Cedefop has launched a feasibility study for a survey of vocational education and training (VET) teachers and trainers, aiming to serve the long-term EU strategy for green, digital, inclusive and fair economies.

Over 80 European policy-makers, social partners and invited experts took part in a Cedefop webinar on 3 February to discuss all aspects of that survey.

Opening the meeting, Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel said that ‘initial vocational education and training (IVET) decides to a large extend whether a young person will have a successful work life and labour market integration.’ IVET consists of a complex interaction between schools, workplaces, teachers, trainers and learners; and all of them have an impact on learning outcomes, he added.

According to Mr Siebel, Cedefop’s new feasibility study will ‘build a robust evidence base for innovative and efficient policy-making at national, regional, local and school levels.’

Quality is key

Cedefop Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri stressed that ‘whatever we do to innovate and improve VET cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and trainers.’ The European Commission’s Chiara Riondino agreed that ‘We need to invest in teachers and trainers and give them the tools to help us reach our common goals. We look forward to working with Cedefop on this study and use it to better implement the new EU policy actions.’

Representing the social partners, ETUCE’s Agnes Roman pointed out the need to decrease the teacher/student ratio in VET: ‘We hope that the Cedefop study will contribute to reaching this goal.’

Cedefop experts Irene Psifidou and Daniel Scheuregger presented an overview of the feasibility study discussing the survey's motivation and scope. ‘There are important research and information gaps in IVET that this new survey will address,’ Mr Scheuregger said.

Ms Psifidou, coordinator of the Cedefop’s VET for youth team, laid out the plan to fill those gaps by surveying four key populations: school principals, teachers, in-company trainers and learners, getting insight into all levels (VET systems, institutions, learning and working environments) and monitoring developments and changes. The goal is to assess the feasibility for launching a pan-European survey, she added.

Webinar participants suggest the priority topics to be addressed in the survey.

Inclusivity and excellence

Paul Downes, University of Dublin, discussed the circumstances that determine inclusivity in VET and how the survey can help improve them. He talked about the value of creating an inclusive learning and working environment, focusing on emotional support, involving the entire community and creating a supportive organisational culture to avoid early leaving from education and training.

Wayne Holmes, University College London, stressed the importance of incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to VET. AI can be a tool to promote excellence, he noted, however, if not approached in the right way, it could be at the expense of excellence.

Highlighting the value of the survey, he said that ‘we need to learn from teachers and trainers to enable tomorrow's AI for VET to be excellent; teachers, trainers and students should engage and not leave developments up to computer scientists and commercial organisations.’

Game changers

In the panel discussions that followed, stakeholders, including VET providers, students’ and parents’ associations, as well as representatives from the European Training Foundation, the OECD and the EACEA, highlighted the value of making the survey and its benefits accessible to all and shared their experiences, thoughts and suggestions. They pointed to looming challenges, like the different working conditions and criteria across the EU, and the value of comparable data and flexibility to achieve better implementation.

Summing up the outcomes of the webinar, Cedefop Deputy Director Mara Brugia said that, with this survey, Cedefop aims to contribute to the objectives set out in the new EU policy framework, by offering support to teachers and trainers who have a ‘game changing’ role in moving towards economies and societies that are not only green, digital and competitive but also inclusive, fair and resilient.