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Vocational education and training: Is there a career for me?

For young people in Europe, vocational education and training (VET) is not just an alternative to university – it’s a great first choice. VET programmes give you practical skills that are directly related to work and offer a potential fast-track route into a professional career. What’s not to like?

When you hear the phrase VET, you may well think of a select few “traditional” vocations. Construction workers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers and painters and decorators are all examples of jobs commonly associated with VET, and these careers – while great options – are not suited to everyone.

The truth is, VET is a much broader concept, with a wide range of potential careers. In this article, we discuss some of the careers that you could pursue through VET.


Traditional VET careers

Vocational careers date right back to ancient times, when early farmers, cooks, builders, carpenters and plumbers were already perfecting and passing on their skills. Other traditional vocations with a long history include butchers, bakers, nurses, care workers, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, hairdressers, florists and foresters.

Despite industrialisation and mass production, most of these careers have stood the test of time and remain widespread in the EU today.


Modern VET careers

The industrial revolution and early technological developments gave rise to many new vocations, particularly in manufacturing, engineering, medicine and information technology. These industries can all be accessed through VET and have become popular choices for trainees, particularly as they offer some of the best-paid roles.

While many VET careers have traditionally been either workshop, factory or lab-based, nowadays there are also various office-based programmes available. If you’re interested in becoming an accountant, lawyer, estate agent, sales worker, graphic designer or software developer – to name just a few examples – there’s most likely a VET programme for you.

Many opportunities are also available in the retail and hospitality sectors, where VET can lead to a career as a store manager, hotel manager, chef, travel agent or event planner.


The VET careers of the future

Indeed, as the world of work is changing, so too is the nature of VET. In the digital and global age, many jobs are emerging – especially in high-tech industries – that did not exist half a century ago.

Research suggests that as a young person in the 21st century, you should even consider preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet.

It’s thought that if technology develops as expected, there will soon be trainee self-driving car mechanics, space travel agents and even robot counsellors. Could you see yourself in one of these roles? If so, a VET course could be your first step!


So, which career is for me?

With a whole host of exciting possibilities in different fields, it’s more than likely that there’s a VET career for you, and if you already have your heart set on a particular career, VET could be the obvious choice.

However, it’s worth remembering that VET does not restrict you to a specific job. Modern courses tend to focus on transferable skills that can be applied to different roles, so you’ll be able to keep plenty of options open.

If you’re looking for more information about apprenticeship opportunities, Cedefop – the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training – has a useful database where you can find information about schemes in your country and across Europe.

The European Commission hosted its third annual European Vocational Skills Week 2018 on 5-9 November in Vienna, and there are wider events and activities taking place until the end of December in the framework of Skills Week. Find out more here.


Related links:

Preparing for the jobs of the future

Cedefop – European database on apprenticeship schemes

European Vocational Skills Week 2018


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