The 18th ReferNet annual plenary meeting brought together virtually national representatives, partners, Cedefop experts involved in the network’s activities and representatives of other organisations from 2 to 4 December.

ReferNet is a network of institutions created by Cedefop in 2002 to provide information on national vocational education and training (VET) systems and policies in the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

The event’s objectives were:

  • to inform ReferNet partners and national representatives of the latest EU VET policy developments, particularly the Osnabrück declaration and its impact on the network’s activities;
  • to review the 2020 ReferNet deliverables and prepare the 2021 work plan;
  • to organise a knowledge-sharing platform on VET topics originating from the Osnabrück declaration, to be piloted by ReferNet partners;
  • to provide opportunities for informal meetings which will promote the network’s spirit of collaboration and partnership, help newcomers become acquainted with existing partners and Cedefop experts, and familiarise themselves with the network’s operation.

Opening the meeting, Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel thanked ReferNet partners for managing 'to be present as always' and congratulated them on respecting deadlines and obligations despite the difficulties posed by the prolonged coronavirus pandemic: ‘It is remarkable how much this network has accomplished in this corona year: VET policy reporting, contributions to the future of VET project and the mobility scoreboard, interpretation of the European skills index and news items on VET responses to Covid-19, to name a few.’

Mr Siebel noted that each national partner is a key player involved in VET in their country: ‘Therefore all partners are well-placed to offer first-hand information on VET's role, purpose, governance and structure.’

Experts from Cedefop, the European Commission and ETF discussed various topics related to ReferNet’s work.

European Commission's Jan Varchola presented the latest EU policy initiatives which include the updated skills agenda, Council recommendations on VET and on a reinforced youth guarantee, a digital education action plan and a European education area.

ETF’s George Zisimos outlined his agency’s views on internationalisation of VET.

Peter Thiele from the German Ministry of Education and Research stressed that the Osnabrück declaration on VET as an enabler of recovery and just transitions to digital and green economies, which was officially adopted on 30 November, brings a paradigm shift to continuing vocational education, building on achievements of European cooperation on VET in the past including the European qualifications framework for lifelong learning.

ReferNet countries gave an outlook of what they are planning to work on within the VET focus areas set out in the Osnabrück declaration.