About UniLab

A project that puts the students in the centre

Preparing students to meet the employers' needs

The landscape of enterprise–university collaboration nowadays consists of a large number of diverse areas of cooperation such as applied research, joint education and professional development programmes or degrees, science parks, apprenticeships for the students etc.

Universities are the main providers of highly qualified staff to satisfy all areas of economy, whereas enterprises are the major beneficiaries of the knowledge and expertise attained by university students and graduates, being the main customer and beneficiary of trained personnel, as well as accumulator of intellectual capital of knowledge economy in general.

enterprise University Collaboration

The impact of enterprise-university collaboration on the national economies cannot be underestimated – the quality of individuals and society in general depends on job satisfaction and payment level which are to a great degree rooted in the competences acquired by the student at university. Thus, the more efficient the cooperation is between academia and business, the more successful and satisfied the community is. The social significance of the university-enterprise cooperation is immense.

UniLab will focus on the refinement of work-based practices for current students and work placements for fresh graduated, developing strategies to ensure the development of students’ employability, the promotion of entrepreneurial skills in the context of the universities’ missions, and the elaboration of extracurricular opportunities for entrepreneurial activities in collaboration with regional trade Chambers and enterprises.

The more common problems identified by partners are:

  • the Career Centres are not always involved in the practical placement procedures;
  • there is poor practical placement guidance;
  • students have uncertain perspectives of employment;
  • HEIs need to diversify the portfolio of students’ career support services;
  • HEIs need to enrich the curriculum with the relevant professional competencies identified by companies’ as their priorities;
  • agreements on university-business cooperation need to be improved;
  • students have little information on the employers and little practical training;
  • lack of international models of practical placements;

UniLab aims to contribute to the modernisation of the higher education sector within society at large in the Partner countries outside the EU-zone by converging with four European partners and developing tools that allow enhancing collaboration between enterprises and HEIs towards the increase of graduates’ employability.

The consortium members are committed to develop an efficient model of cooperation between universities and enterprises, promoting students internship and placement, improving occupational guidance and extra-curriculum training programmes. The project is also meant to launch a constituent dialogue between academia and enterprise, drafting models and incentives to reach the governmental bodies. The project involves all the main actors concerned: universities, enterprises, governmental bodies and other stakeholders, including professional associations, NGOs, students, etc.

You can read more details about UniLab regarding its peer learning approaches, the development of resources, the students’ portal and the international network of career centres model. following these links.

The UniLab partner countries and universities

The current state of labour market and higher education integration in Azerbaijan

A well-balanced labour market is one of the conditions for the successful functioning and progressive development of any national economy. The discrepancy between demand for labor and its supply has various negative consequences: high levels of unemployment, especially among the young population, and an increase in the scale of the shadow economy. At the same time, there is a shortage of workers in certain sectors, which stymies the production activities of enterprises.

An analysis of the labour market in Azerbaijan suggests that there is a significant discrepancy between the quantity and quality of the labor force and the real needs of the economy. The measures taken by the government to regulate the market have mostly been superficial: for example, by making it more profitable for employers to retain excess labor, thereby contributing to the spread of inefficient employment. Promisingly, the interaction between employers and Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutes in Azerbaijan has intensified recently. This has involved holding joint scientific and practical conferences and seminars, attracting employers to conduct lectures and seminars, creating joint innovation centres and basic education departments, and much more.

However, these initiatives have not gone far enough to address the discrepancy between labour demand and supply. Employers have found that students’ professional training programmes lack practical components and that the education system is excessively academic. In addition, programmes developed by academic disciplines do not meet the real requirements of modern industries, and there is a lack of external quality assessment mechanisms for educational programs. Increased financial and educational resources are also required to improve the quality of professional training.

Developing professional education that responds to the demands of the labour market, and that boosts employment among the youth of Azerbaijan, requires state mechanisms which regulate the interaction between the labour market and the educational services market. The interaction of these sectors is influenced by several factors: migration processes, the demographic situation, state and public regulation, the structure of the economy, state employment policy, etc. To regulate the interaction between the labour market and educational services, the state must balance the private and public interests of all stakeholders, whilst also ensuring that the management of the interaction between employers and VET institutes is decentralized.

The UniLab project specifically focuses on enhancing students’ employability, contributing to the smooth integration of students into the job market, and creating opportunities for them to gain work experience during their studies.

UniLab activities at Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University & Khazar University

As a non-EU partners of the project, Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (ASOIU) and Khazar University work on the cooperation between universities and enterprises. The universities have organized several events, career fairs, and workshops to bring together students and companies for networking, knowledge exchange and collaboration. Within the framework of the project, training, informative sessions, boot camps, etc. are organised for students to improve their entrepreneurship, CV writing, interviewing and other employability related skills. At both universities’ career centres, a new emphasis has been placed on establishing regular and continuous communication with companies in order to understand their needs and link them with students’ skills.

The Career Centres also works to help students secure internships byorganizing career-related events. Another important activity carried out by the career centres are their regular Career Fairs. These aim to raise awareness of the project within the universities, and to involve more stakeholders in the university-industry collaboration. The fairs also create opportunities for students to meet directly with company representatives and learn about their recruitment principles, as well as to participate in job, internships and volunteer programs. In order to secure the sustainability of the UniLab project, both ASOIU and Khazar University are working to improve their relations with partner universities to create opportunities for students for international internships and dual degree programs.

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