Continuity, consolidation and change: Towards a European era of vocational education and training

Vocational education and training: contributing to EU goals

Vocational education and training (VET) is one of Europe’s principal tools for raising the knowledge, skills and competences of its workforce. High-quality VET is essential for Europe if it is to respond to the challenges of the knowledge economy, globalisation, demographic trends and the need for greater social cohesion.

What progress has Europe made in making its VET systems the best in the world? How close are we to a European era of VET? What steps are needed to achieve this goal? These are some of the issues for discussion at this Agora conference, organised by Cedefop under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the European Union.

At the heart of the debate will be the results of Cedefop’s Policy Report, a biennial analysis of progress in implementing the European VET priorities agreed by the ministers with responsibility for VET, the European Commission, and the European social partners within the Copenhagen process (launched in 2002 by the Copenhagen Declaration). They committed themselves to strengthening European cooperation with the aim of increasing the quality, attractiveness, relevance and effectiveness of VET and promoting educational, occupational and geographical mobility. 

Cedefop: monitoring, developing and promoting VET  

The Copenhagen process was reviewed at informal biennial ministerial meetings in Maastricht (2004), Helsinki (2006) and Bordeaux (2008). The communiqués issued after each of these meetings mandated Cedefop to monitor and report on VET policy developments.

Cedefop’s analyses in 2004 and 2006 showed that a comprehensive European VET agenda was in place. European Union institutions, Member States and social partners were working more closely than ever to modernise VET systems and were making substantial progress. However, to make the Copenhagen process a complete success, greater effort was required; Europe needed to remain focused and build on the work already done. In particular, the common European tools needed to be further developed and implemented to improve the transparency and recognition of learning outcomes. 

The conference: re-assessing VET and making change happen 

This conference will announce and discuss the results of Cedefop’s third review of progress in the Copenhagen process, focusing on the period from 2006 to 2008. The main outcomes of the analysis – summarised in the flyer ‘In the finishing straight: From Copenhagen to Bordeaux’ were presented at the informal ministerial meeting held in Bordeaux in November 2008. The full report Continuity, consolidation and change: Towards a European era of vocational education and training will be published by Cedefop on the opening day of the conference, namely 16 March 2009. 

The conference will address three areas in particular: implementing common European tools and principles to support lifelong learning; promoting excellence and innovation in VET; and improving links between VET and the labour market. It will also provide an opportunity for policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to consider future steps and prospects for vocational education and training beyond 2010.

This event follows up Cedefop’s Agora ‘Building a European VET area', organised with the German Presidency of the European Union in Thessaloniki in April 2007.