The forum took place on June 15, in the hotel ‘Holiday Inn’ in Skopje. The main topics of the forum, bearing in mind that 75% of employees in the construction sector are workers, were Energy efficiency, Education and the Labor Market. (1) The forum had debates and a fairy-  character –  two panel discussions were held on the topic "Reforms in education – are we heading towards the needs of the energy efficiency market?" And "The future of the Macedonian construction industry and the labor market", from which the relevant conclusions and recommendations were drawn.

   Vocational education and quality workforce is a prerequisite for successful implementation of  European directives and standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources," said Aleksandar Trpkovski from Go Green. "If we do not have sufficient professional staff who will be able to implement the necessary standards from the ‘EU 2020 climate and energy package’ along with the relevant directives on board, it will not be possible to successfully implement them. With our initiative we have developed programs for free classes for: construction, mechanical and electrotechnical professions in secondary vocational schools which we hope will stimulate the desire of young people to learn more about energy efficiency. It is very important to increase the attractiveness and quality of vocational education, and additionally, it is crucial that the civil sector be involved in the process of reforming the secondary vocational education that is in progress, "added Trpkovski.

The conclusions that were drawn at the panel discussions were the following:

  • Vocational education has regressed to the expense of gymnasiums, which are far more popular than vocational schools. This can be seen from figures from the "Statistical Office" in which it is observed that in the 2015/2016 academic year, 8,351 students have graduated from gymnasiums, whereas only 3,435 finished their studies in secondary vocational schools with mechanical, electro-technical and construction as well as geodetic orientation. In the school year 2015/2016, 31,542 students attend gymnasiums, and only 11,644 students are enrolled into secondary vocational schools (mechanical, electro technical and construction and geodetic specialization). This picture is completely different in the developed countries: in Switzerland, for example, 66% of young people enroll in vocational schools, and only about 34% in gymnasiums;
  • As of now, the entry level requirements for secondary vocational school enrollment are quite low which contributes to the currently prevailing societal perception of vocational schools – that they are for young people who are incapable of obtaining enough high grades.
  • Workers in the construction sector account for about 8% of the total number of the employees in the Republic of Macedonia, of which 8-10% are engineers, 15% are technicians, and 75% are workers2
  • According to the data of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, with completed secondary technical education, it takes about 3 years to get employed;
  • The current supply of professional staff does not meet the needs of the labor market either from a quantitative or a qualitative standoint. There is a shortage of different profiles of workers in the construction sector: gypsum-installers, facade makers, reinforcers, carpenters, tillers and plumbers.
  • The workforce in the construction sector is "aging", i.e. in the construction sector, 10,000 workers are over the age of 60.
  • It is expected that these people will be replaced by 7,000 new employees while an additional 5,000 will be employed in the sector for implementation of energy efficiency measures3.
  • The conditions for the workers (salary and security) need to be increased so that they can be retained in Macedonia and encourage new generations to learn vocation and craft.

The resultant recommendations for improving the situation were the following:

  • Introduce a modular education system, that is more suitable for vocational education. The flexibility of the modular system is more suitable for adjusting the activities and profiles needed in the labor market, and providing education for the student;
  • Increase entry standards in secondary vocational schools in order to increase the quality of the education, and thereby workforce leaving vocational schools. While raising the standards may contribute to the decrease in the number of students in the short term, with a continuous campaign for the value of vocational education and improvement of the conditions (salary and security) of the professionals, the interest and competition will increase interest, and the resultant higher competition can provide improved quality;
  • It is necessary for the private sector to invest in the workforce, to improve the conditions on the one hand, and invest in retraining and training to achieve greater labor efficiency on the other. That is, to increase their productivity, so that salaries can increase as fewer people will be able to work more;
  • Tax benefits given by the state to those companies that operate according to the standards for energy efficiency and thus to release the capital of the companies that will invest in improving the conditions (salary and security) of the workers.
  • Continuous campaign for the popularization of vocational education as well as raising awareness among parents and general public about the value of vocational education and mastering a craft that improves the quality of living, besides providing reputable work that pays well.
  • Certifying the activities of secondary vocational schools is not a confirmation of the student's true knowledge of the profession. In order to ensure the quality of the work of the young staff, an additional certification system must be established before employment, as evidence of the professionalism of the workers, but also to facilitate the employment in the sector that is in accordance with their education;
  • Establishment of a working group comprised of institutions, (MLSP, MES, Vocational Education and Training Center, Center for Adult Education, etc., secondary vocational schools, Training Training Centers, Business Community and Civic Associations) which will create and establish an additional system for certification before employment.

   While the diplomas the students receive in secondary vocational education are indicative of their knowledge of their respective fields, they are not sufficient for young people to become  employable and adaptable to the labor market. Qumuran Ismaili from the Kraftmaster training center pointed out that workforce quality in the construction sector is a problem for companies: "At present, due to the lack of trained people, companies are forced to hire people without proper qualifications just so they can complete their construction work on time. This affects both the quality and efficiency of their work. This, furthermore, entails a series of unexpected costs that are at direct damages to companies and result in lower wages for employees. In the case of a well-trained workforce, work is more efficient and ends in a shorter time with a smaller number of engaged workers, resulting in lower costs for companies. The sum of released money thus could be used to provide higher wages for workers who are doing their job well."

   According to Dafinka Sazdova from the Macedonian Chambers of Commerce (within the Union of Chambers of Commerce), the shortage of labor is a serious challenge that must be addressed systematically. "Construction companies are facing a huge shortage of workers from different profiles -such as  gypsum workers, installers, facades, or carpenters, etc – and many choose to go abroad. The competent institutions must provide support to the private sector, such as tax incentives for energy-efficient buildings, in order to release capital that would be aimed at improving the conditions for workers, "Sazdova said.

   The Green Jobs and Environmental Education Forum was the final event of the Civic Initiatives for Education for Climate and Energy Efficiency project funded by the European Union and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The aim was to strengthen the capacity of CSOs (civil society organizations) to influence educational processes and to encourage youth employment in the energy efficiency sector. The Forum was attended by 106 participants, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, representatives from civic associations from Skopje, Strumica, Prilep, Bitola and Gostivar. Representatives from the private sector, Knauf, Ceresit, Adora Engineering, GEING, Elena Luka, IEGE and the Chamber of Commerce of Macedonia under the Union of Chambers of Commerce presented their own representative materials and exchanged experiences and opportunities for cooperation with the attendees.

   As part of the project, a coordinative body from 10 civic associations moderated the process of developing a program for free energy efficiency classes in secondary technical schools in Macedonia (Skopje, Strumica, Prilep, Bitola and Gostivar). In cooperation with technical schools and local authorities, CSOs have initiated the establishment of a system for the participation of CSOs in the process of reforming secondary technical education, with the aim of creating content that will enable fulfillment of the EU 2020 climate and energy strategy.

„ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL STATUS QUO “ – BUILD UP skills Macedonia, Macedonian Chamber of Commerce 

2 „ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL STATUS QUO “ – BUILD UP skills Macedonia, Macedonian Chamber of Commerce

3 Research of the "programme for encreasing employment on the labor market" supported by Swiss Agency for cooperation and support