From 14 to 18 October 2019, the fourth European Vocational Skills Week took place in Helsinki. Continuing on the success of the previous editions, the aim of the week was to provide visibility and recognition for vocational education and training. With the support of the Finnish presidency to the Council, various events, meetings and competitions were organised throughout the week around the central theme of “VET for All: Skills for Life”. A highlight of these events can be found on the Commission’s website, while EFEE’s personal highlights will be discussed here.

On 15 October 2019, the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) organized a meeting on “Apprenticeships for Adults”. In his opening address, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Joost Korte stated that a stronger social dialogue is necessary to improve apprenticeships since a lack of skills is currently the main obstacle to innovation in the EU. The opening statement was followed up by Ms Lidia Salvator from Cedefop, who introduced a new report on adult apprenticeships which will be published at the end of the year. She concluded by emphasizing the need for teachers and mentors to understand the different needs and motives that adults have when entering into an apprenticeship. This line of thought was continued and reinforced by representatives from both the OECD and EUCENApprEnt, who highlighted the role that teachers and mentors play in promoting adult apprenticeships. Only by clear and efficient communication between the industry and the education sector will the curricula of apprenticeships be up to date and will they consequently become more attractive to adults. The social partners from BusinessEurope, SMEUnited and ETUC touched upon the role that migrants can play in raising awareness about high quality adult apprenticeships as well as the the influence that previous working experience and already acquired skill sets can have on the curricula and pedagogy of adult apprenticeships. It was concluded that flexibility is the key ingredient to make adult apprenticeships a reality. The several workshops that followed this meeting further confirmed these observations, while also raising the question of government and business funding to incentivize adults to enroll in apprenticeships.

On 16 October 2019, EFEE attended an organized site visit to Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, School of Vocational Teacher Education. During this visit and presentation representatives from Haaga-Helia University tried to answer questions such as “How do we face the changing role of the teacher who is already working, not just the new teachers?” and“How do we make the teacher’s profession within VET more attractive?”. The school’s success in answering these questions can be derived from their specific teaching model as well as their application numbers, which is three times as high as their enrollment capacity, amongst other reasons due to the close connection and communication that Haaga-Helia has with the business community.

The day continued with the “VET for All, Skills for Life” plenary conference, which took place in Finlandia Hall. While discussing the role of VET in addressing global challenges, the increasing need for VET to respond to the upskilling and reskilling of the adult population at all levels was highlighted. Only through significant long-term investment in lifelong learning, will the EU be able to keep up with the rapid speed at which the labour market is changing. Moreover, the conference discussed which skills are going to be needed in the near future to tackle these global challenges and how VET can progress to address critical skill gaps, including digital and technological literacy. In order to do this, in the near future VET is expected to reposition itself within the future mix of a strong foundation of basic skills, generic, soft, transversal and professional competences. This mix can only be attained by enhancing the partnership between VET and the world of work.

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