Across Europe it is widely acknowledged that vocational education and training is a key element of lifelong learning systems. Such systems equip citizens with knowledge, skills and competences required in particular occupations and on the labour market. As well as boosting personal development, vocational education and training ('VET') is important to enterprise performance, competitiveness and innovation. Well-developed structures and networks of VET providers, social partners, such as employers and trade unions, engage in constructive dialogue to:
- Promote work-based-learning in all its forms with special attention to apprenticeships.
- Involve social partners, companies, chambers and VET providers, as well as stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Enhance access to VET and qualifications for all, through more flexible and permeable systems.
- Strengthen key competences in VET curricula and provide more effective opportunities.
- Introduce systematic approaches to, and opportunities for, initial and continuous professional development.
- Develop quality assurance mechanisms in VET in line with the Recommendation on the establishment of EQAVET.
In pursual of ambition for excellence and a shared vision for a culture of quality, active participation is needed within these structures. Especially as there is an increasing transition from a supply-side system to one which is moving towards demand-side structures. Essentially, there is a need to improve responsiveness and relevance of VET to the changing demands in the labour market. A shared vision for a culture of quality, especially related to evidence-based VET, can require a culture change. Such a quality-driven culture change requires well developed structures and networks to strengthen quantitative and qualitative data capture and the capacity to use data. Essentially, there is need for new forms of accountability and quality assurance mechanisms. This can be achieved by using the EQAVET Indicators 5 and 6 for example:
EQAVET Indicator 5: the placement rate in VET programmes
- Proportion of VET programme completers who are placed either in the labour market, further education or training (or university or other destinations within 12-36 months after the end of the programme.
- Percentage of VET programme completers who are employed one year after the end of training.
EQAVET Indicator 6: utilisation of acquired skills at the workplace
- Percentage of VET programme completers working in relevant occupations.
- Percentage of employees of a given sector who, within a period of 12-36 months from completing VET find that their training is relevant for their current occupation.
- Percentage of employers of a given sector who are satisfied with programme completers.
So, what do we mean by structures? On a European level, Sector Skills Alliances (Erasmus+ Key Action 2 projects) aim at tackling skills gaps with regard to one or more occupational profiles in a specific sector. These tend to be timebound structures – delivering a ‘fixed term’ project that has longer-term impacts in mind. In terms of longer-term structures, within individual EU countries, we can reference Sector Skills Councils and Industrial Partnerships in the UK. In the Netherlands, SBB performs statutory tasks for senior secondary vocational education and training, and business trade and industry, for example.
To ensure these structures have impact there is often a need for culture change. Changing culture requires changing deeply embedded patterns and shared values that are developed over a period of time. Such re-culturing is seen as a process of co-creating and applying new meanings to situations. And, re-culturing can be achieved by implementing a cycle of collective learning for realizing the envisioned change and shared understanding. A useful example of ambition for excellence and a shared vision the UK’s Kitchen Talent report (Skills and Opportunity, Education, Employment and Social Mobility).