Eighteen-year-old Ozjan Ibrahimov is simultaneously a talented tailor, a teacher’s assistant, a young man who makes money from his favourite profession, a self-taught writer and a successful graduate. How did Ozjan master all these different skills? Let’s reflect on the past year and see how Ozjan managed to wear so many hats.
Ozjan studies at the Ganja State Vocational Education Centre on Industry and Technologies, assists his teachers in giving lessons on inclusive courses, and works in fashion after school.
After graduating from the 9th grade of high school, Ozjan decided to apply for vocational education. He has now finished his three-year tailoring course. “I have to say that this vocation chose me, rather than the other way round. Actually, I applied to study cooking but was admitted to tailoring. I don’t regret it, on the contrary, it’s great. Currently, I work as a dress cutter in one of the city’s prestigious clothing stores.”
The vocational education centre is one of the institutions benefiting from the “VET for the Future” project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the State Agency on Vocational Education (SAVE). The project collaborates with eight different vocational education institutions in Baku, Ganja, Jalilabad, and Shaki. It aims to support the modernisation of vocational education and training (VET) providers in Azerbaijan and increase the labour market relevance of vocational education.
Ozjan is one of hundreds of students who have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the project. “If we open our eyes and look around, we will see a lot of our young people wasting the best treasure they have, which is time. Based on my experience, I can tell my peers that everyone should do the work they love. There is a wonderful educational institution for this, and they must take advantage of this opportunity.”
The tailoring course was set up in 2019, drawn up in line with the latest international standards, and established with the support of an earlier vocational project funded by the EU and jointly implemented by UNDP and SAVE.
Now as part of the current project, teaching resources were updated, and a complementary training series was arranged for the teaching staff. As a result of the increasing demand and interest in tailoring there is now an opportunity to study Fashion Design at a high VET level. Students can also use the career services created by the project.
Preparing for the changing challenges of the future and mastering new skills take a significant place on today’s global development agenda. The 8th and 10th of the Sustainable Development Goals focus on decent work and reducing inequalities. To achieve these goals, special emphasis is placed on education and skill development. In this sense, vocational education helps to increase the employment opportunities of young people by facilitating access to various trainings. VET can contribute to the development of qualified professionals in a short time while contributing to a sustainable economy and a better future in general.
Back to Ozjan: at the same time as graduating from the short-term tailoring course arranged by the project, Ozjan also joined the newly opened courses, this time not as a student, but as a teacher’s assistant. “On the inclusive courses, I assist our teachers,” he explained. A total of 33 persons studied tailoring here, including eight students with disabilities. Alongside tailoring, another 90 people benefited from the hairdresser and computer operator courses. In Ganja, 66 students have successfully completed the course and 18 people with disabilities are among the successful graduates.
With the EU’s financial support, the project organised inclusive VET courses in three vocational education institutions located not only in Ganja, but also the capital Baku. The courses were arranged in 10 different vocations, including computer operator, social media management, SQL (programming language), floristry, pottery, stained glass, tailoring, hairdresser, confectionery, and chef. Participation in the courses was carried out through certain selection stages. Also, a pre-upskilling programme was organised for the instructors who would teach the courses in order to increase their knowledge and skills on inclusive education. Sixty specialists across the country, including teachers, training masters, and assisting personnel have improved their educational methods suitable for students with special needs.
The courses were attended by people aged from 15 to 62. As a result, a total of 400 people, including 94 people with disabilities, benefited from the short-term courses. Thanks to the skills gained from the courses, 46 people started new jobs. Taking into account the successful results and demand, the project will support the opening of the next inclusive group.
Proudly talking about his specialty, Ozjan explains what draws him to his work: “I like to create a new style, a new design, and the best aspect of this art is that everything depends on you, you can create whatever you want,” he stresses. He states his wish to bring completely unusual styles to Azerbaijan, create alternative designs, and present them to the people: “it’s wonderful when people like the clothes you create, isn’t it?”
“My further plans are a bit vague since I am also a writer. I have written two novels, and my further plans include becoming a writer and a tailor, creating new lines and a different style… Currently, I am studying, working, and earning money!” he proudly notes.
In fact, both plans are based on the desire to create. Those who are or want to be creative, or who want to express themselves freely choose vocational education. Ozjan believes that he can make himself and other people happy by creating new things.
He also tried other ways to make people happy. Ozjan supported fellow students with health conditions and encouraged them to choose VET and continue in their work. One of them is Ahmad.
“We heard there were opportunities in this area, so we came and got interested. Actually, I didn’t want to come to the class at first, but then the course participants, especially Ozjan, encouraged me and after seeing the environment here, I liked it. Everyone helps each other. I joined the classes three times a week for two months,” says Ahmad. “After finishing 9th grade, I had also received two years of vocational education in auto plumbing, though I have been familiar with sewing since I was a child. Sewing calms a person, I enjoy it. I would like to add that the new equipment provided in this workshop encouraged me to work in this area. Everything here is just modern and new.”
Ahmad, who is now 30 years old, plans to level up his skills in this vocation and work as a tailor. “People should not shy away, regardless of whether there are more women or men in any vocation, they should come to VET, they will like it,” he says.
Raviyya Aliyeva also enrolled at the same vocational education centre after completing the 9th grade of school. She also successfully completed the tailoring course. Graduating this year, Raviyya says her relatives recommended this specialty to her, but she was also interested in it from the very beginning. “I like to design clothes using my imagination,” Raviyya said. Like her colleague Ozjan, she also assists in teaching the inclusive courses.
The “VET for the Future” project works with the aim 1) to introduce innovations in vocational education institutions, 2) improve infrastructure in the VET providers, 3) strengthen networking in vocational education, and 4) improve the prestige and visibility of vocational education and training in Azerbaijan.
If you want to know more about the project or are about to choose your career, you can learn more on vocational education opportunities by searching the hashtag #PeşəiləMümkündür (meaning: it’s possible with VET).
Author: Leyla Gurbanova
Photos: Jalal Vagifzada/UNDP Azerbaijan
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