The National employment and skills strategy (NESS) and action plan 2014-20 ( Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth (2014). National employment and skills strategy 2014-20: higher skills and better jobs for all women and men. https://financa.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NESS-ENG-8-1-15_final-version.pdf) bring together, as part of the same strategic plan for the first time, vocational education and training (VET) for young people and adults, active policies for employment, and social inclusion. The strategy is ambitious, aiming to increase employment by aligning VET to labour market needs, in turn promoting inclusion and cohesion. Annual progress reports are compiled and an integrated policy management group monitors implementation. NESS 2014-20 comprises 52 actions to be implemented over a seven-year period. In 2017 ( Ministry of Finance and Economy (2018). National employment and skills strategy 2014-20: annual progress report 2017. https://financa.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Progress-Report-2017-NESS-28-June-2018-FINAL_EN-converted.pdf), of these 52 actions, 49 (94%) were initiated. Actions not implemented concern targeting extension of employment services into rural areas. Complying with the European employment strategy 2020, the employment and skills strategy is seen as bringing Albania closer to EU integration: since June 2014, Albania has been a candidate country for EU entry.
With unemployment a major challenge in the country, the employment and skills strategy aims to reduce youth unemployment; the rate was 33.8 in 2017 for those aged 15 to 29. Most of the unemployed have low levels of education and, for those living in rural areas, the main source of employment or self-employment is agriculture. Participation of women on the labour market is much lower than men. Enrolment in VET increased in 2017 by 14% compared to 2014, and there is a positive trend in VET enrolment and participation, though the increment rate is half of that of the objective set in the national strategy (Ministry of Finance and Economy, 2018).
The implementation of the Albanian qualifications framework (AQF) is considered as a tool for strong governance of the labour market and qualification systems. VET is centralised, with limited involvement of social partners and low responsiveness to local needs, and low attractiveness to learners. The two separate VET provider systems, vocational schools and vocational training centres, will be merged in one system of VET multifunctional centres ( A VET multifunctional centre, is a provider of vocational education and training, which has the legal mandate and capacity to provide initial and post-secondary vocational education, as well as continuous training for the young and adults. This institution offers vocational qualifications in different areas/profiles, full-time and part-time, within the institution, through various forms of work-based learning and for different age groups (the young, adults and persons with disabilities or with specific needs) in conformity with labour market needs. The centre can hold specific functions related to continuous professional development of teachers and instructors (VET law, 2017).). Reorganisation of the VET schools, and the programmes offered, continued in 2017. By 2020 a total of nine multifunctional centres are planned.
The Albanian qualifications framework (AQF) has eight levels, and is comprehensive of all types of qualifications and levels. Its descriptors are learning-outcomes based, divided by knowledge, skills and competence. Its development has continued over several years with EU recommendations and standards and the Bologna process as strong drivers. The law on the Albanian qualifications framework was adopted in 2010 ( Assembly of the Republic of Albania (2010). Ligj No 10 247, datë 4.3.2010 përkornizën shqiptare të kualifikimeve [Law No 10 247 of 4 March 2010 on the Albanian qualifications framework]. http://18.104.22.168/pls/kuv/f?p=201:Ligj:10247:04.03.2010 [in Albanian]. ) and a revision of the law was adopted in May 2018 ( Assembly of the Republic of Albania (2018). Ligj Nr. 23/2018 Për disa ndryshime dhe shtesa në ligjin nr. 10 247, datë 4.3.2010, “Për kornizën shqiptare të kualifikimeve” [Law No 23/2018 of 10.5.2018 on the revised Albanian qualifications framework]. http://www.qbz.gov.al/Botime/Akteindividuale/Janar%202018/Fletore%2079/LIGJ%20nr.%2023-2018,%20date%2010.5.2018.pdf).This revision has been part of the mandate of the AQF taskforce ( The AQF taskforce was established at the end of 2015 with a double mandate from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth. The mandate includes development of an AQF handbook for users, revision of the AQF law, EQF referencing of the AQF and development of an implementation plan. The mandate lasted until the end of 2017. The mandate of the taskforce was renewed in 2017 until the end of 2019.).