ENE: a fast-growing network to build vocational excellence

The European Training Foundation Thursday (December 3) launched a new network of vocational education and training centres of excellence.

The ETF Network for Excellence (ENE) - which has been working since February and already has more than 90 members in EU neighbouring countries - recognises the growing strategic role vocational education and training has to play in skills development.

The launch - celebrated with a round of prosecco by ETF staffers in Turin at the end of a four hour long online conference "Centres of Vocational Excellence as Engines for vocational education and training (VET) Development" - reflects the increasing importance the EU is putting on skills development as a key tool for economic development, social inclusion and sustainability.

Promoting the development of networks of vocational excellence among EU neighbours is part of a broader strategy to increase the relevance and functionality of skills development within the context of innovation, business and stakeholder networks and promotion of green and digital agendas to help make Europe "crisis proof" as Manuela Geleng, director for Skills at the EC's DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, put it in opening remarks.

"Vocational excellence is at the core of our drive to modernise VET in Europe and it is a pleasure to see it is also being taken forward by ETF and its partner countries," Ms Geleng said.

"Our agenda is to achieve a sustainable, fair and crisis proof society in the EU. We aim to provide a resilient and excellent skill-set for every worker, including transversal skills and skills for life.

"Vocational education and training system need to be in the driving seat of change to successfully address challenges to skills development, digitalisation and climate change."

Cesare Onestini, ETF director, noted that the ENE network had grown quickly since it began working in February and now had more than 90 members in 35 countries.

"Excellence is the way the EU wants VET providers to position their offer," he said.

"Excellence is about many things and that is why the network has at its core internationalisation - which is where the ETF comes in, trying to build synergy and cooperation between international partners."

Clear goals and a solid understanding of why becoming part of a network had advantages were needed along with the necessary motivation to improve and develop, he added.

Georgios Zisimos, an ETF senior expert on EU polices on education and training, who heads a team of 11 working to development the new network, noted that a commitment to excellence could transform skills provision

He pointed to two examples of Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) developed by government agencies - a Vietnam program for heating and climate technicians that provided training to international standards - and one that was industry driven - in Bangladesh's leather and apparel industry where a range of programs, including short courses, were designed to dovetail with the competitive needs of companies that were part of "the global value chain". Both were exemplars for what networks of excellence could achieve, he said.

Participants in the conference - followed by up to 200 people - noted that by working collaboratively and pooling resources and ideas, CoVE networks could become "greater than the sum of their parts."

The ETF is offering the network guidance, feedback and monitoring via a system of self-assessment that is already being piloted in 11 countries and around 70 centres of excellence. The assessment will be repeated next year to give a baseline for reference as the network develops.

Xavier Matheu de Cortada, Head of Policy Unit, at the ETF, in concluding remarks, said: "Centres for excellence are a breeding ground for innovation; they support social needs and cooperate with enterprises and create research and development. To do all this is no longer a one man show."

A follow up conference is planned in Turin, March 11 and 12, 2021 - pandemic restrictions permitting.

For more information: etf.europa.eu/ene

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