As prepared for delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished members of the international community,
Honourable guests and delegates!
My warmest greetings to all of you!
It is a pleasure and great honour to be here today, in the magnificent city of Ganja, a monument of the ancient culture and Azerbaijan’s rich historical heritage –a city abounding in good spirit and genuine hospitality.
With the project kick-off meeting today we –the European Union, the Government of Azerbaijan and UNDP mark the launch of our joint action, the Support to the establishment of Regional Industrial VET Competence Centre in Ganja. This initiative is part of a broader project we implement in Azerbaijan, with financial support from the European Union on Modernising Vocational Education and Training (VET) Centres in the country. Collectively, the EU and UNDP are contributing USD 3,463,531 in total budget, where the EU contributions constitute USD 3,117,178. UNDP’s share of financing in this project is USD 3,117,178.
The new project aims to contribute to the modernisation of the vocational education and training system in Azerbaijan, enhancing quality, equality, and inclusivity in education in line with European standards and practices. Speaking broadly, the project will focus on strengthening the vocational education and development capacity of two regions of Azerbaijan –Ganja and Jalilabad, where Vocational Educational Centres will receive substantial support during the project implementation period.
In both regions, the project will capitalise on developing local talent as a pivotal backbone for a robust and knowledge-based economy. It will ensure that the most vulnerable sections of the workforce, including young people, women and persons with disabilities, have access to skills and resources that match labour market demand. To this end, UNDP will support national institutions in designing and rolling out new vocational education programmes in the non-oil sectors.
Started in 2017, the project will be implemented till 2020 and will support the regional VET centres through the development of coursework curricula and teaching modules for each academic year. The VET facilities will receive substantial support in terms of infrastructural development and equipment for industrial sectors.
Anticipating to align the vocational education system in Azerbaijan with current market demands, the EU and UNDP will work together to strengthen operational capacities of the Ganja State Vocational Education Centre on Industry and Technology. Consequently, the Centre will be converted into a modern “Regional VET Competence Centre on Industry and Technology (RVCCoIT)”. The new Centre in Ganja is established within a school that already employs a model of so-called ‘mini-factories’ and has the capacity to provide a favourable environment for generating small enterprises that deliver products relevant to the regional market and are of demand.
As we move forward with project implementation plans, I want to specifically reiterate it to everyone here that our development work on revolutionising the VET portfolio of this country will not be limited to Ganja only. Lessons learned from the new Competence Centre, their expertise and know-how will be shared across the entire Ganja-Gazakh economic region and also neighbouring rayons of the Aran economic region.
While it is important that we mobilise our efforts to push for tangible success in the education systems on the ground, we should also look to global trends and mainstreams in the education sector. In this regards, the concept of quality education is central to the 2030 Agenda and is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, popularly known as Global Goals.
Specifically targeting inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, Goal 4: Quality Education aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training and ensure that no one is left behind.
In our joint effort to strengthen employability and talent development, UNDP anticipates and endorses participatory involvement of the private sector and individual entrepreneurs in fostering a stronger model of the VET system in Azerbaijan. Collaboration with the private sector, which represents potential employers, is of paramount importance to achieving strategic goals set forth in the Roadmap for Vocational Education and Training Sector in Azerbaijan. In fact, the Roadmap itself is testament to the Azerbaijani Government’s dedication to fostering human capital development and nurturing an enabling environment for youth participation in the labour market.
Similarly to the concepts of the Roadmap, the United Nations Development Programme has also implemented a number of projects to strengthen the national labour force capacity in Azerbaijan in previous years, working with several funding partners globally. As we anticipate continuing these projects, now with substantial contributions from the EU, we heavily rely on the partnership with the national and local government alongside the civil society organisations.
At UNDP, we recognise and value Azerbaijan’s continuous pursuit to further advance the vocational education and talent development portfolio in the country, while we understand that certain challenges remain as areas for development that we need to address through our collective efforts. I trust that my colleagues from the EU will join me in saying that both the EU and UNDP stand ready to provide the Government of Azerbaijan all the necessary support in addressing some of the challenge facing the market for vocational education in the country.
As such, we will work together to address the lack of technical support for specialised professional education institutions. While many schools lack the sufficient supply of teaching materials, electronic audio and video equipment, field equipment as well as first-class library facilities that meet international standards, the new project offers key intervention solutions to minimize existing bottlenecks in Azerbaijan’s VET system.
In conclusion, I would like to thank both our government partners and the EU delegates for their commitment to modernising the vocational education and learning systems in Azerbaijan. Looking ahead, I think we should all recognise that continuous support for the modernization of vocational education and professional training institutions should be directed at long-term capacity-building and structural development of these institutions.