During the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in vocational education and training (VET) increased, both for partial and full qualifications. Training courses in certain professional fields (e.g. engineering and ICT) rose in popularily, while courses in other sectors (e.g in tourim, food and beverages) saw by a decline in learners’ interest. Overall, Bulgaria occupies the second to last place in the European ranking of partcipiation in lifelong learning. The new Recommendation on individual learning accounts was well-received, with the hope that it will make lifelong learning more attractive.

During the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in the flexible qualification pathways remained high. According to the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training (NAVET), in 2021 the number of individuals aged 16+ (considered adult learners in Bulgaria) who participated in courses offering partial qualifications delivered by vocational training centers increased by 11 561 compared to 2020. 2021 also saw an increase (of about 9%) in the number of individuals who acquired a level of professional qualification compared to 2020.

Professions in engineering and engineering industries are at the forefront, along with those of security guard and programmer. Qualification courses in the fields of marketing, graphic design, cosmetics, agriculture and forestry have been high in demand.

In courses leading to a professional qualification level, interest in professions in the field of information science has continued (over 1200 people), along with that in personal services: manicurist-pedicurists (about 600 people), hairdressers (almost 500 people) and beauticians (over 400 people). Compared to 2020, the number of learners in the field of construction increased (about 1000 people). A significant increase was also observed in the number of learners in manufacturing and processing, especially among those trained to work in the textile industry.

Trends in adult vocational training show that interest in professions in the sectors of tourism, food and beverages, secretarial and office work has been in decline.

Bulgaria occupies one of the last places in terms of citizen participation in lifelong learning activities, which include vocational training. In 2020, mainly due to constraints of the pandemic, participation dropped sharply and reached a level of 1.6%, which is the lowest for the period 2014-20. The EU average percentage of this indicator is about 9%, with only Romania (1%) showing a lower level of participation than Bulgaria. A serious decline in participation was obsered even in the most active group of learners, young people aged 25 to 34 (from 8.4% in 2018 to 5.1% in 2020).

In order to increase the level of participation of adults in education and training, a set of measures has been implemented at national and regional levels in recent years, including through the National plan for employment promotion and the new Employment strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria 2021-30.

Several studies have identified low motivation as the reason for poor adult participation in lifelong learning activities. The new Recommendation of the European Commission on individual training accounts has therefore been eagerly awaited, with the hope that it will provide more incentives for upskilling and reskilling of EU citizens.

Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Bulgaria; Cedefop (2022). Bulgaria: increased VET attractiveness in 2021. National news on VET.