“Hey, the Žiri region is our home, in a beautiful valley at the end of the world ...”
The mayor of the municipality of Žiri, Janez Žakelj, MSc, used these beginning verses of the Žiri municipal anthem as the starting point for a brief presentation of the town where shoemaking and bobbin lace making have a long tradition, where ‘intergenerational learning’ has always been present, long before we came up with this educated name for it. Recently the situation in the municipality – beside the preservation of the company Alpina – is improving, it is gaining strength through new investors and new businesses. The unemployment rate here is among the lowest in Slovenia. Agriculture is also very important, since complementary activities represent an additional source of joy, income and lifelong learning needs.
The Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Slovenia 2014–2020 offers aid to the development of the competences of adults in rural areas on a national level. It allows the organization and implementation of knowledge transfer and many demonstrations, both of which concern the technological, economic as well as environmental challenges. “The key was the survey which was conducted among the target groups, especially young farmers, who revealed horizontal, general needs and vertical needs, which differ by sector,” Tadeja Primožič, PhD, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food told us. The constant monitoring and figuring out the actual needs of the rural population and constantly designing new knowledge transfer content are the biggest challenges. But not to make it seem too idyllic, it must be said, that we are also facing a noticeable lack of interest of people for learning. Only when they recognize that our programme does not only mean to obtain digital, language and other skills, but also to make new and better relations, to acquire a better understanding among generations, an improved communication, etc., things start moving forward.
The Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry is an important promoter and provider of different trainings, thematic classes, debates as well as NVQ training and tests, excursions and other activities. “The element of progress is the strengthening of the endogenous potential of people and nature,” emphasized their representative Miran Naglič, MA. For him the greatest source of power are well-informed and qualified people who are interested in action – which must be mutually agreed upon and coordinated. Therefore the work of their consultants, which also help to obtain the EU and national funds, is crucial, but there is also a lot of animation work to be done. The promotion of competence development is free, but the training to obtain the licences and some other kinds of support are not.
And how is the population of rural areas elsewhere in Slovenia being looked after? We have listened to the presentations from Vitra from Cerknica, the Soča Valley Development Centre (PRC) and the Kočevje Adult Education Centre.
Peaking across the border and learning for entering the labour market
This is how Vitra named their efforts within the programmes Leonardo da Vinci and Erasmus+, which allowed the exchange of knowledge and opinions between the Slovenians and Scots in the field of tourism, energy and waste management and farming. For the participants these practical tours abroad and the integration of organizations and persons, which in many cases have grown into permanent friendships, were free. The only condition was an active mindset of the participants, which in some cases led to new jobs and many innovative approaches in practice. Creating green job positions on farms, energy self-sufficiency, growing herbs, etc. – on the excursions home and abroad, which are under the auspices of Vitra, many new and inspiring stories about opportunities, but also problems, arose. The stories teach us that taking a peak across the border is always beneficial for both sides and that these forms of mutual improvement of skills do not require a lot of money – an open heart and mind is all that is needed!
Group learning has formed a special relationship between the co-workers
Since last year, PRC has been implementing the European Social Fund (ESF) project, Acquisition of basic and vocational skills in the Soča Valley. According to the project PRC together with its partners – the Nova Gorica Adult Education Centre and the Nova Gorica School Centre (its Intercompany Educational Centre) – has enrolled employed people with low levels of these skills and who are over 45 years old into different training programmes. Damijana Kravanja, MSc, shared with us the story of the workers from TIK Kobarid, which were included in the programme Vocational training for success in life – An active lifestyle through learning. It’s a 120-hour programme for businesses, which brings competence in the field of health, sustainable development, communications, learning to learn, digital literacy, financial literacy, personal management, foreign language communication and interpersonal skills. To achieve these positive changes, which have enriched the ten workers, but had an impact on the whole TIK Kobarid staff, many obstacles had to be overcome. These usually concern the mentality of the individual as well as of the company. In TIK Kobarid the synergy between employees and management will also continue to be strengthened in the future. Even though the training is completed, the training activities were well-received and will be implemented for team-building purposes of employees in production. As you may know, the statistics show that companies very rarely send their employees from production to receive additional education and training – the latter is usually meant for the well-educated and well-situated.
Old life skills should be passed on
The conversation between Majda Valda, who works at the Kočevje AEC, and Alojzij Vidic, a botanist and local activist, who loves nature, about the revival of village centres in the Kočevje region was calm and inspiring at the same time. There they also pass knowledge to each other and they also organize workshops in fire stations and village homes. The key is to recognize what the real needs are and the right moment, to motivate people to learn and then to maintain their learning stamina with constant new and useful content. “Everyone has their own motives to participate, but they all benefit from the healing power of nature, which in this environment is especially generous and relieves many ailments,” said Alojzij. Their ancestors were well aware of this, but in the meantime their knowledge got lost somehow. The stories (and faces) of Kočevje are surfacing again with the help of new people and projects, like the Multigenerational Centre, and this is how it should be.
Some more conclusions
You can find more information on EAAL PAS events focused on various existing activities for promoting the development of basic skills and key competences of adults, and for presentation of achievements and definition of opportunities and challenges at this page.
You are kindly invited to read about our past events:
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MA (firstname.lastname@example.org) (link sends e-mail), Slovenian Institute for Adult Education
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik works at the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the field of promotional and information activities. She is the national coordinator for the implementation of the European Agenda on Adult Learning. She is interested in effective promotional approaches and promotion of cooperation and connecting of stakeholders in adult education.