People with disabilities face particularly steep obstacles when trying to pursue a good education and secure a well-paying job.
About 5% of Azerbaijan’s population, or about 560,000 people, are receiving disability benefits as of 2022, according to government statistics.
Vocational education and training (VET) made possible through the European Union-funded project “VET for the future: development of VET providers’ excellence in Azerbaijan” is not just for high school grads entering the workforce for the first time, but also for retirees seeking to upgrade their skills for a better job market. The United Nations Development Programme is responsible for the project’s execution and its €5.6 million budget (UNDP).
In May of 2022, the project introduced training in the emerging IT specialty of (SQL), which facilitates the administration of large databases. Course materials and delivery methods were developed with universal access in mind.
Ramin Binnatov, from the town of Khirdalan, not far from Baku, has limited mobility but still took part in the course. Ramin had worked as a banking consultant and an accountant throughout his life, but in recent years he realised he could also do well in the IT sector and began honing his IT expertise.
I’ve been looking for training opportunities in SQL Developer for a while, so it was great to find out that there’s a course in Baku. All of the country’s major corporations are gradually adopting this strategy for data management, so while it’s still a relatively new IT credential in our country, it’s also a very promising one. Ramin claims that there is a critical shortage of specialists in this area.
According to Ramin, the training is well-organized and well-thought-out; the content is presented logically and from a practical perspective, drawing on the instructors’ extensive experience in the field.
In October, Ramin finished the course and received a passing grade on the final exam. His chance to earn a credential from Microsoft, a global leader in IT, has arrived.
As the first person with a disability in Azerbaijan, Ramin Binnatov stands a good chance of becoming certified by Microsoft in SQL, which could lead to new job opportunities, especially in the information technology departments of large domestic and international corporations and the public sector.
Working in the IT industry appeals to me because I can do so from anywhere in the world and not have to commute. I am mobile in my career; I can do my work from the comfort of my own home or the nearby park. He describes this as a “huge benefit” and “relief” for those who have mobility issues.
Even though Ramin was disabled as a teen from a sports injury, he has continued to be active ever since. After being involved in the Paralympic movement and volunteering at the 2015 European Games, he is now helping to establish an inclusive cooking association in Azerbaijan with a group of like-minded individuals.
The opportunity to learn is one that Ramin never passes up. There is always a chance to better oneself through education, whether it be tertiary, secondary, a long programme or a short course, or even just a conversation with a fascinating person. I don’t want to regret passing up these chances,” he says.
I think that education should continue throughout a person’s life, not end when they turn 19. Only by doing so, he continues, will we be able to maintain our relevance in the workforce and earn the respect of our peers.
Eight vocational schools across Azerbaijan are included in the “Vocational Education and Training (VET) for the Future” EU-funded project. Four of these schools are located in Baku, while the other four are located in Ganja, Jalilabad, and Sheki.
Short-term, fully-funded, inclusive courses typically have 15-20 students total, with 3-5 students chosen from the population of people with disabilities. Three hundred students have signed up for these classes so far.
Some of the skills taught in these all-encompassing, short-term programmes include cooking, baking, tailoring, flower arranging, stained glass art, hair styling, and even social media advertising and computer programming. The VET Centers’ specialists collaborated with major private and public sector employers to determine which specialisations would be most in demand in the labour market.
The project’s goals are multifold: it promotes vocational education, it provides a methodological foundation for training and employment, and it helps teachers, it introduces educational innovations, and it updates the facilities of these Centres. Forty educators were prepped for the inclusion classrooms by receiving special training before the courses were offered to students with special needs.
The Azerbaijani government is running a campaign using the hashtag #SnDpEyGl (‘JoinVET’) to spread the word about available vocational training programmes. By searching for this tag in social media, users will be able to discover relevant content about VET opportunities.