Speakers are listed in alphabetical order.

Mara Brugia

Tatjana Babrauskiene
Tatjana Babrauskiene is working and representing trade unions in the field of vocational education and training and adult learning from 2004. At national level, she is the coordinator and expert for two Lithuanian trade union confederations and Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union (LESTU) , where one of her key tasks is to bridge EU and LT policies and assess the union’s progress in daily operations at national level and in the international projects they participate in.

At the European level, Tatjana has been a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) since 2015 and a rapporteur on several opinions related to education and skills area; she joined the European social dialogue much earlier though when Lithuania became member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. She has a long experience in advocating for VET and adult education at the European level, including as a member of the Management Board of Cedefop (currently its Chair) and  the European Commission Advisory Committee on Vocational Education (ACVT).

Mara BrugiaMara Brugia
Mara Brugia is the Acting Executive Director of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, Cedefop, since June 2018 and Deputy Director since September 2014. Cedefop is the tripartite EU Agency supporting the European Commission, Member States and Social Partners in promoting, developing and implementing Union policies in the field of vocational education and training as well as skills and qualifications. She has been involved in vocational education and training since she joined Cedefop in 1994. As Head of Department from 2004 to 2014 she managed teams of experts working in European VET policy analysis, adult and work-based learning with specific focus on apprenticeship-type learning and the European tools for recognition and transparency of qualifications, such as the European qualifications framework. She holds a university degree in economics and a master in economics, politics and law of the European Union. Her mother tongue is Italian (born in Perugia) and she is fluent in English, French, Greek and Spanish.

In 2010, when the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education was established, she was appointed as the Lithuanian delegate of the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ESSDE). She is also an expert of the European trade union confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) in ET2020 working groups on VET and AL.


Jao Costa

João Costa

João Costa is the Secretary of State for Education in Portugal. He is a Full Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the Universidade Nova in Lisbon. He graduated in Linguistics from the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon, and completed his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Leiden. During his studies, he was a visiting scholar at MIT. His area of research is formal linguistics, language acquisition and development and educational linguistics. He is the author of several books and over 100 articles and book chapters. Until November 2015, he was the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, at the Universidade Nova and President of the Scientific Council of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Science and Technology Foundation. He acted as member of the Scientific Council of the National Reading Plan, the National Commission of the International Institute for the Portuguese Language, and the Consulting Council of the Camões Institute. He was also President of the European Association of Linguistic Students (SOLE) and the Portuguese Linguistic Association. Besides his teaching and research activities at his University, he has been a guest lecturer at several universities in Brazil, Macau, Spain and the Netherlands.
Paul Downes

Paul Downes

Dr. Paul Downes is Associate Professor of Education (Psychology) and Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, Dublin City University, Ireland. He has been involved in various expert advisory roles for the European Commission, including for its School Policy Working Groups, the European Education and Training Expert Panel (2018-19) to support the EU’s post-2020 Strategic Cooperation Framework for Education and Training and was a member of the Irish Senate and Parliament Expert Advisory Group on early school leaving. A Visiting Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2017) and University of Cambridge, Lauterpacht Centre (2011), he is a member of the Coordinating Committee of the European Commission’s Network of Experts on the Social Aspects of Education and Training (NESET 2014-19) and Chairperson of the Steering Committee for the Grangegorman Area-based Childhood interagency Programme, funded by Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs. He led a 12 country European study (LLL2010) on access to education with a major focus on nonformal education, has been the overall evaluator of the ImplOED (Implementing Outreach, Empowerment, Diversity) 11 country project on nonformal education, and was author of 10 European city studies on parental involvement with the PREVENT project. With over 100 publications of books/research monographs, articles in international peer reviewed ranked journals and book chapters in areas of education, psychology, philosophy, law, anthropology and social policy, Dr. Downes has given keynote lectures and invited presentations in 29 countries. His contribution to international policy and practice includes invitations from 10 different countries’ official ministries to present his research on various aspects of poverty and social inclusion in education, lifelong learning, social & emotional education and wellbeing.

Gina Ebner

Gina Ebner is President of the Lifelong Learning Platform and Secretary General of the European Association for the Education of Adults. She worked as a language trainer in adult education and as a pedagogical manager for a vocational training institute in Austria. In Brussels, she was a project manager at EUROCADRES (Council for European professional and managerial staff). She is also secretary general of the European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning. EAEA represents non-formal adult education with 142 member organisations in 44 countries. EAEA promotes adult learning and access to and participation in non-formal adult education for all, particularly for groups currently under-represented.

Shanti George

Shanti George

Shanti George , an anthropological researcher with long experience on three continents working for universities and foundations, is a Senior Associate of the Learning for Well-being Foundation.  Her recent publications include ‘Ethical Underpinnings for the Development of Health Literacy in Schools: Ethical premises (‘why’), orientations (‘what’) and tone (‘how’)’ with Leena Pakkaari in BMC Public Health (2018) 18:326 and ‘Re-imagining Universities as Places where Learners Address Global Transformation’ in European Journal of Education (2018) 53: 351-364 .  The Learning for Well-being Foundation   cultivates the capacities of children and adults to make decisions and take actions that serve themselves, others and the environment.​

Gianola Carolina

Carolina Gianola (Sweden)  is currently Head of Unit for the Public Employment Service in Lund, Sweden. She was previously Project Manager for Ung komp, a project co-financed by the European Social Fund, ran by the Swedish Public Employment Service in 19 cities throughout Sweden. Carolina has substantial experience of the labour market policy – both from an operational and strategic perspective. She has an educational background in economics.

Russell Hogarth

Russell Hogarth is an Honorary Fellow, Community Ambassador and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Central Lancashire. He is a Fellow of the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing and esteemed advisory member of the British Association of Social workers [BASW] and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is the chair and co- founder of the pan University Creative Communities Group and a former company director for the Design in Mental Health Network. Russell is a trustee for Creativity Works Preston and Appeals Patron, with the Bishop of Liverpool for the young adult and of life network, “LifeNoW”. He is a patron for Direct Transitioning Help. DTH supports members of the Armed Forces and their families to prepare for civilian life. He is also a social entrepreneur, philanthropist and University guest lecturer. His expertise as an independent advisor for Community Engagement in Higher Education and his experience in Health and Social care is now recognised both nationally and internationally. His voluntary and community work has resulted in him attending meetings in the Department of Health Whitehall, the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the European Parliament. Russell’s area of special interest is creative teaching as a pathway to inclusion and accessible education and this is highlighted in the book published, with Dr Gayle Brewer, entitled Creative Education, Teaching and Learning. His fellow colleagues admire his great strength, passion and philanthropy and acknowledge the service he has done for the sustenance of humanity.

Constantin - Serban Iosifescu

Constantin - Şerban  Iosifescu is Chairman of the Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Pre-University Education (since 2005). EU Expert - EQAVET Network, TAIEX and EACEA. National and international expert (consultation and training – for the World Bank and UNICEF, among others) - in the areas of educational management, quality management in education (quality assurance, evaluation and improvement), adult education and training of trainers. Over 50 publications in Romania and abroad, in the fields of: quality management in education, educational management, project management and project evaluation.

Kasia Jurczak

Kasia Jurczak is a Member of the Cabinet of Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Her main responsibilities include skills, vocational training and lifelong learning, as well as entrepreneurship and social innovation. Her earlier roles in the European Commission included work as a Deputy Head of Unit for Skills and Qualifications and as a Policy Assistant to the Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, where she coordinated the overall policy and legislative work of the service.

Prior to joining the European Commission in August 2012, Kasia worked for two EU reserach agencies, namely the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in Vienna, and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in Dublin. Her expertise covers labour and social policy, non-discrimination and public health.

Kasia studied social science at the London School of Economics and Political Science (BSc) in the UK and University of Leuven (MA) in Belgium. She is a Polish national.

Ioannis Katsikis

Ioannis N. Katsikis is an Expert in the Dept. for Learning and Employability at Cedefop. An Innovation Engineer by education, he holds an MSc in Environmental Policy & Management and an MBA: Business Process Management, both from the University of the Aegean, Greece. He is also the holder of an MPhil in Architecture and Space Planning from the School of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.

Prior to joining Cedefop, he worked as an Academic Tutor at the University of Athens and as a freelance Strategic Management Consultant (2005-2013). He gained valuable experience by participating in major international R&D projects and offered consulting services to national governments (Greece, Romania, Georgia, Turkey) and  as a Research Advisor to international organizations (BSEC, EU). He has published more than 170 research papers in academic journals, edited books, and international conferences (such as AOM, SMS, EGOS, BAM, ERSA). He has received three international awards in recognition of his research (AoM, BAM, ERSA).

Johanna Koponen

Johanna Koponen holds a Master of Political Science with a degree on International Affairs, Counsellor Johanna Koponen currently working for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, is an expert in EU affairs related to Education and Training policies. She has worked over 15 years in the Ministry of Education and Culture in coordinating Ministries EU affairs, serving as a member of the Education Committee consisting of member states experts in Education and Training policies and serving many of the Finnish Ministers in EU related Affairs. Counsellor Koponen started her career as a political assistant in the Parliament of Finland. She is also a very experienced writer; her very first professional positions was to work as a Publishing Editor specialized in EU affairs.

Augustin Mihalache

Augustin holds a BA in Political Science and a BA in Law (both from the University of Bucharest), as well a Master in European affairs from the University of Lund – Sweden.

Prior to joining the Permanent Representation of Romania in Brussels, as an Education Attaché, he has worked over 15 years in the Romanian Ministry of National Education, as a European affairs adviser.

Currently, Augustin is the Chair of the Education Committee, during the Romanian Presidency of the Council.

Siobhan O’reilly

Having completed her primary degree in European Studies, Siobhán trained initially as a post-primary teacher and then went onto work in non-formal education settings with young people who the formal system were unable to facilitate due to the complexities of their needs and the lack of flexibility in the formal system to accommodate them. Siobhán has over 20 year’s experience of working at a formal education, non-formal education and community level in relation to the effective engagement and participation of some of the most marginalised children, young people and families. Siobhán was keen to utilise this experience and ensure that data relating to this became part of the knowledge base, especially given the dearth of literature relating to those who experience inter-generational inequality, Siobhán completed a Professional Doctorate in Education in 2012 with the title of her thesis being " The Silent Partners. Leading parental involvement in primary schools in areas experiencing education inequality”. Siobhán also has experience of leadership and management in a community context and in a context of multiple stakeholders. She has been the CEO of FamiliBase since March 2014.

Irene Psifidou

Irene Psifidou is the organiser of this event. She works for over 16 years as expert on education and training policies at European and international levels. She joined Cedefop in 2004, and currently, she is the project manager of Cedefop’s thematic activities focused on Tackling early leaving from Vocational education and training (VET) and VET policies for social inclusion and labour market integration. Irene is the creator of Cedefop “VET toolkit for tackling early leaving”. She is member of high level thematic working groups set up by the European Commission on promoting common values and inclusive education, as well as the European and International Comparative Education Societies. Before joining Cedefop, she worked as education consultant at the World Bank, Washington DC contributing to the development of the Bank’s new strategy on secondary education and managed education development and research projects in transitional Balkan countries.

Irene holds a PhD in Comparative Education Policy from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain and two M.Sc. diplomas - International Studies and Developmental Cooperation for the Alleviation of Poverty (University of Barcelona) and Applied Linguistics (UAB). Irene has published widely in peer-reviewed academic journals and international handbooks within the fields of curriculum policy, teachers training, innovative pedagogies, key competences, and early school leaving.

Antonio Ranieri

Antonio Ranieri, Head of Department for Learning and Employability at the European Center for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop). He manages a team of European experts working in vocational education and training (VET) policy analysis and research. The mission of the Department is to support the development and the implementation of VET policies aimed at increasing attractiveness, effectiveness and inclusiveness of vocational education and training in EU Member States.

An economist by training, Antonio has taught regional economics at the University of Roma since 2002. As Head of Area at CLES (Centro di ricerche e studi sui problemi del lavoro, dell’economia e dello sviluppo) in Rome, an independent centre of studies on labour market and economic development issues, he coordinated research projects in design, monitoring and evaluation of public investment and policies.

Agnes Roman

Agnes obtained her university diplomas on literature, history and Hungarian as second language in Budapest between 1998 and 2006. She published essays on literary theory. She was an adult learning and secondary school teacher of Hungarian language in Hungary and in the UK. In 2009, she obtained another master degree on European studies and international relationship at the Institut Européen des Hautes Etudes Internationales (IEHEI) concluding it with a master thesis on adult learning policies and regional development. After working for the Adult learning unit of the European Commission, in 2010 she became a coordinator on education policy issues at the European Trade Union Committee of Education (ETUCE) while she has been advising also the European trade Union confederation (ETUC) on lifelong learning and VET policy since 2012. She is representing the European trade unions in several bodies and groups of the European Commission and agencies, eg. CEDEFOP Governing Board, ACVT, DGVT, EQF, EQAVET, ECVET.

Lidia Salvatore

Lidia Salvatore is expert for adult learning and continuing vocational training at Cedefop. She was responsible for Cedefop publication and research conducted under the economic and social cost of low skilled adults in Europe project (Investing in skills pays off: the economic and social cost of low-skilled adults in the EU) and she is currently responsible for managing and carrying out analysis and research on developing coordinated and coherent approaches to upskilling pathways for adults.

Lidia holds a BA in political science and a Masters in EU economics and politics from the University of Bologna in Italy and she also studied in Australia at the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney. Prior to Cedefop Lidia worked for five years as a research officer in Eurofound, the European Union agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, where she contributed to designing, initiating and carrying out research and comparative analysis in the field of youth employment policies.

Helga Summer Juhnke

Helga Summer-Juhnke is a sociologist and working with the administration of Munich since 1985. She began working in the social planning in the department of social affairs, responsible for integrated and participative programmes of city development and social statistics. Since 2010, she has been working in the department of education and sports, responsible for integrated education development programmes in selected city-districts. She is the head of local education management and local education counselling in Munich.

Therese Svedberg

Therese Svedberg (Sweden) is currently Project Coordinator for projects targeting youth unemployment at the Swedish Public Employment Service. She was previously Communications Officer for Ung komp, a project ran by the Swedish Public Employment Service and co-financed by the European Social Fund. Therese has an educational background in international migration, communications and project management.

Michael Teutsch

Michael Teutsch  is Head of the Unit "Schools and multilingualism" in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture. The unit is a policy and programme unit dealing with (1) policy cooperation in the areas of schools and multilingualism on topics such as key competences, early school leaving, language learning, early childhood education and care, or teachers' professional development; (2) with the European flagship programme Erasmus+ in the areas of schools, vocational education and training, and adult learning; and (3) the management and further development of the digital education platforms eTwinning, eTwinning Plus, School Education Gateway, and EPALE.

Max Uebe

Max is Head of Unit "Employment Strategy" in the European Commission's Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion since November 2015. The unit focuses on questions around the Future of Work, youth employment, long-term unemployment and Public Employment Services. Between February 2012 and October 2015 Max was heading the unit responsible for Sectoral Employment Challenges, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship, including Microfinance. He joined DG Employment after having spent more than 6 years in the Cabinets of Commissioners László Andor and Vladimír Špidla (both Commissioners for Employment and Social Affairs).

Patricia Vale

She has been a consultant at ICF International for over three years, working mainly on education and training policies within projects for the European Commission and Cedefop. She has been involved in several assignments concerning Vocational Education and Training (VET) including the three-year project ‘The role of Vocational Education and Training in reducing early school leaving’ for Cedefop, which she project managed in 2016. She is currently managing an assignment on VET graduate tracking measures for the European Commission.

From 2006 to 2013, she worked for the National Centre for Educational Innovation and Research of the Spanish ministry of education, and in 2011 she completed a five-month traineeship at the European Commission. Within the Spanish ministry of education, she was involved in research on education and training policies, concerning all the levels of education. She contributed to the drafting of comparative studies, of Eurydice’s description of national education systems, and of the Spanish contribution to several Eurydice studies.

Brikena Xhomaqi

Brikena Xhomaqi is the co-organiser of this event. She is the Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform - European Civil Society for Education (former EUCIS-LLL) since 2016 and the the co-organiser of this event. The LLL PLatform represents over 40 European wide civil society networks in the field of education from early childhood to adult education, including formal, non-formal and informal learning providers and learners. She is the member of the Civil Society Europe Steering Committee since 2017 and the Advisory Board member of Association Hub Belgium. She is the former Head of Office of the European Students’ Union (ESU) and Director of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). She was active in civil society from early ages as an elected representative of different school and university student bodies.

In 2010 she joined the civil society at European level initially as elected representative of the European Students’ Union in charge of social affairs, later on she specialised on student mobility issues in particular inclusiveness of mobility programmes but also issues related to social inclusion and labour market integration of young people as well as their participation in society and policy-making processes. She was a member of International Education Committee of the Erasmus Student Network, as well as member of the Research Working Group of the ESAA Erasmus+ Student and Alumni Association on issues related to “internationalisation at home” and the impact of it on communities. She graduated in Innovative Management at the Polytechnic University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and holds a professional Master Degree in International Development and a bachelor degree in Political Sciences. Originally from Albania, she has studied and lived in Italy, France and currently Belgium for the last fifteen years. She has an experience of more than 10 years in education and non-profit sector at local, national and international level from a volunteer to a management perspective.