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Overcoming fear to reform, part of VET reform process

At a UNESCO/UNEVOC conference on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day, on 15 July, in Bonn, Cedefop Director James Calleja said that one of the key reasons vocational education and training (VET) is not attractive enough to young and older learners and workers is education and employment authorities’ fear to reform it and raise its profile.

By doing that, he added, VET will achieve higher visibility and recognition in the community and among key stakeholders.

Mr Calleja was addressing over 150 participants from UNESCO/UNEVOC Member States as well as key international players in technical vocational education and training (TVET).

Speakers proposed measures countries should take in TVET to place education and training at the core of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. TVET has the potential to contribute to creating sustainable economies and societies by preparing youth and adults for employment, entrepreneurship and by promoting gender equality and social equity.

The Cedefop Director spoke about key factors preventing VET from achieving the attractiveness it deserves to inspire and empower youth through skills development.

Quality assurance issues topped his list followed by the often unresolved issue of permeability between higher education and VET, the negative sociocultural perceptions of VET, the fear to implement reform and increase its visibility, learning environments not showing young people in compulsory education the value of VET programmes, teacher training which requires more structural organisation,  blinkered guidance and counselling for young adults, especially those who wish to take the VET learning pathway, poor job offers for persons with VET qualifications, disagreement at governance level on the complementarity between skills for life and skills for jobs, and failure to recognise informal and non-formal learning and assign credits that would enable VET mobility.

According to Mr Calleja, these factors add to VET’s unattractive profile even though several Member States are increasing skills competitions and media campaigns to encourage enterprises to invest in VET. European initiatives, policies and tools that strengthen VET provision are also on the increase.

A video message by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova opened the conference. Head of UNESCO/UNEVOC Shyamal Majumdar and UNESCO’S Director of policies and lifelong learning systems David Atchoarena spoke of the need to transform TVET systems for sustainable development linked to the 2030 sustainable development goals and UNESCO’s TVET strategy.

Other speakers included Cedefop’s Bureau Member Peter Thiele, UNESCO’S Director of lifelong learning institute Arne-Carlsen and Vice-President World Skills International Jos de Goey.