Repeating a successful formula from 2016, participants in Cedefop’s Second policy learning forum on vocational education and training (VET) teachers and trainers discussed a way forward with new ideas for professional development, in Thessaloniki, on 9 and 10 April.

Cedefop Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri welcomed participants saying that the quality and effectiveness of education and training cannot exceed the quality of teachers and trainers. Changes can happen only if there are certain conditions of financing, government and professional development of teachers and trainers, he added. Cedefop has identified three interconnected challenges: ageing of teacher and trainer workforce, which leads to a shortage of VET teachers; learning at the workplace, which provides them with more confidence and flexibility, and more relevant experiences during their career; new technologies and their relation to the human factor.

The human factor was the focus of the forum’s keynote speech by European vocational skills week 2018 award winner Antonio Mir Montes. Mr Mir, who is the Director of Vocational Centre XABEC in Valencia, Spain, said that teachers and trainers face important challenges to keep their competences up to date. They are not containers of knowledge but experts in creating learning situations, he noted, adding: ‘We need talented people, always innovating. The human factor is crucial in the change we want.’ According to Mr Mir, ‘we also need school leaders who generate trust, who are good people, good professionals and build good relationships.’

A series of lightning talks gave examples of initiatives and practices in various countries and by tech giant Cisco, which laid the ground for subsequent discussions. The current Romanian EU Presidency presented its education priorities with a focus on teachers and trainers.

In the ‘open space’ session that followed, participants collaborated in groups to put together the agenda, share ideas and reflect on topics such as the future of learning development in the workplace for teachers and trainers, the parents’ role, the dual role of teachers in their job, and language standardisation in the sector.

Work in groups continued on the second day with reports/deliverables displayed on large boards and presented by group members.

Sanna Brauer from Finland’s Oulu University of Applied Sciences talked about digital open badge-driven learning, followed by a panel discussion on the ideas generated in the open session.

VET student Leonardo Miodrag, representing the European Apprentices Network, moderated the discussion involving representatives of the European Commission, the European Parents’ Association, the European Trade Union Committee for Education and Cedefop.

Closing the event, Cedefop expert Irina Jemeljanova, who coordinates the agency’s related project, said that VET teachers and trainers must be highly qualified lifelong learners. Summing up some of the key messages to take away, she stressed that support measures are needed as well as innovation in mainstream practice; bridges must be built between different levels and fields of education; and co-created knowledge is meaningful.