Progress in the organisation and the regulatory framework for implementing dual education and training in Bulgaria has been noted by all stakeholders. The work to implement the dual system in the country has provided multiple benefits: helped to increase the share of practical training; made practice in real working environments available; provided learners with scholarship opportunities for grades 9 and 10; and given opportunities to sign job contracts and receive salaries for learners of grades 11 and 12.
These achievements signify better connection between the education system and the world of work, and increased involvement of enterprises in preparing young people for a dynamic and rapidly changing labour market.
Piloting dual training: the DOMINO project
Business and education found common language and achieved significant results in the pilot testing phase (DOMINO project), which improved vocational education and training (VET) attractiveness. The DOMINO project prepares well trained workplace specialists. Around 1600 learners from 32 vocational gymnasiums in 19 cities were included in DOMINO. More than 170 Bulgarian and international companies participated as project partners. More than 70% of youngsters who completed the work-based training component are currently employed in the company that trained them.
Regulatory framework for enterprises and support for work-based mentors
During 2014-19 several regulatory changes supported determination of rights and obligations for all parties in the dual training system:
- changes in the Employment Code, connected to the opportunity for receiving payment in a valid work contract, with training in the workplace as option;
- amendments to the VET Act, including recent changes from October 2018. These clearly define work-based training organisations: mentor requirements and their responsibilities; criteria for employers who wish to implement work-based training; and establishment by the economy ministry of an online database of registered employers.
In 2019, the education ministry endorsed a ‘training the mentors programme‘ to support mentors in acquiring basic pedagogical and psychological knowledge and skills for working with trainees in workplace settings.
The programme is aimed at those employees who want to work as dual training mentors in their companies. It includes work-based training goals, allocation of training hours, educational content and expected learning outcomes. They also learn about the legal framework underpinning dual training.
Dual training is an ‘acknowledged necessity’ in Bulgaria; – guided by this concept, all stakeholders continue to work hard for the constant improvement of its implementation.