WHO'LL GIVE ME WINGS?
Opublikowano: czwartek, 05, marzec 2015 12:42
Past experiences of craft businesses expose deficiencies of education system in Poland. It is very hard nowadays to find a well-qualified young man. The situation is alarming because one of the greatest advantages of stone workshops was cultivating family traditions which were passed down from generation to generation.
The number of young people who want to gain qualifications in craft professions is smaller and smaller every year. The root causes lie in education system, but also in insufficient promotion of the craft and no benefits arising from having journeyman and artisan certificates. Years of neglect revealed the weakness of the reform of education carried out by then-Minister of Education (M. Handke) in the government of Jerzy Buzek and undoubtedly damaged the balance on the labour market. The system of education which was being promoted for years made contemporary parents think that vocational schools are really bad, because being a journeyman is not as prestigious as holding a Master of Arts degree. What is the result? In Poland the concentration of higher schools is one of the highest in the world. The graduates have no prospects for further professional development whilst at the same time there are far too few people with specified qualifications. Our Internet survey revealed facts which might be very telling. Its results made us think that the mostly desired employee is … an unemployed person who badly needs work.
Other interesting information can be found in annual reports carried out by the Team of Vocational Education and Social Matters of the Polish Craft Association. Biggest losses are recorded in professions related to our branch. In case of construction-related professions, the number of young people who want to be bricklayers has dropped fivefold (from 5,143 to 1,298 students). Education of floor-layers looks tragic now. In 2009 there were 363 students of floor-laying whilst right now there are only 25 of them.
Compared to what we have said above, how can we explain expected growth of stonemasons-to-be? We can find the comparative data in the table. Interestingly, the number of people interested in gaining stonemason’s certificate (artisan) has risen in 2014. Last year there were 35 people who got it whilst in 2013 only 14. Surprisingly, however, the number of journeyman exams has dropped from 84 to 63. The most telling example comes from the province where the number of highly educated people is the highest. In December 2014 there was only one (!) person who wanted to gain stonemason’s qualifications. This is the lowest number ever in the history of examinations organised by the Chamber of Crafts for Small and Medium Enterprises in Katowice.
- In the past it was a normal thing that several people gained journeyman’s and artisan’s certificates. We organised exams at least twice a year - says Marian Winiewicz, a stonemason from Katowice, who has been a member of the examination board for over 20 years.
- Well, apprenticeship costs a lot, especially for a small craft stone company. Therefore, this tragic situation in the field of education should be saved by a complete reform of the education system. For now we can just count on subsidies.
Will EU funds help? Maybe, but not necessarily. The School Complex in Lubartów bought a CNC machine at the end of the last year. This investment was financed from “Podkarpacie stawia na zawodowców” project (Subcarpathian province focuses on professionals). The originators intend to educate programmers- and processing machine operators-to-be as well as provide practical education to stonemasons-to-be. Are school workshops going to be equipped with more tools and teaching aids? We don’t know, because, facing the demographic decline, school authorities have serious doubts if there are enough students to create a vocational class for future stonemasons. Creating a multi-vocational class seems to be more probable. The recruitment process is currently under way.
We should also mention another much appreciated initiative. Przedsiębiorstwo Kamieniarskie "WOLSKI" from Czorsztyn (Małopolskie province) has trained over 400 journeymen for the last 25 years. Nearly 50 people gained artisan certificates.
- It was possible thanks to long-term contracts with the guild of crafts and vocational schools situated in our area. Not to mention the costs of apprenticeships, my company has an access to new, young staff. Those who do their best are given a chance to become our full-time workers - informs Kazimierz Wolski.
There is one more initiative which is worth mentioning. Thanks to the Stone Industry Employers’ Association and EU financial support we succeeded in drawing up training materials for future stonemasons and pavers. They will be useful for those who want to take exams organised by Lower Silesian Chamber of Craft in Wrocław from 13 to 17 April 2015.
- The interest should not be lower than last year when about 10 people passed their exams – informs Stanisław Sitarz, the vice chairman of the examination board and the president of the board of Stone Industry Employers’ Association.
The above information reveal weaknesses of vocational education in Poland because we can see that vocational training courses take place in multi-vocational classes or they are organised by employers. The latter one seems to fit market economy better. The experts are sure that we should give priority to dual education which means combining school with practical training in companies. Besides, interdisciplinary approach and life-long learning are important prerequisites for being successful on the labour market. The labour market is putting higher and higher demands for vocational school graduates.
Taking above assumptions into account, functioning of vocational schools should be considered in the context of labour market needs. On one hand, we can see continuous development of stone technologies, on the other we can see education system which is far from being perfect. It is hard to disagree with opinions of representatives of the Polish Craft Association. They are convinced that we need a complete reform of Polish vocational education system. This education should be organised both by schools and companies. The 4th European Congress of Small and Medium Enterprises in Katowice has provided much food for thought. This event was held last September. Many interesting debates took place there, but the one which drew our attention most was entitled “Vocational training for staff”. Michał Wójcik, a representative of craft, Member of Parliament and General Director of the Chamber of Craft and Small and Medium Enterprises in Katowice was one of the panellists there. In his speech based on most up-to-date reports and analyses he was trying to prove that in the countries where vocational education is neglected, the unemployment rate among people up to 25 years of age remains high (57% in Spain, 54% in Greece). In Poland the situation is not better – the unemployment rate in this age group is as high as 27%. We need to take into account the fact that if over 2 million young Polish people did not go abroad, the unemployment rate would be much higher. The opposite situation can be found in the countries which rely on vocational education. Germany (7%) or Austria (8%) do not have problems like this.
Due to high costs related to functioning of vocational education, our local governments are not interested in its reactivation. The tradition of educating stonemasons in Poland is long, but due to structural and economic changes after 1989 vocational education is suffering from serious problems. What does the situation look like now? There is one centre in Poland where young people are taught subjects related to our branch. This is the Technical High School of Open-Cast Mining in Strzegom which was founded in 2010. There are four classes there with 100 specialists-to-be learning their profession. During the 4-year-long education students learn about rock mining and stonemasonry.
- There is no, however, vocational school where stonemasons are trained. Few are learning this trade in multi-vocational classes – says Krzysztof Skolak, who is a teacher at the school of stonemasonry in Strzegom.
- The “stonemason-technician” profession has not been identified yet, but there has been light at the end of the tunnel since we started cluster cooperation with school of stonemasonry in Demitz-Thumitz. After speaking to the representatives of the Ministry of Education there is now some hope to make the curriculum more flexible. In early March students from Strzegom are going to Germany for their three-week long stone processing apprenticeships.
It is a great opportunity for students from Strzegom to gain some experience since their parent school trains staff only for open-cast mining. The Saxon School of Stonemasonry in Demitz-Thumitz has been training stonemasons and sculptors since 1908. This school is said to be a model for other institutions which train craftsmen. A hundred students start their education there every year. All of them find accommodation in the school’s boarding house.
Analysis of professional careers of Strzegom technical high school graduates will tell us more about conclusions for the future.
- The document including such analysis will be completed in March at latest. Another important study which will be important for promoting vocational education will be provided by Wałbrzych Economic Zone. There is one undisputable truth: vocational school graduates earn at least twice more than university graduates. I believe that despite demographic decline we will be able to create more classes – says Robert Wojtowicz, the headmaster of the School Complex in Strzegom.
Attractiveness of Strzegom centre is, of course, the highest for future stone industry staff. The question which entrepreneurs are most frequently asked is “Who is the best potential employee?” The answer is still the same. Maybe this is not the best digression, but it is a young father or the one who will have children soon. The pressure to support the growing family is often the best guarantee for the employer that the employee will not quit his job for a very long time. The childless are not so promising and not so safe for employers.