Does Slovenia have adequate job opportunities for foreign educated workers?

Photo: European Commission

Studying abroad has many advantages: one gets to know foreign languages and cultures and the students have the opportunity to select the university they believe will best take care of their needs and prepare them for their future careers. More and more Slovenes are deciding to study abroad either at an undergraduate or postgraduate level, hoping for a good job once they return to Slovenia. But is it really easy for them to find appropriate employment in Slovenia?

Photo: European Commission
Just over three years ago Slovenia was celebrating joining the European Union. Since then young Slovene's have spread out across Europe in large numbers. Their quest was to gain experience and qualifications - and eventually a well paying job. Some stayed away but many are returning to live and work in Slovenia. For those who come back it's not always easy to put their foreign experience to work. For example.. It is more difficult to find a good job with a degree in social sciences than with a degree in natural science or technology. There is one exception - highly skilled Slovenes with a masters or PhD in European studies tend to have no major problems in finding a job. Dragan Barbutovski, who received his Master's degree in European Union Politics in the UK, explains:

"It was, it is, definitely an area where there was a lack of expertise, a lack of experts in this area they wanted also people who have the experience with living abroad, people with first hand experience in the European Union and that is why I think people who study this area would not in general I think find problems finding employment after returning from wherever they studies across Europe."

Dragan's first job was in Brussels but now he works for Slovenia's Foreign Ministry. The main problem is not always finding a job but rather just the recognition of the degree in Slovenia. For some this is the first hurdle after their return. But Dragan things went fairly smoothly however his master's degree is not considered equivalent to a Slovene master's degree:

Photo: European Commission
"In my case it took them three months to recognize this. You get recognition of your original degree not something that is equivalent to a Slovene degree but you have the right to use your degree as you got it abroad."

If the degree is not recognized it means a lesser job and less money. Five years ago the previous government established the Ad Futura - a Science and Education Foundation - to support international mobility of students and researchers from and to Slovenia. But the new government's strategy for the upcoming years focuses on natural sciences and in this field Ad Futura grants the majority of scholarships, Darinka Trcek:

"The topic of the scholarship the majority of the natural science and technology is the area where Slovenia experiences deficitary employment, meaning that there are places available, so we hope our students do not have problems in employing and the majority actually gets employed within a few months after returning."

However not all those who return get a job. A number of people I spoke to who had studied abroad said it is an open secret that at universities 'outsiders' who studied at some of the best universities worldwide are not welcome and that universities tend to promote and protect their own people. They say that professors strictly guard their own positions. But some of those who have succeeded believe that the situation in universities will also slowly improve.

"We also have additional programmes for Slovene scientists who already work abroad, meaning we offer them a scholarship for three to twelve months of scientific, research or pedagogical cooperation at a Slovene higher education institution with the wish that they would return to Slovenia, re-establish their contacts eventually maybe stay here or if not to use the contact they have established during this time to continue networking in the future."

A number of people I contacted did not want to speak "on the record" but they told me they, or somebody they know, encountered their first problems during the process of of getting recognition for their degree obtained at a foreign university. And it took them quite a while to find a job. In some cases they are still searching.