Fostering resilient systems based on lifelong learning and employability

ETF's 2027 Strategy

“Implementing System Change Together” was the title of a half-day online conference on Tuesday, 19 October, in which the ETF presented its shift in strategy, launched earlier this year, with a broader focus on lifelong learning and employability. Participants came from across the European Union and ETF partner countries from the EU's neighbouring regions, and included representatives of the Austrian, Belgian, French and German development agencies, ministries of education, the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs and the European Commission's international partnerships directorate.

Lifelong learning and employability

The ETF Director, Cesare Onestini, said the goal of the new strategy is to “better connect the work of the ETF with the priorities of the EU and Member States”. The strategy focuses on two new directions, he said: “An approach that looks at lifelong learning and employability in a broad context, widening out from a vocational education and training-focused approach into skills development in a broader framework.

“And looking at system change, education and skills training and the role of the international community – and how we connect the dots between us with the goals of a greener, digital and more inclusive society.”

The disruption to training and employment brought by the worldwide Covid pandemic had prompted a “new desire for entrepreneurship and initiative-taking,” he said.

Supporting partner countries in developing skills acquisition and inclusive training and employment practices to contribute to systematic transformation and bolster resilience is focused around three areas: policy advice, monitoring and assessment, and knowledge sharing.

The conference took a closer look at each of these three areas.

Policy Advice

Taking Czech social scientist Arnost Vesely’s 2017 definition of policy advice - an activity that aims to support policy makers’ decision making by analysing policy problems and suggesting solutionsas a starting point, George Zisimos, ETF Head of Policy Advice and EU programming unit, outlined four types of policy advice: political/technical and substantive/procedural.

Political advice concentrates on agenda setting at government and institutional level; technical on research and development of products such as VET curricula and online courses; substantive is linked to policy formation; and strategic is targeted on how procedures are implemented and maintained.

He noted that most international organisation – and major EU donors – work with all four approaches to policy support.

Participant, Ann-Kathrin Hentschel, of Germany’s GIZ development agency, remarked that her organisation saw itself as an “holistic adviser, a policy adviser in all four fields” and she praised the ETF’s “very strong work in Serbia to introduce policy on dual education, and its strong implementation of pilot projects” as an example of such an approach.

Detailing the ETF’s work in policy advice, Iwona Ganko, an ETF human capital development and labour market expert, said increasing volatility and growing risk to social inclusion across ETF partner countries is dictating the “tailored policy advice” the ETF offers, working across the board with governments, social partners, civil society, private sector stakeholders and international organisations.

Monitoring and Assessment and System Change

Hugues Moussy, ETF Head of Systems Performance and Assessment Unit, said that the new ETF strategy is prompting a rethink of its monitoring framework to focus more on lifelong learning, to identify the key features of an approach to long-term skills training that is often ill-defined in partner countries.

Monitoring and assessment in the future will be “not just retrospective but also…geared towards system change by identifying potential reforms and investment areas,” he said.

Mihaylo Milovanovitch, Senior ETF Specialist in VET Policies and Systems, said monitoring and assessment is “seldom used in this way” but “should not just be a tool for monitoring progress, but also a driver for change itself; the choices we make on what we track in terms of policy and reform can be made at the beginning to influence change.”

Knowledge Hub

Manuela Prina, ETF Head of Skills Identification and Development Unit, talked about approaches to improving the sharing of knowledge, through innovation, partnership, practices and investment.

Stronger partnerships with international, regional and industrial organisations – such as the EBRD, the ILO, OECD, UNESCO, and others, would “ensure there is efficiency gain and leverage in our common and different strengths.”

Through working with individuals, networks, organisations and institutions the ETF is committed to improving knowledge sharing and “co-creation” in its field.

She identified a range of new and existing initiatives that encompass the new approach, such as the ETF’s Community of Innovative Educators, its ENE Network of Excellence that unites VET and skills providers regionally, nationally and trans-nationally, and The Skills Laboratory Network of Experts – due to be launched October 21.

Among priorities in the pipeline for next year, she mentioned a new ETF network targeting enterprise support services, work on digital education and systems transformation, governance and qualifications authorities.

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