The President of EfVET was one of the keynote speakers at the International Congress on Vocational Education and Training, 4th Industrial Revolution organised by the Basque Country Government that took place in San Sebastian in June 2019.

In his speech, he focused on the challenges of higher vocational education and training in the future of work. Delving into the changes in businesses and in particular, the fourth industrial revolution Professor Calleja said that “today, inertia in education is a recipe for lost generations, unemployment and low-skilled workers”.

Professor Calleja said that technology has been the driving force in the progression of human civilization for more than a hundred years. Yet today concerns and challenges are dominating the debate on the transformation needed in education particularly in vocational education and training as well as in higher education. Concerns and misconceptions about robots stealing people’s jobs are top on the agenda. It is true that some jobs are being replaced by automated equipment, yet new jobs are also arising as a result of industry 4.0.

Automated equipment will take over physical, strenuous tasks but this will result in healthier lifestyles and safer workplaces for staff. EfVET President stressed that vocationally-oriented higher education is becoming more visible and gaining in importance. Countries are reducing the number of qualifications they award while broadening their scope, as they put more emphasis on social and transversal skills and competences. Potentially VET re-orientation towards a learning outcomes approach is moving towards more learner-centred education. In higher education, as skills-intelligence systems are becoming stronger and more precise, they highlight the need for reviewing and renewing skills and matching them more effectively to jobs.

Professor Calleja then focused on some of the challenges facing Higher VET among which he mentioned the following:

  • the lack of general awareness of HE VET qualifications
  • sometimes VET graduates fail to receive adequate recognition of prior learning for their VET college qualifications at higher education institutions particularly universities
  • complex governance and often inconsistent funding arrangements
  • a large and diverse number of training providers in HVET
  • lack of funding mechanisms to make HVET more responsive to labour market needs
  • complex governance and often inconsistent funding arrangements
  • the complex process of updating HVET qualifications

EfVET President quoted several examples from Estonia, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria in which graduates in HVET have had their employability skills recognized by offers of jobs quicker than other university graduates. Work-based learning even in HVET is being adopted across a wide spectrum of higher education institutions including Universities.

Mr Calleja said that “the need for greater cooperation between the world of businesses and the world of education is increasingly becoming a platform for graduates to find jobs that match their studies”. However, engaging employers in HVET simply as stakeholders is shortsighted according to Professor Calleja. “It is time, he said, “that we engage employers as shareholders of the education programmes particularly at levels of qualifications that pave the way to employment”. HVET is the response of vocational education to Industry 4.0. Investing in HVET in forms of learning by doing, work-based learning and learning on the job are new ways of engaging a wider spread of talents in given populations and in transforming these talents into sustainable sources of productivity, quality service provision and independent living and quality of life.

More information

This article was originally published at the Magazine for VET Professionals – June 2019