The Theme/Opportunity. Since 2015, Vocational Romania became the national platform used by OMV Petrom to advocate for a better vocational education (VET) in Romania. While advocating for change, we came to realize that VET PUPILS, the most significant recipients of the change, are a silent mass of youngsters that is neither consulted nor accounted. Lacking representativity, is hard for pupils to address decision makers and ask them to initiate VET improvement. Vocational Students League was born to act as a representative group for VET pupils, that will produce a systemic and relevant change for vocational education but also improve craftsmen reputation. We choose Buzau, as a pilot county, to test the approach but also to prove #itcanbedone.
The research. 1 and 2 Romanian pupils attend a VET School, and the no. of VET pupils increased in 2018 to 284.000. The lack of craftsmen on the labor market or the high no. of pupils does not mean recognition for VET – only 2 out of 10 Romanians respect craftsmen and parents believe VET comes with a lower social and professional status. We seek out who is standing out for VET and the findings confirmed that VET pupils are not present when decision are taken by relevant stakeholders, as NO pupils, parents or teachers’ associations discuss or advocate for VET needs.
Planning .To grow a powerful and sustainable pupils group, we planned a medium term 3 layers intervention – Layer 1- Representation we designed a selection process that ensured that pupils from all VET schools participate in VSL; Layer 2 – Capacity building – pupils received training and mentoring to become the best advocates for VET and Layer 3 – Communication –inform and engage mass media and relevant stakeholders in VST actions.
Implementation. The 1st step we took was to select the members – in March 2018, we launched a multi-layer transparent selection process, with the help of Leaders Foundation, we asked pupils to apply, then we asked their colleagues in each school to vote their delegate and finally we interviewed all finalists. The 2nd step was to build members’ capacity, so in 2018 & 2019 we organized a unique Advocacy Summer School to develop youngsters’ skills to be better leaders and advocates, but also to learn how to promote their initiatives. The 3rd step was to mentor and accompany VST members in their voyage to advocate and solve VET needs. Under our guidance pupils started to work on specific advocacy and communication projects.
Evaluation. Vocational Students League(VST) is recognised as the first group representing VET schools and pupils and became the 1st NGO in Romania created by VET pupils. VST was publicly referenced as a best practice during the Presidential launch of Educated Romania in December 2019 but also during other. VST succeeded to engage in a debate 2 former Ministries of Education and is planning the 1st Fundraising Gala to pledge for better tools for mechanic labs in VET schools.
Creativity. We knew engaging teenagers would be a difficult task! This is why we designed the entire program to mirror democratic elections – voting day, electoral platforms, posters, slogans! VET is the first group ever to represent the interests of what is now the most desired category on the job market – students in vocational education. We developed model that can be replicated at national level.