In his inaugural speech at a seminar organised by the Institute for Social and Economic Policy Education (ISWA) in Berlin, Cedefop Director James Calleja said that in today's economic climate, 'businesses should be considered shareholders in vocational training and an integral part of the skills formation process.'
Mr Calleja addressed German businesspeople and participants of a seminar on opportunities for cooperation on vocational training and youth employment in Europe, on 27 April. Given Germany’s low youth unemployment rate, many countries are interested in its apprenticeship system (dual system). ISWA organises regular seminars with the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, the Federation of German Industries and the Association of German Chambers of Commerce.
The Cedefop Director said that vocational training is one of several tangible solutions to ensure young people are adequately trained and employable in a challenging labour market.
Cedefop is in the forefront of enabling policy-makers to design strategies based on practices which can be considered success stories, such as robust and highly recognised apprenticeship programmes, work-based learning and vocational education and training (VET) qualifications which reflect the relevance of skills acquired to labour market reality.
Youth unemployment, Mr Calleja said, coincides with recruitment problems with the common argument being that young people are ill-prepared for work. In Europe, he added, 29% of highly qualified workers are in jobs that require medium and low qualifications. He noted that since 2008 there has been slow job creation, high replacement need in firms and increasing employer demand for work-based skills.
Mr Calleja delved into the added value EU initiatives bring in addressing these issues. In particular, he mentioned the EUR 6 billion front-loaded and structural funds (ESF) to support youth employment.
The promotion of work-based learning/apprenticeships through the European alliance for apprenticeships is another case in point. Mr Calleja insisted that 'we need more apprenticeships, especially in non-traditional sectors and occupations; we need more work-based learning and therefore businesses that create the physical space and time for learning; we need governments that support businesses that can engage more young people in work experience; and we need to transform the youth guarantee into a platform for the work environment and a bridge linking the world of education to the world of work.'
Mr Calleja insisted that the youth guarantee initiative should be seen as a catalyst for greater cooperation between employment services and education, improved and relevant guidance and counselling and a measure to reduce skills mismatch and increase youth employment. He referred to the positive response from the majority of EU Member States to the youth guarantee, stating that most countries have pledged to introduce dual training in formal VET, while other Member States are planning to improve governance, career guidance, quality, monitoring and to carry out attractiveness campaigns. Member States with well-established apprenticeship schemes are also intensifying efforts to improve quality, targeted support for enabling low achievers to develop skills and competences through work-based learning.
'What is essential', Mr Calleja reiterated, 'is that we improve the quality of apprenticeships across the EU and change mindsets towards apprenticeship-type learning.'
The European tools such as EQF, EQAVET, ECVET, Europass and several others can help this process if used effectively. 'Member States need more commitment towards the European tools - using them can make a significant difference to transferability, recognition, mobility and progression,' Mr Calleja said.
In concluding, he encouraged businesses to approach education services to ensure that their voice is not only heard but also recognised as policy for the future of our youth skills development, and argued that 'businesses moving away from a stakeholders' role to a shareholders' role, carries greater visibility in the labour market but also responsibility and structured commitment towards education and training.'