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Göteborgs Tekniska College is a unique collaboration between trade and industry and the municipality. The company is jointly owned by Volvo Group and Volvo Cars together with the City of Gothenburg.

“Companies cannot sit back and wait – they need to be involved in vocational education and training”

During a two-day visit, officials from the EU Commission came to meet vocational education representatives to learn how we work together to meet trade and industry’s workforce needs.

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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.

Göteborgs Tekniska College is a unique collaboration between trade and industry and the municipality. The company is jointly owned by Volvo Group and Volvo Cars together with the City of Gothenburg.


Qualified labour and personnel are highly sought after, according to the companies in our region. How is Europe ensuring that we are not left behind other parts of the world when it comes to vocational education and training?

“One of the solutions is that companies also have to be involved in everything related to vocational education and training,” says Mr Santos.

“In the past, companies could just ‘sit back and wait’ for the education system to deliver people with the skills that the companies needed. That time is over, due to the fact that the education system itself cannot always be up to date with the latest technologies, the latest breakthroughs and so on,” Mr Santos continues.

“The idea of business education partnerships, like you have here in Gothenburg, is a good way of working and finding solutions. As is when you bring all the partners together – public employment services, regional development actors, authorities, companies, research centres, and universities – to work together and to be proactive in creating skills ecosystems at regional level,” says Mr Santos.

“The challenges and the realities of, say, the Gothenburg region, are not necessarily the same as in Stockholm, for example,” says Mr Santos.

Mr Jan Varchola also describes attitudes towards vocational education and training, and all the stereotypes that the general population has about vocational education and training, as a major problem.

“We also see it in the Gothenburg region, where there are skill shortages in vocational trades. And one of the solutions is to try to communicate the benefits of vocational training. This is also what we do at the European level. We have a kind of ‘flagship communication’ campaign which is called the European Vocational Skills Week, and this will be held in October,” says Mr Santos

When it comes to vocational education and training in Europe, who are the front runners?

“There are quite a few regions that are front runners and that are innovative. I would maybe mention Finland,” says Mr Santos.

“Finland has started very ambitious reforms within vocational education and training. They started about two years ago and are now breaking the traditional stereotypes. For example, they are opening schools 365 days a year, 24 hours a day in order to meet diverse needs for learning processes and learning, since the ‘customers’ are both young people and adults. An acknowledgement that adults probably don’t want to leave their jobs during working hours.”

“This is just one example of many, and the important thing is that you are responsive, and create a system in which you bring all the partners together and are capable of being responsive to actual needs, not only labour market needs, but also societal challenges and needs,” says Mr Varchola.

“Moreover, the Gothenburg region, the Basque region and Rotterdam are also to be considered innovative front runners when it comes to vocational education and training, in my opinion,” says Mr Santos

Mr Santos also stresses that there’s no sort of ‘one model fits all’, but they are all excellent examples, which is one of the reasons why they decided to visit Gothenburg, to learn from what we are doing and to see to what extent this can be replicated across the EU.

“My takeaway from this visit is that the Gothenburg region has two assets that also offer a lot of potential. One is the social capital and this culture of cooperation. It’s kind of in the DNA of the people here – to work together. And the second is that Gothenburg is one of the top innovation regions in Europe. Linking VET to innovation processes in a regional economy creates very strong potential within industry. That’s pretty good,” says Mr Varchola.


European Commission – Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

The Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion has the task of contributing to the development of a modern, innovative and sustainable European social model with more and better jobs in an inclusive society based on equal opportunities.

The Directorate-General is organised into 8 directorates: Employment & Social Governance, Employment, Social Affairs, Labour Mobility, Skills, Investment, Audit and Evaluation and Resources, Planning & Communication.

Learn more:

Mr Joao Santos is the Deputy Head of Unit and Mr Jan Varchola is Team Leader – VET policies, instruments and evidence.


*Göteborgs Tekniska College is a unique collaboration between trade and industry and the municipality. The company is jointly owned by Volvo Group and Volvo Cars together with the City of Gothenburg. The courses are developed together with the corporate owners in order to meet their future skills needs. 

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