Two years ago, I would not imagine that I will get quality vocational education in Georgia. Now I bring benefits of it to my community, says Levan
After graduation from Tbilisi Medical University, Levan Gvinjilia wanted to start his career as a veterinarian but had serious problems finding a job. Through his personal experience he has revealed one of the biggest problems Georgian students are now facing. Back in 2015, he started studying at the Vocational Education and Training College in Samtredia, supported by People in Need with funding from the European Union and the Czech Development Agency. Quickly he realized that vocational education was the shortest path to employment in Georgia and it is never too late start it.
"It can bring great prospects to young people. One just needs to take the first step. I guarantee you will get results that you couldn't even dream about," says Levan, who now has his own veterinary practice. But let us go back to the beginning of this success story. One of the biggest problems that Georgia faces in its effort to stay on pace with other European countries is that it does not have enough qualified specialists in the fields of agriculture, veterinary services, food industry, tourism or information technology (IT).
Despite a high unemployment rate in Georgia, there are a surprisingly high number of skilled-labour positions that remain vacant because the labour force in these technical fields is undertrained and underdeveloped. In reality university graduates like Levan can find a job only with difficulty. It is because the universities produce the most common professions such as lawyers, economists and historians. The over-supply of these professions exceeds market demand.
Find a job? Mission impossible
“To find a job after graduation was mission impossible,” says Levan, a motivated young man. In 2015, a friend who is a baker in the local bakery, recommended Didi Jikhaishi VET College where he had graduated from a baker's course. “I applied for a course that was closer to my original educational interests and started studying veterinary medicine,” says Levan.
By coincidence this college is supported by People in Need, the European Union and the Czech Development Agency project (focused on improving the quality of vocational education for the agribusiness sector through developing vocational institutions). The aim of the intervention is that colleges will be better aligned to the demands of the local labour market because they have improved their vocational education curriculum.
Together with 45 other young people, Levan was among the first to reap the benefits of a quality education supported by practical trainings in well-equipped workshops led by skilled trainers. "The programme was one year long and included animal surgery, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, anesthesiology, and how to use the modern veterinary equipment,” says Levan. “It isn't always easy to learn complex sciences like veterinary medicine in one year, but our lectures were very well prepared and provided us with both theoretical and practical knowledge in a very clear and concise manner. Sure, it is just a beginning and I will continue working on various aspects which I feel need further improvement, but mostly it will come with practice," adds Levan.
Successful start and plans for expansion
As a result of the one year course, Levan was ready to start working as a veterinarian in his native village of Chkhorotsku. For many years the village did not have any veterinary services. The only alternative was for the residents to go to Zugdidi and that was expensive. Levan reconstructed a small room and offered the community various important services starting from vaccinations to complex pets surgeries.
“I have already used his services three times. His prices are quite reasonable. Our only concern is that sometimes when there is some virus outbreak in the region, only Levan is available to help the Chkhorotsku community," says Giorgi Samnishvili, resident of Chkhorotsku. Levan is reflecting on the situation and plans to expand the practice.
"Our municipality is big and this is why I have big plans for the future. As the only veterinarian, it is not always possible to help everyone. These conditions pushed me to start thinking about expansion,” says Levan. The basement in the building of the new clinic is already finished and if everything goes well, next year he will open a new clinic. “I will employ two or three other veterinarians, one sanitarian and a pharmacist. I have concrete ideas who these people can be. Besides a good education at the Didi Jikhaishi VET College, I met a lot of interesting professionals who graduated with me. They are my friends but at the same time real professionals and when friendship and professionalism are combined at work, good results are guaranteed," says Levan and adds that his future employees are also Didi Jikhaishi VET college students who could not find jobs after graduating from university.
Benefits for the community
"Two years ago, I would not imagine that it was possible to get an education like that in our region. Now I feel confident that I can become a real professional and bring benefits to people and to myself,” says Levan.
As a result of the People in Need project funded by the European Union and the Czech Development Agency, four vocational education institutions in the Imereti region were supported so that they could offer higher quality education. Teachers at the colleges have received the training necessary for providing high-quality VET Courses.
The story of Didi Jikhaishi VET College tells everything. In the Soviet period it was the largest such institution in western Georgia. After the fall of the communist regime, the college gradually fell into disrepair until it closed in 2010. It reopened in 2015, partly due to the initiative of motivated local staff and support received from People in Need.
The improved curricula and qualified trainers have quickly made Didi Jikhaishi College one of the most attractive institutions in the region. The new Veterinary programme accepts more than 45 students at a time and classes fill up quickly.
Ramaz Chichinadze, PIN Georgia Communication Officer