As a result of the recent negotiations regarding the Danish budget for 2013, an agreement was reached including an array of new initiatives to improve the quality of VET, with particular focus on improving the situation with regard to work experience places.
The dual principle, combining periods of college-based training and periods of work experience, lies at the very core of the Danish VET system. A lack of sufficient training placements at workplaces has, however, been an ongoing problem. The budgetary agreement could not have come at a better time, with the most recent statistics showing almost 10 000 VET students were without a workplace training placement at the end of September 2012 – an increase of 19% compared with 12 months earlier. Practical training at VET colleges has increasingly been used as an option to tackle this shortfall, but has been widely regarded as a last resort, with students preferring the real world experience of training at a proper workplace.
One of the major initiatives at the centre of the agreement involves establishment of work experience centres at VET colleges during 2013. These centres will be responsible for compiling work experience packages for students comprised of periods of practical training within the centre itself and periods of training at the workplace. This solution allows greater flexibility than previously, where enterprises were generally expected to commit to train students throughout their studies. As such, it is expected to attract smaller enterprises unable to assume such long-term responsibility.
All VET students will be guaranteed a work experience place, either through a training agreement with an enterprise or through a training package compiled by a work experience centre. As such, the responsibility for ensuring that students receive practical training will shift from the students themselves to the vocational colleges. This shift is further underlined by a requirement that VET colleges document their outreach activities in relation to local enterprises which will also be reflected in funding models.
Alongside the initiatives concerning work experience, the agreement also includes several initiatives focused on improving the quality of VET teaching. Teachers at VET colleges will in future be required to complete a teaching qualification within the first four years of employment, rather than six years as is currently the case. Teachers will also be required to spend time at the enterprises offering training placements. This initiative is expected to improve cooperation between college and workplace regarding student training, including better planning and coordination of the form and content of teaching and training.
The agreement is based on 12 recommendations from a panel on VET, consisting of representatives from the social partners and from local and national government. The same panel is expected to present further recommendations in spring 2013.