Hannes Swoboda, MEP since 1996 and current President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament, visited Cedefop on 23 January to exchange views on vocational education and training (VET) issues.

Mr Swoboda was accompanied by Greek MEP Sylvana Rapti, a member of the S&D group. They met with senior Cedefop officials.

The Austrian politician was informed on Cedefop’s activities and priorities for 2014, and praised the work of European agencies in general and Cedefop in particular. As the S&D group has initiated a working group and is organising a series of events on jobs in Europe, discussions focused on Cedefop’s work to help improve labour market intelligence and spread apprenticeships more widely across Europe.

Mr Swoboda said that he considers employability very important and expressed concern about the mismatch between skills people have and those required by the labour market. In his view, Europe has to be prepared for life after the economic crisis by improving training.

Head of Area Research & Policy Analysis Pascaline Descy said that, according to Cedefop forecasts to be published in 2014, employment may reach only pre-crisis levels by 2023, and emphasised the importance of activation policies, including training and careers guidance for adults.

Head of Area Enhanced Cooperation in VET and lifelong learning Mara Brugia stressed the need for a change of mindset to achieve attractiveness of VET, not only among European citizens but also policy-makers.

Mr Swoboda shared Cedefop’s view that the need for highly qualified labour does not necessarily mean university qualifications. He argued that it would be interesting to see how the ‘dual system’, used in Germany, Austria and some other countries, could be adopted more broadly in the fight against unemployment.

As the institutional framework differs from country to country, Mr Swoboda agreed it is necessary to design very specific measures to address the issue based on the principle of policy learning. Getting SMEs on board is a particular challenge.