Idathon: CoVEs

Vocational education spearheads the green and digital skills delivery

In the dynamic landscape of the 21st century, where environmental sustainability and technological innovation are deeply interconnected, skills play a crucial role in driving forward the green and digital transition. But how can education and training ensure that everybody gains the skills needed to actively participate and thrive in this fast-changing world?

On 9–10 November 2023, the European Training Foundation (ETF) hosted a conference on the role of centres of vocational excellence (CoVEs) in supporting the shift to greener, more digital and inclusive societies. This coming together of policymakers, experts and educators working in vocational education and training (VET) provided a perfect opportunity to host the ETF's fifth Year of Skills ideathon, an interactive brainstorming session to examine the progress of green and digital education in Europe and beyond.

Colleagues from ministries, VET institutions and CoVEs from Azerbaijan, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Moldova and North Macedonia were asked to look into the future:

“We want to hear what you think the future priorities should be to ensure that VET can help build inclusive workforces with the green and digital skills we need.” 

The standout priority was the need for VET to target both green and digital skills equally. The group coined the phrase “Digi4Green”, reflecting the consensus that digital technologies are fundamental in addressing a wide range of environmental goals, including sustainable and inclusive development. 

To enable VET to be at the forefront of digital skills delivery, a number of targeted actions and initiatives were identified. 

  • Enhancing communication and collaboration – Chief among these actions was enhanced communication and collaboration between all VET stakeholders, including the European Union, national governments, non-governmental organisations, companies and VET institutions. Such cooperation would facilitate the exchange of information, best teaching practices and toolkits, which in turn would foster the development of innovative digital platforms that support flexible teaching and learning. 
  • Updating legislation – The updating and introduction of legislation targeting green and digital education were also considered essential in order to empower the VET ecosystem to drive innovation and implement high-quality programmes that deliver relevant learning outcomes.
  • Developing green and digital curricula – Collaboration and dialogue were again considered key to ensure curricula targeted the needs of different learner groups thereby supporting a fair and just transition to more environmentally sustainable societies. Relevant and effective reskilling and upskilling programmes for learners already in the workplace were agreed to be essential to underpin social well-being and promote inclusion.  

Underscoring the group’s belief that practice is the best teacher, experimental labs and innovation centres were identified as being important resources to be shared by all stakeholders in the VET system. The value to VET and CoVEs of being able to access such centres to develop new learning programmes, test innovative methodologies and share learnings and experiences could not be overstated. 

The group was convinced that the benefits of this type of cooperation would have a positive impact on the entire VET ecosystem. The group also believed that investing in joint research and labour market needs analysis held the key to developing and delivering green and digital skills relevant to the local, regional, national and international labour markets. The group was united in their call for CoVEs and VET to think global and act local in order to guarantee the delivery of coherent and relevant skills education and training.

“In little over an hour, almost a mission impossible, you have demonstrated incredible foresight as to the role of VET in delivering the green and digital skills needed for the future!  At the ETF, we are committed to making sure the voices of our partner countries are included in the skills development debate taking place as part of the European Year of Skills, and your input today forms a vital part of the skills puzzle that we will work together to solve.” Daria Santucci, ETF Communication Specialist

“The European Year of Skills highlights the massive development needed across Europe and our partner countries in order to tackle green and digital issues facing us all. Rather than a year of skills, we need a decade of skills!” Pilvi Torsti, ETF Director