EdUP Stories: How the Project Contributes to Breaking Stereotypes

Initial vocational education and training
Mr. Maksym Podzhary, 35, is probably the youngest principal of a vocational school in Ukraine. For the past five years, he has been the head of the Chernihiv Vocational Lyceum of Railway Transport, where he made his way from a student and later a master to the director of the institution.

In the EdUP Project, Maksym was the head of the Supervisory Board (2021-22) and remains an active participant in all Project activities. Here’s his story.

“The project helped to improve the image of the profession”

The specificity of the entire region and the city of Chernihiv, in particular, is the lack of big companies which could serve as powerful employers and our cooperation targets. Here plumbers are either self-employed or join crews hired by construction companies to perform certain jobs.

Therefore, the key indicator for our school is not the establishment of ties with a powerful enterprise, but rather the quality of training. This is a priority for us. Accordingly, to teach a plumber, we need efficient equipment and a modern workshop.

This is where the Project helped us a lot. Our plumbing workshop is a point of pride for the Lyceum. Moreover, I was part of the working group that developed the concept and model project of the workshop. In this way, we managed to create a quality educational environment.

For a long time, plumbing work was considered dirty and associated with sewage. No one wanted to learn to be a plumber, because it was believed that this money smelled bad. The task before us was to break this stereotype. After all, we are talking not only about maintenance but also about the installation of modern technologies and devices. These are warm floors, and shower cabins - this is a much broader and more interesting profession.

“As a second-year student, I installed a shower cabin for a neighbor for UAH 2,000"

Gradually the stereotype changed. At first, students simply enrolled in this profession without realizing where they were going. And then one of them comes and tells that in the second year he installed a shower cabin for a neighbor for 2 thousand hryvnias (approx. 54 CHF - ed.) which is quite a normal price. And this is thanks to the knowledge he received in this school.

Such stories motivate students to treat education more responsibly and use it not as an opportunity to get some additional paper, but as a possibility for personal development and employment.

Thanks to the Project, students in the second year can challenge themselves in a professional skills competition and win a valuable prize, for example, a laptop. This is a specific advantage rather than vague prospects for future employment. In this context, the student understands that the prize is attainable and gets additional motivation to study well.

How did we know that our primary goal - to overcome the stereotype - was achieved? This year, as of September 1, we have already completed the enrolment program - 29 students chose the profession of the plumber-electrical gas welder. Moreover, 100% of the current entrants are from Chernihiv city, while previously 60% of our students were from rural areas and only 40% were urban residents.

The success of enrollment is also facilitated by the fact that the labor market also dictates its conditions. If there are not enough plumbers, the demand increases. Moreover, parents who order plumbing work and pay the fees know how much this service costs nowadays. And the future recovery of the country will only increase the need for well-trained specialists.

In the future, we want to ensure that the best school graduates choose VET and plumbing professions in particular, and then launch their own companies. And we would cooperate with such employers. We want to teach the best students.

And the Project helps us move towards this goal.

“Systematic treatment of every task”

Personally, the Project helped me as a manager to develop a systematic treatment of every task. We went through a lot of training, namely, on building effective communication with the team. It turned out that learning can be interesting and practical. Afterward, I shared this knowledge with my team. What is important, now we are working on the development of our own business plan and the articulation of our big goal (EdUP business plans development training for VET school managers - ed.).

We are already preparing for the future reconstruction of the country, and very much hope for further support and involvement of the project in the implementation of our big goal. Personally, I hope that the professional development training will continue within the Project. After all, this is the leader who motivates the team, and the development of the educational institution depends on the worldview (strategy) of its manager. When directors master strategic planning (by making mistakes but repeatedly trying), teams follow their lead. Things change for the better and the team becomes a driving force.


The Public-Private Partnership to Improved Plumbing Education (EdUP) is a project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, in partnership with Geberit Trading LLC, implemented by Swisscontact Foundation for Technical Cooperation and supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

2020 - 2023
Initial vocational education and training
Public Private Partnership to Improved Plumbing Education 
The project fosters a decentralized education and vocational training system for plumbers supported by private sector investments enable young people to gain skills tailored to the needs of the market, enter the job market and achieve higher incomes. Unemployment among youth is a major national concern in Ukraine, where about 20% of youth are out...