The growing importance of cooperation and networking in improving visibility of vocational education and training (VET) was at the core of the 11th plenary annual meeting of ReferNet, Cedefop’s European network of VET, on 5 and 6 November.

Opening the meeting, ReferNet coordinator Sylvie Bousquet said to the 70 participants from across Europe gathered in Thessaloniki that the plenary represented ‘not only a milestone but also momentum’ and that ‘striving for quality had inspired us.’ She added that the aim is to ‘strengthen the partnership with more inter-member activities throughout the year.’

In his speech, Cedefop Director James Calleja pointed out that ‘ReferNet has always been a very important network within Cedefop and the intention is to strengthen it in the years to come.’

‘Networking is a “must” if we really want to move towards the implementation of Bruges, the Europe 2020 goals or make use of the European tools that we’ve been talking about for quite some time,’ added Mr Calleja.

Since quality is the hallmark of ReferNet, Mr Calleja noted, ‘we are here to learn from each other; we want quality information from you so that policy-makers are well informed before taking decisions to improve VET systems in Member States.’

The Director referred to the Spotlight on VET publications, short overviews of vocational education and training systems, calling them very good work, which informs policy-makers throughout Europe: ‘Next year we’ll have 13 more of those Spotlights thanks to the ReferNet participants.’

Mr Calleja said that ‘this is a network about systems of learning for people in search of jobs and quality of life,’ and concluded that ReferNet can make a difference by ‘being a source of shared reflection on solutions to the important challenges that lie ahead of us and by raising visibility of VET and VET policy developments in the European Union.’ That way, he argued, we can meet the challenges of employability and the upskilling of workers; we will offer new solutions to employment through lifelong learning.

European Commission’s Alison Crabb, Deputy Head of Unit ‘Vocational training and adult learning’, DG Education and Culture, stressed that ‘work to improve visibility of VET is only growing in importance.’

Cedefop’s Lore Schmid and Jasper Van Loo, in their presentation, referred to the 2014 Bruges review, the full report of which is expected in June 2014. The review will assess to what extent countries have put in place the VET-related actions they agreed in the Bruges Communiqué in 2010 and discuss which areas to focus on in the future towards the goal of Europe 2020.

In the process, Cedefop will require ReferNet national partners to report on VET policy in their country and on how the specific VET-related objectives of Europe 2020’s strategy are being met at national level, and to provide up-to-date information on VET systems and developments.

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ReferNet 11th plenary meeting agenda