In 2018, the European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place for the third time. There were around 1,400 events held in the last quarter of the year in different locations throughout Europe. The central event of EVSW was a conference on the status and progress of VET hosted by Austria between 7 and 9 November. This country took over the presidency of the EU Council in the second half of the year 2018, and is one of the leading countries regarding VET. The conference was intended for a reflection on the changing role of the VET subsystem according to demographic and technological factors, and challenges in the labour market. “Vocational education and training should be the first and not only the second choice of the young (and adults)”, said Marianne Thyssen, an European Commissioner responsible and a strong promoter of EVSW (and VET).
“To have a clear look into the future, it is important to know the past.”
These are the words that Mara Brugia from the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) started her introduction with and said that based on the analyses of trends between 1995 and 2015, they’ve defined three potential development paths of VET. These have become a common thread of further contributions, as so called pluralistic, distinctive and marginalised scenarios stirred up the imagination and the speakers. They either defended equally and dynamic integration of VET into the chain of lifelong learning or they spoke in favour of the protective attitude towards this educational subsystem. It was delightful to see that the VET was not associated only with young people, but its importance for adults was also exposed when looking for the paths of improving their competences. They also emphasized that VET should not be limited to vocational competences, but must also ensure basic and other general competences and train not only for work, but life in general. Many speakers addressed the diversity of national concepts and practices of the VET. Dichotomies, such as general vs. specific, stable vs. flexible, excellence vs. social inclusion, the same solutions for all vs. tailor made learning paths, etc. also determine the current thinking and functioning in the VET. Therefore, the word was not only about the past and the future, but also about the present.
Adult education is a must.
I’ve been following EVSW content for three years and I dare say that paradigmatic changes happened. If adult education was of marginal importance in the previous two years, almost all key speakers addressed it this time. All the representatives in this field had the opportunity to defend our mission in a working group about the future of continuing VET as well as in the EC-OECD forum about the future of adult education. The latter confirmed that the visibility of this area has lately been bigger than ever. Disappearance of certain occupations, constant emergence of new ones that require different skills… A holistic view of the employee – a person who in addition to narrow professional skills will be able of critic and creative thinking, having the right attitude towards work and others…
All of this means that adult education is important, it reaches all aspects of our life and functioning, therefore more and more is expected of it.
This was confirmed also by Shyamal Majumdar, guest from India and the UNESCO-UNEVOC. He mentioned the Global Sustainable Development Goals (GSDG) until 2030 adopted by the UN in 2015. The fourth of the 17 goals is intended to provide quality education for all. Majumdar urged the participants to think holistically and take into account economic, social and transformative importance of learning. In all cases, skills are essential, so it’s not enough only to develop the VET, but it is meaningful to connect all the subsystems of education and create synergy in order to make the GSDG vision a reality (i.e. eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, ensuring progress and the protection of the environment for present and future generations).
The EVSW was concluded with the testimonies of EVSW ambassadors and the 2018 awards for excellence in VET. The ambassadors and award winners were without a doubt the most effective advocates of the range and importance of the VET, which also applies to adult education. Next year the EVSW will be hosted in Helsinki, Finland between 14 and 18 October.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE