Alexander Blaabjerg, Student at TEC – Technical Education Copenhagen (EfVET Member), and who is working at DISA – Norican group attended to the 2nd European Vocational Skills Week the last week of November in Brussels. He wanted to share his experience as a VET student and  as a participant at the European Vocational Skills Week. 

Alexander Blaabjerg

I am studying to become an automatic technician at TEC where I have an apprenticeship at DISA. I work in the test department, and I am testing large machines made for casting. These machines are made to cast really fast automatically, and are replacing manual slow production.

This is a big subject to the VET initiative, as production is becoming more and more automatic and machines and robots are taking over the jobs within mass production. This particular subject was mentioned very much at the conference, and I will also come back to it later in this article.

The conference dealt very much with VET, which means Vocational Education and Training. This topic is very important to me and the reason why I am the student representative board member at my school, representing the line Automatics. Furthermore, I was offered to be a part of the Erasmus+ project, which resulted in 6 weeks at a factory in Scheyern in Germany.

European Vocational Skills Week is a conference where the focus is all about VET. The problem in many countries, e.g. in Denmark, is that the training facilities is focused on becoming an engineer, so people that choose the craftsman education often feel the need to train their skills to become engineers.

I think it is important that we also have a focus on employees who enjoy working with their hands to build and construct things. Instead of changing vocational direction, we have the opportunity for VET.

VET is very important because of the constant change and development in the world. We constantly invent new machines, new things, and ways to use robots. Furthermore, the robots get cheaper and cheaper as the market of robots grow, so more and more companies invest in robots. Many people believe that the robots steal the low skilled jobs, and they are afraid that jobs will disappear in the future. But I am not afraid, because it has always been like that. Every time we invent something new, and some jobs gets obsolete, new job opportunities arise. For instance, in my company we make casting machines, which has replaced manual labor within this specific area. When this machine was invented, a lot of people lost their jobs. However, for each machine we build, we have someone to design it, someone to order parts, someone to program it, someone to sell it, someone to build it, someone to wire it and someone to test is. This is just an example, because there are many more people behind the machines. So every time we invent something and people lose their jobs, many more jobs will emerge. The history has always shown it.

But this is also exactly why we need to focus on VET.

© European Commission – DG EMPL

At this conference a lot of important topics came up, but one of the most important was the lifelong learning. Because of all the development in the world, we constantly need to learn and build on our skills. At the conference, most of the note speakers were experienced people, who had had the same job for a long time, and who are not affected by the constant change as so many others. It could have been nice to hear something from a company who had felt the change in the world – for instance the car industry. Some of the speakers were students, however, they too came from jobs which were not severely affected by the constant change. It would have been interesting to have a few speakers from more technical jobs or jobs which must change because of constantly changing work situation.

In my point of view I think this conference is really important for both schools, but also for managers of different companies. The managers have a big responsibility with regard to educating their employees.

Many employees have skills that they do not use in their jobs, and the reason could be that the manager is not aware of the skills. A listing of employees’ skills and course attending in a structured system should be able to put focus on that. I was at a one of the conferences where they talked about tools and which one we use in each company to have lifelong learning. I think it would be a good idea if the managers had a system showing which courses could be interesting for the specific job, and a system showing which employee has attended which course and has which skills. This could be a very important tool.

One of the note speakers pointed out that it is a bad thing that people get older and older at the Technical colleges. Well, I am one of those “older”, and I still believe that it is better to have skilled and dedicated students, who have found out which line to pursue, rather younger persons who might not be sure that they have found the right field yet. Older students have tried different jobs, and have finally found their passion. When people find the wrong jobs at a young age, I do not think that they are interested in building on their skills within their fields. Therefore, it is really important to help people finding the right path, so we have a lot of people who want to use their life on lifelong learning. To build on their skills, and make the future a better place.

Someone at the conference said that the future is here, but I do not believe that – and if they do, I think the will get a big surprise in some years.

This conference was really important, and it was some very interesting topics. During one of the topics it was mentioned that Denmark was among the 3 best countries to have well-functioning apprentice training. It would have been very relevant to interview people from the countries where it already works, so we can inspire other countries to find a way to make it work.

We have to figure out how we can make the jobs in each country similar to each other in Europe, because we travel more and more around the world, to share our skills, but the educations in each country are so different. When I traveled to Germany to work there for 6 weeks, my German colleagues thought that I was an electrician, and when I told them that I work with robots and programming, they thought I was an engineer. It would be nice if in Europe we could find equal education direction so we could easier work all over Europe.

I really recommend the conference because it takes up really important and relevant topics for discussion. In the smaller discussion groups, people had the chance to share opinions and share how it is in their places. I can also really recommend other students to join, to get a peek behind how much work the EfVET and other initiatives make within the exchange between the countries.

I learned a lot, and I hope to have the chance to participate again in the future.

This article was originally published on EfVET Magazine issue of December 2017