Li Andersson: Spotlight on vocational education and training during European Vocational Skills Week
The main event of the European Vocational Skills Week 2019 will be held in Finland, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The event week provides a splendid opportunity to bring positive visibility for vocational education and training and to have discussions between experts on further development in the field.
Attractiveness through quality and accessibility
In Finland, vocational education and training are perceived as an attractive choice: nearly half of the age group takes up vocational studies after completing their basic education. To raise the appreciation of vocational education and training to at least a similar level elsewhere in Europe, it is important to give visibility to VET excellence and success stories by means such as the Awards for VET Excellence.
Yet the attraction of VET is best improved by developing its quality and accessibility. This is why the theme chosen for the European Vocational Skills Week is ‘Vocational Education and Training for All – Skills for Life’. It promotes the idea that high-quality vocational education and training must be made available for people all over Europe for their needs that vary at different points of their lives and careers. Such education and training should be based on personal and working life needs, providing students with the knowledge, skills and competence that will best promote their access to employment and their active citizenship.
Investing in skills and competence – a priority of Finland’s Presidency
Improving the quality and accessibility of vocational education and training services requires efficient and effective educational investments. Investments in skills and competence bring considerable benefits for the economy and society. Growth of employment, innovation, competitiveness and adapting to social change demand that we provide quality education and training for all. Education strengthens personal development and promotes employability. It is the best protection against poverty, exclusion and lack of prospects. All Europeans should enjoy adequate opportunities to study to their full potential and update their skills throughout their careers.
Finland’s Presidency will promote the debate on investments in education and training by holding the first-ever joint Council meeting for the EU ministers of education and finance. The ministers will discuss the importance of effective and high-quality education and training for employment, innovation and growth in wellbeing. This is a very topical debate. It supports the implementation of the Strategic Agenda of the European Council and the political guidelines of the next President of the European Commission, as both emphasise the importance of investing in education and training for our economy and our future.
Vocational education and training as building blocks of future society
Vocational education and training should be developed in a forward-looking way, observing the opportunities and challenges of megatrends such a digitalisation and artificial intelligence. With competence requirements increasing rapidly across all sectors, it is important that Europeans could acquire the knowledge and skills they need and also update their competence throughout their careers. We should moreover consider how vocational education and training could contribute to sustainable development and climate change mitigation.
Major guidelines for the future of European education policy will be adopted next year, as the upcoming Commission presents its proposal for the post-2020 new Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training. As the discussions taking place during Finland’s Presidency will significantly guide the preparations for the new strategy, Finland should strongly bring up the role of vocational education and training within European education systems and continuous learning.