Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

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VET in Bulgaria – facts and figures

Vocational education plays a crucial role in Bulgaria, acting as a direct link between students and the labour market. It is offered in all 28 regions and over 80% of the municipalities. Approximately half of all students pursue vocational qualifications, and around 20 000 students graduate from vocational education annually, accounting for 40% of the country’s total graduates. Moreover, vocational education graduates account for about 1 million individuals, or one-third of the country’s workforce.

Study results – mismatch, VET advantages and policy suggestions

The study addressed a cohort of over 21 000 students who in the next 5 years would enrol into specialties corresponding to six sections of economic activity: agriculture; processing industry;  construction; transport; hotel and catering; and ICT.

The study introduced a ‘relevance/correspondence index’, which measures the relationship between the structure of the VET provision and the workforce profile of the economy. The index revealed that the overall correspondence for the country in 2023 was 53.6 points out of 100, indicating a slight decrease compared to 2022. This was primarily attributed to a decline in labour market needs for occupations relevant to manufacture, and a rise of the demand for ICT-related occupations.

Despite the mismatch, VET demonstrated several advantages:

  • VET graduates exhibited higher economic activity and employment rates, as well as lower unemployment rates compared with their counterparts from secondary general education;
  • their employment rate (i.e. of VET graduates) was 78.8%, surpassing the national average of 68.1%. Further, their unemployment rate stood at 4.5%, lower than the country’s overall rate (5.3% in 2021).

The study analysed other variants, especially the relevance of VET provision to the profile of the economy at regional level. In this respect, Sofia, the capital city, scored the highest score 67.3 points; the lowest score was observed in the Lovech region, which scored 36.4 points. Sofia’s ‘ranking’ can be explained by the high concentration of students and employees in the ICT sector, combined with the low presence of agricultural activity.

To bridge the gap between VET and labour market, the study proposed the expansion of dual training, which combines work-based learning with learning in the school. It also proposed – as a measure complementary to the proposed dual training expansion – that vocational guidance should become mandatory. This would ease transfers between professions and ensure a better alignment of VET provision with the workforce demands and needs at local level.

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