It’s back to school for some of Greece’s workers

There are philologists and theologians who would like to learn computer science, and even mechanical engineers wanting to become driving instructors. The list is endless in a rapidly changing job market and not just in the private sector. More than 73,000 civil servants are to go back to school between this coming year and 2006, and another program is under way to provide job training in the armed forces. This is only the beginning of a drive to meet the need for new skills in the job market. The average European makes four career changes within a lifetime. These days it is estimated that 80 percent of the technology to be used in 10 years’ time has not yet been developed. At the same time, the business of providing educational services is rapidly expanding. An operational plan drawn up by the Vocational Training and Placement Organization (OEEK) indicates the extent of these changes, and the fact that the Greek market will be hit by competition from foreign universities and multinational consultancy and training firms. Chambers of commerce, public utility companies, banks, labor institutes, local government organizations and business firms are just some of the potential administrators of funds within the framework of a market that is to expand considerably in the coming decade. A total of 678 billion drachmas has been earmarked for the Education and Labor ministries alone for job training and placement. About 600,000 people, employed or jobless, are expected to be processed through placement programs by 2004, including both new graduates and older age groups. The two main characteristics of job training and placement in Greece at present, according to the OEEK plan, are the development of new kinds of training and an emphasis on quality. The emphasis will be on the use of new technologies in corporate-financed universities, correspondence courses, open universities and training on the job at the expense of traditional forms of training. The higher quality of training programs is one of the goals of the stricter specifications set by the European Commission, while the need for retraining and more flexible skills has changed the shape of businesses themselves. The OEEK plan emphasizes that Greece’s entry to the Economic and Monetary Union has heightened competitiveness in the environment in which Greek companies operate. Although management might not always be aware of it, there is a great need for ordinary businesses to evolve into organizations of learning, creating new training opportunities for the company’s human resources. Job placement for foreigners too Clearly, quality has become a major factor in the job training system in Greece, in order to equip Greeks to meet the challenges of the swiftly changing job market, which the education system has not adapted to sufficiently. OEEK makes several observations on this point. Firstly, despite the fact that some strides have been made in the field of job training and placement in Greece in recent years, it is still far behind other European countries in this respect. Vocational guidance is at a very rudimentary stage and there is little coordination between primary, secondary and tertiary education. OEEK President Panayiotis Maistros told Kathimerini that the organization aims to play a major role in the new goals at European and national level. Its main strategic goals for the next five years include: – 225 new specializations. This year 20 new jobs have been defined within the fields of new technologies, computer science, electronics and mechanical engineering. – the training of foreigners and other special groups such as the disabled, ethnic Greek immigrants and Gypsies. – an expansion of the system of recognition of new job categories and, something new in Greece, of previous work experience. – more effective coordination of technology training with state job placement agencies. These changes in orientation on the part of OEEK were considered mandatory in view of its continually decreasing number of applicants after the universities and technical colleges began to accept more high school graduates, as well as its inability to meet the criteria for funding from the third Community Support Framework. So, the danger remains, and is constantly growing, that green spaces will be pushed aside once more and Athens will preserve its international reputation as a concrete jungle. So, the danger remains, and is constantly growing, that green spaces will be pushed aside once more and Athens will preserve its international reputation as a concrete jungle.