Vocational excellence and peer learning for social inclusion: insights from ETF's Lida Kita
Building societies that are inclusive and equitable is a key objective of governments and institutions across the world. Workforces that are inclusive enable employers to harness the potential of every working-age adult, while education that is accessible to all helps people to develop the competencies, knowledge and attitudes that are needed to reach their potential and better adapt to an ever-changing world.
Inclusion is a transversal issue for the ETF, cutting across multiple areas of operations to develop and collaborate with partners in Europe’s neighbouring regions to ensure that social inclusion is at the heart of policy-making decisions.
Catering for everyone
To ETF's Lida Kita, ETF Senior Human Capital Development Expert on Social Inclusion, and Country Liaison for Israel, Serbia and Türkiye, inclusion is much more than paying lip-service through the often-repeated mantra of caring for the excluded.
‘My view is that we should care about the overall system and how it caters for everyone. After all, all people have vulnerabilities – being included or excluded for different reasons; how you interact or are supported by the system. At a systemic level, why do we have segregation, and what can we do to not make vulnerabilities even bigger? Labelling peoples or groups can be disturbing,’ said Kita.
To promote social inclusion, there is a need to understand the current system and what can be changed, she added. The ETF is acting as a facilitator in peer-learning, exchanging knowledge and creating networks to make this happen.
One recent initiative is the Network for Excellence’s (ENE) Sharing Innovation in Social Inclusion (SISI), which aims to share and consolidate locally-sourced, innovative inclusion practices and activities. ENE and ENAIP NET, an Italian Vocational Education and training (VET) provider, are participating by opening up their networks in ETF partner countries and EU Member States.
While there are 253 Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) in 40 countries, with 57 in Türkiye, six in Israel, and six in Serbia, SISI is being carried out at nine CoVEs in Türkiye, Israel, Moldova, Albania, Georgia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
CoVEs are identifying the development needs and creating partnerships that remove barriers for marginalised groups seeking access to training and employment. This is through the sharing of tools and best practices with public and private VET providers, private sector companies, public sector entities, such as universities and research institutions, policymakers, youth organisations and civil society providers working on skills provision and mobilisation of young people in having their say in partner countries.
A further role is to identify and propose relevant opportunities to make applications for EU and other national and international programmes and schemes, such as Erasmus+, E-Twinning, and Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) calls.
With regard to Erasmus+, a drawback to the programme had been that students around the EU and in neighbouring countries were not often aware of what types of support were available for education, training, and sports. As part of its 2021-2027 agenda, inclusivity is a key pillar.
‘Erasmus is focusing on outreach, and social media has helped a lot. Before, ministries put information on their website, but how many young people check that? You need awareness for young people to know more, and countries are seeing the benefit of Erasmus+. Through Facebook, for instance, it is amazing to see how Erasmus is reaching remote areas where support is needed,’ said Kita. ‘In Türkiye, the focus was Istanbul, Ankara and other bigger cities. Now the information is put in all social media that can reach young people in remote areas. You see more and more applications from all over the country. It is great work done by the Türkiye Erasmus office to have a wide country outreach, and you see that people have knowledge of Erasmus+,’ she added.
Bolstering inclusivity through awareness of programmes extends to the European Education Area, the Digital Education Action Plan, the European Skills Agenda, and the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027.
Through peer-learning about such programmes and other educational initiatives, ‘experiences can be shared as well as reflection on the difficulties and what the challenges are,’ said Kita.
Technology is playing a growing role in inclusivity, evidenced by its use as a means of providing education during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the post-pandemic period, ‘we are seeing that technology is not just a buzzword but is becoming a backbone of policy agendas in many countries,’ she said.
In Türkiye’s VET sector for example, which works closely with the private sector, marginalised groups are being included through a national online policy that everyone can access.
‘It can be accessed through mobile phones and also on national TV, even for work-based learning, which we never thought was possible before. This has given a boost to some areas and some sectors, including agriculture in remote areas,’ said Kita.
Collaboration is also helping to create, literally, new means of communication. At the recently held 2022 Forum on Vocational Excellence in San Sebastian, Spain, the private sector, as part of an Erasmus project at Danish and German universities, announced it is developing a sign language for industry, as different sign languages were used for specific sectors.
‘This gives huge possibilities for engagement and shows how things can be discovered along the way,’ said Kita. ‘It is not just about funding, but knowing what you can do, and discovering things you thought were not doable.’
Through collaborations, knowledge-sharing and innovation, there can be a resultant impact on policy-making and delivery.
‘ETF members are providing evidence to policymakers that you can change the mantra, and how we treat what are called excluded or marginalised groups,’ said Kita.