Last year, 19-year-old Nino Narmania learnt she needed computer skills to do her favourite job—sewing and making clothes. Intrigued and excited by the project, she enrolled in a college-level professional tailoring programme in Poti, a provincial town in western Georgia.
Together with 50 other young women, she was the first to reap the benefits of quality education supported by practical training in a well-equipped tailoring workshop.
“I am learning how to work in Photoshop and Corel, and how to use modern sewing machines,” Narmania says. “That is not always easy but our teachers are great. We have university professors to teach us computer technology, and there are online classes from a professional college in Germany.”
Up-to-date curricula, modern equipment and qualified trainers make Phazisi College one of the most reputable educational institutions in the region. The tailoring programme accepts 50 students at a time, and classes fill up eight months in advance.
Like Narmania, almost half of the college students are from families displaced by conflict, known as internally displaced persons or IDPs. For them, professional training is one of the most direct ways to find employment.
“Two years ago, I would not imagine that it was possible to get an education like that in our city. Now I feel confident that I can become a good professional and find a nice job. This college is my future,” Narmania says.
Georgia’s system of professional education has been questioned by advocates who argue it needs to do more to equip people for the labour market.
In 2006, UNDP began collaborating with the Ministry of Education to reform Georgia’s system of professional education. As a result, participating colleges are now better aligned to the demands of the local labour market, there are uniform standards for qualifications, teachers have received critical re-training and vocational training sites have been refurbished.
After the military conflict in 2008, UNDP began aiming these efforts at conflict-affected areas, where a professional education would help people return to self-reliance, especially those displaced or experiencing education disruptions.
One of the first initiatives took place at Gori University in the region most affected by war. Now recognized as one of the best-equipped professional education sites in the country, it offers a full range of vocational courses including mini-workshops for the production of agricultural products, some of which sell in the largest supermarkets of Georgia’s capital. The workshops allow students to begin work while learning the practical application of new skills. They also serve as small enterprises, contributing to the income of the university.
By the end of 2011, UNDP had helped professional colleges in Poti and Zugdidi establish their own new curricula. The colleges have opened furniture-making and tailoring workshops based on the model in Gori.
By 2012, upgraded training in 25 professions—mainly in higher-demand sectors like agriculture, food-processing and construction—was available in nine professional education centres across the country. Each of the educational courses was equipped with new training programmes, guidebooks for instructors and students, and special qualification courses for teachers.
Of the 3,000 people who have graduated so far, 70 percent have quickly found employment, and people like Nino Narmania are making full use of their chances for a better future.