The fourth European Vocational Skills Week took place in Helsinki on 14-18 October 2019. An initiative of the European Commission, the European Vocational Skills Week seeks to highlight excellence in vocational education and training (VET), showing that VET is a valuable professional and learning path. This fourth edition was hosted by the Finish Presidency. The Lifelong Learning Platform and its members (EVTA, EfVET, EURASHE, EDEN, EUCEN, EPA, All Digital, EAEA, RICDM) participated actively in the various discussions tables. Luis Costa, LLLP President, addressed the participants in plenary of the Closing Event highlighting among others the need for cross-sector cooperation and investment in education and training. The event gathered over 800 participants and over 1000 activities took place across Europe.
One of the many goals of this year edition of the Vocational Skills Week was to extend the offer to adults, improve mobility of VET staff and learners while ensuring its social dimension and global role. Lifelong guidance and digitalisation of the workforce were also addressed as key elements in making VET a relevant and equally important learning choice. During the discussion, Luis Costa highlighted that to make this goal a reality we should promote a holistic vision to education and training, holding that all learning should be equally valued. This means that education systems in Europe should tailor learning opportunities to meet learners’ needs, but also that we should all foster flexible learning pathways by supporting people in accessing and moving across learning environments, as they progress through life. The main point of his wholehearted speech was that we – stakeholders, civil society and decision-makers alike – should all listen to the learners first.
It has been a fruitful, interactive and vibrant discussion, where different stakeholders would each contribute with their particular point of view to create the full picture of VET and education at large. On one thing, all panellists and participants agreed: education systems that frontload learners with stocks of knowledge at the beginning of their lives will never be able to cope with the challenges of modern societies. Education shall be a lifelong process, enabling individuals to adapt throughout their professional and personal contingencies and overcome issues. That’s the real power of education, the most responsive and flexible tool out there.
During the days of the Vocational Skills Week, participants and speakers have been starting and closing discussions with the importance of lifelong vocational education and training; yet, it looks like there is still a lot of work to make it happen. Building a sustainable future requires a sustainable approach to learning, sustainable skills and resilient citizens. VET has a role to play in all of this and will manage to establish itself as a first-class professional choice only when it will fully embrace the lifelong learning approach. This can only be possible if funding for lifelong learning both public and private are allocated. Through a system of voting, participants to the closing event voted “Workplaces as learning environments” as the most important step for VET; at LLLP, we believe that it is not a coincidence and that the approach to VET is finally changing. For the best.