Speaking at a press-conference in Bulgaria’s national assembly, GERB/EPP Eva Paunova urged educational establishments to start creating the workforce that businesses actually need. ‘It is the only way to further advance our economy and overcome one of the biggest problems of our generation – youth unemployment’.
The aim of the event was to present the results of a research study into the state of business in the Veliko Tarnovo area, commissioned by Ms Paunova. The city’s Mayor Daniel Panov and Milena Damyanova, chairwoman of the Parliamentary commission for Science and Education were also in attendance, together with the vice-president of the GERB parliamentary group Krasimir Velchev and Kalin Kamenov, deputy minister for Youth and Sport and GERB’s mayoral candidate for Vratsa.
According to the study, 70% of companies in the area do not benefit from any international co-operation and only 26% have successfully bid for EU funding. Mayor Panov acknowledged that there is room for improvement and pledged that his administration is working hard to improve the situation. One way to do so, according to Ms Paunova, is to ensure businesses are represented online and embrace e-commerce, which only about 13% have done so far. The MEP announced that the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) will soon be opening an office in Veliko Tarnovo to offer support.
Another notable finding discussed at the conference was the small percentage (only 2.3%) of enterprises which report having taken young people on as interns. ‘This is a trend we need to address promptly, because internships have every potential to serve as a great first step in a young person’s career development’ commented Mr Kamenov. Despite most employers agreeing, in principle at least, that young people should be afforded more opportunities to engage and learn, only a third (32%) of managers prefer hiring applicants with little or no experience.
Ms Paunova remained positive: ‘It’s encouraging to see that over a quarter of employers we surveyed are happy to facilitate professional exchanges with universities and other educational establishments – seeing that 37% of businesses complain of not being able to hire the professionals they need, this is the only way for us to identify the skills that are actually in demand on the labour market, and cultivate them in students’.
According to Krasimir Velchev and Milena Damyanova new legal guidelines that allow for a narrower specialisation in further and higher education should serve to address current challenges.
The research study surveyed 350 SMEs in the Veliko Tarnovo region about their attitudes towards what is currently on offer on the labour market and how it relates to their needs. It is aimed at improving communication between businesses and educational establishments in Ms Paunova’s priority Veliko Tarnovo area.