Making continuing vocational education and training (CVET) more attractive will help turn it to the new norm for adults. That was one of the main conclusions of Cedefop’s 9th Brussels seminar, organised virtually with the German EU Presidency on 7 December.

These events are organised with the rotating EU Presidency and tap into Cedefop’s research and analysis to shed light on VET and employment debates on a European level.

Maria Höchstädter, Chair of the Presidency’s Education Committee, raised the issue of why participation in adult learning is relatively low, saying that increasing it is a necessity and, therefore, VET has been a priority of the German Presidency.

More important than ever

Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel spoke of the discussion paper, jointly prepared with the European Training Foundation (ETF), to aid in planning the next steps in VET policy-making at EU level. ‘In light of current and future trends and the changing world of work, a stronger policy focus on CVET is more important than ever,’ he pointed out.

Mr Siebel also highlighted the need for a new learning culture able to engage all adults in CVET; that culture, he added, requires a shift from understanding CVET mainly as training delivery addressing short-term skill needs to adopting CVET as a systematic norm for all adults.

These views were echoed by European Commission’s Chiara Riondino, who stressed that continuing to learn throughout life is a key priority, pointing to two new policy documents, the Council recommendation on VET and the Osnabrück declaration, that point specifically to CVET.

A lot to be done

Cedefop's Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri presented data on adult participation in learning and concluded that there is progress but a lot still needs to be done, as the new European policy initiatives set ambitious targets.

Participants had an opportunity to be updated on CVET policy approaches from two EU Member States. Peter Thiele, Head of Division of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and Barbara Hemkes, an expert at the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), outlined developments in Germany, while Mary Lyons, Director, Enterprise, Employees and Skills of Ireland’s SOLAS, provided an outlook of the Irish experience.

The seminar concluded with a series of remarks by stakeholders. As Cedefop Deputy Director Mara Brugia said, it is precisely these stakeholders that need to be engaged to establish and upgrade national CVET systems and ensure active participation from citizens and employers.

High on the EU agenda

Noting that the seminar was an important event on CVET, French MEP Ilana Cicurel stressed the need to establish a European CVET culture, adding that Europe is here for the citizens who are anxious about their future and that of their children. Education and training has never been that high on the EU agenda, she concluded.

The employers’ point of view was offered by Business Europe’s Robert Plummer, who said that tailoring training provision to labour market needs is a requirement and that financial and non-financial incentives are key to encourage employers to engage in offering training with cost-sharing between employers, workers and governments.

CVET needed now

Aline Conchon from IndustriAll Europe, which represents 50 million workers, stressed that, as millions of jobs are changing or disappearing around the world, CVET is a key instrument that is needed now.

The European Commission’s Martina Ni Cheallaigh spoke of the big challenge Europe is facing in attempting to bring everything together in national skills strategies, adding that Cedefop’s past research on ‘learning at work’ is very important when it comes to building successful CVET systems.

Participants agreed that Europe has still a lot to do on CVET, but the meeting ended on a positive note, with Ms Brugia committing to a stronger focus in Cedefop’s work on the development of coordinated CVET systems based on strong stakeholder partnerships and stakeholder representatives pledging their support.