The last days I have been involved in a meeting at CEDEFOP Headquarters in Thessaloniki. It was an excelent opportunity to revisit the European policies and frameworks on Vocational Education and Training (VET), apprenticeships and the transferability of the learning outcomes using International classifications (ISCO, NACE, ISCED and ESCO).
The aim of this post is to provide some facts and highlight the European recommendations on VET, skill mismatch and labour market.
Nowadays, the whole continent is still facing a seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 11.1 % in April 2015. Some countries are performing better such Germany (4,7%) while others such as Spain (22,3%) or Greece (25,7%) need to readdress clearly this dramatic situation. The empirical evidence (CEDEFOP, 2015) shows that VET programs are convenient to smooth transitions between unemployment and work or school and work. Indeed, VET is also a suitable tool for youth employment actions.
On the other hand, It is estimated that the European skills mismatch during 2014 was roughly 2 milion of jobs vacancies on average. Furthermore, many people being hired is working in positions where they are overqualified or using obsolescence skills. One possible explanation comes from the economic downturn of last years and the disadjusted employment requirements due the weak demand and the excess of workers looking for a job. Consequently, mature workers can get important benefits of Continue VET.
In order to increase the employability and adaptability of the worker skills (supply side) and to provide adequate labour force to Small and Medium Enterprises (demand side) the EU 2020 strategy has designed clear benchmarks to achieve at the end of the decade:
• At least 15% of adults participating in the lifelong learning.
• Less than 10% of early leavers from Training or Education
• 75% of employment rate
• 40% of workers with 30-34 years old with tertiary Education attainment
Regarding the EU general strategy there is a specific one for Education and Training based on the Copenhagen Process (2002) and the Bruges Communiqué (2010) with 22 short deliverables to monitor the country progresses in VET policies. It is pursued to promote cooperation among countries and stakeholders: EU educational and employment bodies, National, Regional and local authorities, Unions, Business, Chambers of Commerce, VET providers and NGOs.
Some tactical objectives arise from the EU ET 2020:
- A better transparency of VET and more Lifelong learning:
Developing National Qualification Frameworks and the European Qualification Framework to promote the comparability of the learning outcomes and new flexible pathways.
More mobility and internationalisation using the Erasmus Plus program and the European Quality Charter of Mobility.
- Quality, Quantity and Efficiency of VET:
Acquisition of the key competences (8) for Longlife learning and basic skills; literacy, numeracy, science, technology and communication.
Promote and develope traineers career and to share best practices.
- Equity, social cohesion and active citizenship:
Total Accesibility to VET opportunities to all citizens. Specific solutions to people coming from disadvantaged groups or at risk such as: female, migrant, low skilled workers and NEET.
- Enhancement of creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation: Development of partnerships and mechanisms to compete internationally.
The 28 European countries show a great variability in the deployment of VET policies and results obtained. Countries can be classified into three big groups;
I. Countries leader, with better ratios to the European benchmarks (> 15%)
II. Countries progress that probably will meet the benchmarks in 2020 (10%-15%)
III. Countries with special monitoring due the low ratios (<10%)
VET policies are not a magical stick that will fix the youth unemployment or the long term unemployment but can facilitate the acquisition of skills, professional transitions and enhance the general output of enterprises. In fact, countries with a long tradition in lifelong learning and Apprenticeships such as Germany, Denmark or Austria have a better ratios on unemployment, early leavers, and general Qualification.
Maybe, it is high time that the Southern countries put an extra effort in VET policies instead of tertiary Education where not surprisingly some of them like Spain already matched the European Benchmark of 40% of 30-34 years old with a university degree.