Cedefop Director James Calleja presented the agency’s work in 2016 and initiatives in 2017 at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 7 March in Brussels, and discussed further cooperation with the Committee.

Talking about ways of bridging vocational education and training (VET) with labour market demands, Mr Calleja noted that advances in technology are not new, but the current technical revolution is different; for example, telephone took 75 years to acquire 50m users, while mobiles had 2bn users in 20 years.

He added: ‘Jobs are vulnerable to automation as new sectors need fewer people; and while the first industrial revolution transferred unskilled labour from agriculture to industry, the challenge of this technical revolution is how to turn truck drivers into IT specialists.’

Referring to skills for tomorrow, the Cedefop Director stated that 65% of today’s children will have jobs that do not exist yet. Therefore, ‘we need to rethink education in the new digital society and create a new partnership between human and artificial intelligence.’

Common goals

Mr Calleja said that the EESC work programme up to 2018 recognises these trends: ‘It emphasises that technology is changing what we need to learn and how; the need to capture and develop skills in new ways; to increase the size and improve the quality of the labour force; and that the green economy does not compromise job growth.’

Cedefop’s work programme also addresses these issues, he affirmed, adding that the agency will continue to support the EESC’s work ‘through our information, evidence and analyses’. He then outlined Cedefop’s vision and objectives for 2017-20.   

Mr Calleja stressed that to deal with these challenges VET needs to adapt and improve and Cedefop will be looking for ways to do that.

He told participants at the meeting that Cedefop has started to release findings of its opinion survey on VET: ‘Some of the initial findings show that while 86% of respondents believe that VET provides the skills employers need, only 61% believe that it leads to well paid jobs – clearly there is much to do in changing VET’s image and nature for the 21st century.’

According to the Cedefop Director, cooperation, which has developed European VET policy, is needed to implement it: ‘Contacts between European and national policy-makers and those who face the day-to-day challenges of delivering VET need to be strengthened. European policy-makers must encourage dialogue between education and training and labour market stakeholders to create incentives and institutional frameworks for European VET policy priorities and tools such as the European qualifications framework and guidelines for validating and recognising non-formal and informal learning.’

To help with that, ‘Cedefop will act as a knowledge broker trading ideas, experience and encouraging partnerships, notably through its policy learning forums.’

The EESC and Cedefop also have a history of cooperation. Mr Calleja said that the EESC has cited Cedefop work in 15 of its documents in the last two years, and it brings Cedefop closer to the social partners, raising the profile of its work among them. At the same time, working with different EU institutions broadens Cedefop’s relevance.

Closer partnership

Mr Calleja announced that the EESC and Cedefop will deepen their partnership by organising together a series of education and training employment encounters to complement their work.

The first will be in November on integration of low-skilled adults. Two more encounters will be organised in 2018 on topics to be agreed.

In conclusion, Mr Calleja argued: ‘Progress has seen technology become more personal, intimate and interactive; from mainframes to PCs to the internet of things. Growing intimacy is changing how companies operate and the skills people need to work and live. Our motivation must be to ensure VET provides people with opportunities for better and fulfilling lives and enterprises with the potential to grow and create quality jobs.’