The role of lifelong learning in the VET sector is today more important than it has ever been. In a world that is heavily influenced by technological developments, our compass should adapt as well to the new paths.
Such was the topic of the EAfA Meeting “From schools to work – The role of chambers”, that took place in Prague and Mladá Boleslav on 20-21 May, a meeting that dwells into the implications which a changing labour market bears for the education systems in Europe.
The world of VET today is undeniably shaken by the technological revolution, which is changing solid paradigms and now demands new approaches. European stakeholders from all sectors, including social parties, agreed that professional education should open up to different professional actors, such as law firms, R&D and emerging industries.
New technology clearly define the path here. When our society addresses the challenges brought about by new jobs, it should look at new and emerging industries to identify the needs of the future markets, both economic and labour. Stakeholders and representatives of the employment and the education sectors seem to agree that riding the wave of change means to be ready to open up to new possibilities. According to most of the speakers, including representatives of the European Commission, chambers of commerce play a crucial role in identifying new skills and needs, as they also pioneer changes in labour market.
MEP Dlabajova, lingering on her report “A new skills agenda for Europe”, called for more cooperation between the employment and the education world. This cooperation often already exists at the local level, but in her eyes there needs to be a systematisation in the EU. To this extent, education cannot be of help if there is no clear analysis of what kinds of skills are going to be needed in the future. But according to most speakers, education can only anticipate new skills if companies and chambers of commerce have access to education systems.
Where does lifelong learning stand in this scenario? With the learners, as usual. Some good points were raised on the need to empower the education systems across Europe: participants claimed that investment in teachers’ education is needed, and they also placed great emphasis on lifelong learning’s importance with particular regards to small economies.
“Even the healthiest economy needs a strong education system”
While there was a general agreement on the potential of lifelong learning, the focus on learning as a mere means towards jobs is still too big a temptation, and education is still apprehended for employment’s sake.
In our view education serves a bigger purpose. It empowers individual beyond their jobs (which are only a part of their lives), unlocks their social potential and triggers wider self-development. The empowerment of all sorts of education systems needs to happen notwithstanding their employability outcomes.