Youth, Employment and Skills in Kosovo (YES)

Program Origin

Germany has implemented youth training and employment programming in Kosovo since 2017, with the aim of reducing Kosovar youth unemployment (currently over 50 percent). The German development agency (GIZ) recently began to trial elements of a Global Skills Partnership in the construction sector, building on an existing private healthcare training partnership. While the GSP-like dimensions of the Youth, Employment and Skills in Kosovo (YES) project were not implemented, a new project building on the networks created and lessons learned is already under development.

The YES project originally aimed to deliver “adaptation training, ensuring recognition of selected youth in one selected occupation.”  This was originally envisioned as a three-year certificate program for construction workers at a private Pristina training school. Half of the participants were intended to find work in Kosovo after receiving a two-year “expert certificate,” and the other half would complete their training in Germany as part of an apprenticeship. It was hoped this apprenticeship would turn into longer-term employment at the end of the training program. However, it soon became clear that the gap between Kosovar and German qualification standards was too wide to bridge during the project period (2017-2021). 

Instead, project staff pivoted towards developing “a replicable model for skills development and recognition of qualifications” for Kosovar and German occupations facing skills shortages.  They established a network of key players (detailed below) and developed a pilot project blueprint for potential future adoption in the construction sector. 

Funders and Participating Organizations

These activities were mainly funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with significant investment from the Ministry of Economy in Bavaria and private sector employers. GIZ financed the creation of a steering committee including the German Agency for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), the Kosovar Ministries of Education and Labor and Social Welfare, the National Qualification Agency of Kosovo, the Munich and Dortmund Chambers of Crafts, the Bavarian regional association of construction businesses, German and Kosovar employers, and the Pristina training academy.

German government involvement in Kosovar technical and vocational education and training (TVET) began after the 2015 surge in immigration from the Balkans. They established regional migration management programs including a Migration Advisory Center (DIMAK) in Kosovo. Among DIMAK’s clients were German businesses looking to recruit in Kosovo. DMZ also funded a labor migration policy advisor position at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Kosovo between 2015 and 2018. The skills partnership idea was introduced to streamline and amplify the impact of existing GIZ vocational training programming in Kosovo. 

Progress To Date

One of the program’s main successes was developing a skills qualification standard and laying the foundation for both German and Kosovar recognition. A GIZ official remarked that “the regulatory mark has been set” for future iterations of the program. Two German Chambers of Craft are committed, and one (Dortmund) has previously collaborated with Kosovo so they can share their expertise with the other (Munich) who had never worked internationally. 

A separate yet parallel project trained 33 youth in Kosovo for a full 3-year construction sector apprenticeship in Germany. Though not formally operated under a “skills partnership” model, this initiative brought together many of the same players including GIZ, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Bavarian regional stakeholders, and German construction companies.

Role of the Center for Global Development (CGD)

The Global Skill Partnership model was introduced to the project by a staff member who had previously conducted a study about applying the model in the Philippines. He noted that while the on-the-ground Kosovo construction work was “quite grassroots,” it reminded him of the GSP model. When he began working on the project, it didn’t yet have a skills partnership model incorporated, but he wanted to explicitly engage with the GSP idea and evolve the project accordingly. As the project evolved, GIZ staff aimed to keep the GSP principles in mind and incorporate lessons learned from previous GSP attempts. Despite the limited reach of the Kosovo pilot, project staff noted that skill partnerships could be a “big story” for development agencies since they combine many elements of interest.

Major Takeaways and Lessons Learned

The German Training Standard was difficult to translate into the Kosovo system

Germany and Kosovo have different training structures and program lengths for construction certificates. The German employers didn’t understand the Kosovar curriculum needs, so it was difficult to reach agreement.

It was hard to find trainees

The program had trouble recruiting Kosovar trainees. The construction sector in Kosovo hires many unskilled workers, so it was difficult to convince people they should pay for a three-year degree when they could be employed without one. The sector also suffers from a poor reputation.

The process of recognizing foreign qualifications can be very lengthy

Visa issues

Kosovar trainees were required to meet a minimum earning level to receive a visa, which German employers were unwilling to pay.

There is a large backlog in visa processing, to the tune of one to two years. Such a delay complicates the skills partnership process as labor needs may have shifted or qualifications may be out of date by the time travel is approved.

Language requirements were a large hurdle

The program staff strongly recommends that language training be built into the training curriculum from the very beginning.

The entire process is very time-consuming

It takes time to build trust, set expectations, and ensure that all members of the partnership are on the same page. Additionally, the legal and regulatory process can move slowly. A GIZ staff member noted that “in a way, we need 10-15 years of lead time to set up all the preconditions before a migration channel is effectively operational.”

What’s Next

The organizing committee has been working towards implementing the project’s next phase. The recent German Skilled Worker Immigration Act has enabled the development of a three-year degree merging the German and Kosovar training requirements. It was designed in collaboration with the leading German chamber responsible for Kosovo and will be piloted by a public Kosovar construction training school. The committee is working to resolve a few remaining issues, including trainee recruitment in Kosovo and the financial role of participating German employers.

GIZ has also begun work on a related project, the “Programme on Partnership Approaches for Development-Oriented Vocational Training and Labour Migration” (PAM). The project aims to implement partnerships for safe, regular and orderly migration between Germany and selected partner countries (Ecuador, Kosovo, Nigeria, Vietnam). German partners from the private sector, government, civil society and academia will work with respective institutions in partner countries to jointly develop and pilot mobility schemes while improving the quality of vocational education and training in the countries of origin. The mobility schemes will be piloted in selected occupational sectors according to labor market needs in both countries, potentially construction and engineering. Some of the partnerships will incorporate a dual-track (‘home’ and ‘away’) approach. 

This case study was written by an independent, external, expert. Quotes are drawn from interviews in March and June 2021 with the expert.