In Montenegro the link between labour market and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) is still week. The market has low level of trust in HEI as a serious partner in solving technical and technological or any work-related problems but also cannot see their role in the creation of skill and knowledgeable graduates, who are fit for employment. Vice versa, Universities are not recognizing companies as those who can contribute to the modernization of study programs and who could help adopting them to the future needs of society. At the same time, the unemployment rate in Montenegro is still high, with above 14% in 2019, according to Monstat (Agency for Statistics in Montenegro). Analysis done by employment agencies shows that the unemployment rate is significantly lower for young people with secondary education than for university graduates. Also, practical work (internships, project work, etc.) is not well organized across most study programs. Except in rare good practices, which are not systematically developed, the work placement of students during studies is not institutionalised. The graduates are mostly without any work experience when they enter the labour market and this disables them from getting a job thus capturing them in unemployment because they education is mostly out-dated and/or too much theoretical, not job relevant. The competences of graduates are not recognized in many cases by employees. Dual Higher Education (DHE) will enable students to acquire more relevant knowledge and skills by combining classical traditional teaching/learning at universities with knowledge and skills acquired at the workplace (work-based learning). As a consequence, this will provide them with competences and skills that are more in line with needs of employers and will significant increase employability of the graduates and decrease investment for trainings of young professionals on the employers’ side. In the same time reputation of HE will benefit from a larger number of graduates that find and keep jobs in fields that are relevant to their fields of study.
To this end, work placements as part of study programmes must be embedded in the programme in terms of resources and time. Students’ main problem is that their dropout rates are considerably high and that they often also do not work in a field that is related to their study but work in classical low-wage student jobs.
Introducing dual education will be extremely important for attracting needed investments in Montenegro, since investors demand not only positive and friendly business climate but also highly trained and specialised workforce that can be produced fast enough through flexible DHE. This proposed project targets the main issues concerning the employability of students and graduates and is thus in line with strategy for increasing the employment rate of young population.
There are several strategic document that supports the goals of DUALMON project: Development Strategy of Higher Education in Montenegro (2016-2020), Development Strategy of University of Montenegro (2019-2024), Strategy of internationalization of University of Montenegro etc. DUALMON project is in line with several priorities which are set out in the strategy documents.
Development Strategy of Higher Education in Montenegro (2016-2020) has several priorities which are compatible with the goals of this project: Goal 1: Improvement of the quality of HE, where the accent is on the quality of knowledge and learning outcomes, and compatibility with European Higher Education Area; Goal 2: Harmonization of education with labour market needs, where system of HE in Montenegro must provide students with competences for future occupations, and acquirement of practical knowledge for the work in real working environment. The Strategy is mentioning high unemployment rate of graduates, where graduates with previous working experiences are able to find jobs more easy. Even more, Article 2.2 is stressing the importance of implementation of practical teaching into curriculums in order to improve learning outcomes. “Implementation of practical teaching can be conducted inside HEI, or at the company where agreement about practical teaching exists.” (pp. 23).
According to the Development Strategy of University of Montenegro (2019-2024), priorities are development of innovative teaching methodologies and constant adaptation to the market. More specifically, this project is in line with Goal I.1 in the Strategy: “University of Montenegro is conducting quality and innovative study programs at all levels, with clearly defined and internationally comparable learning outcomes in EHEA, adjusted to contemporary needs of society and labour markets”. Within this goal, the project is compatible with Activity I.1.1 “Improvement of study programs”, and Activity I.1.2 “Compatibility of learning outcomes with labour market needs”. Also, the project is in line with the Goal IV.1: “Strengthening the cooperation with industry and public sector”, and Activity IV.1.1 focused on the number of agreements between university and companies and number of student internships. Goal V.3 is about improvement of student support, including Activity V.3.1 about student support related to their employment, which is also in line with our project. Careful analysis of labour market needs, in accordance with the needs of both business and public sector, adapted enrolment policy, updating the program with the optimal way of organizing student practice with employers, involving employers and prominent representatives of the public and private sector, will be main driving force of ideas and innovations in Montenegrin society.
Also one of strategic priority is to intensify international cooperation with renowned higher education institutions through activities aimed at better implementation of bilateral cooperation and credit mobility agreements, increasing their numbers, as well as increasing the outgoing and incoming mobility of teaching and non-teaching staff and students. Interdisciplinarity and internationalization of study programs, as well as popularization of studies in priority areas (STEM and S3), are key levers of successful positioning of the University of Montenegro in the European Higher Education Area. Continuous work on strengthening research capacities by: clearly defining the scientific profile and priorities, establishing strategic partnerships with renowned HEI in the world.
The project is also in line with national priorities for Montenegro and Regional Priorities for Joint & Structural Projects (Erasmus+ KA2 – Capacity Building in Higher Education) for the Region 1 (Western Balkan) and is related to Category: Learning and teaching tools, methodologies and pedagogical approaches: The project proposes a new approach in Montenegro in order to make HEI more professionally oriented with emphasis on offering the exact working skills to the students and Category: University-enterprise cooperation, entrepreneurship and employability of graduates: a. Dual HE connects the employers that request particular set of skills with students that have strong propensity and potential to acquire that set of skills. b. Dual HE gives the students an opportunity to acquire much needed work experience before graduation which in turn enables them to be more competitive on the labour market. c. Dual HE implementation requires from the HEIs to develop such study programmes that are highly compatible with students’ future profession and altogether create a teaching ambience similar to that of a workplace. 4. Category: Definition, implementation and monitoring the reform policies: The project will provide the legislation background for establishing currently non-existing dual HE studies in Montenegro.