European Vocational Skills Week

Fight against COVID-19

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of education and training institutions all over the world, several initiatives have been taken to ensure continuity of the learning and teaching through this period. To capture the variety of initiatives that have been undertaken, the European Commission launched an online survey. The survey has been opened on 18th March 2020.

For what we observed so far a vast number of online courses/learning modules is available. However they are mostly NOT VET specific. Ready-made material with VET specific content is less developed and there is a strong call for the Commission and national public authorities to create a database with existing resources to be shared for free around Europe.

This is why we encouraged you to share your examples and experiences that can help VET learners and educators, policy makers and stakeholders to manage this challenging time and be strengthened and ready for the new reality.

Below please find an overview of 262 responses received so far (by 11 May).

  1. Who has answered the survey so far?
  2. How is VET provision being organised to face the COVID-19 situation?
  3. How vocational-specific content in a work-based learning, apprenticeship or practical context is provided?
  4. VET related online education and training (both job-specific and/or general) that could be useful for other countries to use
  5. Highlights of information provided about online materials that can be useful for VET providers
  6. Suggestions to share with teachers and trainers or policy makers from other countries to ensure continuity of VET provision in this period of COVID-19 emergency
  7. Suggestions on the support the European Commission could provide

List of useful tools, modules and links

Disclaimer: The summary below is based on the responses received through the survey and does not represent the official position of the European Commission. At the same time the public authorities should provide good quality standards for online learning and guidance on data protection issues linked to the use of some tools (in particular when minors are concerned).

1. Who has answered the survey so far?

From 18th till 11th May 2020 the survey was answered by representatives of 36 countries. They submitted 262 contibutions of these, 174 were from VET provider organisations, 38 from policy makers, and 50 from representatives of others organisations.

 

EU map

2. How is VET provision being organised to face the COVID-19 situation?

  • All countries are setting up online environments, ranging from using very simple messaging services such as WhatsApp (e.g. when learners do not have a computer at home) or through other more elaborate IT learning platforms or even using national television for broadcasting and replacing usual classroom lessons. It is also an opportunity to promote and further explore some existing eLearning materials and tools for creating them.Both synchronous and asynchronous on-line learning are being used.

  • In most cases, these focus exclusively on theoretical knowledge; in a few cases, demonstrations in ad-hoc videos, or step by step instructions are used to show the more practical skills linked to a specific VET profession.
  • Some respondents fear that VET learners might be at disadvantaged compared to learners from other educational tracks as more efforts are put into general school subjects, and less in typical vocational content.
  • There are many examples of group challenges assigned to learners, to foster team cooperation (even if observation of their soft skills is hampered in distance learning).
  • In addition to continuing to train learners on the curricula topics, online interactions also aim to raise awareness of the appropriate behaviour to counter the emergency and to liven-up the tedious hours of confinement.
  • Some countries have developed TV and YouTube channels for learners to follow general and VET lessons. Teachers and trainers record their lessons on video and broadcast them.
  • Work based learning is maintained in only very few countries and in sectors where companies’ activities are still going on; this seems to be the part of VET programmes that is most affected during this period. Especially in countries where this is a compulsory part of the curricula, reflection is underway on how to make these requirements more flexible or how to catch up once the situation stabilises.
  • On the positive side, this extraordinary situation is an opportunity for everyone to develop or deepen their digital skills. However, it also underlines the digital divide and the inequality and disadvantage this creates for households and learners that do not have access to computers and Internet.
  • Spain has partnered up with various IT& telecom companies which contributed to help Spanish studens and regional governments. https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/lang/en/gobierno/news/Paginas/2020/20200330mobile-studies.aspx
  • Calls to the European Commission to develop a repository of VET specific resources.
  • A respondent highlighted the risk that because of the crisis, funds are moved from VET to unemployment benefits or other emergency measures.

3. How vocational-specific content in a work-based learning, apprenticeship or practical context is provided

  • Cedefop has published an overview on apprenticeships. Apprentices’ continue their training and work, in particular, in the healthcare, food, building sectors and, generally, wherever companies continue their activities as long as the health and safety measures are observed. Apprentices have largely discontinued their company attendance in the sectors whose activities have been shut down: restauration, well-being, tourism.

  • Regarding the contractual implications for apprentices, a key difference is between apprentices who have contracts regulated the labour code and are covered by the labour market measures for Covid-19 and those with contracts not covered by the labour code (in the latter case, allowances or State grants might be foreseen, but not always).

  • Several countries in April and May provided more information to learners about exams, final evaluation and WBL requirements.
  • Most countries give priority to evaluation and examinations of students in last year of their programmes, some of them taking place online and some reverting to exams in real presence under strict health and safety conditions. Often practical training has been shortened or, when possible, postponed. In some countries alternatives have been found, like project work or simulated demonstrations.
  • Spain for example has agreed the flexibility of the WBL component of the programs, extending the calendar for the work placements, also with consideration for University entrance exams. The WBL component will be shortened and integrated into a tutored project module.
  • In AT, an amendment to the Vocational Training Act will allow short-term work also for apprentices. Some businesses encourage working from home if possible.
  • Italy promotes the WBL experience through simulated enterprises.
  • In Germany, the platform connect2company is a means of communicating with dual training partners.
  • Siemens provides online learning to apprentices, through own and paid for materials.

Respondents provide training for both adults and youngsters, employed and unemployed people.

4. VET related online education and training (both job-specific and/or general) that could be useful for other countries to use

  • There are few cases of online vocational specific material.
  • Countries who have shared VET specific content are Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia and Romania inter alia. The Croatian Agency for VET and Adult Education set up a portal http://nastava.asoo.hr and invited VET teachers, employers and other stakeholders to develop and share their digital education materials related to vocational subjects.
  • In Ireland, most apprentices are supported by a Moodle learning platform and the capacity to expand the availability of resources via this platform is being examined.
  • A majority of respondents call for support to develop simulation environments/virtual reality for VET specific learning content to train the specific practical sectoral skills.

5. Highlights of information provided about online materials that can be useful for VET providers

  • Here you can find a list of different resources collected through the survey and other sources. Many general collaboration tools exist, which are available in several languages, as well as many platforms that facilitate the creation of digital content.
  • Learning resources are available in English as well as other languages.
  • The Annex is not meant to be exhaustive. Much more is available around Europe that could be shared and this is why the survey will still be open for the coming period.

  • Some European multilingual platforms are also mentioned in the list, in particular e-twinning, which offers to staff (teachers, trainers, librarians, etc.) the opportunity to communicate, collaborate, and develop projects, and EPALE, the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe, which provides a space for practitioners to exchange and share resources and information, also includes online learning material and Communities of Practice.

6. Suggestions to share with teachers and trainers or policy makers from other countries to ensure continuity of VET provision in this period of COVID-19 emergency

  • To make this work, the enthusiasm and commitment of teachers and trainers is crucial.
  • This crisis is the stimulus to become more digital in the future. At the same time, attention should be paid to the time spent online by learners, to avoid they disconnect from the “real world”.
  • Self-learning can be good: request regular tasks to be carried out by learners, establish a regular feasible planning. If not possible otherwise, concentrate now the theoretical training, also of next school year and when lessons can resume, the focus should be on practical skills.

  • Create occasions to interact and cooperate among learners remotely. Let learners work on real situations and projects. Assign practical tasks that they can undertake at home.
  • Many VET providers highlighted that each learner should be followed individually (ex. called up once or twice a week by their principal teacher/trainer).
  • Assessment must be developed in a creative way, with quizzes, questionnaires etc.
  • Some countries are training teachers, trainers, coaches and mentors to be able to develop their teaching and training material (ex. RO, IT). Some online modules for teaching them digital skills are necessary. Certain platforms offer demonstrations and online training to users.
  • Information and guidance about organising distance learning should be available for teachers, trainers, learners, enterprises and parents.
  • In order not to increase inequality in access to learning, it is important to ensure learners have equal possibilities at home (computer, headsets, micros, programs and high speed internet connection) – otherwise public authorities should provide them (also staff might need similar support)
  • Public authorities should provide good quality standards for online learning, in compliance with data protection and clear ownership of the data generated by the online platforms. Intelligent systems using learning analytics that adapt to learners’ needs and progression should be favoured.

  • The school year may need to be prolonged to ensure the delivery of the curricula as planned

  • There is need to simplify exams requirements and provide guidelines for virtual evaluation. The German ongoing ASCOT+ projects are developing digital measuring instruments for professional and inter-professional competences in three occupational fields and tests them as teaching and learning tools as well as in examinations. (Link)

  • VET providers can contribute to responding to the crisis, beyond their traditional role: the Basque country has put into place a full strategy to tackle the emergency; TKNIKA/ Basque Innovation and VET Excellence Centre is working on designing ventilator prototype using 3D printing. In addition, Basque VET providers are helping SMEs and micro companies in their region to respond to the training needs for remote working and digital platforms, as well as to retrain workers laid off because of the crisis.
  • Many VET providers around Europe (NL, CZ, DK, IT, FR etc.) are helping their Communities and being part of the solution to the COVID crisis, by preparing meals for disadvantaged groups, producing disinfectant, sharing their equipment and providing protective materials for free.
  • Involve representatives of learners and parents in the decisions regarding COVID-19 responses.

  • Be vigilant for increased cyberbullying.

7. Suggestions on the support the European Commission could provide

  • A common platform for VET topics for online learning, should be promoted as soon as possible with all available material, in different languages as applicable. An online Community should be coupled to it. This should build on the work already done by the Cedefop Community of Practice of VET providers on technology enhanced environments and on the potential of already existing platforms, such as EPALE. 
  • Engage with employers and social partners to share their material online or to produce digital learning tools (e.g. a Computer Numerical Control machine or welding machine). Some companies already have online modules available on their sites (see the list mentioned above).
  • Engage with publishers of textbooks to share their material free online.
  • Virtual simulation systems for VET should be developed and funded, even if they can’t replace fully the real workplace learning – through Erasmus funds also involving companies and with very lean selection process
  • Create on an IT platform (e.g. EPALE) a VET Section for Vocational Online Open Courses (VOOC). This material would need to have a translation or subtitles section in all EU languages. More funds for online and blended learning.

  • The results of Erasmus+ projects should be screened for relevant online material developed.

  • Create an EU VET Channel on TV or YouTube (subtitles in all languages) – TV is accessible for a broader public.

  • Deadlines for European funded projects should be extended, including flexible rules for ESF when it is funding VET provision. Erasmus+ mobility which has been suspended should be refunded swiftly.
  • ESF to fund educational technology, training for teachers and trainers, transfer of shared good practices in policy making and implementing e-learning, using technology in education and training. Support to boost cooperation between all sectors, public and private.
  • Support virtual European projects. Examples could be https://europa.eu/youth/erasmusvirtual or https://unevoc.unesco.org/e-forum/IMY-virtual-mobility-brochure-2020.03.20-public.pdf.
  • A new Blueprint project under Erasmus+ for the health sector.
  • The eTwinning space could offer the temporary technical flexibility to allow the creation of national projects within the same school or institution for those who do not have suitable spaces or who encounter problems of saturation of the planned workspaces. Note: There is a clear scope for improving communication in this respect because this possibility already exists.
  • A European call for exploratory research projects concerning digital tools (VR incl.) with test phase in VET education (bottom up) could be set up.
  • Protect workers in the education and training sector with temporary contracts who risk losing pay and job because of schools closure. See and contribute to the related EPALE blog “No education anywhere”: https://epale.ec.europa.eu/en/blog/keine-bildung-nirgends.
  • A "European Training Week" where a European country, each year, will undertake a week of training by teleconferencing with learners from all levels (Schools, Training Centres, High Schools, University etc.) for all other European countries. This could be explored under the existing European Vocational Skills Week.
  • Partner up with the global Community remoteworkmates.com (created for workers requested to telework): organise wellbeing week for remote workers, online challenges, training.
  • A respondent suggested to use the strategy for online learning developed within Patras University http://ejel.org/issue/download.html?idIssue=53