Key indicators on VET are aligned to the objectives of European VET policy and are selected following analysis of relevant policy documents and based on the data’s relevance, accuracy and reliability, timeliness and periodicity, coherence and comparability, accessibility and clarity.

1. Geographical coverage.

Available data are presented for the EU and its 27 Member States, the UK, and seven selected European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and candidate countries (Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey). The selection is driven mostly by data availability. Cedefop plans to extend country coverage.

2. Thematical scope

Key indicators monitor developments in strategic areas of initial and continuing VET, adult learning and skill development. These include participation in VET (covering access to it, its attractiveness, inclusiveness, and flexibility), expenditure on VET, its labour market relevance and outcomes, work-based learning and skill development. Indicators that focus on VET are complemented by other data on education and the labour market to inform on the context in which VET operates.  

The indicators do not have a one-to-one relationship with these areas; such links are not always direct and self-evident, while some areas overlap. Other areas are too complex to reduce to one or two indicators while, for yet others, data are unavailable or poor quality. To ensure coherence and relevance to European VET policy, a holistic approach to the indicators is suggested. Cedefop is working to improve how it relates the indicators to themes.

3. Indicator selection

Key indicators are based on methodological work started in 2012, which was developed and strengthened in 2016, 2019, and 2021 to take account of policy and statistical developments.

Key indicators on VET are aligned to the objectives of European VET policy. They are selected following analysis of relevant policy documents.  An important  reference for indicator selection the European Parliament and Council recommendation of 18 June 2009 on the establishment of a European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training. Specifically for the 2020-25/30 European VET policy cycle the following policy documents were analysed:

Statistical and technical factors also influence indicator selection. First, indicator data should be readily available, comparable, periodical and of good-quality, as well as suitable for quantitative monitoring. Second, indicators should focus on VET and its contribution to European employment, education and training objectives. Third, their number should be limited to generate a concise, easy to consult statistical product. Finally, indicators should be complementary and easy to understand.

Statistical quality of the indicators takes into account: relevance, validity, accuracy and reliability, timeliness punctuality and periodicity, coherence and comparability, accessibility and clarity. These are based on  the principles of quality for statistical output in the European Statistics code of practice. Indicators not available on periodical basis, or of unsuitable periodicity to inform on trends and developments are excluded.

Some indicators, which could be excluded due to policy and statistical developments, have been retained in 2021 to finalise the data for the 2010-20 European VET policy cycle. Further, data for indicators for the 2020-25/31 policy cycle are not yet available. Consequently, Key indicators for 2021 are an online update of data presented in various editions of the publication “On the way to 2020: data for vocational education and training policy”.

4. Data and data sources

Data for the Key indicators are taken from several sources. The main ones are listed below. The links direct users to the methodologies of each source, including definitions and classifications.

5. Data timeliness, retrieval and processing.

Key indicators on VET are updated annually, usually in June, and uploaded on Cedefop’s web-portal in July. At the time of the update, indicator data for the most recent year available (which is not the same for all indicators), which compares the situation of all countries and of EU overall. Historical data and time series are also updated annually to account for possible backward revisions.

Some indicators originate from surveys or survey modules with a five-year or a two-year periodicity and data are not available annually. Data for some indicators are collected annually but only become available after two or three years, rather than the year after they were collected.   

Many indicators are retrieved from Eurostat’s online database. Some indicators are Cedefop calculations based on available data; this is signalled as appropriate.  EU average data are based on 27 countries. Where EU averages are not available from the Eurostat online database, Cedefop makes the calculation using estimated weighted averages of the country data. Tables and charts do not present values which are unreliable or unavailable and where it is inappropriate to use estimates as proxies. Particular attention is given to indicators related to quantitative targets outlined in the policy documents and which specify the statistical sources to be used: if data are not yet available, indicators values are proxied using the best alternative source for the most recent year available (always safeguarding statistical confidentiality and reliability). This is also signalled as appropriate.

In most cases, values are rounded to one decimal place. This may lead to small discrepancies across data cells or in textual comments.

6. Metadata

Data visualisations provide metadata to help users read, understand, interpret and use data. Metadata is given at the indicator and indicator value levels. At the indicator level metadata provides a label, a description and the source (including where Cedefop has processed the data). At the level of indicator values, as needed, single data points are accompanied by flags and footnotes to signal quality issues such as for instance breaks in time series, low reliability, or departures from standard definitions. 

7. Data visualisation.

The data visualisation contains the following tabs:

  • Introduction: describing the content and the aim of the Key indicators on VET
  • Indicators: for access to data by indicator and data visualisations for countries.
  • Countries: for access to data by country and data visualisations for all or some indicators; and for visualisations of country specific comparisons and time series.
  • Data insights: for access to short articles based on the data, including Cedefop analyses.
  • Dataset access: to access and download underlying data.
  • Methodology: describing the methodology.

Data visualisations give access to data in tables and figures (charts). Different types of charts are available for users to choose, notably, maps, bar and column charts and time lines. Data visualisations enable information to be exported to different formats. Charts in the indicators and country tabs are accompanied by comments highlighting key values.

8. Limitations

All statistics have limitations. Statistical indicators can oversimplify complex issues and must be read in context. For some important VET themes, data are unavailable or are of insufficient quality and so are not included in the Key indicators.  Some data, especially, but not only those on expenditure, are incomplete and have time lags. The Key indicators on VET framework is a valuable tool for helping policymakers  to understand and assess VET developments in each country and the EU better. Key indicators do not assess national systems or policies, but can encourage reflection on countries’ progress towards European VET policy objectives.

9. Work in progress and expected developments.

Work continues to improve indicators, either by developing existing or finding new data sources. Cedefop works with international stakeholders, such as the European Commission and Eurostat to this end. Key indicators on VET are flexible. They will include new indicators as they become available provided that they meet the relevance and quality criteria. Cedefop is also working to improve the grouping and organisation of the Key indicators on VET in the data visualisations.

By the end of 2021, Key indicators will be complemented by the European VET policy dashboard, based on a shortlist of indicators which, under the 2020-25/30 European VET policy cycle have quantitative targets. Cedefop is also developing data visualisations, including improving comments highlighting key points for analysis and improving indicators grouping and filtering.