BRUSSELS, 8 December 2016 / The Lifelong Learning Platform welcomes the European Commission’s initiative to improve attractiveness and image of vocational education and training by launching the first European Vocational Skills Week during 5-9 December 2016. The Commission has brought the VET week as one as a part of its communication “A New Skills Agenda for Europe” through, wanting to showcase vocational studies as a first class option.
VET education, both secondary and post-secondary, has been suffering from poor reputation and additionally the discourse on tertiary education still favours higher education than post-secondary VET education which adds to its unattractiveness. The LLLP appreciates the common agreement on the need to invest in professional education and vocational training also as a tertiary education. Professional and vocational education and training should provide learners with quality education in a learner-centred approach. Every education is important and has a value. In order to attract more learners and provide them with more opportunities after graduating, we need to ensure that VET is not a closed path and that possibilities to pursue further lifelong learning opportunities are made available to the learner. For instance, deeper collaboration between VET and higher education providers should be promoted to bridge the emerging gap and ensure successful transition of VET graduates to higher education.
The Agenda states that social partners and businesses should be involved in designing and delivering VET at all levels such as demonstrated through apprenticeships and/or internships, at home as well as abroad. LLLP agrees that progressive education should combine critical thinking with learning in the workplace and with theoretical learning in a formal setting. However, work-based learning should take into consideration not only labour market needs, but also those of learners and the flexibility that will be required from them in the future. Therefore, perfecting VET curricula and delivering valuable degrees should be as important as enhancing skills.
The Lifelong Learning Platform believes that the VET Week is a good initiative for making VET more visible, but showcasing is not where our efforts should end: active commitment from all relevant stakeholders is an imperative. Further steps need to be taken to open some of the elitist educational systems in which only academic cursus is valued. In many countries, VET is still falling behind in terms of quality, investment and in interest of learners. We call for sustainable long term investment, modernisation and adapting to current realities using modern technologies and innovative learning methods.
Adult education and their up-skilling was also under the spotlight. The need for validation of skills in particular for low-skilled people who may have acquired relevant skills when working or in a non-formal learning setting is crucial. Low-skilled people are scattered around different educational levels and that needs to be adequately taken into consideration. LLLP would like to stress that when addressing acquisition of different skills, not only a list of skills, but also an explanation of how different skills can be acquired through education and life is needed.