Ministers from the European Union (EU) Member States, candidate countries, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein have endorsed the new medium-term deliverables for vocational education and training (VET), known as the Riga conclusions.

At a meeting hosted by the EU Latvian Presidency in Riga on 22 June, the ministers renewed their efforts 'in raising the overall quality and status of  VET in the context of the Copenhagen process.' They aim to meet the education and training 2020 strategic objectives and reaffirm their support for the wider European growth and jobs agenda.

The conclusions include five priority areas for 2015-20 aiming to:

  • promote work-based learning in all its forms, with special attention to apprenticeships, by involving social partners, companies, chambers and VET providers, as well as by stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • further develop quality assurance mechanisms in VET in line with the European quality assurance in VET recommendation and, as part of quality assurance systems, establish continuous information and feedback loops in initial VET and continuing VET systems based on learning outcomes;
  • enhance access to VET and qualifications for all through more flexible and permeable systems, notably by offering efficient and integrated guidance services and making available validation of non-formal and informal learning;
  • further strengthen key competences in VET curricula and provide more effective opportunities to acquire or develop those skills through initial VET and continuing VET;
  • introduce systematic approaches to, and opportunities for, initial and continuous professional development of VET teachers, trainers and mentors in both school and work-based settings.

On 21 June, a Cedefop delegation consisting of Director James Calleja, Deputy Director Mara Brugia and expert Lore Schmid took part in the meeting of Directors General for vocational education and training (DGVT), which prepared the conclusions for endorsement and discussed a possible follow up to be done by Cedefop and the European Training Foundation (ETF).

Mr Calleja was a panellist in the afternoon session of the ministerial meeting, which focused on the European alliance for apprenticeships (EAfA), established in 2013 to fight youth unemployment. The Cedefop Director contributed to the discussion on how to get companies on board, particularly SMEs.

More than 40 companies and other organisations signed pledges to join the EAfA in Riga. They will make a total of 140 000 apprenticeships and training opportunities available to young people.

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen welcomed the new partners, adding: 'Helping Europe's young people to access quality jobs is at the top of my priorities. Together we will create new opportunities for young people to learn the skills and gain the experience needed in the labour market.'