An exchange of views on vocational education and training policies was at the centre of the visit to Cedefop on 23 January of Hannes Swoboda, MEP since 1996 and current President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament.

The Austrian politician, who was accompanied by Greek MEP Sylvana Rapti, a member of the S&D group, praised the work of Cedefop. Discussions with senior Cedefop officials focused on the Centre’s work to help improve labour market intelligence and spread apprenticeships more widely across Europe. The S&D group has initiated a working group on jobs and is organising a series of events in Europe.

Head of Area Research & Policy Analysis Pascaline Descy said that, according to Cedefop forecasts to be published in 2014, employment may reach only pre-crisis levels by 2023, and emphasised the importance of activation policies, including training and careers guidance for adults.

Head of Area Enhanced Cooperation in VET and lifelong learning Mara Brugia stressed the need for a change of mindset to achieve attractiveness of VET, not only among European citizens but also policy-makers.

Mr Swoboda said he considers employability very important and expressed concern about the mismatch between skills people have and those required by the labour market. In his view, Europe has to be prepared for life after the economic crisis by improving training.

Writing on his personal website, the President of the S&D group recapped his visit to Cedefop: 'Of course, Austria was repeatedly referred to as an example in our discussions with the researchers and experts there. But, more importantly, they said it will take until 2023 before Europe is back at the pre-crisis level of employment. And this statement is not promising. Equally important was the message that training for medium-level qualifications (initial VET, university of applied science etc) is becoming more significant. This is something I have also said repeatedly. Highly qualified does not necessarily mean university degree. It is about relevant knowledge and skills in various fields, and at various levels, and about efficiency. This is more important for our competitiveness than low wages and tax rates.'

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