Mr Joao Santos and Mr Jan Varchola, from the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EDUC), had a busy schedule over the two days. Meetings with education heads at Göteborgs Tekniska College, a visit to the Future Skills Fair, study visits to schools and colleges, and meetings with business representatives.
We discussed the EU’s work with adult education and current challenges at the European level.
The initial contact with the Commission concerning vocational education and training (VET) was in September 2018, when Business Region Göteborg (BRG) applied to participate in a vocational education seminar in Brussels. The Gothenburg region’s foremost stakeholders in the field joined forces and provided a coherent and cohesive presentation of the VET work conducted by Region Västra Götaland (VGR), the Gothenburg region’s Association of Local Authorities (GR), Göteborgs Tekniska College and BRG. As a result, DG EDUC chose to come and learn more about the region’s work with VET.
“We all face the same challenges in Europe,” says Ulrike Firniss, Director EU Affairs at Business Region Göteborg and the visit co-ordinator.
“Our work with VET shows remarkably good results. We want to share best practices in order to maintain a strong industrial base in Europe. We want to talk to decision makers at the EU level to raise our concerns and needs. And we want to enter partnerships of excellence with other regions to make full use of the EU’s financial instruments and funds,” Firniss continues.
In the light of our fast-changing world – globalisation, digitalisation, automation – what do you consider the biggest challenge within the EU and with the work that you do within vocational education and training (VET)?
“One of the biggest challenges we face right now is adapting and modernising vocational education and training in response to the tremendous challenge of upskilling and reskilling adults,” Mr Santos explains.
“Today, young people easily transition from education to work. However, for adults this isn’t true. And because of rapid technological changes and the need for them to adapt to digitalisation, the green economy and so on, there’s a very big need for us to find solutions and to allow these people to engage in training, upskilling and reskilling.”
“And another major problem is that we cannot use the traditional system of a classroom and expect adults to leave their jobs and come to classrooms and sit like young people do. The vocational training system has to adapt to this new reality to find ways of delivering the kind of training that adults need and also to engage them. There are many adults who simply don’t think that they need any kind of upskilling and reskilling. I think that’s a very big challenge that we’re facing right now,” says Mr Santos.
“Also, one of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty and sense of difficulty in predicting exactly what skills and qualifications will be needed in the future,” says Mr Varchola.
“So, in other words, it’s very difficult for vocational education and training systems to precisely deliver what is needed at the right time. We need to involve vocational education and training in the early stages of business development and in the innovation process. We need a much more proactive approach to trying to foresee what is going to happen in the future compared to the traditional, more reactive role that the education sector used to have,” says Mr Santos.