Vocation or Profession?: Young people encouraged to choose according to market needs

Those in charge of vocational education say Armenian youth and their parents give preference to higher educational institutions, disregarding the fact that the job market has higher demand for craftsmanship and middle vocational school alumni.

“All parents want their children to acquire higher education, but they have to understand there is one manager or director and hundreds of laborers. In order to keep that proportion so many young people should not go to universities,” Vahagn Khachatryan, in charge of educational projects at RA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said during his Tuesday press conference.

“Our traditional mentality is that everything will be all right if one has higher education and a diploma, but, especially with girls, that diploma often becomes a dowry item: they get married and in many cases never work,” added Vardanyan, who heads the Vocational Education and Training department at the Ministry of Education and Sciences.

Nonetheless, Vardanyan said that following the job market demand the number of students at preliminary and middle vocational schools has increased over the past few years, particularly at some schools the number of students has gone up from 250-300 to 500.

As of 2011, around 30,000 students attended preliminary and middle vocational schools. The annual tuition fee varies from one school or profession to another, mainly ranging from 40,000 to 300,000 drams (around $100-$730). These schools offer 102 professions with one to three years’ course duration.

Khachatryan said that the highest demand now is for constructors, plasterers, house painter-decorators, cooks, waiters/waitresses, nurses, drivers. There aren’t many young men who want to work as turners (lathe operator) or crane operators, despite the fact that there is high demand for those specialists.

“The youth mostly don’t want to do heavy labor, they prefer to become managers or office employees,” he says.

Many students choose teacher’s or lawyer’s professions at the vocational schools, but the market has no demand for them.

“I have raised this issue at the ministry; law has to be taught at higher educational institutions only, as for the 40,000 graduates of pedagogy there are only 20,000 positions,” says Vardanyan.

He also added that the ministry is taking corresponding measures to attract students to vocational schools, namely, it is developing criteria for professions, studies are planned to become more hands-on and practical, teachers and principles are trained and re-qualified. There are 50 percent more state budget-funded places totaling to 7,664. Children from socially vulnerable families are subsidized, vocational school premises and facilities are improved and technically better equipped, etc.

Vardanyan says there is no research on what percent of the vocational school graduates find employment.