‘With our limited resources we will try to come closer to the Member States and work with them to push vocational education and training (VET) reform further,’ Cedefop Director James Calleja told the first validation workshop of the agency’s review of Lithuania’s and Malta’s apprenticeship systems.

The workshop, held in Thessaloniki on 8 and 9 September, was set up to achieve agreement on the main approaches to Cedefop’s reviews.

The team working on the reviews (senior expert Antonio Ranieri and experts Ramona David Craescu and Irina Jemeljanova) presented the analytical framework it has developed for this purpose, while participants from the two countries mapped the current situation, agreed on priority areas and discussed preparations for the first round of stakeholder interviews to be conducted by the end of September.

Mr Ranieri noted that this initiative is ‘the first of its kind for Cedefop’ and announced ‘two to three more country thematic reviews next year’ based on the structure of the ongoing ones.

The reviews are in support of the European alliance for apprenticeships and aim to set up or improve national apprenticeship systems, in close cooperation with stakeholders in the Member States concerned. The Cedefop Director pointed out that ‘learning by doing is not an innovation; it’s been at the core of the learning process for centuries and even universities are now moving towards a modus operandi in which learning by doing has become an increasingly important pillar of education.’

Mr Calleja also noted that ‘mapping shows how diverse the Lithuanian and Maltese systems are’ and called for reflection on actions to be taken based on the image problem that VET still has in many countries: ‘Cedefop’s role is to provide support for VET reform through meetings such as this but only countries can act; they need to make sure that all players are on board when promoting apprenticeships so that the learning process itself becomes an attraction to young and older persons.’

European Commission’s Norbert Schoebel affirmed that the Commission places ‘particularly high importance on these reviews’ and expressed his confidence that apprenticeships will also be a priority under its next mandate. Mr Calleja welcomed the European official saying: ‘We want to make sure that this experience is shared with the Commission and that end users and learners in our countries benefit from what we are doing here together.’

Saulius Zybartas, from Lithuania’s Ministry of Education and Science, stressed that for the period 2014-20 his country has planned investment to strengthen cooperation between business and government and that the process has started with projects including training of IT specialists by companies.

Richard Curmi, from Malta’s Ministry of Education and Employment, noted that this review has come at the right moment for his country as ‘lots of changes are taking place with regard to apprenticeship,’ adding that ‘we face similar challenges with Lithuania.’