Cedefop’s first policy learning forum on professional development of teachers and trainers, in Thessaloniki on 21-22 November, concluded that teachers and trainers are very important actors in ensuring quality of work-based learning, apprenticeships and vocational education and training (VET) in general, and need to be supported and empowered.

It is also necessary to pay due attention to all teachers who work in VET, be it teachers of general subjects to VET students or teachers of vocational subjects, providing them with better opportunities for professionalisation and institutionalising training programmes for teaching in VET.

Over 70 participants from 29 countries and representatives of the European Commission and the European Training Foundation worked together at the forum to identify ways of achieving a systemic approach to teachers’ and trainers’ professional development and cooperation between VET and the labour market.

The event was part of the first European vocational skills week, which is organised by the European Commission with Cedefop as a partner.

Opening the forum, Cedefop Director James Calleja suggested that VET teacher training must turn professional with initial and continuous training systemically established in all Member States. Teacher training qualifications will ensure VET quality, he said.

According to Mr Calleja, the key challenges related to VET teacher training are: the diverse systems in which they work, their different training needs, the need for closer cooperation between businesses and VET schools, the recognition of VET teachers’, trainers’ and mentors’ potential, the need for planning and monitoring their development, the importance of school leadership that promotes a more professional environment for learning, the need to use EU funding with sustainable plans for long-term teacher training.

Mr Calleja stressed that VET teachers, trainers and mentors must be certified and fully qualified after years of higher education and training.

European Commission's Norbert Schoebel thanked Cedefop for linking the forum with the meeting of the ET2020 working group on VET on the agency’s premises (23/11), saying that it is a good way of cooperation.

Participants discussed in small groups ideas such as how systematic a systemic approach should be, how to integrate work-based and school-based learning, the use of IT (online platforms, forums, social networking), cooperation at different levels, how to support professional development of SME trainers etc.

Following the forum, the wealth of acquired information and ideas will be taken forward by the ET2020 group (2016-18 focus is on professional development of teachers and trainers in VET). The group is developing guiding principles for the Member States.

Other conclusions

It was pointed out at the forum that there is a lack of data across Europe with regard to VET teachers and trainers, and it was agreed that Cedefop will look into possibilities to improve the situation.

It was also agreed that the activities of teachers’ unions on teachers’ continuing professional development will be explored better and taken into account in the future.

Cedefop will follow up on the results and disseminate them, and will possibly focus the next forum, in two years’ time, on the cooperation mechanisms of teachers in VET schools and trainers in companies in a broader context of crossing the boundaries between VET and the world of work.

Cedefop expert Irina Jemeljanova, who organised the event, said: ‘I think the forum has been successful because the participants have represented various stakeholder groups: teacher unions, VET providers, employers, teachers and trainers, officials from national governments. We addressed important issues while approaching professional development for teachers and trainers. The main goal is to move from a fragmented and supply-driven process to a systematic one which ensures the best possible learning outcomes for students.’

Find out what some of the participants had to say.