners mean that vocational students will have "unique opportunities for work-based training that will give them critical, hands-on experience even before they launch into their new careers," Lee said.

Grantees including Vocational College Tetnuldi, Georgian Mountain Guide Associations, and Community College Spektri will develop and roll out their curriculum in partnership with internationally recognized firms like Cisco, the Swiss Mountain Guide Association and globally-recognized education company Pearson.

In addition, industry partners like BP and Georgian Railways are "actively engaged in shaping these triple win programs - a win for the students, a win for the companies that benefit from a better trained labor force and a win for Georgian economy," Lee said.

Focus on STEM, agriculture and tourism

The ISWD program is funded under the second $140 million Compact between the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Georgia.

The program is an important part of ISWD's work to develop and improve vocational education in Georgia, according to Magda Magradze, Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Account - Georgia.

"Program Improvement Competitive Grants (PICG) was officially launched in June 2015 with the aim to fund innovative, industry-driven proposals for establishing new or expanding and improving existing technical vocational education and training (TVET) programs that are aligned with industry demands, meet labour market needs and incorporate modern work practices, particularly in higher-level Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) areas, Agriculture and Tourism," Magradze explained.

She noted that out of the 70 initial concept papers, ten were selected following "a rigorous three-level evaluation and selection stage and due diligence process."

The applications were also evaluated by the independent Technical Evaluation Panel and international experts.

One of the winners of PICG grants scheme is Georgian Transport College, established by JSC Georgian Railway, Georgian Technical University and Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. Georgian Railway is financially contributing to the project.

"We conducted a labor market survey prior to applying for the grant. The research demonstrated that there is no institution in Georgia that is providing high-quality vocational education in railway sector. Only Georgian Technical University is offering the course, but it is not a vocational education provider institution," Akaki Saghirashvili said. He noted that currently the demand for employees at the railway is four times higher than the number of qualified cadre.

Georgian Mountain Guide Association is another grant recipient.

"Together with our partners, we have established a public private partnership, the Adventure Tourism School, which will train adventure tourism and related high-risk profession specialists. We will provide labor market with international quality specialists in the following areas: Alpine Guide, Ski Guide, Mountain Guide and Ski-Teachers," noted David Rakhviashvili, President of Georgian Mountain Guide Association.

BP, together with the partnership of Georgian Technical University, also received a grant from MCC, which it will use to develop a Georgian Technical Training Center, according to Tamila Chantladze, the communications manager at BP. "This will be a special center which will train technical workforce, not only for our company but for everyone who is in need of high-quality workforce, particularly in technical areas," she said.

"We strongly believe that high-skilled workforce will undoubtedly contribute to the Georgian economy."