In the period between 14th and 21st May 2011, a study visit to Finland was organised for the members of the Operating Structure, more specifically, for participants from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP), participants from the Central Financial and Contracting Department (CFCD) within the Ministry of Finance and from the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) as part of the IPA Twinning project “EU support for the preparation of the country to manage the European Social Fund through implementation of the Human Resources Development component of IPA instrument MK 07 IB SO 01”. The study visit consisted of two parts, of which the first took part in Helsinki and the second part in Mikkeli, a small town in the north-east of Finland where the programme continued.
The programme of the study visit was tailored to cover various aspects relevant to the daily tasks of the staff of the Operating Structure, and it was further linked closely to the future challenges they would face in the management of European Structural Funds. Representatives of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in Helsinki elaborated on aspects of project management, monitoring and audit activities through which participants got new ideas related to programming. Furthermore, presentations were given on preparation of a communication plan, organization of publicity events and increase of visibility of EU funded projects.
After the second day in Helsinki, the group headed for Mikkeli, a town located in a beautiful part in the north-east of the country, an area called ‘The Land of Thousand Lakes’ (http://www.saimaancharmantit.fi/video/en/). The programme conducted in Mikkeli provided the participants with an up-close opportunity to witness the management of the European Social Fund and the manner of addressing both regional and national priorities, among which the decrease of unemployment. A variety of projects financed by ESF were presented in order for the participants to get an idea of the immense scope of ESF and the variety of services it could support, with a main focus on services offered to the unemployed. This was of particular importance as the European funds in the Republic of Macedonia are and will be used to target one of the greatest challenges this country faces with, the unemployment. For instance, ESF was used to promote entrepreneurship for young unemployed people and helped them make a business start-up. A visit was organised to a place called Kenkävero which serves as a hub for young artists, offering working and space to exhibit, a place where they could sell their products and art works, and where they could meet potential clients. The programme also had a strong educational aspect through the conducted visits of vocational education institutions where presentations were given on the manner of training students, the link between education and practice and most importantly how education follows the labour market needs. All of the projects presented in the vocational schools were supported by ESF.
When the programme in Mikkeli finished, the participants went back to Helsinki for a wrap up session and programme evaluation. On Saturday, the study group flew back to Skopje, stirring up new ideas in their minds and carrying the impressions from the study visit.