Hamdi Bushati School: The Art of Turnaround

Hamdi Bushati School: The Art of Turnaround

“Hamdi Bushati” School in Shkodra partnered with S4J in late 2017. The school’s reputation was suffering. In the AY2017-2018, 144 students enrolled in the 3 study directions the school offered. For the last 6 years beforehand, the school offered a total of 4 profiles in the 3 study directions. Collaboration with companies was nonexistent. Practical learning took place in the school labs. What follows is a summary of the transformative processes the school went through over 5 academic years.

Bringing Business to School and School to Business
Following the model established by S4J, one-to-one partnerships were concluded through the signing of MoUs with 34 companies in the first year of project support. Amid many internal conflicts, the school staff had, three teachers volunteered to place students in work-based learning. In June 2022, 217 companies have signed an MoU with ‘Hamdi Bushati’ School, out of which 163 were hosting (during the AY 2021-2022) a total of 443 students. That accounts for 60% of the student population engaged in apprenticeships. For the AY2022-2023, the school started the placement processes in week 2, to reach the target it has set for itself this year: +70% of the students in apprenticeships. The participation of industry experts in teaching classes, guest lecturing, exam assessment, projects (local, national, regional, and international), and workshops have now become the NORM. The chairperson of the Management Board Mr. Gjergj Leqejza is a role model of leadership and steering that promises to take the school to the next level with the new Strategy the school is starting to design.

“Perception is Everything”
People in Shkodra live by this saying 🙂 The school management was very persistent with requests to the project to remodel the school. Committed to partnering with companies for the practical learning part, the school staff insisted that investments in the school focus more on creating an inviting interior that helps to create a sense of pride and/for belonging, among students. Following modest investments in the interior spaces, the school staff and students started an ‘aggressive’ promotion campaign building on the principle: we don’t beg for media attention if we become the (good) news. Events – most often hosted by third parties – featuring companies, learners, parents, and school staff succeeded to bring the school to the attention of many people in the city. In the AY2018-2019 enrolments went up by 95%. As
enrolments shrank lately in the initial VET (218 new enrolments in the AY 2022-2023) the school is investing itself to activate AQF Level 5 programs as it awaits to be assigned MFC status by MoFE. This shall help it to stay relevant to the local companies desperately in need to be supplied with qualified workers. Hopefully, KFW’s RCF will bring good news in the last round of assessment so the school can start in the upcoming academic year the profile ‘Managers for Tourism and Hospitality Services’.

Diversifying the Offer to Remain Relevant
As more students enrolled the school could activate more profiles (professions) in the directions it was offering. Based on tracer data and inputs from companies the school decided to stop offering some profiles and started offering some others. This brought many internal challenges as lots of work was needed to extend the (new) offer. Starting from AY 2018-2019 the school extended its offer with one new program, peaking in the AY2021-2022 with 8 profiles active. This created better opportunities for students to choose based on their preferences which profession to specialize in. Offering new programs required to approach companies from new sectors (i.e. retail, insurance, fashion design) and adapt the models of apprenticeships. In addition, lots of work was invested in training the teachers, developing teaching materials, developing and/or identifying as well as promoting good practices. Now the school is preparing to embrace a new challenge in the upcoming academic year. AQF Level 5 programmes are coming next.

Working Out the Labour Market
Nearly 3 in 4 graduates (73%, Cohort of Graduates 2021) are working one year after graduation, up by 25 p.p from the baseline (48%). The most encouraging news is related to the level of income for graduates. The share of working graduates earning NET 35,001 ALL a month increased by nearly 5 times from 14% (C2017) to 68% (C2021). The share of those earning the top salaries (NET 50,001 ALL a month) grew by over 5 times from 7% (C2017) to 39% C2021).

A New Manager is Further Steering the Transformation Process
Companies in Shkodra Region have found a reliable partner in ‘Hamdi Bushati’. They are speaking clearly as they host more apprentices, and pay the graduates ever higher salaries. One can expect that such good news travels safely to reach parents and youngsters who will have to take a decision about the career path of youngsters in the coming years. The school has had a new manager since AY 200-2021. After an initial assessment, she has sustained all initiatives promoted by S4J and worked closely with the Management Board Chairperson and the staff to steer the ongoing transformation processes. ’Hamdi Bushati’ management and staff feel comfortable being open and transparent to its stakeholders when reflecting on progress and defining the way forward. This shall help it strive as it designs the new
strategy for the 4 years to come. This is a working model that hopefully with inspires other VE providers to commit to a transformative process.

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