ReferNet, Cedefop's European network of vocational education and training (VET) expertise, held its annual plenary meeting on 19 and 20 January. The 30 ReferNet partners from all EU Member States, Iceland and Norway started a new cooperation period through a four-year framework partnership agreement (2016-2019) concluded with Cedefop.

Cedefop’s ReferNet coordinator Sylvie Bousquet welcomed the participants, among which eight were new partners from Bulgaria, Estonia, Spain, Greece, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Hungary and six national representatives from Estonia, Ireland, Portugal, Germany, Croatia and Sweden.

The meeting was an opportunity to share tools to report on VET policy developments in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, describe national VET systems using a common European terminology, and contribute to the initial VET mobility scoreboard. It also focused on the implementation of the 2016 work plan.

In his speech, Cedefop Director James Calleja stressed that ReferNet partners act as ambassadors of Cedefop, delivering information and feeding the structures concerning VET at national level. He said that ‘the information goes through Cedefop and reaches levels where VET reforms can actually happen.’ Mr Calleja added that Cedefop’s vision of shaping, valuing and informing VET goes beyond 2019 pointing out the need to act as catalysts for a more structured dialogue on VET reform at national level and focus on how these reforms could make a change in people’s lives. Cedefop’s adage for the coming years is to support VET policy makers, practitioners and stakeholders to think European and act nationally so that VET acquires a more attractive profile for learners, workers and employers. It is employability and employment which is at heart of VET provision.

European Commission’s Pirkko Pyörälä (DG EMPL) presented the VET priorities for the period 2015-2020 and referred to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) priorities for 2016. She explained that the focus this year will be on business education partnerships, developing a support platform for Member States and stakeholders, organising a presidency event on national and regional commitments and launching the Erasmus Pro pilot project on long-term mobility for apprentices.

Cedefop will monitor Member States’ commitments and the European Commission will launch a study on the EAfA pledges.

New members were debriefed and offered assistance during a special meeting held before the plenary session. The workshop for ReferNet’s partners focused on creating a common understanding of the concepts to be used in the network’s deliverables – in particular VET in Europe country reports.