Since 2004, Cedefop has monitored progress across Europe on the goals agreed within the Copenhagen process. In its policy reports, it analyses measures taken and reviews good practices. The latest report provided the groundwork for the Bruges Communiqué.
Much of the groundwork for the recent Bruges communiqué on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training for the period 2011-2020 was laid in Cedefop’s policy report, A bridge to the future: European policy for vocational education and training 2002-10. The report analyses achievements in policy cooperation over the past eight years and outlines major challenges for the future.
The policy report follows developments in the implementation of common European tools and monitors progress in other priority areas. Its findings are based primarily on information provided by governments and social partners, and on the national reports submitted by Cedefop’s network of expertise, ReferNet.
Greater mobility for learners and workers
One of the major achievements of European policy cooperation has been the development of six common European instruments and principles to promote transparency and mobility for learning and working. By making qualifications easier to understand, these are changing the way in which different parts of national systems – such as vocational and higher education – relate to each other.
Meeting the challenges of the rising demand for qualification
The Europe 2020 strategy sets inclusive growth, i.e. high employment and economic, social and territorial cohesion, as one of its three priorities. But for Europe to reach its 2020 employment target of 75% it must tackle structural unemployment, which particularly affects people with low levels of education. Cedefop’s forecasts on future skill needs conclusively show a rising demand for qualifications in all types of occupations. Despite the crisis, 80 million new job opportunities are forecast to emerge between now and 2020. Most will require at least medium-level vocational qualifications.
Among young people, qualification levels are also rising, especially for women. But 14% of youngsters still leave school early, adding to the 76 million adult Europeans, a third of the workforce, who have few or no qualifications. This group will find it increasingly difficult to find and keep a job.
The tasks ahead for vocational education and training
Europe’s current workforce needs to update, upgrade and broaden its knowledge and skill in order to perform well in jobs that are likely to become more demanding at all levels. For Europe to reach its 2020 employment rate target of 75%, it must tackle structural unemployment to help more people, including women and people with low education levels, to find jobs. A greater emphasis on adult education and lifelong guidance is needed to cover these gaps, especially considering the ageing of the European population.
Encouragingly, this is the direction of VET reform over the past eight years under the Copenhagen process. As the policy report found, countries have aimed not only to strengthen initial training but also to systemise continuing training, which is becoming the ‘senior partner’ in vocational education and training pathways. Policymakers are providing more opportunities for people to enter the education and training system at various points throughout working life and to gain recognised qualifications through the validation of informal and non-formal learning.
Policy cooperation to continue in the new decade
Despite possible financial constraints, countries continue to be committed to long-term reforms. In the coming decade, policy-makers must make sure that the progress made so far will be implemented in practice – and make demonstrable improvements to the lives of European citizens.
Meeting in Bruges, Belgium, on 7 December, Ministers of Education from 33 European countries (EU-27, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey), representatives of employers and unions and the European Commission confirmed their shared objectives for vocational education and training for 2011-2020, and agreed on an action plan centred on concrete measures (including short-term deliverables) and deadlines.
The Bruges Communiqué’s deliverables for 2011-14 include:
- a review of incentives, rights and obligations in vocational education and training. The goal is to encourage more adults to participate in lifelong learning.
- greater cooperation with business to ensure the relevance of training
- the implementation the 2009 recommendation on quality assurance in vocational training.
- further development of vocational schools with the support of local and regional authorities
What Cedefop brings to the next phase of policy cooperation
At the informal meeting in Bruges on 7 December, the European ministers for education entrusted Cedefop with several tasks for the next phase of policy cooperation. These include:
- continuing to report on how countries are implementing the agreed priorities in vocational education and training, every three years;
- helping with the practical implementation of common European instruments and principles;
- analysing skill needs; and
- providing support and know-how to the European Commission on issues such as adult education, teacher and trainer development, and work-based teaching and learning.
- Policy analysis page on the Cedefop portal: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/analysing-policy/index.aspx
- Briefing note: Learning to change. A summary of the findings of the policy report in English, French, German, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Spanish: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/publications/17301.aspx
- Policy Report in full: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/EN/publications/17297.aspx The policy report was officially launched during the informal meeting of the Council of Ministers for Education and Training, which took place in Bruges, Belgium, on 7 December 2010.
- National reports for each of the countries participating in the Copenhagen process have been prepared by ReferNet, Cedefop’s network of expertise: http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/F?func=find-c&ccl_term=refernet+bridge+national+2010
Photo: Cedefop Acting Director Christian Lettmayr (far left) at the informal ministerial meeting, Bruges, 7 December 2010. Source: Belgian Presidency website.