Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Centres of Vocational Excellence

Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) bring together a wide range of local partners, such as providers of vocational education and training, employers, research centres, development agencies, and employment services (among others), to develop "skills ecosystems" that contribute to regional, economic and social development, innovation, and smart specialisation strategies. 

They aim to provide high quality vocational skills, support entrepreneurial activities, diffusion of innovation, and act as knowledge and innovation hubs for companies (particularly SMEs), while working with centres in other countries through international collaborative platforms.

Our initiatives

Vocational Education and Training (VET) has an important role to play in research, education and innovation. It can contribute to smart specialisation strategies that lead to sustainable growth, innovation, job creation and social cohesion.

Some Member States have launched successful initiatives in vocational excellence, and include VET as part of their innovation strategies.

At a European cooperation level, the Commission would like to bring a holistic approach to vocational excellence. 

The Platforms for Centres of Vocational Excellence initiative introduces a European dimension to vocational excellence by supporting the development of Centres of Vocational Excellence, operating at two levels:

  • National: linking Centres of Vocational Excellence closely to local innovation ecosystems, and connecting them at European level
  • International: establish major hubs  through Platforms of Centres of Vocational Excellence for vocational training, by bringing together centres that share a common interest in specific sectors or trades, or innovative approaches to tackle specific societal challenges

Get involved!

The platforms will be supported through Erasmus+ funded pilot projects in the period 2019 and 2020. The future Erasmus programme 2021-2027 (subject to approval by the co-legislators) may provide substantial support for the initiative. 

Erasmus+ funding may be complemented by investments needed for infrastructure, which could be supported by other European funds (e.g. Structural and Investment Funds, InvestEU, etc.). 


Centres of Vocational Excellence are intended to be world-class reference points for training in specific areas for both initial training of young people as well as for continuing up-skilling and re-skilling of adults, through flexible and timely offer of training for the skills needs of companies. 

They operate locally, being closely embedded in the local innovation ecosystems. CoVEs act as catalysts for local business investment, and ensure supply of high-quality skilled workers. They also support entrepreneurial initiatives of their learners (incubators), and act as knowledge and innovation hubs for companies (in particular SMEs).

VET excellence ensures high quality skills and competences that lead to quality employment and career-long opportunities, which meet the needs of an innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy. 

Vocational excellence

The concept of vocational excellence entails a holistic learner-centered approach in which VET: 

  • Is an integrative part of skills ecosystems, contributing to regional development, innovation, and smart specialisation strategies 
  • Is part of research, education, and innovation, working closely with other education and training sectors, the scientific community, and business 
  • Enables learners to acquire both vocational and key competences through high-quality education that is supported by quality assurance, builds innovative forms of partnerships with the world of work, and is supported by the continuous professional development of teaching and training staff, innovative teaching methods, mobility and internationalisation strategies. 

Elements for success of CoVEs

CoVEs are expected to go far beyond simply providing a quality vocational qualification. From available evidence (mapping study), keys to CoVEs' success include: 

  • Strong and enduring relationships between stakeholders - stakeholders include VET providers (including VET at the tertiary education level), higher education institutions, and businesses, in which interactions are reciprocal and mutually beneficial. 
  • Being integrated in frameworks of regional development, innovation and smart specialisation - this allows synergies to be identified between policies and amongst stakeholders. 
  • Integration of activities - there is great potential in CoVEs to achieve more than sum of their parts, in particular, where CoVEs build relationships between activities and research. 

CoVEs may also be relevant to some EU initiatives, such as the Blueprint for sectoral skills and Sector Skills Alliances that work on related activities such as understanding future skill needs and occupational profiles and translating them to qualification profiles.

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