Young Danish athletes in swimming or handball choose mainstream secondary education rather than vocational training. The reason is probably to be found in the fact that secondary education has a more extensive system of special programmes for approved Team Denmark students (elite athletes) than vocational training. They give Team Denmark students more flexibility and time to practice sport.

Therefore, the Ministry of Education, Team Denmark and The Association of Danish Business and Technical Colleges are together aiming at offering flexible solutions in VET, both in teaching and practice. The Ministry of Education will prepare a three-year pilot project in VET, which may come into force in 2017.

Former Minister for Education Ellen Trane Nørby explained the rationale. ‘We have many talented elite athletes participating in tough international competitions; we should be proud of and cherish them. Their choice of secondary education must not put an end to their ability to train up to a key event, such as the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Whether you go for a student cap or an apprenticeship, or both at the same time, it must be possible to exercise your sport at the highest level. The three-year pilot scheme will help to ensure that.’

Team Denmark Director Lone Hansen is pleased that there are new opportunities for elite athletes to acquire vocational training. She sees flexibility in education as crucial for Danish athletes to perform both in and out of the sports arena.

‘In Denmark, we have cracked the code in relation to how to develop athletes at the highest international level while making it possible for them also to get an education. That, I think, is one of the reasons why we have managed to create so many Danish success stories in international sport. Top level Danish sports performance is something that brings all of Denmark together. Therefore, it is important that we stand together to create the best possible conditions for the athletes, and it is very gratifying that now these will be established on a pilot basis at vocational schools.’

Lars Kunov, of The Association of Danish Business and Technical Colleges, agrees. ‘The pilot scheme is a very good initiative, so we can get experience with opportunities for students in vocational training. There are some special challenges with apprenticeship where businesses can see the value. Some vocational schools already had experiences with elite athletes, in HHX and HTX that they will be able to use.’

Team Denmark will also establish a system for internship companies that have a training agreement with an elite athlete; the Team Denmark internship partner, will among other things, be able to use the Team Denmark logo. The scheme is organised in cooperation with The Association of Danish Business and Technical Colleges and business organisations.

Team Denmark will continue to work for better cooperation with local authorities and schools, with a focus on establishing local partnerships to create more internship for Team Denmark students.