Vocational Education Changes Life: a rising star from village to the global arena

UNDP Azerbaijan
5 min readOct 5, 2023
Ibrahim Gulaliyev

Ibrahim Gulaliyev was born in Kurdamir and worked as a shepherd in the Boyukkangarli village for many years. Now he is very keen to master new skills that meet the market demands. Isn’t this the most important point? If you are willing to learn, you can do everything!

What is Ibrahim currently doing and studying? Ibrahim is one of our students participating in the Dual Vocational Education Programme. He successfully completed the work-based learning (WBL) programme with the support of the Azerbaijan Chefs Guild. The Dual Vocational Education Programme is supported by the “VET for the Future” project funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme together with the State Agency on Vocational Education.

Before getting to know Ibrahim better, let’s clarify what the Dual Education Programme is.

The Dual Education Programme is an educational approach enabling students to master practical skills in leading companies in parallel with the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in vocational educational (VE) institutions during the academic year. As part of the programme, students learn theoretical knowledge in VE institutions during the first one month. Starting from the 2nd month, they acquire theoretical knowledge in VE institutions for 2 days of the week, and for the rest 3 days of the week, they are getting practical skills in the workplace.

Ibrahim while chopping greens

After Ibrahim decided to become a chef, he applied to the Baku State Vocational Education Center for Culture and Crafts and received admission for the dual programme.

Ibrahim together with his teachers during preps time

Sabina Maharramova (first person in the right corner of the photo), Ibrahim’s teacher at the vocational education center, says: “Ibrahim has been very goal-oriented since day one. He was really determined to become a professional chef and tried to learn from everyone. He constantly put efforts and consulted with professionals to improve his work. Today’s great result is primarily Ibrahim’s, also everyone’s success. We are also very happy to see the outcome of our work. I must mention that Ibrahim took his first steps in his profession at our center, but he became more competent after he got acquainted with the professional chef Ilkin Akbarzadeh and receiving his support.”

Famous chef Ilkin Hanifa Akbarzade

During the academic year of 2022, Ibrahim joined the Dual Education Programme and for around 9 months, he learnt the cooking secrets from the chairman of the Baku Culinary Association and Azerbaijan Chefs Guild Ilkin Akbarzada in one of the famous city restaurants. Ibrahim’s mentor Ilkin Hanifa notes, “Ibrahim mastered new knowledge and skills very enthusiastically and quickly. He has met our expectations with his responsibility and professional approach to work and made the best showing. As a result, İbrahim has already been officially employed at the place of his internship.”

“As the Guild of Chefs, we always try to support youth and collaborate with various vocational training centers and projects. Ibrahim is among the successful results we have achieved together with the #VET4theFuture project,” he adds.

The chef with his students

Ibrahim makes his dream of becoming a chef come true through dual vocational education and spend the non-school hours to improve his professional skills. Ibrahim stresses that he acquired new friends and additional skills at work. These changes inspire him to turn new dreams and aspirations into reality. In the future, he sees himself as a professional chef working in different countries.

As it seems, unlike traditional vocational education, in the Dual Education Programme, students can apply theoretical knowledge at the private enterprises in real working conditions and become a professional. This process continues throughout their academic year. During work-based learning period, students have an opportunity to better introduce themselves to employers, and as a result, many students receive job offers at the end of their studies.

Ibrahim while watching the flock

Ultimately, all these actions in modernization of vocational education directly contribute to Azerbaijan’s achievement of several sustainable development goals, such as quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), as well as reducing inequalities (SDG 10).

Ibrahim while demonstrating his works

The dual education approach creates new opportunities for not only students’ future employment but also for vocational education centers and private companies. This mechanism allows employers to train their future employees at lower costs and in a shorter time and enables VET centers to customise their curriculums according to the market requirements.

In general, dual education helps to save time and resources for the training of qualified and competent VET staff and contributes to overall employment growth. By involving key employers to the vocational education process, the dual programme leads to innovative collaborations, and eventually supports the economy while promoting more agile and modern work principles.

Currently, the “VET for the Future” project collaborates with numerous private enterprises located in Baku, Ganja, Jalilabad, Lankaran, and Shaki. As part of this collaboration, 573 students (40% women, 60% men) studied in various professions such as tourism, retail, transport, furniture manufacture, and media. In total, over 70% of the graduates have been officially offered jobs.

Thanks to the project efforts, 32 companies were involved to this programme during the last two academic years. 41 mentors from 8 vocational education institutions and 126 from the private sector joined forces for training of students in 24 different vocations. The programme covered 5 cities and supported continuous learning & employment opportunities of youth.

If you also want to learn professional skills and find a job in a shorter time, check out the dual vocational education programme and seize its opportunities.

The dual programme is planned to be also continued the next year.

This dual programme is carried out by the “VET for the future: development of VET providers’ excellence in Azerbaijan” project funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP with SAVE. The project aims to support the modernisation of VET providers in Azerbaijan and increase the labour market relevance of vocational education.

Blog by: Leyla Gurbanova, UNDP Project’s Communications and Visibility Specialist