European Vocational Skills Week

Adult learner stories

Adult learner stories

News | 17 October 2018

Vocational education and training (VET) can take many different forms for adult learners. Perhaps you are unemployed and looking for work. Maybe you have a hobby and want to turn it into a business. Perhaps you want to move forward – or sideways – in your current career… but you’re not sure how. For many people who aren't sure of their next career step, VET could be the answer.

VET was certainly the answer for Normunds, Daniel and Jane. Read on to find out how these adult learners transformed their lives through vocational education or training.

Business is buzzing for Normunds

Despite being a trained mechanic, Normunds Zeps was struggling to find regular work in his native Latvia. While on the lookout for other employment opportunities, he began to wonder if his interest in beekeeping could become more than just a hobby. It was something he’d always been passionate about, but did it have real business potential?

A free training course on how to run a small enterprise, funded by the ESF, gave him the chance to find out. It was perfect for Normunds as it covered topics such as how to start a business, and how to develop and implement a successful business plan - and it was completely free.

It wasn’t long before Normunds registered as a small business owner and now he sells his own high-grade honey. Looking back, he’s quick to recognise the positive impact of the course. “Quite frankly, my life wasn’t going anywhere, and this experience helped me to think in practical terms.”

Daniel’s finally getting a good night's sleep

For years, Daniel worked night shifts for a company in northern Belgium, which produces PVC products for the building industry.

Although he wanted to stay with the company, the strain of being awake all night eventually began to tell. So, following his doctor’s advice, Daniel asked his employers if he could switch to a daytime shift. They were happy to accommodate him, but he needed to update his professional skills first.

After completing the Excellent Learning retraining programme, run by the Flemish jobs service and supported by the ESF, Daniel transferred into the company’s research and training centre in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since. Now his days are filled with testing products, teaching contractors and researching new techniques and materials, while his nights are spent blissfully asleep.

His work-life balance has also improved, leaving more time for him to spend with his family. “It changed my life completely,” Daniel concludes. “After all, the night is made for sleeping!”

Jane is driving in a new direction

Most people in their mid-fifties are slowing down. Jane Grøne, from Denmark, decided to retrain and embrace a new career instead.

Unemployed and lacking formal qualifications, Jane had a choice: live on unemployment or pre-retirement benefits – or take the plunge, retrain and see what opportunities were out there for her. When she spotted an advert for trainee bus drivers, the decision was made.

AMU Nordjylland, Jane’s local training vocational training centre, provided the training via its Job Competence programme. Trainee drivers that pass through the centre’s doors learn both theory and practice through modules covering health and safety, first aid, handling money and assisting disabled passengers.

Jane joined the course and took to it instantly. “The teachers made it fun and interesting,” she recalls. That enthusiasm continued into the full-time job she later secured: driving for one of the two main bus companies in Aalborg.

“I am very happy in my work,” Jane says. “I am going to stay here until I die!”

To read more real life stories and learn how people have transformed their lives through VET visit our success stories page.

If you’re thinking about a change of career, or think you might benefit from learning new skills, why not start your journey looking at this year’s European Vocational Skills Week? Find out about the many hundreds of events across Europe.