The country’s government has decided to plug a shortage of skilled labour in the economy by reviving technical colleges.
The initiative was brought up by President Medvedev, who said that Russia needs to cut the number of universities in order to focus on raising standardsin vocational training.
“Private higher education facilities should all gradually be closed down, because what they are offering in many cases is beyond bad,” Medvedev said. “It’s an irresponsible and low-quality education. However, we could easily turn some of these schools into quality colleges. We should return to professional technical education, and it’s in the interest of business to aid us in this process.”
Technical college education takes three years. Alongside academic studies, starting from 16-years-old, students are taught several inter-linked vocations. Most go on to work as skilled workers, many become self-employed.
Sometimes even adults leave their office jobs and retrain. Sergey Elin used to be a bank worker, but when he realized he could earn more money with his hands, he became a carpenter.
“Not only is this work more profitable, but while I could always get fired from a bank, here I make my own luck,” he told RT.
There are 900 technical colleges in Russia – down from more than 5,000 twenty years ago. Two-thirds of Russians still believe that studying at a technical college is not prestigious.
“Skilled labour has fallen out of favour,” Larisa Stolyarskaya, director of Vocational Technical School No.87, told RT. “Instead, after the USSR collapsed we started producing tens of thousands of lawyers and accountants. Now there are too many of them – they are not wanted by the market.”
Now the government wants more businesses to give real-work placements and guarantee jobs to the top students. Others will be given more advice on starting their own business.
“There is a group of us who all support each other, and we have agreed that as soon as we are out of here, we will open our garage,” student Aleksey Mitchenko told RT.
Viewed by many as second-rate institutions for perennial underachievers, the government has promised before to increase the attractiveness of technical colleges several times – but to no effect. Now that there is a real economic need for the skills they teach, maybe the institutions are finally turning the corner.