As Europe gets to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic and the tragedy of the war in Ukraine, a Romanian educational institution is producing hundreds of skilled front-line workers to nurse the region back to health. In fact, at a time when European healthcare systems are looking for "heroes", FEG (Fundatia Ecologica Green) could be described as a "hero factory".
One of those heroes is Madalina Bejusca, a third-year nursing student at FEG.
“To me, being a nurse is far more than a job or even a profession,” says Madalina. “It’s an adventure, a never-ending learning process that I’ll fearlessly take on each day.”
Madalina’s “adventure” saw her play a front-line role during the pandemic. It was a challenge she relished.
“Everyone, especially the health care workers and patients, has had a rough time during the last two years,” says Madalina. “Despite the fact that everyone at the hospital was terrified of the virus, they worked long hours every day and strove to preserve lives. I learnt what it means to be a nurse and what a true hero looks like over the course of 14 months. Not all heroes wear capes, some wear white coats.”
Romania’s talent drain
But it’s not just the double-edged sword of the pandemic and ongoing humanitarian crisis that’s placing a strain on Romania’s healthcare system. In recent years, a labour shortage has emerged in Romania, affecting many sectors, including health.
This problem was first identified several years ago by trade unions in the public sector, who noticed a massive outflow of health professionals, initially of doctors and latterly medium-skilled health workers, including nurses.
The low wages that once attracted investment to Romania have turned into a disadvantage with skilled labour leaving the country, resulting in upwards of 81% of employers saying they have difficulty filling vacancies. As a result, it has been estimated that Romania has lost human capital of between four and five million working people over the last decade.
The Romanian employment market faces two challenges in the post-pandemic era. First, the country needs to continue along the path of steady economic growth to ensure workers have the pay and conditions to persuade them to stay. Secondly, it needs to ensure the emerging workforce is equipped with the skills that employers need. During her time at FEG, Madalina was herself able to enjoy the experience of working and studying abroad through an EU Erasmus+ project.
“I had the opportunity of being chosen to participate in the Exchange of good practices for excellence (ExPrax) project in November 2021, when we spent a week in Portugal alongside nurse students from four other European countries,” says Madalina. “It was an incredible experience; I learnt so much, particularly about communicating with patients and what it's like to work as a nurse in other countries.”
Despite this experience, Madalina believes her future is in her home country.
“I wish to stay in Romania after graduation and work here since I believe there are many wonderful opportunities for me here,” says Madalina.
How Vocational Education and Training (VET) will revitalise the Romanian job market
FEG is located in Iasi, Romania, and runs a network of 16 post-secondary technical schools and training centres for adult education.
The Foundation helps its 830+ students train for a wide range of careers in accountancy, banking, beauty, customs clearance, and interior design. However, according to Irina Stanciu, FEG's European Programmes Director, its most prolific output is in the field of healthcare.
“More than 600 of our students are trained to become nurses in different fields,” says Irina. “The nursing division school runs in 3 locations, one of them containing demonstration rooms, and fully equipped labs.”
Irina explains that the quality of training at FEG, combined with its facilities and extracurricular activities, has made the school the strongest private alternative to public education in the region. FEG focuses on providing all the hands-on, digital, and soft skills required to succeed in the modern workplace.
FEG’s participation in European Vocational Skills Week
The school has been a member of the European Forum for Vocational Education and Training (EFVET) since 2004 and, in 2019, became a member of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA).
As part of its commitment to VET, FEG has been involved with European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) since 2016, organising local activities and participating in the international events held on this occasion.
"The local events aim to increase the visibility and improve the image of VET," says Irina. "The events included a lot of different organisations such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, the National Custom Services, construction businesses, IT companies, international recruitment companies in the healthcare field, the Anti-drug Authority, an elderly centre, and many other local partners."
At the last EVSW held in 2020, “we had more than 500 people involved, and the atmosphere was incredible," says Irina. "To celebrate FEG's involvement with EVSW, the institution has created a website featuring details about each year’s activities and a series of short movies.”
FEG is planning a series of events for EVSW's return in 2022. Following the cancellation of events in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, EVSW will take place across Europe from 16 to 20 May 2022.
FEG has also participated in more than 45 EU projects, including 32 mobility projects creating opportunities for students and teachers to travel and study across the various EU member states. FEG held the Erasmus+ VET Mobility Charter between 2015 and 2020 and, in 2021, was awarded the Erasmus+ Accreditation in the VET field.
Find out more
To learn more about how FEG helps young people and adults discover their potential and create new opportunities through VET, visit the institute's profile on the European Commission’s website.
This article has been published in Romania by Vita Medicala, Telem.ro and PRwave