Commission seeks to expand and upgrade vocational education and training.
The commission tabled a plan today for bringing more students into vocational education in Europe and improving the quality of the training on offer.
The plan will be discussed by European ministers when they meet with employers and trade unions in December to set a 10-year agenda for vocational education.
The proposals build on the EU’s new strategy for spurring economic growth and boosting employment over the next decade. One of the main goals of ‘’ is to raise education levels to satisfy the demand for new and higher skills.
The EU job market is rapidly changing in response to globalisation, advances in technology, global warming and pressures on resources. But Europe is having a hard time keeping up – partly because many workers lack the expertise.
Nowadays even basic jobs often require considerable knowhow. Yet nearly a third of Europe’s working-age population (25-64) have no or low formal qualifications – significantly more than in the US, Canada, Japan, and South Korea.
European employers have long complained of being unable to find enough qualified workers. Despite the rise in unemployment during the recession, shortages of skilled labour persist. If anything the economic crisis has accentuated the need for skilled workers. Complicating matters, the work force is also under pressure to become more productive to support the rising number of retirees.
Education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou says Europe needs to “transform the image” of vocational education and make it “more relevant to today’s realities.”
The plan outlines ways to ensure people have opportunities to learn at any stage in life and to make it easier for them to gain experience abroad as part of vocational training. It proposes measures to nurture creativity and entrepreneurship and to reach school dropouts, the unemployed, migrant workers and disabled people.
Vocational education stresses knowhow or practical expertise over theoretical knowledge. It appeals to people who prefer to learn a trade or skill rather than pursue an academic education at, for example, a university.
EU countries have different systems of vocational education. Participation rates vary widely but on average participation is higher than in rival economies.