Ibrahim Gulaliyev was born in Kurdamir in central Azerbaijan. From the age of 12 until he was 22, he worked as a shepherd in Boyukkangarli village, until he decided to follow his passion for cooking and learn a new profession. Now he is keen to master the new skills that meet the demands of the labour market.
To do so, Ibrahim, now 24, joined the Dual Vocational Education Programme. He successfully completed the work-based learning (WBL) programme with the support of the Azerbaijan Chefs Guild. The Dual Vocational Education Programme is supported by the VET for the Future project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, together with the State Agency on Vocational Education.
The Dual Education Programme follows an educational approach enabling students to master practical skills in leading companies in parallel with the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in vocational educational and training (VET) institutions during the academic year. Under the programme, students learn theoretical knowledge in VET institutions during the first month. Starting from the second month, they work on theoretical knowledge at the VET centres for two days a week, while getting practical skills in the workplace for the other three.
Ibrahim had been passionate about cooking since childhood, and while working as a shepherd, he was always looking for ways to get an education. One day, his friends in Kurdamir showed him a training opportunity at the VET Centre, and he decided to come to Baku to follow his dream, applying to the Baku State Vocational Education Centre for Culture and Crafts, where he was admitted for the dual programme in 2022.
Sabina Maharramova, Ibrahim’s teacher at the vocational education centre, says Ibrahim was very goal-oriented from day one: “He was really determined to become a professional chef and tried to learn from everyone. He always made an effort and consulted with professionals to improve his work. Today’s great result is primarily Ibrahim’s own success, with the support of everyone. We are very happy to see the outcome of our work. Ibrahim took his first steps in his profession at our centre, but he became even more competent after he started working with the professional chef Ilkin Akbarzadeh and receiving his support.”
During the academic year he spent on the Dual Education Programme, Ibrahim learned the art and the secrets of the kitchen from the chairman of the Baku Culinary Association and Azerbaijan Chefs Guild, Ilkin Akbarzada, in one of the famous city restaurants. Ibrahim’s mentor Ilkin Hanifa notes that “Ibrahim mastered new knowledge and skills very enthusiastically and quickly. He has met our expectations with his responsibility and professional approach to work and made the best showing. As a result, İbrahim has already been officially employed at the place of his internship.”
“As the Guild of Chefs, we always try to support youth and collaborate with various vocational training centres and projects. Ibrahim is among the successful results we have achieved together with the #VET4theFuture project,” he added.
Ibrahim has brought his dream of becoming a chef one step closer through dual vocational education and by spending the non-school hours to improve his professional skills. Ibrahim says that he acquired new friends and additional skills at work. These changes have inspired him to turn his dreams and aspirations into reality. In the future, he sees himself as a professional chef working in different countries.
Unlike traditional vocational education, the Dual Education Programme allows students to apply the theoretical knowledge from the classroom to the private enterprises in real working conditions. This process continues throughout their academic year. During the work-based learning period, students have an opportunity to better introduce themselves to employers, and as a result, many students receive job offers at the end of their studies.
Ultimately, all these actions to modernise vocational education directly contribute to Azerbaijan’s achievement of several sustainable development goals, such as quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), as well as reducing inequalities (SDG 10).
The dual education approach creates new opportunities not only for students’ future employment but also for the vocational education centres themselves and for the private companies involved. This mechanism allows employers to train their future employees at lower costs and in a shorter time, and enables VET centres to customise their curriculum according to the market requirements.
In general, dual education helps to save time and resources for the training of qualified and competent VET staff and contributes to overall employment growth. By involving key employers in the vocational education process, the dual programme leads to innovative collaborations, and eventually supports the economy while promoting more agile and modern work principles.
Currently, the VET for the Future project collaborates with numerous private enterprises located in Baku, Ganja, Jalilabad, Lankaran, and Shaki. As part of this collaboration, 573 students (40% women, 60% men) have studied in various professions including tourism, retail, transport, furniture manufacture, and media. In total, over 70% of the graduates have been offered jobs.
Thanks to the project’s efforts, 32 companies have been involved in the programme during the last two academic years; 41 mentors from 8 vocational education institutions, and 126 from the private sector, have joined forces for the training of students in 24 different vocations. The programme covered five cities and supported continuous learning and employment opportunities of youth.
The dual programme is carried out by the “VET for the future: development of VET providers’ excellence in Azerbaijan” project, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP with SAVE. The project aims to support the modernisation of VET providers in Azerbaijan and increase the labour market relevance of vocational education.
The dual programme is planned to be also continued the next year.
Author: Leyla Gurbanova
Photos: Tural Aliyev, UNDP Azerbaijan
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