UfM interviews Ms. Madlen Serban
UfM: How does ETF help the transition countries to harness the potential of their human capital, and what are the services provided by ETF to SMEs and Entrepreneurs in Tunisia to develop innovative ideas and grow their businesses?
Ms. Madlen Serban (MS): ETF action focuses, on one side, on the overarching system level through:
- Vocational Education and Training (VET) policy analysis. Through the Torino Process, the ETF engages broad stakeholder groups in joint analyses of current VET policies. The analyses emphasize the gathering of evidence on how they contribute to goals set in each country and whether they are ready to meet the changing needs for skills and qualifications. Policy analysis findings inform the policy making agenda, assisted in some cases by the ETF directly, or with proposals for EU programming.
- Designing large scale EU interventions. With a firm basis in these policy analyses, a key aspect of the ETF’s work in the region is to identify and formulate large scale EU interventions which support the development of VET systems.
On the other side, and based on the policy analysis above, the ETF action at country and regional (multi-country) levels focuses mainly on the following challenges, which are in line with the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy priorities:
- Improving the employability of young people through better and more relevant VET. This area focuses on rethinking existing qualification systems through national and regional (trans-national) actions, encouraging cooperation between main stakeholders and supporting their work through capacity building.
- Reducing economic vulnerability by supporting small businesses through the promotion of entrepreneurship and skills for SMEs in the education and training system and in enterprises.
- Working to increase efficiency of good governance of VET system though a multilevel approach by increasing inclusiveness and accountability. Emphasis is made on increasing the awareness and capacity of social partners to engage in the governance of VET and on the role of human capital in regional development to promote territorial cohesion in the regions of Médenine (Tunisia) and Tanger (Morocco).
- Linking skills and migration in the context of mobility partnerships and circular migration, providing insights on the links between skills and labour migration.
All activities above are implemented through our work programme and through a dedicated multi-country project: “Governance for Employability in the Mediterranean”. This project was agreed by DEVCO and DGEAC as a response to the Arab Spring. It is funded by DEVCO and implemented by the ETF.
UfM: What are the services provided by ETF to Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs in Tunisia to develop innovative ideas and grow their businesses?
MS: As mentioned above and even more since the awakenings in 2011, ETF is assisting governments, social partners and civil society in their efforts to foster regional development, as a way to support equitable and inclusive economic development. In Tunisia in particular, we are carrying out an innovative project in the Medenine Governorate, at the border with Libya. The main project idea is to work together with local and regional actors, to strengthen their capacities and to increase the coordination to improve the adequacy between the skills’ needs of the local private sector with the training supply. The final aim is to inspire decentralisation and regional development policies, by demonstrating, through successful innovative approaches, that focusing on the local territorial level and empowering local actors can improve the employment dynamics.
In terms of support to SMEs, the pilot intervention in Medenine Governorate, at the border with Libya, provides for instance support to human resource departments of interested companies in the priority economic sectors (tourism, construction) to better identify, quantitatively and qualitatively, their skills’ needs and how to express them in an intelligible way to employment services or training institutions. In partnership with other organisations, namely the NGO Mercycorps, it should also shortly introduce a module on entrepreneurship learning in some pilot Vocational education and training centres, in order to better prepare young people to self-employment, without waiting for them to be job-seekers on the labour market.
UfM- How do you appraise the cooperation with UfM?
MS: ETF cooperation with the UfM has been since the very beginning very fruitful. Based on the UfM priority areas, our cooperation and exchanges have focused mostly on issues linked to employment and employability, support to SMEs, and gender issues. We have collaborated in the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative, the Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs), the SME Board, the Experts group on employment and skills, the new gender project, and many other initiatives linked to our field of expertise
More broadly, in the framework of the UfM cooperation, ETF supports the regional policy dialogue by providing analysis of trends in the labour market, employment and human capital development systems and identification and monitoring of challenges that are addressed by policy reforms. Every two years, ETF conducts (in close coordination with DG Employment) an analysis on Employability in all partner countries of the UfM (with the exception of Mauritania). The employability review provides an overview of the interaction between education & training systems, labour markets and employment policies in the region. This analysis is used as an input in regional policy dialogue and also to initiate specific policy discussions at national level in the interested countries (e.g. Tunisia, Morocco on employment policy; Jordan on increasing women’s employment, etc.). Furthermore, ETF seeks always for complementarity of its action with other donors and bilateral and international organisations.
Also, in the framework of the UfM cooperation, ETF carries out, under the leadership of DG Enterprise and in cooperation with OECD, EIB, EBRD, a monitoring of the state of implementation of the EuroMed Charter of Enterprise. This year we are conducting the second assessment that provides very relevant inputs on how friendly the environment is in the Mediterranean Countries to support SMEs creation and growth. Entrepreneurial learning and skills for enterprises are part of the required environment
These analyses are shared with the UfM Secretariat (and EC) bilaterally and/or through specific contributions to the events and meetings, so as to feed the policy discussions at the UfM and EU levels on how to support the region on its employment, economic growth and social inclusion challenges.
UfM – The UfM will launch the Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs) at the Mediterranean Economic Conference, to be co-organized with the Tunisian Government on 17-18 September this year in Tunis. Med4Jobs is as an integrated program, developed by the UfM Secretariat, aiming to promote and replicate a number of visible private sector job creation projects in the South and Eastern Mediterranean. How does ETF collaborate with the UfM Secretariat in the development of concrete projects under this initiative?
MS: ETF has been actively involved in the design of the UfM Secretariat’s Med4Jobs programme since the very beginning. Our collaboration has consisted on exchanging information and analytical work on employment in the region and sharing our concrete interventions, such as the project in Medenine, in Tunisia (see answer 2 above), or the project on entrepreneurial learning in Lebanon. ETF has as well offered its support in the selection of UfM projects and in being “a critical friend” throughout the project, providing inputs, comments and advice whenever needed. A way of support is also to bring a policy dimension not only to our concrete interventions but also to the Med4Jobs.
In this way both top-down and bottom-up actions complement and reinforce each so as to ensure efficiency gains and impact for the benefit of the citizens.