Boost for vocational education and training in Europe

On 1 July 2020, at the start of Germany's presidency of the European Union (EU) Council, the EU Commission proposed a council recommendation to support vocational training and continuing education. The proposals are intended to strengthen vocational education and training in Europe and to press ahead with the reform of full-time, school-based training systems in the member states. 

The core element of this recommendation sets out to achieve closer integration between labour market, workplace and training, with the involvement of economic stakeholders. The goals of vocational education and training (VET) quality and attractiveness are to be achieved by means of improved permeability when transitioning to higher education, the expansion of higher-level education and training as well as the digital "preparedness" of educational institutions in the vocational sector.

The mobility across Europe of vocational education and training graduates is also to be facilitated through the development of European "core occupational profiles". The aim is that these shall also contribute to the automatic recognition of qualifications across Europe.

Member states are also being called upon to invest more in vocational education and training and, for this purpose, to use the EU funds and EU funding instruments such as "Next Generation EU".

The goal is also to gradually establish 50 European platforms for vocational excellence as a measure under the ERASMUS+ EU education programme. As a funding instrument, ERASMUS+ should ensure that by 2025 eight percent of all graduates of vocational education and training in Europe have experience of learning abroad.

In the view of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the Commission has at first glance proposed a good template for the German EU Council presidency. In particular, proposals for strengthening company-based training and higher-level vocational education and training throughout Europe and for promoting digital and other relevant workplace skills are to be regarded very positively.

Quantitative training targets however should be in line with the needs of companies. This has always been the guiding principle in vocational education and training. At the very least, quantitative stipulations should be based on interim objectives and on the specific national objectives of member states.

By contrast however, EU ambitions to govern education and training policymaking, such as the automatic recognition of foreign qualifications, need to be assessed more critically. Also, the European "core occupational profiles" must ultimately not be "prescribed" by the EU, but instead must be identified, as required, with a focus on demand and in a non-binding manner by means of pilot programmes and in close consultation with business.

Source: (website of the German chambers of commerce and industry), revised by iMOVE, January 2021