At a high-level dinner, organised by weekly newspaper European Voice in Brussels on 20 May, Cedefop Director James Calleja said that ‘educational reform must have relatively the same speed as developments in the labour market’ to make it easier for young people to move from education to employment.
Mr Calleja was invited to a restricted group of top-level EU policy-makers, business executives and representatives of the education and youth sectors to exchange practical examples of success stories in helping young people move from education into employment.
Participants argued that today’s labour market poses huge challenges to education, businesses and learners. It is not always possible for education and training to tailor skills to labour market needs. Hence, training teachers is paramount to ensure that education remains relevant to employment.
Apprenticeship programmes and work-based learning are tools that can accelerate transition from education to employment as they attract learners to a learning environment which integrates the workplace itself. Although forecasting the skills businesses needed is important, this is not easy to achieve in an unpredictable and constantly changing labour market context.
The need for new mindsets, particularly on the value of vocational training, was stressed by various speakers. Mr Calleja remarked that the first challenge is to recover the ‘casualties’ of the education system, particularly people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and early school leavers: ‘This is where education and businesses can join forces and promote quality apprenticeships and work-based learning.’
The second challenge, according to the Cedefop Director, is for education authorities to invest heavily in early education making sure that all young people possess key competences and the right attitude for employment at the end of the schooling period.
Trends are clearly showing that, beyond compulsory schooling, sectoral standards and quality assurance govern certification, and public education may well lose its current hold on further and higher education.
Mr Calleja reiterated the importance for EU Member States and social partners to put European policies and tools in practice, as these ease transition from education to employment for European citizens.