TradPro aims to help modernise education in economically underdeveloped regions of RU & KZ through the creation of new masters programmes in food safety and the production and marketing of traditional food products. The project is motivated by the following considerations:
- High rate of unemployment, notably in rural areas and among youth, and the desire of regional and national governments to increase employment;
- Unmet demand for traditional food products;
- Low level of education in agricultural and food processing sectors;
- Lack of available training in food safety, processing and marketing of traditional food products;
- The training that is available is not adapted to industry needs;
- Desire of regional and national governments to modernise university curricula (through efforts to adopt Bologna process);
- Desire of regional and national governments to improve food safety, health and nutrition (see, e.g., Russia’s doctrine of food security);
- Weak or non-existent relationships and cooperation between higher education and industry professionals;
- The threat to local nomadic-pastoralist culture complexes, and the conviction that promoting their traditional food cultures will help revive and sustain them.
The official unemployment rate in RU is 6.5%. In the partner regions, however, it is significantly higher, reaching 22%. Within RU for instance, these three regions are among the most rural (more than 50% of the population lives in rural areas, compared to 27% in Russia overall). KZ predominantly rural too, has similar statistics.
Since the introduction of privatisation and land reforms in the early 1990s, the agrarian sector has undergone considerable changes, including the concentration of the great majority of livestock in private hands and the breakdown of Soviet-era production and distribution systems and agricultural subsidies. While there is consumer demand for traditional food products of high nutritional value, they are mostly now produced only for family consumption because of the small scale of the producers and their inability to reach economies of scale and get their products to market. This threatens the economic viability of nomadic pastoralism in these regions.
Another issue is that agricultural workers have lower educational levels than in other branches of the economy. According to the RU Federal Bureau of Statistics, in 2008 only 9.1 per cent of all agricultural workers had some university education, while another 17.6 per cent had some vocational training. Agricultural sector educational levels are similarly low in KZ. The low level of education and training in these sectors negatively impacts worker productivity and limits job creation and entrepreneurship in this sector.
Unfortunately, existing programmes (notably) in partner’s universities do not cover all necessary aspects of food production technology, and cannot meet food manufacturers’ needs for specialists with the required expertise, leading to weak, infrequent and ineffective interaction between educational institutions and the agribusiness sector.
Addressing this situation demands reform and modernisation of higher education and the creation of opportunities for continuing education and training. In 2011 RU embarked on the modernisation of higher education in accordance with principles of the Bologna process.