Teaching professionals and leaders in VET: who are they?

The teaching workforce involved in delivering VET programmes can be divided into different types of occupation. While the titles for professionals working in VET may vary according to the context of VET provision in each country, four distinct categories can be identified in initial vocational education and training (IVET).

It is more important to define the teaching and training staff in terms of function and tasks rather than trying to come up with a single term for each group. For more information see here.

Why does the professional development of VET teachers and trainers matter?

Teachers and trainers in VET are key actors in ensuring its quality and relevance to today’s demands. They work in the context of innovation, globalisation, rapid technological and societal changes that pose challenges to education and training systems across Europe and globally.

Committed and competent teachers, trainers and other VET professionals were acknowledged as key agents for high quality initial and continuous VET in the Bruges communiqué. Evidence shows they can embrace new challenges and reforms and ensure quality and effective learning experiences for both young and adult learners.

Key European policy documents invite all Member States to ensure that all VET teachers and trainers have access to high-quality initial and continuing professional development and support in order to contribute, among others, to:

  • implementing new VET curricula;
  • strengthening links between education and the labour market;
  • providing more and high-quality apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning;
  • contributing to shaping quick and flexible responses to emerging needs (e.g. COVID-19, the migrant crisis);
  • applying the common European transparency tools.

It is essential that teachers and trainers have opportunities to develop and maintain their technical competences, pedagogical skills and transversal competences (e.g. digital, intercultural communication) to the highest standards.

What type of challenges do VET teachers and trainers face?

Many teachers and trainers face, to varying degrees, similar challenges. Depending on the sector and level of VET, Cedefop research has identified the following main ones:

  • With the advancement of digitalisation, methods and means of teaching and learning are changing fast. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the learning process could generate new insights into how learning happens, but it also implies new roles for VET teachers and trainers and poses important ethical questions to education and training institutions.
  • The expansion of work-based learning and apprenticeships in companies of different sizes, leads to the creation of new flexible learning pathways. There may be an increase in the need for hybrid professions – teachers and trainers who work in both VET institutions and companies; a need for closer collaboration between VET teachers and trainers; and with mentors and career counsellors to support and guide learners.
  • As we focus on the learning outcomes approach, VET teachers and trainers are more involved in developing and implementing education and training reforms, especially in relation to curriculum design, and in deciding on appropriate vocational pedagogies.
  • Migration and international mobility change learning environments: they are composed by ever more heterogeneous groups of learners with greater diversity.
  • The reality of an ageing population and lifelong learning means that VET teachers and trainers have an important role in empowering individuals to undertake learning for upskilling and reskilling in flexible programme structures.
  • Changing and emerging jobs and the current uncertainty in social, political and environmental developments, task VET teachers and trainers with the additional responsibility of teaching key competences to foster the social responsibility and civic engagement of learners, as well as to support their personal growth and convey human values.
  • relatively low social status, wages and working conditions, makes attracting competent people to the teaching and training profession a challenge; this includes providing the conditions and supporting them to remain committed and competent throughout their teaching/training life. Understanding teachers’ and trainers’ wellbeing and job satisfaction is critical.

For teachers and trainers to fulfil their multiple roles in all these contexts (initial and continuous VET as well as adult learning), arrangements must be in place to help them become familiar with modern pedagogical and adult learning approaches, and to equip them with the right mix of skills and experience they need to deal with current and emerging needs.

Cedefop's work

Cedefop supports the European Commission, Member States and social partners in implementing European strategic objectives and policy priorities concerning the role and professional development of VET teachers and trainers. Specifically, Cedefop:

  • carries out research and surveys to support evidence-based policy making at EU level and monitors national developments;
  • is conducting a new feasibility study for launching a pan-European survey to collect data from schools and workplaces. It aims to survey the four key populations in initial VET (IVET) – school principals, teachers, in-company trainers and learners – combining providers and customers of IVET in a comprehensive approach. The study will provide insights from the field and help to understand strengths, weaknesses and needs in IVET. The pan-European survey will help build a robust evidence base for innovative and efficient policy-making at all levels and support the new EU policy actions for the professional development of VET teachers and trainers and the learning situations of VET students;
  • supports the working groups set up by the European Commission and contributes to the development of policy pointers for VET teachers and trainers;
  • offers publications, country reports, news and organises relevant events, such as policy learning fora, to promote policy learning and knowledge sharing among key national and European stakeholders.

Cedefop activities address the following thematic areas:

  • VET teachers’ and trainers’ wellbeing and job satisfaction;
  • attractiveness of the teaching profession;
  • professional development of VET teachers and trainers;
  • the role of VET teachers and trainers in building stronger bridges between schools and businesses;
  • designing inclusive (work-based) learning environments;
  • using innovative and learner-centric pedagogies in VET.

Cedefop tools for VET practitioners

Offering learning providers practical support, Cedefop launched the VET toolkit for tackling early leaving in May 2017 and its updated edition in 2019.  The toolkit is designed to:

  • help young people at risk of becoming early leavers to remain in education and training and to acquire qualifications;
  • help early leavers to reintegrate into education or training and the labour market.

The toolkit aims to help VET practitioners to tackle early leaving at every stage, from identifying learners at risk, to supporting the reintegration of early school leavers.

How can I get involved with Cedefop tools for VET practitioners?

Other related projects

Country reports

Supporting teachers and trainers