Low VET interest leading to skilled worker shortages
Interest in vocational education and training (VET) has decreased among young people. While 41% of all upper secondary learners were initial VET learners in 2011, by 2020 this number fell to 35.2%, with the EU-27 average being 48.8% (Eurostat). The growing lack of interest in VET programmes has led to a severe shortage of skilled workers in several vocational areas. Employers, who have already been dealing with a lack of workers with the right skills, are likely to face even more pronounced skill gaps in the coming years. Although the explanation behind this trend is likely to be multifactorial, one crucial factor seems to be the fact that VET programmes do not automatically ensure higher education eligibility.
Political interest to increase VET attractiveness
At the same time, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15 to 24 was the fourth highest in the EU-27 in 2021, at 24.7%. There is therefore high political interest in increasing VET attractiveness, considering also that VET graduates aged 20 to 34 had much higher employment chances in Sweden – 89.5% compared to the EU-27 average of 80.5% in 2021.
Access to higher education through specific courses
To increase interest in VET participation as a way of addressing skill shortages, the Parliament has decided to include in all VET programmes from 1 January 2023 courses ensuring eligibility for higher education. Learners who do not want to follow these courses will be able to opt out of them. The courses which provide access to higher education upon completion are Swedish, Swedish as a second language and English.
To maintain the level of vocational preparation, the scope of vocational programmes will be widened, both in terms of upper secondary education credits (from the present 2 500 to 2 800 credits) and guaranteed teaching time. These courses will not be mandatory, so learners can decide whether they wish to take them.
Education Act 2010:800 (related amendments are done in Chapter 16, 3§):