On 15 October the Oodi Library in Helsinki hosted a Citizens' Dialogue (Youth Exchange) with Director General Joost Korte. The event was organised in the context of the European Vocational Skills Week 2019, one of the flagship initiatives of DG EMPL aiming at improving the image and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET).
The lively discussion with a room full of young people (mostly apprentices and VET learners) touched upon a wide range of issues such as quality and inclusion of apprenticeships, as well as representation and mobility of apprentices. The stage partners (co-moderators of the discussion) were two members of the European Apprentices Network: Leonardo Miodrag and Bicca Olin.
In his opening remarks, DG Korte stressed how important young people are to the European project and more specifically, to the European Vocational Skills Week. Investing in people, broadly, is one of the key priorities of the Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen.
He invited the audience to familiarise themselves with the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) and understand how the EU would like to see our European societies develop through the action of Member States. He said that there should be an action plan to implement the Pillar in the Member States.
The European Skills Agenda should also be modernised. The proposed revision of the Youth Guarantee is another concrete example of what the Commission will be doing to address the economic and societal challenges. He also emphasised the need for cooperation with the European social partners.
He finally referred to the funding opportunities from the European Social Fund and the Erasmus+ Programme for the current and the future programming periods. Korte concluded that empowering young people to speak up for their interests, be it on climate change or on other issues, is very important.
In this context he praised the work of the European Apprentices Network (EAN) which has grown over the last years into a reliable partner for the European Commission in relation to apprenticeships and VET more broadly.
The dialogue was then opened covering four main topics: quality, inclusion, mobility and representation of apprentices.
E-voting was used for the discussion with the audience (Mentimeter). For each of the four topics participants were asked to share their thoughts through their participation in the online space (in a wordcloud). After that, participants were asked to vote on their preferred option (out of 2) on the future of VET and apprenticeships. Key results are included below.
Participants wanted to know more about the representation of apprentices in the decision-making processes. They asked about the missing links at national level to establish well-functioning national representation structures which would also allow making the representation of apprentices at EU level more powerful.
As regards mobility, some participants criticised the insufficient preparation by receiving companies (e.g. provision of technical equipment), the lack of advance payments and the insufficient amount of the grant allocated.