Women Empowerment Through Vocational Education and Training

Upskilling and Reskilling
Amid Ukraine's ongoing war, training girls in construction VET schools is crucial. This builds economic resilience, empowers women, promotes gender equality, and supports community rebuilding. It is a strategic initiative with far-reaching social and economic benefits.
Odesa Center for Vocational Education, Olena Kryvoruchko (in the center) with her classmates at the Interregional Training and Practical Center for the Preparation of Plumbers and Sanitary Equipment Installers

The High Vocational School of Romny, one of 29 partner schools of the Public Private Partnership to Improved Education in Ukraine (EdUP) project, is situated in a small town in the Sumy region near the Russian border. This academic year, it's experiencing a notable rise in young girls and women enrollment. Specifically, 22 girls have chosen to pursue construction-related professions, including plumbing, tiling, and welding.

"As a child, I loved playing with Lego, and now my profession involves similar skills but much more complex and with greater responsibility," says Daria Dniprovska, who is studying to become an installer of plumbing equipment and a welder. She mentioned that her choice of profession was inspired by her mother, who works as a crane operator.

"I chose construction profession because there is high demand for our expertise in rebuilding what is destroyed as a result of thewar," says Inna Pylypey.

Resilience and Rebuilding

In conflict-affected areas of Ukraine, damage to infrastructure and the draft of men into the army have led to a shortage of skilled labor. Training of girls in construction trades provides them with the necessary skills for reconstruction efforts, crucial for rebuilding communities and restoring essential services. In other words, the war has played a key role in accelerating women’s mass entry into the so-called men’s profession.

As for the employment of girls in construction professions, there are no difficulties either, emphasized Nadia Mishchenko, Vice Principal of High Vocational School of Romny. “Girls in their final year of study already know the places of employment. After all, installers of plumbing equipment, welders, bricklayers, plasterers, and tilers are highly demanded in the job market,” she asserts.

Odesa Center for Vocational Education student Natalia Kristya practices tile cutting skills using power tools and edge finishing techniques in her vocational training class.

Economic Empowerment

Training girls in construction-related VET programs provides valuable skills in demand, empowering them economically to contribute to family income and achieve independence.

The Odesa Center for Vocational Education, another partner institutionof the EdUP project, boasts a large number of girls in construction professions. Out of 40 girls, including 17 first-year students, 16 are specializing in tiling, while 1 is enrolled to become an installer of plumbing equipment.

“Initially I wanted to become a cook, but my mom advised me to choose a construction profession. After the first practical classes in school, conducted by a woman instructor, I became confident in the validity of my choice,” Olena Kryvoruchko, a future installer of plumbing systems and equipment and a plasterer.

Olena and her colleagues say they don't encounter any difficulties being girls in traditionally male professions, and they receive no mocking or teasing from their male classmates.

The High Vocational School of Romny. In the workshop of installers of plumbing equipment.  Students Daria Dniprovska (on the left) and Anastasiia Olefir are installing elements of underfloor heating.

Gender Equality

Encouraging women to pursue traditionally male-dominated professions, like construction, promotes gender equality. It challenges established norms and stereotypes regarding women’s roles, fostering a more inclusive society where women have equal access to opportunities in the workforce.

Women students at the Odesa Vocational Education and Training (VET) school receive support from Vice Principal Svitlana Alexandrova, who herself comes from a vocational education background. Initially, she studied in VET school, later worked as an instructor for seven years, and eventually became vice director of the Odessa Center for Vocational Education. She explains that the prevalence of an increasing number of women and girls in construction professions no longer surprises her.

“With the development of modern technologies, the aspect of physically demanding work has become a thing of the past. For example, with welding pipes, iron has been replaced by polypropylene, leading to corresponding changes in the welding process,” she emphasized.

"There is no derogatory attitude or prejudice regarding the role of a woman leader. Male leaders accept them equally and focus primarily on the results of the work, not gender."
Svitlana Alexandrova, Vice Principal Odesa Vocational Education and Training (VET) school

In her opinion, the war also encourages women to assume leadership in every field, reflecting a broader societal shift towards gender equality and empowerment. 

“There is no derogatory attitude or prejudice regarding the role of a woman leader. Male leaders accept them equally and focus primarily on the results of the work, not gender,” emphasizes Svitlana Alexandrova.

Community Development

Women in construction professions contribute to community development by bringing diverse perspectives and skills, enriching the industry, and fostering innovation. Moreover, their economic empowerment lifts families and communities out of poverty, promoting long-term stability.

Two vocational education institutions in Romny and Odesa are far from being isolated examples in Ukraine. This academic year, 119 female students (5%) in construction professions were enrolled in 29 EdUP partner schools, where they are mastering their skills.  

The project has been mandated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and is co-financed by Geberit Trading LLC and Sika.

Initial vocational education and training
Public Private Partnership to Improved Professional Education in Ukraine
The EdUP project, including its Scale UP initiative, is playing a crucial role in addressing the serious challenges faced by Ukraine's vocational education and training (VET) sector during wartime. The war has destroyed many VET schools and exacerbated a skills shortage that affects several sectors, despite employers' willingness to offer competitive wages and resources. EdUP aims to rebuild and improve vocational schools and break stereotypes about vocational graduates. By decentralising training and aligning it with local economic needs, the project will improve the quality of vocational training, attract additional resources, work with the private sector, and modernise education to equip Ukraine's workforce for today's demands.