The 26th annual international conference of the European Forum for Vocational Education and Training (EfVET), which was held in Thessaloniki from 25 to 28 October, focused on ‘aligning work and education to the future’.
Over 220 training providers from across Europe and guests from Hong Kong, the USA and Canada took part in the conference.
In his keynote speech, Cedefop Director James Calleja said that businesses and the different stakeholders assist one another in defining short- and long-term skill needs locally, regionally and at European level. He stressed that the relationship between businesses and vocational education and training (VET) providers is a necessity for both, as lifelong learning is part and parcel of the future of work and of VET.
Mr Calleja added that evidence from Cedefop research shows clearly an increasingly beneficial connection between work-based learning and employability for learners, workers and employers.
According to the Cedefop Director, we face at least four challenges either from the perspective of the training provider or from the side of the employer:
- different stakeholders understand the concept of skill needs differently – businesses look for immediacy while social partners stress the need to develop talent gradually and permanently;
- if stakeholders do not have a common understanding of skill needs, there is a marked coordination failure and stakeholders need to address it by seeking each other’s opinion and consensus;
- involving regional and local authorities in skill needs assessment and anticipation heightens skills governance challenges in relation to bottom-up coordination and financial constraints;
- one needs to improve feedback loops between businesses and stakeholders through efficient communication channels so that all speak the same language.
Speaking again at the end of the conference, Mr Calleja stated that the challenges of VET and employment are the same; advancements in technology, automation, demographic changes and new forms of learning give VET a new profile of excellence and inclusion, and work environments the necessity to create learning spaces for their employees throughout their careers.
The divide between learning and working is gradually closing down, he added, as no one can afford to stop learning. VET providers cannot deliver ready-made human capital and employers cannot afford to have low quality if they seek to be competitive. This dual role creates a new bond between the world of education and training and the world of employment, with employees benefitting from workplace and lifelong learning.