Advanced training for opticians from Balkan states
The Chamber of Crafts Koblenz and the Balkan association of women in the skilled trades support opticians from Macedonia and Montenegro with a German-style qualification which increases their competitiveness.
iMOVE: What is the name and background of your organisation?
Dr. Parvanova: The Chamber of Crafts Koblenz is responsible for vocational education and training in the skilled trades. It maintains 14 vocational training centres in the north of the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatinate for its approximately 19,500 member businesses. The vocational and advanced training programmes focus on occupations in the construction and metal industry as well as the food industry.
iMOVE: What are your international business experiences?
Dr. Parvanova: The Chamber of Crafts Koblenz started its international activities in the late 1980s in South-East Europe, beginning with projects that were funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It later expanded its activities to include regions such as Africa and South-East Asia.
The main objective was to support the German federal government in its international projects and to advertise German solutions and concepts abroad. For the most part, current international partnerships derive from contacts that have been established in the context of this project work.
Many years ago, employees at the Chamber of Crafts Koblenz established the first personal contact with iMOVE at an event abroad and since that time they have attended several iMOVE seminars and workshops in Germany. Owing to the chamber's activities abroad, the number of employees with international experience has steadily increased and by now about 40 of approximately 300 chamber employees have international experience.
iMOVE: Which key service do you provide for a successful cooperation with international partners?
Dr. Parvanova: In 2015, 16 opticians from Macedonia and Montenegro received their certificates following an optometric advanced training course, issued by the Chamber of Crafts Koblenz and the Fachschule für Augenoptik und Optometrie 'Optonia' (special school for ophthalmic optics and optometry) in Diez in Rhineland-Palatinate. The two education providers, who have closely cooperated in the field of master craftsman training for German opticians for many years, organised the training course following the German model.
It consists of three training modules: two theoretical ones in the respective home country and one practical module in Diez culminating in an examination. Six graduates have additionally attended a complementary advanced training course for binocular vision. All (mostly female) course participants from the Balkan states are now qualified to assess their customers' vision and to produce corresponding optical aids.
Up until ten years ago, optometry was part of an optician's training in South-East Europe. Then it was deleted from the training curriculum. Since that time, only ophthalmologists are qualified to issue prescriptions for the correction of defective vision. The opticians' work is limited to purely technical tasks and they have to hire ophthalmologists by the hour as they themselves are not allowed to conduct eye examinations. With this newly acquired qualification, the opticians now are able to identify standard deviations in patients and to correct these by providing optical aids.
iMOVE: Who is your partner in the Balkan states?
Dr. Parvanova: The optometry training originated in an initiative by the Balkanverband der Frauen im Handwerk (Balkan association of women in the skilled trades), which is a member of the Mittelstandsbüro Balkan (MBB – Balkan office for small and medium-sized enterprises). The MBB was established in 2001 in the context of BMZ projects of the Chamber of Crafts Koblenz to provide a network for small and medium-sized skilled trades organisations in South-East Europe. It operates as an independent corporate body with headquarters in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and is an umbrella organisation for 24 small and medium-sized enterprises from ten countries.
Like the projects of the Chamber of Crafts Koblenz, the work of the MBB focuses on issues pertaining to vocational and advanced training. Numerous training courses covering business administration topics have already taken place in addition to a number of specialist seminars. The projects of the Chamber of Crafts Koblenz have facilitated the inclusion of new content in the first vocational training provision and have helped to acquaint business owners with new techniques and trends to improve their market potential.
The number of women working in the optician's trade is particularly high in the South-East European countries. The Balkan association tries to establish advanced training courses that take into account the specific needs of female entrepreneurs and make attendance easy specifically for women with frequently manifold family obligations. The qualification programme was funded in the context of a BMZ project and by the course attendants themselves.
Phone: +49 261 398-128
Dr. Evelina Parvanova,
Expert for International Projects
© photos: Chamber of Crafts Koblenz