On 8 December 2020, EFEE attended the second online Peer Learning Webinar within the framework of the EFEE-ETUCE joint project “Lifelong Learning for All: Inclusive Vocational Education and Training”, hosted by MBO Raad (The Netherlands). The webinar was aimed at disseminating the first results and best practices of the Peer Learning Activities (PLAs) that have taken place so far within this project.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Mr. David Kunst (Policy Officer for Evidence & Analysis, Unit EMPL E3: VET, Apprenticeships and Adult Learning) on the European “Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs)” initiative. Mr Kunst provided the participants with a comprehensive explanation of the topic, outlining the main idea behind ILAs. This initiative is aimed at strengthening individuals’ demand for training by providing them with financial and non-financial support (e.g. budget, quality assurance, guidance, validation offers, etc.) to ultimately foster investment incentives in training.The specific objectives of the setup of ILAs at the EU level are to increase the funding and attractiveness of training as well as to facilitate the navigation of training landscapes for individuals. Already existing schemes such as “Mon Compte Formation” in France or the Dutch “STAP” are examples of successful implementation at the national level. Mr Kunst further addressed the reasons why developing ILAs schemes at the EU level might be relevant. Firstly, he highlighted the common labour market trends, including the twin transitions, that change the skills requirements and lead to new forms of work. Secondly, it was noted that the systemic gap in learning participation between the Member States needs to be closed. Thirdly, ILAs can facilitate the drawing of lessons from each other and the sharing of good practices between Member States. Lastly, Mr Kunst gave an overview of the Commission Roadmap for next year, which will first consist of conducting an impact assessment and external studies to feed the assessment; subsequently, on a broad consultation to reach out to social partners and in an open public consultation within the Members States; and lastly, in a Commission proposal planned for Q4 2021 adopting the outcomes.

Prof. Mark van der Meer, professor at the Tilburg University, presented some policy dilemmas and initiatives and the road ahead in the field VET. Taking the particular example of the Dutch education system, Prof. van der Meer’s main points underlined the ‘Chinese walls’ between the general education system and the VET system, but also between the VET education systems and the adult education systems. The upcoming challenges will therefore be to create a break through these walls in order to make the systems more transparent and fluent. To overcome this challenge, Prof. van der Meer recommended increased investment in innovation, along with research support by qualitative and quantitative data. Moreover, he noted that it is paramount to improve the image of VET and start lifelong learning at the municipal level as well as enhance the professional capacities of teachers, while stressing that a learning and self-generated system needs room for experimentations and systemic feedbacks.

Following Prof. van der Meer’s presentation, Mr Rinni Romme (MBORaad) gave an overview of the lessons drawn from the pandemic on the future of VET. In the light of the digital revolution, Mr Romme called the relevant stakeholders in VET to set a common vision for online learning. Such a vision needs to acknowledge the potential of digitalization, since according to a study conducted in the Netherlands, 60% of the students approved it and many felt much more heard by their teachers. Nevertheless, it needs to be effectively redesigned, for instance regarding the assessment, timetable and flexibility since it seems that many students tend to struggle with self-regulation. Subsequently, Ms Tanya Jones from the Irish Education and Training Board (ETBI) introduced the participants to the further education and training (FET) situation in Ireland and provided concrete examples on how apprentices are supported. The Irish national FET strategy focus on three core pillars, namely inclusion, skills building, and pathways. Transformative learning is developed by allowing every individual on a lifelong basis to achieve personal development and fulfilment, accompanied by a range of supports reflecting the diverse based of leaners. To support apprentices, in particular with low literacy and numeracy skills, ETBI launched the craft apprenticeship proposal procedure with a five steps approach.

The meeting closed with two good practices presentations, first by Mr Filip Vanden Berghe (ACV-CSC, Belgium) and second by Mr Aidan Kenny (TUI, Ireland). Mr Vanden Berghe highlighted three main challenges faced by lifelong learning from the Flemish perspective: (1) the demographic fault line, which implies to include more people into the workforce; (2) the sociological fault line that doesn’t include a lifelong learning culture; and (3) the disruption in VET skills, stressing out the tension between education and formation system, especially on the pedagogical approaches and the great influence of the economy in the shaping of education policy in Flanders. Mr Kenny’s presentation covered the “quality apprenticeships within a Lifelong Learning framework”. He noted that in Ireland, the competent bodies are the state agencies and organisation, involving the Trade Union, the government, national board and bodies in apprenticeship and offering the following standards: employment contract, law protection, an agreed rate of pay, 4 years duration, apprenticeship registration status and national level EQF 5. He highlighted that although the Covid-19 has been a disruptor for the practical workshops and for apprenticeships in general, the growing opportunities for the field at the EU level, such as the Just Transitions funds, Industry 4.0, the European Education Area allowing mobility and recognition and the launch of Know Hub project within the Erasmus plus programme.

The next peer learning activity within the “Lifelong learning for all” project will be held on 23 March 2021 from Finland.

For more details, please contact isaline.ossieur@educationemployers.eu