/epale/en/file/epale-november-summary-vetEPALE November Summary VET
EPALE Thematic Coordinator, Gina Ebner, looks back at our thematic focus for November and some of the articles that were published on the topic of VET.
Vocational education and training (VET) are crucial for the future of Europe, so November 2017 – in which we also celebrated European Vocational Skills Week – was dedicated to this topic.
VET’s wavering reputation across the EU
VET is of course a concept that covers an enormous number of sub-topics, areas, levels and approaches. Initial VET has become a focus of the European Commission’s work, but also of many Member States. There are still too many countries where VET is perceived as a second-class educational and career choice, which needs to be changed. In this context, we are also talking about apprenticeships. As an Austrian, I’ve been familiar with this concept all my life (my brother was in fact an apprentice plumber; back home, this information leads to the inevitable comment that at least someone in my family learned something useful). There are now also many initiatives to introduce apprenticeships for adults. In addition, we are also talking about labour market trainings for unemployed people, non-formal professionally-oriented courses, reskilling, professional development and so on.
We could add to the mix the fact that the relationship between general and vocational adult education varies enormously between countries – in some, these two strands are perceived as different, which can also mean that funding and administration are in different ministries and agencies. In other countries, adult learning is seen as a combination of all forms.
The articles in November therefore reflected this diversity very well:
Highly qualified trainers and teachers are of course indispensable, and therefore the European Commission’s Working Group on VET has focused on this issue. Andrew McCoshan highlighted the four areas where the Working Group thinks action is needed:
- being clear about the roles of teachers and trainers (with a specific attention to in-company trainers);
- strengthening professional development (a task for everyone involved);
- equipping teachers and trainers for key challenges (whether it’s the shift to learner-centred approaches, learning outcomes or digitalisation, they need to be able to support their students);
- collaboration (teachers’ methodology but also involvement in the [policy] developments of their work).
Raffaela Kihrer from EAEA took the EPALE readers on a virtual tour all the way in Koda, Georgia, to learn more about the role of adult education centres. The feedback and interviews at the centre demonstrated again the crucial role that adult education and VET can play for people.
Adult education centres in Georgia offer ‘adult learning packages’. These include courses from both non-formal adult education and vocational education and training. One of the main objectives of integrating non-formal adult education and VET courses is to promote entrepreneurship. This approach has already borne fruit: new businesses and employment opportunities have sprung up in the regions where adult education centres are located.
Simon Broek reported from an event that tackled quite a specific but very important area of VET: EQF level 5 qualifications. These qualifications provide transition pathways from school to work, from VET to higher education, from work back to school. At the CHAIN 5 meeting, Simon learned how level 5 qualifications can help transitions – they can provide reskilling into other job profiles but also serve as a basis for upskilling. Especially when level 5 qualifications take into account work-based learning in its many forms, depending on the situation now and in the near future, learning can be best aligned with adults’ needs and specific situation.
Finally, there was a presentation and analysis of VET on the policy level. Markus Palmén started at the EU level, by explaining that ET 2020 is the basis for all education and training policies, but the more recent developments in the Upskilling Pathways and the European Pillar of Social Rights also have an important role to play. His conclusion was that well-designed national VET policies have far-reaching positive social effects, and flaws in any national VET system are a setback for European social and educational priorities as a whole. Therefore, VET policy design should rely on the insights of a wide range of societal stakeholders. As with any type of education, the stakes are high.
He then went on to highlight the upcoming VET reform in Finland, which will come into force in 2018. The main objective of the reform is to personalise VET and strengthen its links with the labour market. This will be done, among other things, through increasing in-company training, offering more personalised guidance (e.g. guiding more advanced students into apprenticeships instead of institutional learning) and making qualifications more competence-based.
Gina Ebner is the Secretary-General of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and also EPALE's Thematic Coordinator for Learner Support.