Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Centres of Vocational Excellence

Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) are formed by networks of partners that develop local "skills ecosystems" to provide high quality vocational skills to young people and adults, and contribute to regional development, innovation, industrial clusters, smart specialisation strategies and social inclusion.

While working with CoVEs in other countries through international collaborative networks, they establish a bottom-up approach to vocational excellence involving a wide range of local stakeholders enabling VET institutions to rapidly adapt skills provision to evolving economic and social needs.

They stimulate local business development and innovation, by working closely with companies (in particular SMEs) on applied research projects, creating knowledge and innovation hubs, as well as supporting entrepreneurial initiatives of their learners.

How does it work?

By bringing together a wide range of partners, such as providers of vocational education and training, universities of applied sciences, employers, research centres, development agencies, and employment services (among others), that share a common interest in:

  1. Specific sectors or industrial ecosystems
  2. Innovative approaches to tackle economic and societal challenges
  3. Innovative approaches to increase the outreach, quality and effectiveness of existing CoVEs.

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: Establishing Centres of Vocational Excellence (hubs) that bring together a wide range of partners contributing to create skills ecosystems responding to local needs
  • International: Through international collaborative networks bringing together Centres of Vocational Excellence that share a common interest in developing skills ecosystems

Get involved!

The platforms have been supported through Erasmus+ funded pilot projects in the period 2019 and 2020. 

The current Erasmus programme 2021-2027 provides substantial support for the initiative, with an indicative budget of €400 million to fund 100 Centres of Vocational Excellence.

The evaluation of the projects submitted under the Erasmus+ call in 2022, is currently ongoing and the results are expected to be announced in Q1 of 2023.

You should use the European Commission Funding & tender opportunities portal to submit your project applications, before 8 June 2023.

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

The European Training Foundation

The European Training Foundation (ETF) plays a key role in developing the International dimension of the CoVE initiative, closely linked to its mandate as the European Agency for strengthening relations between the EU and neighbourhood countries in the field of human capital development (improving people’s skills and capabilities), which requires high quality, well governed, and innovative vocational education and training systems that are responsive to labour market needs.

The ETF has established the ETF Network for Excellence (ENE) as a basis to develop an International Network of CoVEs. The ENE brings together hundreds of organisations and CoVEs from the EU neighbourhood, Central Asia, Africa, and the EU. The network works around eight areas:

  1. Work-based learning
  2. Pedagogy and professional development
  3. Entrepreneurial dimension of vocational excellence
  4. Industry 4.0 and digitalisation  
  5. Autonomy and institutional development (financing, leadership, governance)
  6. Going green – supporting sustainable goals
  7. Smart specialisation – mobilising innovation, ecosystems and SMEs
  8. Social inclusion and equity

In the context of this work, the European Commission has signed a Service level Agreement with the ETF in November 2021, with the aim to develop a set of tools, research, networking activities, as well as policy support, which are equally valuable for the ETF partner countries as well as the European organisations working on Vocational excellence.

The Community of Practice

The project leaders of the Erasmus+ funded projects that are establishing Centres of Vocational Excellence, have set-up a Community of Practice where they exchange experience, best practices and lessons learned from their CoVE projects, whilst addressing common issues that are of interest to all CoVEs.

The CoVE Community of Practice is a bottom up initiative by and for the CoVE project leaders and participation is voluntary and open to project leaders of future CoVEs.

Furthermore, the Community is working closely with other stakeholders and policy makers in the field of VET and higher education.

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. 

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. 

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: 

  • Being integrated in frameworks of regional development, innovation and smart specialisation - this allows synergies to be identified between policies and amongst stakeholders. 
  • 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. 
  • Integration of activities - there is great potential in CoVEs to achieve more than sum of their parts, in particular, where CoVEs build on the expertise and activities of each partner to provide both young learners and adults with skills and opportunities for professional and personal development. 

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

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