EfVET President Joachim James Calleja shares his vision on the Future of VET at the “Apprenticeships coaches for SMES” conference” organised by EUROCHAMBERS in Brussels.

Prof Calleja, together with Joao Santos (European Commission) and Panyiotis Krashias (European Apprenticeship Network) took part in a final panel discussion on the Future of Vocational Education and Training.

The conference introduced the main findings of the project “Apprenticeships coaches for SMEs (AC4SMEs)” which aimed at training 26 SME apprenticeship coaches by through a European funded project headed by EuroChambres.  These coaches have acquired adequate tools and skills to stimulate and convince SMEs to offer more apprenticeship placements. In this way, the 26 apprenticeship coaches will offer direct guidance to SMEs willing to host an apprentice.

The panel discussion on the future of VET was opened by EfVET President Prof Calleja who emphasised the importance of bringing different worlds in VET in contact with each other. Actors who are talking and shaping the future of VET must come together and form a common voice and action. Strongest among VET actors are training providers and employers whose prospective alliance can take VET to levels of excellence, attractiveness and impact. If the current trail of events governing VET continues we risk coming spending the next ten years talking about the same problems that we wish to address today. Nevertheless, in order to success in this mission, Prof Calleja, stressed, the importance of VET being allocated the same resources as higher education. ERASMUS+ discriminates against VET learners by assigning only 16.5% of its mobility resources. When compared to University mobility this falls short by almost 50%.  If we advocate for attractiveness, then resources must be adequately allocated to VET activities. Prof Calleja, concluded his first intervention by saying that is time that assign VET to practitioners and employers the two key actors of the future of VET. Only those who practice VET have the capacity and the legitimacy to speak on behalf of VET, anticipate the impact that the new labour environment will have and ensure that the principles enshrined in the Copenhagen declaration are finally put into practice after sixteen years.

A new initiative that looks into this direction, is the proposed initiative to declare Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE), which was introduced to the panel by Joao Santos (European Commission). The CoVE’s will offer a bottom up approach letting the VET Centres give responses to the rapid changes trend in the labour market, but also offering guidelines to be sure that they provide what the labour market needs. The CoVE’s, explained Mr Santos, will collaborate with other VET centres in order to exchange experiences and learning from each other. They will be working at two levels:

  • National: operating in a given local context, embedding them closely in the local innovation and skills ecosystems, working with business, Chambers, tertiary education, research, institutions…
  • Transnational: through the CoVE’s platforms to establish world-class reference points for VET by bringing together partners that share a common interest in specific sectors/trades but also in societal challenges.

Panyiotis Krashias, from the newly set up European Apprenticeship Network (EAN), spoke about how their network identifies the main problems to be tackle in apprenticeship programmes: quality education and quality assurance, rights, responsibility and protection, legally binding agreements, representation, promoting apprenticeships, anti-discrimination and accessible information. These problems, according to EAN, need to be tackle by all stakeholders, particularly policy makers at all levels, in order to shape apprenticeship programmes on the basis of these priorities.

In a further intervention EfVET President Professor Callejas aid that the major mismatch everyone seems to ignore is the one between the current policies at EU level and at several national jurisdictions and the fast-changing labour environments. Companies and VET teachers, trainers, practitioners and learners cannot wait until a legislation is completed or a recommendation is put into practice, as changes are happening right now with the ever increasing risk of VET becoming an irrelevant source of education and training.  Since the Copenhagen process VET has change immensely but the time is ripe to engage those practicing VET to take centre stage and move forward with VET reform systems. Training providers, practitioners and employers cannot be seen any longer as stakeholders but as key shareholders of the same E&T process. The slow pace of policy-making and legislation is eroding the strengths that VET can provide for the future of the European workforce.