Cedefop Director James Calleja stressed the important role of vocational education and training (VET) providers in making people more employable at the 24th annual conference of the European Forum of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (EfVET) in Paphos, Cyprus (21-24 October).

In his keynote speech, Mr Calleja said that Europe is now faced with high unemployment, migration flows, global competition and an ageing workforce. He referred to Cedefop’s European skills and jobs survey results and in particular to the need for all to keep learning throughout their careers: ‘Hence the need for vibrant VET systems that ensure quality, relevance, inclusivity and excellence.’

The Cedefop Director added that VET is an ongoing priority ‘as we will continue to be challenged by early leavers, drop-outs, skills mismatch, new skills and new jobs, the effective use of IT and borderless qualifications recognised by international sectors and leading to employment and careers.’

As far as the role of VET schools and colleges is concerned, he noted that ‘they have a unique and irreplaceable position that must guarantee that all learners succeed at any national qualification framework level and can be integrated in a labour market which needs all skills and competences.’

Mr Calleja expressed the wish that, on the road to 2020, ‘VET providers will form the fourth pillar of the key European consultative groups, with governments, employers and employee representatives being the other three.’ Their engagement with Cedefop is a step in the right direction, he concluded.

Cyprus’ Education and Culture Minister Costas Kadis said that his country, like all EU Member States, supports the European VET agenda and is working towards a quality VET system that is inclusive and aims at excellence at all levels.

European Commission’s João Santos and Mr Calleja had a separate meeting with EfVET President Peter Hodgson and committee members, in which they explored ways of increasing cooperation between EfVET (and other European associations of VET providers), DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and Cedefop.

A survey was conducted prior to the conference and the top five replies of EfVET members to the question what the primary role of VET will be by 2020 were: to satisfy labour market needs, to provide people with 21st century skills, to address youth unemployment, to link businesses with education systems and to promote parity of esteem with other educational pathways.

Work-based learning

Mr Calleja also took part in an international conference on work-based learning challenges and opportunities in Bucharest (19-20 October).

In his intervention, he brought up work-based learning and apprenticeship examples of good practice in various EU Member States in the context of Cedefop’s European skills and jobs survey. He also spoke about the agency’s work in the field to illustrate work-based learning success stories based on legislation, active industry participation and a culture promoting such learning as a stepping stone to employment.