Government design of the IVET structure
Since few professions are regulated in Sweden, most qualifications are determined by stakeholders and social partners. The Parliament, the Government and State agencies are responsible for education and have set up a structure for education provision to meet the needs of the individual, society and the labour market.
Consultation rounds and open consultation through meetings and websites are examples of methods used to collect views and proposals. If a revision is seen as necessary, the National Agency for Education (
) organises an extensive review to inform the relevant parties of the decision on a new subject or course. Focus groups of teachers and learners are consulted; the work in progress is published on the agency’s website for teachers and stakeholders to express their opinions; proposals are written and quality assured in the agency to ensure that the curricula align with the legislation. Before the National Agency decides on a new subject or course, other national agencies, interest groups, social partners and stakeholders (including school organisers) receive a copy of the proposed changes and have a chance to comment. If a large section of the consultees or a single influential group is opposed to the proposal, the National Agency for Education may decide not to proceed or to revise the proposal. The same process is used for core and foundation courses which are decided by the Government. In these instances, the National Agency for Education acts on behalf of the Government and makes proposals to the Government after following the same review process.
When the quality assurance of the design, assessment, certification and review of the process is thorough and transparent, it is more likely that the final proposals will be accepted. If everyone concerned has a chance to express their opinions, the proposed education standards expressed in the documents are more likely to be adjusted to suit the needs of social partners and stakeholders and to be of a higher quality.
So, for example, in 2015 a government commission of enquiry (Gymnasieutredningen) was launched, which included the aims of studying how VET programmes can provide eligibility for tertiary education and analysing if it would be necessary to adjust the upper secondary programmes and orientations. Proposals from the enquiries are presented to the Government and frequently guide the Government in upcoming objectives for the education agencies aiming to develop curricula, syllabuses or to make amendments to the education structure. The drawing up of governing documents takes place for the most part at the National Agency for Education in close collaboration with different actors and stakeholder groups.
Learning outcomes (
) in upper secondary education are expressed in the curricula, diploma goals and subject syllabuses which describe the aim and long-term goals of the subject, the core content, and assessment criteria in the knowledge requirements for each of the courses. Learning outcomes in Swedish upper secondary education are expressed as the learners’ ’ability to’, ’knowledge about’, ’understanding of’ and ’skills in’. Knowledge requirements relate to these outcomes and are expressed using active verbs.
Gap between diplomas and expected qualifications in upper secondary VET
Within the structural framework it is foreseen that all VET programmes should cover 2 500 credits and last three years. Typically, 1 600 credits are allocated to VET-subjects, whereas the remaining credits are allocated to foundation subjects (Swedish, English, maths, physical health, natural science, and social science), diploma project and to individual options. There are, however, some industries that argue that there is too little vocational training in upper secondary education to reach a qualification needed in their sector. For traditional handicrafts like hairdressers, for example, graduates must work as employees for 3 000 hours before being able to take the exam leading to a journeyman certificate. Therefore, the vocational outcome of the hairdresser orientation of the handicrafts programme only leads to the informal title 'aspiring hairdresser.' Final examinations are performed by the hairdressers’ association but the qualification is still placed at the SeQF level 4 (EQF level 4) based on the level of acquired knowledge, skills, and competences (
Designing education in dialogue with stakeholders in upper secondary VET
In structured consultation, the National Agency for Education meets with schools and stakeholders to ensure that subjects and courses can be used to build qualifications which meet the needs of working life. For each vocational programme there is a national programme council with a broad cross-section of industry representatives and social partners in the vocational area for which the programme provides education and training. Some programme councils include representatives from public authorities like the Swedish public employment service (PES). One of the tasks of each programme council is to advise and support the National Agency for Education in relation to the adaptation, development and modernisation of the supply of education and the content of vocational education. This helps to ensure that the competences required by the labour market are met. The programme councils fulfil a consultative function and can suggest revisions but are not decision-making bodies.
At local level, there must be one or several local programme councils (lokala programråd) for cooperation between school and working life; they cover all vocational programmes in every upper secondary school. How these councils are organised and what their tasks are is not regulated. Possible tasks could be assisting the provider in arranging placements of work-based learning, and participating in organising and assessing diploma projects. A local programme council may also advise the school about skills needed locally and which courses the school could use in programme specialisations to meet the local needs.
Other forms of cooperation with stakeholders
There are many initiatives for cooperation at the regional level between school and working life, unregulated by the State. For example, actors on the labour market have initiated Teknikcollege ( ) (Technical College) and Vård- och omsorgscollege (Health and Medical Care College), a form of cooperation within the framework of upper secondary and tertiary education. Behind the Teknikcollege is the Industrial Council (Industrirådet) and different employer and employee organisations in the technology and industrial sectors. The Teknikcollege wishes to be a long-term competence provider that also works actively to promote quality in VET at upper and post-secondary levels. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, (SKL) together with a trade union, the Swedish Municipal Workers' Union (Kommunal) and the Association of Private Care Providers (Vårdföretagarna), started a similar initiative in a college for health and medical care, with a focus on ensuring the supply of skilled workers and further training for existing staff, as well as increasing quality in work-based learning for young people and adults.
Partial qualifications in VET
In October 2016 the Government commissioned the National Agency for Education to recommend vocational training 'packages' for adults. These 'packages' are clusters of courses agreed with the industry as entry points into the labour market. They will not only consist of partial qualifications, but will also include building blocks that may be transferred and accumulated towards a full qualification. In April 2017 the objective was amended to include the introduction programmes aimed at young, mostly recently arrived immigrants, who are not eligible for admission to an upper secondary VET programme. Fifty-eight packages covering a wide range of vocational areas had been developed by February 2018 but more are being continuously developed.
Designing qualifications in higher VET
In accordance with legislation and within the restrictions of funding allocations for higher vocational education programmes (yrkeshögskoleutbildningar) the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Myndigheten för yrkeshögskolan) independently determines, following an application procedure, the programmes to be included as higher vocational education. In contrast to upper secondary vocational education, it is the education providers who design the programmes in higher vocational education.
Programmes in higher vocational education must correspond to the needs of the labour market. For this reason, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education analyses and collects information about the skills in short supply in different industries and regions. The information is then used, together with the VET provider’s application, as a basis for assessing the programmes that are to be available in higher vocational education. External stakeholders such as employers and industry organisations, as well as central and regional authorities, also play an important contributory role in supplying information to the assessment and decision-making processes. The qualification demands imposed by employers and industries thus determine the programmes to be approved, where in Sweden they are offered, and how many study places are allocated to each programme.
The Labour Market Council (arbetsmarknadsråd) is a special body linked to the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education. The task of the council is to support the agency with information about the labour market: the vocational areas under development, the new qualifications that may be required, and the qualifications that need to be phased out. The members of the council, which is chaired by the head of the agency, are representatives of the public employment service and the social partners. The council members also function as a channel to their respective organisations in terms of synchronising the analyses.
For education and training programmes that require nationally equivalent content, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education issues regulations on what knowledge, skills and competences all learners must have attained on completion.
Designing qualifications outside the formal education system
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Myndigheten för Yrkeshögskolan) has been appointed by the Swedish Government as the national coordination point for the Swedish national qualifications framework, the SeQF. All government regulated education is referred to the SeQF in an ordinance (
), but qualification awarding bodies outside the formal education system may apply to the agency to refer their qualification to the SeQF. A precondition is that the awarding body conducts systematic quality assurance of the qualification. A group of experts reviews the application and serves as an advisory body to the Director General who determines the SeQF-level of the qualification. These decisions are valid for ten years ( ).