Cedefop conducts research and develops tools to empower VET policy-makers and practitioners to tackle early leaving from education and training (ELET).

Why is it important to tackle early leaving from education and training?

Early leaving from education and training (ELET) is a pressing issue in Europe with considerable costs for individuals and society. Young people between 18 and 24 with a qualification lower than upper secondary, classified by Eurostat as early leavers from education and training are:

  • more likely to be unemployed or inactive;
  • more likely to be employed in low-paid jobs with few or no prospects for training and further career progression;
  • more prone to social exclusion and poverty, including in-work poverty;
  • more likely to experience lower levels of health, wellbeing and life satisfaction; and
  • experiencing limited civic participation.

Early leavers from education and training, are at greater risk of becoming NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training) and socially excluded. Today a large proportion of the 61 000 000 Europeans aged 25 to 64 classified as low-skilled adults are early leavers from education and training.

Fighting ELET is a key element of the Education and training 2020 strategic framework, reflected in the commitment of the EU countries to:

Despite the success in bringing down the numbers of young people who exit education with a lower secondary education qualification at most, early leaving still affects one in 10 young people – in some places even more than that. According to Eurostat, the ELET rate has steadily decreased from 17.0% in 2002, to 13.4% in 2011 and to 10.6% in 2018. Although there has been a significant improvement overall, progress has stagnated since 2016 with significant differences across countries, regions, genders and for specific population groups, such as people of migrant background. Tackling ELET remains a top policy priority in many European countries.

What is the role of VET in tackling early leaving?

In many countries, vocational education and training (VET) has high rates of dropout. Cedefop research shows that high-quality, inclusive and flexible VET provision may prevent and remedy ELET. Cedefop data show that VET can:

  • be a safety net for at-risk learners in general education, offering an alternative pathway and securing their retention in, and graduation from, education and training;
  • offer a more practical, work-oriented route towards a qualification, and can attract early leavers back to education and training.

Read more about the role of VET in tackling ELET in our two-volume study ‘Leaving education early: putting vocational education and training centre stage’.

Volume I: investigating
causes and extent

Volume II: evaluating
policy impact







For further reading, see our Publications section.

What is Cedefop doing to tackle early leaving?

Cedefop’s Department of Learning and Employability, which takes forward Cedefop's work in the areas of “Tackling early leaving from education and training” and “Teachers and trainers’ professional development” under its thematic activity: “VET for labour market integration and social inclusion”, has been involved in several activities since 2010 to support the European Commission, EU Member States and social partners in reaching the EU strategic objective of lowering early leaving rates below 10% by 2020.

Cedefop supports its key partners and stakeholders in tackling ELET by:

  • conducting extensive research to support evidence-based policy-making on the extent of early leaving from VET (ELVET); the existing mechanisms for monitoring early leaving at national and EU-levels; the factors leading to ELVET; VET-related measures to tackle early leaving; key features of successful policies and practices and conditions necessary to evaluate and upscale successful regional and local practices to national strategies;
  • organising European and international events including policy learning forums (PLFs), workshops and seminars to promote peer learning and engage key stakeholders;
  • developing tools to empower the role of VET policy-makers and practitioners to tackle ELET;
  • coordinating and promoting the pan-European network of ambassadors for tackling early leaving from education and training.

Cedefop VET toolkit for tackling early leaving

To provide practitioners and policy-makers with practical support, Cedefop launched the VET toolkit for tackling early leaving in May 2017 and its updated edition in 2019.  The toolkit is designed to:

  • help young people at risk of becoming early leavers to remain in education and training and to acquire qualifications;
  • help early leavers to reintegrate into education or training and the labour market.

This Europe-wide toolkit includes:

Who is the VET toolkit for?

The toolkit aims to help VET practitioners and policy-makers to tackle early leaving at every stage, from identifying learners at risk and monitoring early school leavers, throughout the development and implementation of measures to support them, to evaluation of measures to help improve provision.

People working in ministries, VET schools, companies, guidance centres, public employment services, social services, or youth organisations will find the toolkit useful.

How can the VET toolkit be used?

The toolkit offers resources from all European countries and can be used to:

Cedefop provides a range of suggested activities for making the most of the toolkit.

How can I get involved?

You can:

Other related projects

Digital gap during COVID-19 for VET learners at risk in Europe (full report)

Digital gap during COVID-19 for VET learners at risk in Europe (Summary in English)

Fossé numérique pendant la COVID-19 pour les apprenants de l’EFP en risque de décrochage en Europe (Summary in French)

Brecha digital durante COVID-19 para estudiantes de FP en riesgo en Europa (Summary in Spanish)

Ψηφιακό χάσμα κατά τη διάρκεια του COVID-19 για τους εκπαιδευόμενους που διατρέχουν κίνδυνο πρόωρης αποχώρησης από την ΕΕΚ στην Ευρώπη (Summary in Greek)

Divario digitale durante la pandemia di COVID-19 per gli studenti a rischio di abbandono precoce dell’IeFP in Europa (Summary in Italian)


VET toolkit for tackling early leaving

  • 6 profiles
  • 17 interventions
  • 47 good practices
  • 47 tools
  • 2 reflection tools
  • 27 couries
  • Become an ambassador

Country reports

Early leaving from VET

15 country reports have been developed as background material to the Cedefop study: Leaving education early: putting vocational education and training centre stage.

Volume I: investigating causes and extent

Volume II: evaluating policy impact

Country reports are available for: Austria, Belgium-Fr, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom.

Older versions (2013) are available for 28 European countries and part of the series Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspectives and complement other available general information on VET systems by country.

Check country reports here.


VET toolkit for tackling early leaving - Resources