Responding to the needs of the economy and facilitating active citizenship and inclusion: some reflections from the European Vocational Skills Week 2018

EduMAP’s interest and engagement with current policy and practice developments in vocational education and training (VET) and adult education across EU countries and at the EU level has been an important feature of the project’s communication and dissemination activities. The participation of EduMAP researchers in the European Vocational Skills Week 2018 event in Vienna has provided valuable opportunities for networking, sharing perspectives and emerging findings, as well as for developing a dialogue with practitioners, researchers, policy-makers and learners across EU countries.

‘Discover Your Talent’, a core message of this year’s European Vocational Skills Week, has emphasised the multifaceted and multidimensional role of VET across Europe and beyond. The central themes and core messages of the event have proved to be strongly related to EduMAP’s focus and emerging findings. The Skills Week discussions have highlighted the role and significance of VET, as a crucial component of national and international strategies for lifelong learning (LLL), which aim to bring about social inclusion and engagement of adults across their life span. As our findings indicate, engaging adults through different forms of VET contributes strongly to addressing their specific needs and requirements and facilitating their participation in social, economic and civic/political life in their relevant contexts and spaces.

The occasion has brought together a range of stakeholders, including policy-makers, education and training providers, VET learners, civil society organisations, public authorities, business organisations and trade unions representing all 28 EU countries. The core discussions of Skills Week have brought to the fore the question of the importance of VET not only for equipping young people and adults with occupationally related skills but also for improving their life chances, facilitating social inclusion and active citizenship.

Enhancing the profile and prestige of VET is something that the representatives of all EU countries have shown a strong commitment to: specifically, this has been made evident through the successful launching of a range of schemes and activities to contribute to the development of VET as a sustainable and flourishing system. The success of the Skills Week initiative has been demonstrated through continuous engagement and cooperation between various stakeholders, following the first edition of the European Vocational Skills Week that took place in 2016. In 2017, the second edition had more than 1,585 activities organised across Europe reaching 1 million people. Through the European Vocational Skills Week, the European Commission’s ambition is to raise awareness of opportunities available through VET across Europe and beyond, and encourage more people to get involved. The aim of the Week was to bring attention to the role of VET as a valuable choice, for young people and adults, leading to improved life chances, increased employability and facilitating inclusion. The discussions, presentations and debates at the event have offered an extremely helpful platform for practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders, for the development of a meaningful dialogue leading to better understanding of both present and future challenges, issues, problems and approaches associated with VET developments and inclusion, integration and engagement of young adults through education and training. The event presented a range of opportunities to develop networks and dialogue between stakeholders and researchers, thus contributing to enhanced communication, cross-national collaboration and mutual understanding across EU countries in the area of VET.

Natasha Kersh