Innovation in the labour market is reshaping vocational education and training (VET). In response VET itself is becoming more dynamic and innovative. 

In 2013, around 49% of the 22 million learners at upper-secondary level in the European Union (EU) were in VET. Developing their ability to innovate can bring considerable economic and social benefits. VET also supports social innovation. Civic competences and social awareness skills acquired through VET can improve work organisation and strengthen civil society.

International cooperation is boosting innovation. Lubuskie province in Poland and Brandenburg State in Germany, have established an education cluster to share resources (workers, learners and infrastructure) between the municipalities, education providers and enterprises, as well as higher education and research institutions. Italy’s Porto futuro centre for guidance, training and employment drew from the experience of France’s Cité des Métiers and Spain’s Porta 22. Through the European alliance for apprenticeships, countries with strong apprenticeship traditions are sharing their experience of how to develop work-based learning. Using the alliance with Cedefop’s support, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Malta and Slovenia, for example, are reviewing their apprenticeship systems. 

Although most initial VET is at secondary level, more people in the EU are studying VET at post-secondary and tertiary levels. VET curricula are also changing with the shift to learning outcomes. Learning inputs structure curricula and qualifications around the duration and place of learning. Learning outcomes base curricula on what a person knows and can do at the end of any type of learning experience, making it possible to take different routes to gain a qualification.

Linked to curricula development is innovative teaching. Group work, problem-based and project-based approaches are developing. VET students in Norway’s Aust-Agder region acquire skills about energy-efficient house technology by converting homes built in the 1970s into energy-efficient ‘passive houses’. In Cyprus, VET students have developed garages with solar panels for charging hybrid/electric cars and benches with solar-powered USB connections for charging mobile phones at the bus stop or in the park. In the UK, the Studio School model of education offers personal learning plans and access to personal coaches to encourage independent learning and problem solving.

Teaching is also changing with technology playing its part. Denmark’s platform helps VET teachers and trainers improve the quality of learning in VET. Austria promotes instruction in digital competences for teachers through its EPICT (European Pedagogical ICT Licence) project, while Estonia is developing e-learning materials and the digital skills of VET teachers to enable them to create e-courses based on national curricula.

One thing is increasingly clear; VET and innovation, rather than being separate issues are mutually supportive as one improves the other.

More information about these developments and what is driving them can be found in Cedefop’s briefing note on innovation and VET. You can download it here (in eight languages):


Press release