The important role of learning providers as vocational education and training (VET) stakeholders was stressed at the first annual meeting of the European community of leaning providers on 13 and 14 March at Cedefop in Thessaloniki.

An initiative of Cedefop and six EU-level associations (EfVET, EVBB, EVTA, EUCEN, EUproVET and EURASHE), the community was set up in May 2017.

In his opening remarks, Cedefop Head of Department for VET Systems and Institutions Loukas Zahilas argued that the community gives practitioners the opportunity to cooperate, discuss challenges and problems, and exchange ideas and best practice, adding: ‘Cedefop has inserted a knowledge-broker’s function in its work, bridging the gap between theory and practice; therefore, working with those at the heart of practical implementation of education and training is a sound way to enhance this practical perspective.’

European Commission’s Joao Santos admitted that ‘for many years we had neglected the vocational education and training (VET) providers,’ but noted that things are now changing, with the Commission seeking regular contact with those ‘who know much more what is happening on the ground.’ He referred to various Commission initiatives that are of interest to VET providers and/or where their input will be sought.

Cedefop expert Tina Bertzeletou, who organised the meeting, said that the community currently consists of 45 members from 17 EU Members States and Turkey, and that it complements the Platform for European Association of VET Providers, which provides policy advice to the Commission.

Representatives of the organisations taking part in the community spoke about the opportunities and challenges of the new initiative.

Three working groups met to discuss technology enhanced learning and teachers, teacher mobility, and migrant and refugee integration. They came back with concerns and proposals to the plenary.

Closing the meeting, Cedefop Director James Calleja expressed his pleasure at seeing the community become a reality. He said that giving a voice to learning providers and raising their profile is important, adding: ‘At this early stage you need to scream to be heard because you are very important stakeholders and can make a difference to learners even more than we can.’