Working in networks is in the nature of vocational education and training (VET), according to Cedefop Acting Director Mara Brugia. Ms Brugia was a keynote speaker at a seminar organised by CIOFS-FP, one of the main Italian VET providers, in Rome on 19 and 20 September.

CIOFS-FP focuses on initial VET and operates in most Italian regions. In her speech, Ms Brugia talked about network systems in VET in Europe.

‘In over 20 years working at Cedefop, I have witnessed the crucial role that networks for collaboration and coordination play in the success of VET policies,’ she said, adding: ‘It is the tripartite structure of Cedefop’s governance, with the involvement of representatives of governments, employers and trade unions from all EU Member States, that enables us to work effectively with the most important national stakeholders including the community of teachers/trainers who make a real difference by guaranteeing the quality and the results of learning for the benefit of citizens and companies.’

The Cedefop Acting Director referred to apprenticeship as a good example of a ‘network system’ for VET: ‘To be successful, apprenticeship needs to achieve a convergence of interests, which requires each stakeholder to be able to go beyond their own immediate interest. It requires synergies and divisions of tasks between the school, the company, the apprentice, the teacher/trainer and the family in a systemic framework of collaboration between local authorities, social partners and employment services.’

As a recent comparative Cedefop study highlights, the apprenticeship landscape in Europe is really varied and complex, she noted. The differences between the (more than 40) apprenticeship schemes analysed show that successful systems are usually those characterised by well-structured multi-actor, multilevel governance, with strong participation of social partners, institutions and VET providers on parity with general education.

Ms Brugia also talked about VET’s future challenges: ‘Italy, like the rest of Europe, is changing profoundly due to rapid technological, demographic and social transformation, the consequences of which have already started to become apparent in the labour market. VET needs to reflect on its own role in society in relation to this important labour market transformation. The "bridge metaphor", e.g. between education and work, is no longer adequate.’

We need to think, she argued, more and more in terms of networks, of territorial ecosystems where stakeholders collaborate on equal terms, sharing resources and responsibilities to converge towards common objectives.

Concluding, Ms Brugia said that ‘VET’s fate is and will continue to be connected with pedagogy, training tools, and is therefore first and foremost in the hands of teachers/trainers; their role is vital, with increased dignity, merit and responsibility attached to it.’

In his intervention, Cedefop’s Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri highlighted the crucial role played by the accredited training centres which represent the backbone of the VET system in many Italian regions. Increasing VET’s effectiveness will largely depend on strengthening the training supply chain and on the full involvement of training providers and social partners in the complex multilevel governance of the Italian system.

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