Policy developments and partner input were discussed at the 15th annual plenary meeting of ReferNet – Cedefop’s network of institutions providing information on national vocational education and training (VET) in the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway – on 29 and 30 November in Thessaloniki.

Cedefop Director James Calleja welcomed the participants, saying that ‘ReferNet is our reference point for VET in the EU Member States.’ He added: ‘The connectivity the network has established enriches VET. ReferNet helps to portray the right image of VET.’

The event was part of the European vocational skills week, organised for the second time in 2017. Mr Calleja noted that the week is an initiative showing European Commission’s ‘strong commitment to give VET proper visibility.’

In a video message, European Commission’s Dana Bachman thanked ReferNet partners for their contribution to European VET policy, adding that ‘ReferNet input is critical for two publications: the Education and Training Monitor and the forthcoming Cedefop and ETF Riga mid-term report.’ She argued that the European vocational skills week ‘enhances the feeling of a strong VET community in Europe.’

Ms Bachmann concluded: ‘We are moving to a reflection on VET beyond 2020 and we are expecting the results of the Cedefop project on VET's future.’

Cedefop expert Eleonora Schmid presented the ‘great work’ partners did in policy reporting in 2017.

Head of Department for VET Systems and Institutions Loukas Zahilas spoke about VET's future: ‘We are all changing the way we are learning. The challenge is to persuade people to change the way they perceive learning and VET. In theory, human beings are open to change; in reality it is not an easy task.’

Mr Zahilas noted that, as we are entering the age of the robots, we need to think out of the box in many cases: ‘Some 65% of children going to primary school now will find themselves in occupations that don’t exist today.’

Cedefop expert Anastasia Pouliou presented the ongoing project on the future of VET, which ‘will help shape a new landscape for vocational education and training.’ Project results will be communicated at a big conference in autumn 2018.

ReferNet coordinator Sylvie Bousquet and Cedefop’s Head of Library and Documentation Marc Willem presented the results of the ex-post evaluation report 2017, the main recommendations and an action plan.

Participants highlighted the network’s importance in providing information and agreed that it is an effective platform for exchanging ideas.

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