The challenges and choices facing European vocational education and training (VET) were discussed at a virtual and highly interactive workshop, organised by Cedefop on 26 and 27 November.

The workshop had as a starting point two Cedefop projects that address this issue: the changing nature and role of VET in Europe (2015-18) and the future of VET in Europe (2019-22). The projects have resulted in more than 20 publications so far.

Almost 150 researchers, policy-makers and VET stakeholders from 36 countries in Europe and beyond took part in the event. ‘This demonstrates that the future of VET is of global interest and concern,’ said Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel in his opening remarks.

Mr Siebel noted that ‘We want to understand better the overall direction European VET is taking: is it becoming less relevant and losing out to other parts of the education system or is it increasing in importance and relevance?’

He added: ‘It is not sufficient to see VET from an institutional perspective; we need multiple lenses, for example paying attention to the changing content of VET skills and competences or looking at the overall position of VET in relation to other parts of education, societies and labour markets.’

Influential research

Cedefop’s research on the future of VET has already influenced various European policy initiatives, including those launched in 2020: the updated European skills agenda, the Council recommendation on VET, the European education area and the Osnabrück declaration on VET as an enabler of recovery and just transitions to digital and green economies.

According to Mr Siebel, ‘a key challenge in the coming years will be to develop further our understanding of VET’s changing content and profile; comparative research in this area is weakly developed and it is our hope that we can make progress.’

Cedefop’s Head of Department for VET Systems and Institutions Loukas Zahilas talked about the agency's work on the future of VET and different scenarios and options. ‘They have strengths and limitations,’ he said, adding that ‘we are not trying to predict the future but to illustrate the implications of different choices.’

Changing landscape

Cedefop expert Jens Bjornavold discussed the new project on the future of VET, which builds on previous research, paying attention to changes in VET’s content and profile. In many countries we see a broadening of profiles, while the overall number of qualifications (and thus specialisations) is reduced. Closely related to this we can also see a changing relationship between occupationally specific skills, general subjects and transversal skills and competences, indicating that future VET skills may look different from what they do today.

Outlining the project, Cedefop expert Anastasia Pouliou said that it will examine VET’s changing content, the changing institutions of initial VET, the impact of assessment on VET learning and the changing interaction between initial and continuing VET, with the aim to provide a synthesis and trends analysis.

Workshop participants explored in parallel sessions the transversal skills and VET curriculum, the challenge of reviewing and renewing VET qualifications and the new arrangements between VET and general education.