An innovative approach to upgrading the digital skills of construction college teachers in Moldova to provide enhanced learning online has won the special ETF Innovation and Skills Award as part of a raft of awards made today (Friday Nov 13) at the closing of the European Skills Week.

Chisinau's Centre of Excellence in Construction, a college of 1,600 students that offers initial technical education and training programmes in 10 specialist areas, with many students living and socialising on campus as well as studying, already employed blended learning but undertook a more ambitious staff training programme as COVID hit and the need for online learning became more pressing.

Under the guidance of Sergiu Coceas, Head of Continuous Training, the centre developed its own tailored digital training programme for staff as part of its commitment to continuous professional development.

Sergiu designed and implemented a course designed to help staff at the centre shift to distance learning for construction students, highlighting the need for teaching methodology tailored to distance learning using digital tools with a particular focus on assisting students to create digital portfolios of their work and products.

"The pandemic period has shown that increasing awareness of the attitudes of people can serve as a strong booster for efforts in strengthening new learning opportunities," Sergiu says, adding: "The impact of the course is seen in better results for students, greater confidence in the teachers and visible improvements in the quality of distance studies."

The College of Construction beat the other ETF nominee, the Republican Institute in Minsk, Belarus, which had developed a cloud-based peer-to-peer online learning programme.

The nominees were introduced in an online closing event by ETF Director Cesare Onestini before the winner was announced by Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, as part of a dozen awards covering a wide range of this year's priority areas in VET's role in supporting the transition to a green and digital economy.

Award winners and nominees will receive a range of certificates and trophies - but all will also have a taste of their success in the shape of a chocolate smartphone with edible apps created by a master chocolatier and former VET student, online closing ceremony moderator Steve Chaid, a Deustche Welle TV anchorman and media trainer.

Presenting the closing ceremony - a celebration of the 5th annual European Skills Week, during which more than a 1,000 mostly online events took place - Anja Karliczek, Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research, said that the forced shift to online had given an unprecedented "chance to consider so much new information on vocational education and training."

Following September's Osnabrück Declaration - a continuation of the work began with the Copenhagen Process - a raft of new commitments, including the European Pact for Skills, which will bring greater cohesion between business and training, and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, would ensure skills remained top of the EU agenda, she said.

"The VET week has once shown that no society can be competitive without skills training - we need to strengthen it more across Europe as we have not passed the finish yet," Ms Karliczek added.

The closing event included motivational video and presentations from a range of people closely involved in business, education and training, including that of Iranian-born entrepreneur Darya Majidi, founder of Italian IT company Daxo Group, who spoke of a specific training course to increase the involvement of women in IT, where they represent just 15% of the workforce.

"I invite women to be aware that new technologies are going to give them a voice, knowledge and freedom and invite all, women and men together, to create a new world and to make equality and fairness a reality too," she said.

The other award winners announced at the closing ceremony were:

Companies and Learners, training at work: magnetic MRO AS, Estonia for student Kevin Parras, a 26 year-old  professional ice hockey player who joined its aircraft mechanic vocational study programme in 2018.

VET Innovators Awards, innovative VET providers: Ljubljana's Biotechnical Educational Centre, where students developed a new type of pasta made from brewers grains, a byproduct of local beer production.

VET Teacher and Trainer: Vitalij Kabelis, Lithuania, who trained at the Cilnius Car Mechanic Business School and worked in the sector before returning to pass his skills on to a new generation of students.

VET Researcher: A team under Prof. Dr Raija Hämälänen at Finland's Ujiversity of Jyväskylä, faculty of education and psychology, for  research into innovative flight and medical simulator technology that including eye-ball tracking and heart-rate monitoring.

The Entrepreneurial School Award: Jurgen Jantschgi at the Higher College of Engineering, Wolfsberg, Austria.

European Funding for Excellence in VET, European Social Fund Award:  Fabion Menin, for the Green Leather Manager project, Regione del Veneto, Italy for developments in eco-friendly practices in the tanning industry.

Erasmus+ Distance Learning: Pavel Fil'o for the Blesabee "Innovative Blended Learning Toolkit for Safe Pest Management of Honeybees", Stredna Odborna Skola, Slovakia.

Erasmus+ Green Dimension: "Energy Efficiency in Operation", Staatliche Technikerschule, Mindelheim, Germany, for a project that sends its students abroad to share their experience - in a foreign language - at international workshops.

European Agencies Awards: Cedefop Photo Award: "Digital and Green Waves", 2nd VET School of Thessaloniki, Greece.

2020 Special Award Distance and E-Learning: Joint winners:  University Institute for Sciences and Techniques for Rehabilitation, Lyon University, France; Bursa Coskunöz Education Foundation, Turkey.

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