The conference was opened by the newly elected Europe Academy President, Jean-Claude Halter from CESI’s French member organisation CSEN. He underlined the importance of the topic of the conference: More awareness and more focus on a better reputation of VET is needed because research carried out by the EU VET agency, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Education and Training (Cedefeop) in Thessaloniki, found that the majority of the citizens in many EU countries (still) consider VET as a generally second-best type of professional formation and inferior to a purely university-based academic tertiary education. According to Jean-Claude Halter, this is an unfortunate finding which needs to be addressed. “After all”, he said, “VET can play an important role in keeping youth unemployment at bay and in giving young people the opportunity to access quality jobs.”
Jean-Claude Halter and Klaus Dauderstädt: VET needs more political attention and more public investment
As the representative of the hosting dbb, Klaus Dauderstädt, Chairman of the dbb and Vice-President of CESI, added that the EU must play an important role in facilitating exchanges of best practices on how the reputation of VET can be improved across Europe and how high quality VET schemes can be developed and implemented at the national level. “The high youth unemployment rates in many EU Member States are not acceptable for trade unions. More public investments in the education of people are indispensable to change this. This is especially true for VET”, he stressed.
Expert input on the role and functioning of VET in Germany and across Europe
Expert input was given by Helen Hoffmann from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Emploment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) and Erik Heß from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), who briefed the symposium participants in detail about the role and functioning of VET in Germany and on EU tools to help foster apprenticeships, such as a newly-proposed European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships and the European Alliance for European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA), a stakeholder platform for the promotion of apprenticeships which CESI acceded to in September 2016.
Personal experiences of VET graduates
Two CESI affiliates showcased their past apprenticeship and VAT experiences. Karoline Hermann, President of the dbb Jugend, the dbb’s youth organisation, shared insights about the apprenticeship system in the German civil service. As a former apprentice in the German civil service, she emphasised the vast variety of different schemes that exist for young people with different kinds of academic and non-academic educational backgrounds. Arjen Gerretsen, Board Member of the CNV Jongeren, the youth organisation of CNV (the umbrella organisation of CNV-Connectief, a member or CESI), presented the merits of a management trainee programme for young policy advisers at the Dutch central government. With him, too, being a former graduate of the programme, he introduced the symposium participants to how high-profile management trainee programmes can be implemented in the public sector in a personalised and tailored manner to form future leaders in public authorities.
Challenges in VET from the teachers’ perspective
Stefan Nowatschin, headmaster at a German vocational school and affiliate of the dbb, and Anne-Marie le Gallo-Piteau, teacher at a vocational school in France and affiliate of CESI’s member organisation FGAF, explained in detail key challenges that VET systems can face. Stefan Nowatschin referred in particular about lacking financial support to hire additional teachers in order to cut down on course cancellations as a result of a shortage of teachers. Anne-Mariele Gallo-Piteau highlighted the merits that she found VET has for students, in particular in terms of an early full immersion in the workplace, which facilitates transitions to the labour market. However, she also warned that successful VET for an apprentice is conditioned by several factors, including a professional attitude of the apprentice, the provision of a ‘real job’ for the apprentice by the employer, and a continued presence of a dedicated adult employee or manager to mentor the apprentice.
Salvatore Piroscia from CESI’s Italian member organisation Confsal presented initiatives of his organisation to foster employment opportunities for young people in Italy aiming at an improved mobility of young people’s skills in Europe (New GEMS project), well-managed generational replacements within workforces (ScholarJobs project) and the creation of an integrated European system of competence validation for education, training and work experience.
Take home messages: VET central for quality employment – but more exchange of best practices and more public recognition necessary
In a final roundable discussion with Helen Hoffmann, Stefan Nowatschin, CESI Youth Representative Matthäus Fandrejewski and José M. Bachiller from CESI’s Spanish affiliate FASGA synthesised the findings of the symposium, stressing the importance of VET for quality employment and the role of the EU in facilitating more exchanges of best practices.
CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, in his concluding remarks, referred in particular to a better valorisation of VET among young people, the workforce as well as political decision-makers and the general public.
Further details about the symposium as well as presentations and interventions of the speakers are available here.
For further information: Marcella Migliori, Policy Adviser for Education Policy, [email protected].
Picture: At the Europe Academy in Berlin. © dbb/Jan Brenner 2017