Enhanced European Cooperation in VET: the achievements of Riga

“There is no good policy without good data” said Nicholas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights at an online event, entitled “Enhancing European cooperation in VET – Looking back planning ahead” 30 June-1 July. Organised jointly by Cedofop and the ETF, the aim of the event was present the outcomes of the 2015-20 Riga cycle. He complimented the two EU agencies on the quality of their work, which he described as “a real gold-mine to tap into”.

2020 marks the end of the latest cycle of the Copenhagen process launched in 2002 to promote enhanced cooperation in vocational education and training. In Riga in 2015, the European Commission, together with the EU Member States and social partners, the European Economic Area and the candidate countries reaffirmed their commitment to competitive and inclusive VET. Concretely, the parties agreed on a set of five medium-term deliverables that they would work towards over the coming five years. These included strengthening work-based learning and apprenticeships; access to VET and qualifications; teacher and trainer professional development; quality assurance; and key competences.

The joint Cedefop-ETF report charts the progress of the participating countries towards these priorities, sets out their achievements and points towards what needs to be done in the next five years. The coronavirus crisis has thrown these challenges into sharp relief. “Will the crisis be a catalyst?” asked Cedefop Director Jürgen Siebel. He pointed out that factors such as demographic shifts, digitalisation and the future of work, the greening the economy, and the post-Covid recovery put VET centre stage. “VET is an enabler of successful transitions. It is more important than ever.” He said.  ETF Director Cesare Onestini stressed the importance of inclusion. “The pandemic has highlighted the need for inclusive approaches” he said. “As we look at the future of VET post COVID we have an opportunity to also step up the reforms for inclusion, excellence, attractiveness and the fight of gender stereotyping.”

Commissioner Schmit highlighted the external dimension of the Commission’s action on vocational education and training. “Our recovery efforts should also take our neighbourhood into account. Our European economies will thrive if our partners’ economies thrive as well. That’s what a partnership implies.” He said. “In light of this, the work of the European Training Foundation will be ever crucial to get back together on our feet, here in Europe and all around us.”

The event coincided with the changeover between the Croatian and the German presidencies of the European Council, and features interventions by Blaženka Divjak, Croatian Minister for Science and Education and Anja Karliczek, German Federal Minister for Education and Research. Ms Divjak spoke of the need to develop international networks of vocational excellence. “Excellence contributes to making VET a first choice” she said. “Students must be proud to be VET students.” Ms Karliczek stressed the need to link VET more strongly to growth and innovation and have initial and continuing VET systems that are adaptable to change and equip people with digital skills. “Choosing a VET profession should be as promising as an academic career” she said.

The second day of the event will look towards the future and the European Commission’s proposals for an updated Skills Agenda.


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