‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’ With this quote by American writer Alvin Toffler, Dr Juris Binde, President of Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, ended his speech at the meeting of Directors General for vocational education and training (DGVT), hosted by the Latvian EU Presidency in Riga (20-21 April).

Modern technologies and their future developments allow ample opportunities for self-directed and peer-to-peer learning. Making the case for a new vision of learning, Mr Binde advocated ‘pancake’ instead of ‘cathedral’ learning: building up experience is still valid, but needs to be combined with information and experience from different areas.

Building on these messages, the DGVT concluded that ministers should reflect on the future of vocational education and training (VET) at a meeting in Riga on 22 June discussing Presidency conclusions on a new set of priority areas for countries’ joint work on VET until 2020. Industry 4.0 more generally or internationalisation and technology which offer new opportunities to acquire qualifications around the globe are just a few examples of developments that will influence VET.

The ministerial debate will be followed by a conference showcasing achievements of the European alliance for apprenticeship, which was launched in 2013. The European Commission and the DGVT expressed their appreciation for Cedefop's support to this initiative through its reviews of Lithuania and Malta and a series of other activities. As suggested by the DGVT, Cedefop’s assistance may need reinforcing.   

Cedefop Director James Calleja co-chaired a workshop on work-based learning and apprenticeships – challenges and proposed solutions from the involved stakeholders’ perspective. In his concluding statement, he stressed that ‘European success in VET will largely depend on local, regional and national initiatives in which citizens will be protagonists and beneficiaries; secondly how we talk about VET matters and will make or break this sector especially if status, transparency and permeability are not fully supported; thirdly, apprenticeships and work-based learning are means to ease transition from schools to work environments.’

Mr Calleja said that the education of today and tomorrow ‘necessarily puts added responsibility on the shoulders of teachers, trainers and mentors to view learners as human capital ready to be productive and loyal citizens; hence the need to create quality jobs and to invest in skills for all.’    

Discussions on a new set of priorities have been informed by Cedefop’s progress review in the areas ministers agreed to focus on at a meeting in Bruges in 2010 (Bruges communiqué). Its report Stronger VET for better lives was available during the meeting. Cedefop background papers and expertise also supported the four workshop discussions.