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The Future of vocational education and training (VET) project, covering the 27 EU Member States as well as Iceland, Norway and the UK, will contribute to a better overall understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing European VET in the coming years.

Building directly on the changing nature and role of VET in Europe project, the research will pay particular attention to the way the content and profile of vocational education and training is changing, responding to changing demands for skills and competences at work and in society at large.

The research builds on a multi-perspective analytical model:

(Analytical model - revised and simplified soon available)

The project will build on and integrate findings from other relevant Cedefop projects. The work is supported by a consortium of European research institutions and a network of national experts reporting on developments in the 30 countries covered by the project. 

Thematic focus

Theme 1: Changing content and profile of VET: epistemological challenges and opportunities

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  • To what extent is there a reduction in the number of IVET qualifications across Europe? Is this related to a broadening of (occupational) focus?
  • To what extent is there increased emphasis on general (academic) subjects in IVET qualifications and programmes? How have they been integrated and what did they replace?
  • To what extent is there increased emphasis on transversal skills and competences in IVET programmes and qualification? How have they been integrated and what did they replace?
  • How has the balance between occupation-specific skills, general subject knowledge, and transversal skills evolved over time?
  • What is the role of research-based knowledge in IVET, for example in supporting excellence and innovation?

Theme 2: Delivering IVET – Institutional diversification and/or expansion

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  • To what extent is the dividing line between VET and general upper secondary education and training blurring and what are the some relevant institutional solutions?
  • To what extent is there a consolidation and harmonisation of national IVET provisions? To what extent can we observe a diversification?
  • What room is left at regional, sectoral and local levels for institutional diversification and innovation?
  • To what extent can post-secondary VET (level 5) be seen replacing traditional IVET at levels 3 and 4?

Theme 3: Facilitating vocational learning – The influence of assessments

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  • What are the dominant assessment forms applied in IVET and how have they evolved over time?
  • To what extent are assessment specifications and standards used to support summative assessments?
  • To what extent are assessment specifications aligned with qualifications and programme standards?
  • To what extent could a broadening of the skills and competence base of IVET influence assessments?

Theme 4: Delivering lifelong learning – The changing relationship between IVET and CVET

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  • What characterises the link between IVET and CVET and how has this interface evolved over time?
  • To what extent, and in what form, are IVET systems being opened up to adults? How does this affect programme content, pedagogies and assessment?
  • To what extent, and in what form, do national and regional policies support a closer link between CVET and IVET?

Theme 5: Synthesis and trends

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  • To what extent, and in which direction, is the content profile of European VET changing?
  • To what extent, and in which direction, are VET delivery models and provisions changing?
  • To what extent, and in which direction, is the relationship between IVET and CVET changing?
  • What are the key factors influencing VET development strategies in the immediate future?

How Cedefop supports the project:

  • Cedefop workshops and conferences
  • Cooperation with ReferNet network
  • European policy cooperation in VET (Copenhagen process, Skills Agenda, VET recommendation)
  • National policy processes and events

VET scenarios 2035

The changing nature and role of VET project was concluded with the development of a series of VET scenarios seeking to identify policy alternatives and choices ahead. These scenarios are being further developed by the Future of VET project. The following three main scenarios provide the starting point for this work:

Scenario 1: Lifelong learning at the heart – pluralistic VET

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This scenario broadens our understanding and conception of what is meant by VET. The emphasis is on vocationally and labour-market-oriented learning at all levels and in all institutional settings. Vocationally oriented learning will not be restricted to the institutions explicitly defined as VET providers today but will form part of an integrated lifelong learning approach. It features the following characteristics:

(a) pluralistic VET implies a redefinition of VET’s overall position in the education and training system. The focus on VET as a separate and distinct subsystem will become less relevant as there is a greater need for connecting and combining different forms of learning. The currently observed blurring boundaries between VET and general education at upper secondary level point in this direction, underlining the need to combine vocational skills and general subjects. The focus will be on overall skills and competence developments, not on VET as a separate sector;

(b) this approach also requires a new orientation or focal point where VET is anchored in broader qualification profiles with a weaker link to specific occupations and jobs. It reflects the rapidly changing nature of occupation-specific skills and competences and the need for continuous updating and relearning. It also manifests the increasing importance of transversal skills and competence as a basis for coping with change;

(c) the VET target group will be significantly broadened, notably by addressing the needs of learners of all ages systematically and through a strengthened relationship between initial and continuing VET;

(d) individually tailored learning solutions, project- and problem-focused learning will become indispensable. A key objective will be to explore and combine the widest possible range of relevant learning forms and pedagogies;

(e) progression and pathways of vocationally oriented learning throughout life and portability of vocational learning will be key features of pluralistic VET. This requires transparent delivery at all levels and the reduction of barriers to transitions and progression;

(f) the envisaged shift to more comprehensive skills and competence strategies and policies will influence the governance of vocationally oriented learning. Broader skills sets and a weaker link to specific occupation and job profiles may require involving a wider group of stakeholders, adding to and complementing the role traditionally played by social partners;

(g) while EU-level policy will not interfere in the content and structure of VET, its role in relation to transparency, transferability and portability of skills and qualifications will increase;

(h) flexible pathways and the possibility to transfer broader skills sets across different types of education and training require even stronger coordination and governance mechanisms than today. If these mechanisms are a weak link, the pluralistic scenario runs the risks of fragmentation and increasing inequalities.

Scenario 2: occupational and professional competences at the heart – distinctive VET

The distinctive scenario seeks to strengthen the existing and dominant conception of VET as focused on entry into occupations and professions. It features the following characteristics:

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(a) VET’s position as a separate education and training subsystem with clearly defined providers and institutions is reaffirmed and strengthened. The visibility of the VET sector is seen as critical to ensuring parity of esteem with general education. As opposed to other education and training subsystems, learning at workplaces is regarded as a key defining element of VET;

(b) VET will be organised around the requirements and identities of clearly defined occupations and/or professions. This ensures a close link to the labour market and emphasises a need for balanced commitment of as the state, employers and trade unions;

(c) young people in initial education and training will be seen as the future core target group. Expansion of VET to higher levels is in line with this perspective. Key tasks of VET will be to help make young people mature professionally, and to enable specialisation while at the same time being open to renewal and innovation;

(d) work- and practice-based learning will be given priority. A key concern will be to modernise apprenticeships and practice-based learning to ensure their relevance to new occupational realities and education and training providers at higher levels. Promoting active learning through apprenticeships will gain increasing importance;

(e) a main aim will be to establish work-based learning as a ‘gold standard’ across occupational areas and at all levels, including EQF 8. This is seen as ensuring a basis for future progression in people’s learning and professional careers;

(f) social partners’ role in governing VET will be reaffirmed, reflecting VET’s link to occupations;

(g) EU-level policy may support the distinct model by promoting cross-border cooperation and agreements on occupations and sectors, for example setting common standards;

(h) the distinctive scenario runs the risk that rapidly changing technologies and labour markets raise questions about the role of medium-level skills and the long-term stability of occupations.

Scenario 3: job-oriented training at the heart – special purpose or marginalised VET

This scenario narrows down the understanding and conception of VET. Its focus is on training for jobs, reskilling and upskilling for short- and medium-term labour market needs.

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(a) VET’s position in the overall education and training system will be increasingly linked to continuing and further training in the labour market. Employability in its narrow sense is of key concern, as is the ability to respond to groups at risk. Employability in the broader sense, empowering people to develop in a lifelong learning perspective, is taken over by general education at all levels. This reduced VET role is partly a reflection of the effect of declining youth cohorts, limiting the ability of traditional VET to ‘compete’ with other education and training sectors.

(b) This approach implies reorientation of VET to the skills needs of rapidly changing jobs and labour market functions. VET focuses on short-and medium-term skills needs; less on basic and transversal skills and competences. These latter are the responsibility of general and academic education and training.

(c) VET’s target group is reduced, becoming focused mainly on adults in need of immediate re- or upskilling or at risk of unemployment and social exclusion.

(d) Shorter training courses, increasingly offered through open educational resources, are likely to become the predominant learning forms. While this is not exclusive to this scenario, the flexibility offered by these forms of learning, including at higher levels, is particularly relevant to this approach. Some individual tailoring is possible, as is limited on-the-job training. Attention to basic and transversal skills and competences is reduced, influenced by the focus on short- and medium-term skills needs.

(e) In terms of pathways and progression opportunities, this scenario emphasises a need for more transparent training offers. These will make it easier for adult learners to access courses and programmes directly relevant to their needs.

(f) This approach implies radically different VET governance, where individual companies and sectors play a key role. The role of the education and training system will be reduced.

(g) EU-level policy will need to ensure transparency and portability. However, this will form part of labour market policies rather than broader lifelong learning policies.

(h) This scenario runs the risk of underestimating the importance of basic and transversal skills and competence in meeting the needs of the labour market and society.

Related projects

The project’s work builds on, and contributes to, previous and ongoing Cedefop work. You will find more information on related projects in the links below:

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Related project
Changing nature and role of VET

Project contacts

Jens Bjørnåvold
Senior expert, project manager
Anastasia Pouliou
Expert
Else Husa
Expert
Maite Santos
Assistant