In December, I attended the Munera 3 project conference with the above title in Laško. The event was organised by the Nova Gorica School Centre. It brought together the representatives of 86 vocational and professional high schools and vocational colleges, which form the project consortium, as well as employers, start-ups, project coordinators, and training participants.  When I attended the Annual Adult Education Conference (LPoIO 2019) just a short month before, I knew almost all the participants, but at the Munera 3 Conference, there were very few familiar faces. That was fine by me, as I yearned to connect with less well-known people and activities related to adult education. The main goal of this VET-oriented ESF project is to allow as many as 17,640 employed adults to acquire the right competences in the 2018–2022 period.

I learned that the Munera 3 project offers employed adults additional training, qualifications, or re-qualifications, based on market needs and the individual job postings available, which is why good collaboration with businesses is very important. This way, employed adults can improve their competences and employability, and move to different fields of work. The programmes are aimed at personal development, and encourage involvement in our society. All this sounded familiar to me, as some other ESF projects presented on our Upskilling Pathways e-portal, as part of the EAAL project, deal with similar challenges. The difference is that this project focuses mostly on the fields of technology, biotechnology, and services.

Learn and make your dreams come true

So which competences does Munera 3 encourage when it addresses its participants with the slogan presented in the title of this article? Among the most important are digital competences, which is why the conference organisers decided to highlight digital banking, artificial intelligence in education, and the digitalisation of agriculture. One of the speakers who inspired us was Danilo Meolic, who talked about management of his smart digitalised farm, where much of the work is done by drones. Dr Peter Merc, lawyer and entrepreneur, explained digital banking and its key feature – client focus. Martin Hamilton from UK addressed some of the stereotypes about AI, and explained all the ways we already use it in the field of education. The conclusion was that more and more “general” tasks will be taken over by AI, and that humans will mostly manage and develop AI, as well as perform the tasks that computers are not (yet?) able to perform. After the lecture, there was an e-survey of the participants asking us which competences we believe will be the most relevant in the future. The results put interpersonal relationship competences (67%) before digital competences (18%), but reading and maths sadly ranked last (3%).

Excellence in professional and vocational training on my lifelong learning career path

​CEOs of some businesses and school managers, a lecturer on applicative robotics, and an inspiring training participant, were part of an excellent panel called, “Excellence in professional and vocational training on my lifelong learning career path”. They all agreed that changes should start with formal education. On one hand, competences should be adapted to the needs of individuals (career plan), and on the other hand, to the needs of the market and society (collaboration of schools and businesses). Soft skills, such as creative problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, embracing change, lifelong learning, and especially a desire to learn, are becoming more and more important. Lili, a representative of the learners, combined her desire to learn with a desire to take care of her health, in the Modern food preparation programme. Gregor, who trains and teaches others at the Arboretum botanic garden, also has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They both reminded me that “in th next life”, I will get training for physical work, preferably in agriculture (without the drones). This also brought to mind an anecdote from a doctor of electrical engineering, who said that his father only allowed him to go to college after he trained for some manual work which is way he became a mechanic first. Because one never knows… and because mental work, especially if it is full of bureaucracy or without real purpose, can be very tiring, and often does not leave a worthy mark on life.

In the conference invitation, the organisers wrote that the Munera 3 conference (and project) wanted to raise awareness about the ways to close the gap between the further vocational and professional education services on offer, and the needs of the labour market and our society. This is similar to the goal of the EVSW (read more here – in Slovenian), which aims to present vocational education and training as a valid first choice, and not as a secondary, less desired option.

All of us who work in adult education area note that not many people in Slovenia are ready to participate in lifelong learning, especially among less-educated and older adults. “The responsibility for improving this situation lays mostly with the individuals and the government, who must take appropriate steps to encourage the improvement of knowledge and competences, but businesses and employers must also take on more responsibility,” said Elvira Šušmelj, Director General of the competent directorate at the MESS, in her introduction. This reminded me of what the entrepreneur Tanja Skaza said at a recent event, Meeting points, where she expressed the need for more synergy between professionals and adult educators. I strongly agree with that, as I believe we could all achieve better results with a more coordinated approach as far as VET and general adult education providers are concerned. Especially as we all have the best intentions!

Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik (zvonka.pangerc@acs.si), SIAE

© 2017-2020 Slovenian Institute for Adult Education

The publication is co-financed by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

ISSN 2630-2926

Published by Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE), Šmartinska 134a, SI-1000 Ljubljana | Editor-in-chief: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (E: zvonka.pangerc@acs.si) | Editor: Ana Peklenik (E: ana.peklenik@acs.si) | Other members of the editorial board: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc,  Andrej Sotošek, MSc, Director of SIAE, dr Tanja Možina, Tanja Vilič Klenovšek, MA, and Margerita Zagmajster, MSc, Computer solution: Franci Lajovic (T: 01 5842 555, E: franci.lajovic@acs.si) | Translation/proofreading: Prevajalska agencija Julija  | Design: Larisa Hercog | Corrective reading: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc, and Mateja Pečar | W: https://enovicke.acs.si/en/home/