Establishing close cooperation between middle, vocational and technical schools, adapting their curricula to entrepreneurs’ needs, obtaining EU funds by educational institutions, and creating more company-sponsored classes – these are the plans of the educational cluster of the Wałbrzych Special Economic Zone “INVEST-PARK” for the next few months.
The “INVEST in EDU” cluster was established in February this year. It currently groups 76 entities, mostly vocational schools and entrepreneurs. Its main aim is to adapt education to the real needs of the market.
“There are no ready-made solutions, but exchanging experiences with partners such as the Wałbrzych zone will undoubtedly help us to change it. We must show that vocational education is a real alternative to schools of general education,” explains Piotr Krzywda, Head of School Complex no. 5 in Wałbrzych and chairman of the cluster.
The second working meeting of the cluster was held at the seat of the WSEZ. This opportunity was used to summarize past projects and plan new ones. So far, the Wałbrzych zone has organized two editions of the conference “Smarter – how to educate for the economy”, during which awards were given to students, teachers, schools and entrepreneurs. Moreover, the Fair for Future Jobs, Innovation and Export has recently been held in Jelenia Góra, where schools and employers presented their offers. The most important result of the cluster’s functioning, however, has been the creation of two classes sponsored by companies functioning in the WSEZ. Segepo-Refa cooperates with School Complex no. 5 in Wałbrzych while GKN Driveline supports the students of Secondary Schools Complex in Oleśnica. In both cases, the students are learning to become cutting tool operators.
“We are constantly growing and we need more specialists. For some time, however, we’ve been having problems finding the right employees. All the candidates needed a lot of training,” said Renata Węgrzanowska, HR Director at GKN Driveline. “It turned out that it would be better to establish cooperation with a school. This way, we can influence the curriculum. We also co-finance the purchase of course books and protective clothing.”
Another tangible effect of the cluster’s functioning has been a film encouraging middle schoolers to choose vocational and technical schools. The film shows which professions are most wanted by companies based in the Wałbrzych zone. The “INVEST in EDU” Internet portal is about to be finished, too.
“It will be a platform consisting of two parts: one accessible to the general public, and the other – only to the members of the cluster. The portal will promote vocational education. It will contain a database of schools, including a list of professions taught by them, and a discussion forum. We would like it to become a platform for exchanging experiences, which will ultimately improve the functioning of the cluster,” explained Barbara Kaśnikowska, President of the WSEZ “INVEST-PARK”.
During the working meeting, the future actions taken within the cluster were discussed. By the end of this year, meetings of heads of middle, vocational and technical schools with the educational authorities will be held. Their aim is to agree on joint actions.
The cluster will also help in drawing up new curricula. In order to better adapt them to the needs of entrepreneurs, it will be necessary to reach interministerial agreement. The Wałbrzych Special Economic Zone will help in achieving it.
It is also planned to create at least four new classes sponsored by investors functioning in the WSEZ. Part of the money may be obtained from EU funds. Within the current financial framework, more than €156 M will be spent on supporting vocational education, including almost €60 M for adapting education to the needs of the market. The projects will include support for apprenticeships and work training, purchasing equipment and improving teacher’s qualifications.