All posts by Alex O'Cuinn

LLLP – FIELDS project – skills needs and VET mobility

Implementing the Skills Agenda in the Agriculture, Food and Forestry Sectors: Current and future skill needs for sustainability, digitalisation and the bio-economy

European and global challenges

The Food 2030 policy highlights the vulnerability of agri-production due to the globalisation of the markets, increasing competition, the prices volatility and the economic uncertainty along with the low incremental crop productivity. Those vulnerabilities are stressed by increasing demand for food and feed. On the other side, environmental concerns and climatic changes generate more uncertainties. Moving from business-as-usual agriculture to sustainable farming is a complex process which requires a system approach, including reshaping the role of the farmer: from a mere producer of food and commodities, into “wise manager of the natural capital”. This requires to profit of advances in sustainability, digitalisation and bioeconomy.

However, transfer of these innovations and skills to farmers requires cooperation of all the actors in the ecosystem of actors of agriculture, food industry and forestry sectors including farmer’s representatives and civil society. Today’s farmers undoubtedly have expertise yet they need help to gain additional skills to deal with new technologies and to meet the challenges of climate change and land management in the 21 st century. Also, the level of qualifications is low by comparison with other sectors; there is poor uptake of continuing vocational educational training that needs to be addressed through appropriate VET training.

The FIELDS project

In this context, the purpose of the FIELDS project is to answer those challenges through the skills prism. The project has eight work packages, and has the purpose of providing strategies and training in the fields of innovation in agriculture and forestry, with particular emphasis on sustainability, digitalisation and bio-economy. These are the main objectives of the work:

  1. Identify global trends and skill gaps
  2. Design a strategy at the EU and Country level to improve the skills
  3. Provide training material and training pilot to implement these strategies
  4. Allow transferability of the skills among EU countries following European frameworks (ESCO, ECVET, EQAVET, etc.)
  5. Provide sustainability and awareness of the project after the project ends

Latest developments and next steps

Last May, the first face to face meeting of the consortium since before the pandemic took place in Paris. The results from work package 1 and 2 were shared (Skills needs identification & Priorities and strategy design). As part of the first work package an overall view of the sectors and their future needs was drawn and  the current and future skills gaps and training needs were identified. The consortium also identified good practices, valuable experiences, existing studies, partnerships and policies. You can explore them on the project’s website. As part of work package 2, 10 occupational profiles were co-created by all relevant project partners with dedicated profiles for sustainability, digitalisation, bioeconomy and forestry. A common module on soft skills and entrepreneurship was developed which underlines the importance of these transversal skills. 

In the coming months, in order to adapt the training methodology to the target groups, the FIELDS consortium will analyse the most suited pedagogical approach and training methodology for the chosen occupational profiles and create the tailored curricula (work package 3). The training will be implemented directly in the project by VET providers and HEI. A module for the trainers will also be created to ensure the proper transfer of the content. To foster mobility of students, an apprenticeship scheme will be developed and linked with the existing EU tools. 

FIELDS project: Addressing the current and Future skIll needs for sustainability, digitalization, and the bio-Economy in AgricuLture: European skills agenDa and Strategy. FIELDS is an Erasmus+ KA2 project: Sector Skills Alliance. The project coordinator is the University of Turin and it involves 31 partners from 12 countries. 

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LLLP Working Group on Internationalisation of Education Gets Off the Mark

Working towards meaningful international cooperation and inclusive mobility

LLLP was founded around internationalisation and mobility (which was cross cutting to all education and training sectors): there was a clear need to share intelligence and knowledge about the topic.

It was also part of our mission and vision and part of the Manifesto from 2015 (Building the Future of Learning). Since then mobility has been high in the EU agenda and it has been slowly extended beyond Higher Education. LLLP was missing a working group that would support the different sectors: share good practices, make education systems more international, cooperate and build partnerships. Also to work on how to improve mobility (including staff), curricula, how to have a better role in Europe and the world.

A renewed commitment to internationalisation

Last April, the Lifelong Learning Platform and its members kick started this joint endeavour. The Working Group activities will be carried out within the framework of LLLP’s advocacy strategy 2021 – 2023 which recognised the need for reinforcement in terms of capacity building for members and collecting best practices and lessons learned. Members of this group will be encouraged to share their practices/experience and propose joint actions. The Working Group will link projects and policy, in this way, bringing together the meta level of research/theory and practice dimensions of field evidence/knowledge.

The need to further bring learners, education and training providers and civil society into policy dialogue as active stakeholders and not just beneficiaries was also underlined. LLLP will ensure the consultation of members for their views and for their support in changing policy, influence decision makers and reinforce positive social norms and cultural practices that create an enabling environment to support sustainable social change. Members’ wide array of evidence and policy analysis will strengthen the impact of the joint advocacy efforts not just in education and training policies but also spill out towards social, economic and environmental policy issues at large.

Shared interests and common goals

During the first meeting, members highlighted the importance of exchanging experiences and different points of view in order to improve education in each Member State and to provide support to key actors such as educators in overcoming common challenges. This aspect also includes learning from realities beyond the European examples. Indeed, as part of Erasmus+ international cooperation is understood as European cooperation. This working group will look beyond that scope and take advantage of member’s expertise to foster cooperation at a global level. 

Another key area of internationalisation is the mobility component (and the recognition of learning certificates across borders). It is expected that this working group can act as a catalyst for increased advocacy and concrete policy results. Joint initiatives on this topic are particularly relevant vis-a-vis the lack of mobility targets in the latest Education and Training Framework for 2030 and the funding issues facing Erasmus+ mobilities. Similarly, the linkages between mobility and the green transition is another topic for consideration. 


Furthermore, members highlighted the developments of internationalisation strategies, mainly of VET providers as another important area of work for the Working Group. One of the key needs of VET providers is to develop partnerships and set up internationalisation strategies to support the uptake of innovative approaches and digital technologies for teaching and learning. A project developed by the main VET provider representatives in Europe and touching upon this topic, the VENHANS project was presented during the meeting. 

Academic cooperation in Higher Education will remain a key area of internationalisation. The working group will monitor the development of the Commission’s work on the European Strategy for Universities which sets the tone for fostering deeper international cooperation within Europe and beyond and strengthening of higher education systems in partner countries. In the Higher Education sector it is also important to underline the importance of internationalisation for society (both abroad and at home). During the meeting the work of the IHES project was shared. The Mapping Report on IHES includes a needs-analysis of civil society vis-a-vis cooperation (or lack thereof) with higher education institutions.

Building strong partnerships to deliver on internationalisation

An important part of the activities of the working group will deal with developing partnerships in order to deliver concrete results on the wide array of topics comprising internationalisation. Members will take advantage of this working group to share their experiences as part of expert groups, consultations and alliances with EU and global institutions (European Commission working groups, European Parliament Interest Group, UNESCO and UN consultative bodies) and other joint initiatives develop with European and Global organisations (ETF, Cedefop, European Education Gateway, Learning Planet, ASEM-LLL, EPALE, OECD, among others). 

Changing the tide on learning mobility: for all not the few

Changing the tide on learning mobility: for all not the few

Not all classrooms have four walls

The term learning mobility describes an educational process that is fluid across spatial lines. It is a process wherein learners are afforded the opportunity to engage with a learning period in a new cultural setting and form new relations and modes of understanding. It is also, when operating well, a means by which learners’ qualifications and educational backgrounds are recognised and valid at an equivalent level across and between various geographic locations.

While the benefits of easily accessible learning mobilities are habitually touted by the EU institutions and Member States respectively; it remains the case, however, that large discrepancies exist when it comes to who benefits and who’s excluded.

We only need to look as far as the gross under-representation of lower income groups in Erasmus+ as a marker of this issue. And this signifies a fundamental flaw that can be expressed in blunt terms: only those who can rely on economic help have been able to access the scheme, despite the grants, data shows. 

The stark under-representation of lower-income groups in mobility programmes such as Erasmus+ is not for a lack of want on behalf of those excluded. Take into consideration for instance, a recent study which identifies that 75% of learners from lower income groups – who would have liked to engage with Erasmus+ – felt that the additional costs were too significant to apply and that covering the shortfall would involve the acquisition of additional debt. In addition, 41 % of the same group reported the loss of foregone wages as a major disincentive.

These disparities reinforce pre-existing educational disparities along socio-economic lines – furthering the advantages of the already advantaged by expanding their social, economic and cultural capital. Ties between employment prospects, further mobility opportunities and Erasmus participation are strikingly clear.

Take the following two examples into account: European Union data identifies that those who participated in the Erasmus scheme have a 42% better employability rate and double the opportunity to change employers. Furthermore, 40% have been able to move to a different country after graduating, compared to 23% who did not study in another country.

Turning the tide on these disparities requires, first and foremost, a sensitivity and acknowledgement of the barriers faced by under-represented groups in their contact with learning mobility policy instruments. It requires a concerted effort to ensure that learning mobility acts to bridge educational divides as opposed to expanding them. The value and efficacy of any learning mobility instrument should be based on its potential to benefit and include those normally excluded from the table. We might then begin to imagine the idea of learning mobility as a possibility for all and not the few.

Resources used:

Erasmus, a European hit affected by inequality, here

SiEM, Student and Staff Perspectives on Diversity and Inclusion in Student Exchanges, here

Erasmus Mobility Statistics 2014 – 2019, here

Podcast – Learning Communities and Their Added Value

The Lifelong Learning Platform has recently teamed up with EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning In Europe) to take a closer look at the value of learning communities in relation to furthering a culture of lifelong learning in the EU.

In this podcast we look to answer a simple question: what purpose and value do learning communities hold and how can we further support them as integral forms of learning, specifically for adults?

So sit back, put your feet up as we dive into some of the most thought about questions on learning communities and how they can be expanded as the norm.

Listen in here!

Highlights from the LLLP General Assembly 2022

Another Lifelong Learning Platform General Assembly has come to an end. Here is a few highlights to catch up on.

The Lifelong Learning Platforms’ General Assembly (GA) took place on Friday 17 of June in Brussels (Mundo-Madou, Av. des Arts 7/8), Belgium. 

By bringing together a large sum of membership representatives, the GA provided a unique opportunity in which members, the Steering Committee and the Secretariat could meet to collectively take stock of the general direction and priorities of the organisation, as well as elect three new steering committee members. All of this, for the most part, occurred face-to-face; a much welcomed feature of this year’s meeting.

A key aspiration for LLLP is to ensure that we represent and reflect the interests of our membership and voice their concerns, hopes and aspirations throughout our work. To acknowledge this aspiration, the GA was structured to allow ample room for input and reflection on how we engage with members across activities including: the LLLWeek, Annual Theme, LLLAB, Working Groups, Projects and Trainings. It was refreshing to hear that the current means of engagement are working well, offering plenty of opportunity for members to get involved. More opportunities for direct involvement in the initial stages of these activities was duly noted. 

A second aspiration of the GA was to build bridges among members and to create a space where they could recognise potential shared pursuits. To fulfill this aspiration, a series of roundtable discussions on a number of topics including health and wellbeing, inclusive education, mobility and sustainability etc took place. Members showcased their respective policy, advocacy and project efforts related to these topics which allowed them to draw parallels and conceive of new avenues of collaboration. 

Alongside deliberating on future prospects and current areas of engagement, the GA was tasked with the election of three Steering Committee representatives.  We are delighted to welcome both Raffaela Kihrer (EAEA), Marta Concepción Mederos (WOSM) and congratulate Monica Verzola (EVTA) on her re-election. At the same time, LLLP wishes to thank Susana Oliveira (EAEA) and Oonagh Aitken (Volonteurope) for their work and commitment towards the LLLPlatform. 

The GA affirmed the strength of LLLPs membership. It highlighted the collective willingness to inform, shape and improve our education and training systems from cradle to grave. It also delivered a moment to reflect on the mechanisms we deploy to carry out this very task. The next step is to put the learnings from the day into use. 

Launch of UIL’s Making Lifelong Learning a Reality: A Handbook

Learning is something that takes place across a variety of settings, both informal and formal, and across various points of time. This has always been a reality. The idea that learning ceases to occur after we step outside the gates of formal education settings gravely devalues all the learning that continues to transpire throughout life. 

Learning is also something that people engage with for a variety of reasons; out of interest, to pursue a line of employment, to become more knowledgable on a topic, for community development, and out of joy.

Affording people the opportunity to pursue learning at any point, however, carries policy, institutional and practical implications. The implementation of effective lifelong learning policies at the national and local levels are crucial to afford each and all the opportunity to exercise their willingness and desire to learn throughout life, irrespective of financial means.

At the Seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII), the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) will internationally launch its publication Making Lifelong Learning a Reality: A Handbook. This publication provides information, evidence and basic conceptual models to facilitate the implementation of lifelong learning at national and local levels. It provides evidence from international experience and offers guidelines to operationalise lifelong learning in response of major sustainable development issues, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Handbook is meant as both a source of inspiration and as a guide for policy-makers and for officials responsible for implementing lifelong learning policies.

Be sure to follow the launch on 17 June at 12:30-13:30 (GMT+1). All info here.



European Students’ Network Imagine an Erasmus for all

In a recent event, the ESU brought together students from various countries to deliberate on an all important question: What would the ideal Erasmus grant system look like, taking into consideration inclusiveness and affordability requirements?

This question remains hugely relevant with an extensive body of research drawing attention to the persistent under-representation of lower-income and marginalised groups in the programme.

These gaps matter. Not only does Erasmus provide a rich cultural experience in a new learning environment, it also cultivates better employment prospects and increases a persons likelihood of pursuing further learning mobility.

So how did the students’ imagine an ideal grant system? Here are the main takeaways:

  • The grant is to be based not only on the costs of living in the host country but also on the area where a student is from – for example, rural areas – and to adjust the travel grant amount accordingly.
  • A more inclusive grant would allow many students to enjoy their mobility experience without being concerned about financial issues.
  • The Erasmus Plus programme should take more into account the various costs of living in the different program countries, even if they are in the same group of countries.

Read the article in full here

Learning from the Lab 2022

The Lifelong Learning Lab for 2022 has come and gone. Here’s a brief recap of the two day event.

For its 2022 edition, and under the patronage of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, LLLP brought its Lifelong Learning Laboratory to France, hosted by the city of Nice. This year, the main point of attention, framing much of the focus, fell on the need to establish ‘lifelong learning entitlements for the future of Europe’. And, perhaps more importantly, to narrow in on how this policy aspiration could be achieved?

The lab was therefore an active exercise in teasing apart avenues and directions for realising a particular policy aspiration; in this case, ‘lifelong learning entitlements for the future of Europe’. Drawing on the expertise of those stakeholders closest to the French education and training context and further afield, the lab opened up a space where a concrete policy context example could be looked into further.  It was also an opportunity to acquaint French stakeholders with EU level education and training initiatives and the various ways in which these initiatives can be of benefit. 

In terms of the question: how can lifelong learning entitlements for the future of Europe be achieved? The idea and necessity of establishing national lifelong learning platforms took center stage. Positioned as a key mechanism in furthering a culture of lifelong learning across the EU, this policy tool recognises the need for greater public investment into lifelong learning and improved cross-sector cooperation, consultation of civil society by policymakers and understanding of the lifelong learning concept in general. 

The lab also carried out a series of active workshop sessions wherein participants were encouraged to identify real-world success stories in the field of education and training related to co-operation across and between various stakeholders. Participants deliberated on real world examples of where and when cooperation worked to achieve a positive educational outcome – and from there, identified the key ingredients from the standpoint of cooperation that supported this. These ingredients included, for example, recognising mutual concerns, fostering spaces for all stakeholders to be recognised, and ensuring that the voice of policy target groups is included in the discussion.

We would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank the city of Nice for their generous support and hospitality throughout the event. We would also like to thank all our speakers for their engagement and each and all of the participants for taking part and contributing to the discussion throughout. Last but not least, thank you to the Graduate School of Economics and Management, EUR ELMI, in Nice for allowing us to make use of their facilities.

Lifelong Learning Interest group on Values Education and Lifelong Learning – RECAP

With the participation of President Metsola, the Lifelong Learning Interest Group of the European Parliament met on the 17th of May 2022 to discuss the question of values that are – and should be – taught in the education system and in non-formal learning. Chaired by Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, the meeting brought together Members of the European Parliament, Civil Society Organisations, decision makers and practitioners, reflecting a variety of views on the role of value education in the European project and beyond.

Pressing questions in challenging times

The meeting was opened by Gina Ebner, Secretary General of the European Association for the Education of Adults, who sparked the conversation by proposing a number of questions on the link between values and education: what values should be at the forefront here, and what role can lifelong learning play to strengthen these values? What status should values such as solidarity, democracy, sustainability, and cultural diversity have? How can transformative lifelong learning convey these values? And how can education and learning build resilience and promote skills needed to deal with those who think differently? The question was also put forth on whether values can be taught or learned and how might the experiential value of ‘doing’ incite a more tangible relationship between learning and values.

The role of Local and Regional Authorities

Mr. Csaba Borboly from the Committee of the Regions (SEDEC),  brought the important role of regions and local authorities in promoting values in all areas of education and, in particular, in adult education into the discussion. Highlighting that there are many areas of Europe where a rich – but undervalued – local culture and set of traditions exist, Mr. Borboly emphasised that many of these traditions are in line with European values and should, therefore, find a home in our understanding of values and in learning trajectories developing and teaching/learning values. In addition, he stresses that access to education and training in rural and other marginalised areas of Europe is key. Far too many adults are still denied the right to education, and the opportunity to shape their own future. Finally, he recognised that:

‘The teachers in the 21st century are facing many changes, we need to invest in the professional development of teachers.’

Creating a safe space

Turning to the international dimension, Ms. Robin Sclafani (CEJI) recalled the international instruments that enshrine important values for our society, as the 2018 European Council declaration on the fight against antisemitism. She discussed the neuroscience behind biassed responses that neglect our values, and illustrated the impact of the trainings that CEJI promotes: by devoting time to forge quality relationships and bonds with partners, they can begin to become aware of their biases in an open and safe space, where people can share their experiences and self-reflect for triggering deep change. In addition, she underlined the contribution of social capital theory to understand baseline measures for assessing our promotion of values and its inclusivity. Reimagining the current legal framework, she affirmed: 

‘Cultural change requires more than criminal legislation, it requires education legislation. Our values are human rights, equality, social responsibility, the only way is through education.’

Teaching – and practising – democracy

‘Teachers and students need to develop the curriculum together, so that everyone can have ownership of the objectives and the process.’

The European Commission JRC’s speaker, Ms. Clara Centeno, presented her research on teacher professional development and training for diversity and inclusion. Resonating with other panellists, she showed that, in terms of professional development, teachers need a concrete ‘experience of democracy’ rather than teaching about democracy. School heads will need more support and time to build cultures that are welcoming and inclusive – which comes with a profound transformation. Ms. Centeno also stressed that one key area that needs to be addressed is the peer learning aspect and the transferability of programs to adapt, contextualise, and replicate them in different areas.

Values and sustainability

The roundtable was closed by Prof. Peter Mayo from the University of Malta who contextualised all the findings into the current neo-liberal and corporation-driven vision that dominates, in his view, society today. He emphasised the need to conceptualise the idea of lifelong learning as a slow deliberative process that must coincide with the needs, aspirations and preferences of people and not a narrow focus on the needs of the labour market.

‘We don’t teach about education and democracy by talking about it, but by doing it – already in the classroom.’

Tying the elements of our relationship with nature and environmental sustainability, he referenced several seminal works on values, inclusion and the education of adults, while simultaneously pointed to the fact that research is not the issue at hand, rather the implementation of that research and policy change is what has not changed enough over these last few decades. 

President Metsola and her vision for the future

Introducing President Metsola, MEP Pietikäinen emphasised the importance of values for our civilization and society, stressing the need for empathy, mutual understanding and tolerance from an early age.

Building on the insights presented by the speakers, President Metsola concluded the event recalling that knowledge and skills acquired in non-formal education are essential in an ever-changing world. In her words:

‘Learning to think, inclusivity, promoting a holistic vision of lifelong learning is a priority – we can, and should, still do more, for example, by increasing the budget of the Erasmus+ programme’.

Calling on Young Leaders to Join the 27th Youth Assembly

The Youth Assembly will take place on August 12-14, 2022 in New York City with an eye on empowering young people to confront challenges, lead action-based projects, and make a difference in there community.

Themed “Dare to Reshape the World,” The Youth Assembly is a global gathering of young leaders (ages 18 to 32), social entrepreneurs, and champions of sustainable development. Selected Delegates tackle topics related to Youth, Global Health, Global Citizenship, Digital Cooperation and Inclusion.  The powerful global network of change-makers, already consists of 20,000-individuals across 160 countries.

The Youth Assembly includes:
–Keynote talks, panel discussions, and skill-building workshops
–Action and Impact Hub for the delegates to present their work and find meaningful ways to collaborate on projects around the world
–Social impact awards competition (including a $10,000 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens).

The event is supported by the Institute of International Education (IIE), University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, bp, SDSN Youth, Schwarzman Scholars, and the Delegation of Flanders to the USA.

Find out more and apply at: