Cooperation in vocational education and training (VET)
Conclusions on the future priorities for enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training (VET).Addressed to the European Commission and European Union (EU) countries, they put forward ideas for voluntary measures to improve the quality and efficiency of vocational education and training (VET) in the EU.
The conclusions identified 4 priority areas to be addressed, in addition to the priorities and guidelines set out in the Copenhagen process.
1.Implementing common European tools and schemes to promote cooperation in VET
National qualifications systems and set of rules that are based on learning outcomes need to be set up in line with the European Qualifications Framework.
It is essential that these, as well as the European Credit system for VET (ECVET) and European Quality Assurance Reference Framework (EQARF), are implemented. To this end, pilot projects, coherent methods and tools, including tools to validate informal* and non-formal* learning outcomes, as well as quality assurance instruments need to be developed.
2. Promoting the quality and attractiveness of VET systems
The attractiveness of VET should be promoted to all target groups, in particular among students, adults and enterprises. At the same time access to and participation in VET should be open to all, particularly people or groups at risk of exclusion.
Similarly, information, lifelong guidance and counselling services should be made more accessible. Paths enabling the progress from one qualifications level to another should also be made easier.
Common tools should be created to promote the quality of VET systems. In particular, quality assurance mechanisms should be developed through the future EQARF. VET policies should be based on consistent data, the collection of which must be improved. In addition, more should be invested in the training of VET trainers, language learning adapted to VET should be developed, innovation and creativity in VET should be promoted, and the permeability and continuity of learning paths between different levels of education should be enhanced.
3.Developing the links between VET and the labour market
To improve the links between VET and the labour market, it is essential to continue developing forward-planning mechanisms that centre on jobs and skills, recognising possible skill shortages. Social partners and economic stakeholders need to be involved in developing VET policies.
Guidance and counselling services should be improved, to ease the transition from training to employment.
Mechanisms to promote adult training should also be improved to further career opportunities as well as business competitiveness. Efforts should be made to proceed with the validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning outcomes. The mobility of people in work-related training should also be given a boost, in particular by strengthening the appropriate EU programmes. Lastly, the role of higher education in VET and in relation to labour market integration should be strengthened.
4.More European cooperation
Peer learning activities should be made more effective and their results used to form national policies in VET. It should also be ensured that priorities linked to VET are well integrated and visible within the future strategy for European cooperation in the field of education and training and its implementation.
VET should be better linked to policies concerning other education levels, multilingualism and youth. In addition, collaboration with non-EU countries and international organisations needs to be strengthened.
The Commission and EU countries are encouraged to implement, within the limits of their respective competences, the measures established under these 4 priority areas. They should use both private and public funding to promote national level reforms and implement EU tools. They should continue improving the scope and quality of VET statistics and benchmarks In addition, they should continue developing activities concerning future skills needs.
The Commission and EU countries should exchange information and collaborate on VET with non-EU countries. Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and the European Training Foundation (ETF) are also closely involved in supporting the Commission on VET-related issues.
In 2010, the Commission proposed a new impetus for cooperation in vocational education and training which contributes both to its over-arching Europe 2020 strategy and the Education and Training Strategic Framework, known as ET 2020, thus carrying forward many of the ideas in the 2009 conclusions.
A joint Council and Commission report, issued in December 2015, outlines EU priorities for education and training in the 2016-2020 period.
For more information, see:
Informal learning: learning that is not curriculum-based and does not result in qualifications. The teacher is someone with more experience than the individual being taught e.g. a parent teaching the alphabet to a child.
Non-formal learning: organised learning (e.g. led by a teacher or a person with more experience than the individual being taught) which may or may not be based on a curriculum. It builds on an individual student’s skills but does not result in a formal qualification, e.g. the scout movement.
Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the future priorities for enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training (VET) (OJ C 18, 24.1.2009, pp. 6-10)
Council conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) (OJ C 119, 28.5.2009, pp. 2-10)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A new impetus for European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training to support the Europe 2020 strategy (COM(2010) 296 final, 9.6.2010)
2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) — New priorities for European cooperation in education and training (OJ C 417, 15.12.2015, pp. 25-35)
Enhanced EU cooperation in vocational education and training
Declaration of the European Ministers of Vocational Education and Training, and the European Commission on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training. It establishes the priorities of the Copenhagen process on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training (VET).
This process aims to improve the performance, quality and attractiveness of VET in Europe. It seeks to encourage the use of the various vocational training opportunities within the lifelong learning* (LLL) context and with the help of the LLL tools.
The Copenhagen process forms an integral part of the ‘Education and training’ (ET 2020) strategic set of rules and seeks to contribute to achieving the education-related targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. The process consists of:
a political dimension aiming to establish common European objectives and reform national VET systems;
the development of common European frameworks and tools that increase the transparency and quality of competences and qualifications and facilitate mobility;
cooperation to foster mutual learning at European level and to involve all relevant stakeholders at national level.
The priorities set by the Copenhagen Declaration provide the basis for voluntary cooperation in VET. With the target of 2010, they aimed at:
reinforcing the European dimension in VET;
increasing information, guidance, counselling and transparency of VET;
developing tools for the mutual recognition and validation of competences and qualifications;
improving quality assurance in VET.
A succession of communiqués has set out the EU’s success in achieving these goals as well as the steps to improve VET cooperation further.
Maastricht Communiqué 2004 confirmed the success of the Copenhagen process in raising the visibility and profile of VET at the European level. It also developed the priorities set by the Copenhagen Declaration and set out specific priorities for national-level work on VET, including:
increasing public/private investment in VET;
developing VET systems to cater for the needs of disadvantaged people and groups;
developing learning-conducive environments both in educational institutions and in the workplace;
promoting VET teachers’ and trainers’ continuous competence development.
Helsinki Communiqué 2006 evaluated the Copenhagen process and reviewed its priorities and strategies. It noted a number of achievements, including:
progress on the common European frameworks and tools for VET;
adoption of the Europass single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competencies;
start of work on the European qualifications framework, the European credit system for VET and the European quality assurance reference framework for VET.
Bordeaux Communiqué 2008 reviewed the priorities and strategies of the Copenhagen process in light of a future education and training programme post-2010. It found that the process has proved to be effective in promoting the image of VET while maintaining the diversity of national VET systems. However, it called for new impetus, in particular regarding:
the implementation of VET tools and schemes to promote cooperation at the European and national levels;
the creation of better links between VET and the labour market;
theconsolidation of European cooperation arrangements.
Bruges Communiqué 2010 set out long-term strategic objectives for European cooperation in VET for the period 2011-2020, together with the 22 short-term deliverables for the period 2011-2014, which provide concrete actions at national level for achieving these objectives. These objectives, whilst still based on the principles of the Copenhagen process, drew from past achievements but also aimed to respond to current and future challenges.
Its conclusions found that the Copenhagen process had:
significantly helped raise awareness of VET at the European and national levels, in particular through the implementation of the common European VET tools, principles and guidelines;
triggered profound reforms which have led to a shift towards a learning outcomes approach.
It established that for VET to respond to current and future challenges, European education and training systems must, amongst other things:
be flexible and of high quality;
empower people to adapt to and manage change by enabling them to acquire key competences;
facilitate and encourage VET learners’ and teachers’ transnational mobility.
Riga Conclusions set out a list of new deliverables for the period 2015-2020 based on a review of the results of the deliverables for the period 2011-2014.
The review found that those deliverables had helped both European Union and candidate countries focus and implement reform. 5 priority areas were established for 2015-2020:
promote work-based learning in all its forms;
further develop quality assurance mechanisms in VET in line with the European quality assurance in VET recommendation;
enhance access to VET and qualifications for all through more flexible and permeable systems;
further strengthen key competences in VET curricula and provide more effective opportunities to acquire or develop those skills through initial VET and continuing VET;
introduce systematic approaches to, and opportunities for, initial and continuous professional development of VET teachers, trainers and mentors in both school- and work-based settings.
Declaration of the European Ministers of Vocational Education and Training, and the European Commission, convened in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 November 2002, on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training — ‘The Copenhagen Declaration’ (Not published in the Official Journal)
European Training Foundation (ETF)
The European Training Foundation (ETF) works within the context of the European Union (EU) external relations policies, aiming to assist non-EU countries in improving their human capital development. It thus seeks to encourage access to lifelong learning and the development of skills and competences.
Regulation (EC) No 1339/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 establishing a European Training Foundation (recast)
This regulation establishes the European Training Foundation (ETF), repealing Regulation (EEC) No 1360/90, which originally created it. The foundation operates within the European Union (EU) external relations policy sphere, aiming to promote the development of vocational education and training systems in the following partner countries:
the EU candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia);
the potential candidate countries in the western Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo);
the southern Mediterranean, eastern European and southern Caucasus partner countries (Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Russia, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine);
other countries, as decided by the ETF governing board on the basis of specific criteria.
The foundation provides assistance to these countries in improving the skills and competences of their citizens. This consists of participating in the reform process to develop initial and continuing vocational education and training, as well as to facilitate access thereto. The ETF also assists in promoting mobility, cooperation between educational institutions and businesses, as well as exchanges of experience and information between EU countries.
In promoting the development of vocational education and training systems in the partner countries, the foundation’s functions consist more specifically of:
providing information, policy analysis and advice on human capital development;
improving knowledge of labour market skills needs;
providing support in capacity building;
promoting exchanges of information and experience among donors as well as partner countries and the EU;
supporting the delivery of EU assistance and analysing the effectiveness thereof (if required by the Commission).
In pursuing its functions, the foundation is to collaborate with other relevant EU bodies, in particular with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), as well as with representatives of European social partners and relevant international organisations where appropriate.
The ETF is a non-profit making foundation that has legal personality. It is based in Turin, Italy.
The ETF governing board consists of one representative from each EU country, 3 representatives of the Commission, 3 experts appointed by the European Parliament and 3 representatives of the partner countries appointed by the Commission. Only the EU country and Commission representatives have a voting right, 1 vote each for the former and 1 shared for the latter. 1 of the Commission representatives chairs the board, convening it at least once a year. The term of office of the board is five years, renewable once.
The governing board is responsible for drawing up the annual estimate of expenditure and revenue as well as for adopting the annual work programme, draft establishment plan, definitive budget, annual activity report, rules of procedure and financial rules. It has the power to appoint and dismiss the director, as well as to prolong his/her term of office.
The director is appointed from a list of candidates put forward by the Commission for a term of 5 years. The term may be extended once for a maximum of 3 years. The director is the legal representative of the foundation and responsible for its administrative management. S/he is also responsible for preparing and organising the work of the governing board as well as for implementing its decisions. In addition, the director is to implement the annual work programme and the budget of the foundation.
The finances of the ETF consist principally of a subsidy from the EU’s general budget and of payments received for services rendered. The final accounts of the foundation, the annual activity reports and the rules of procedure are to be made public.
Since its adoption, Regulation (EEC) No 1360/90 that established the ETF has been amended on several occasions. In light of additional amendments and for reasons of clarity, the regulation was repealed and replaced by Regulation (EC) No 1339/2008.
Regulation (EC) No 1339/2008
Ensuring quality in vocational education and training (VET)
The European quality reference framework is one of a series of European initiatives designed to encourage labour mobility. It helps countries to promote and monitor improvements in their vocational education and training (VET) systems.
Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the establishment of a European quality assurance reference framework for vocational education and training (Official Journal C 155 of 8.7.2009, pp. 1-10). The European quality reference framework is one of a series of European initiatives designed to encourage labour mobility. It helps countries to promote and monitor improvements in their vocational education and training (VET) systems.
It establishes a European quality assurance reference framework. This is a toolbox with common European references. On a voluntary basis, national authorities can use the aspects they deem most useful to develop, improve, guide and assess the quality of their own VET systems.
The framework contains a four-phase cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation/assessment and review/revision of the VET systems.
Each phase includes quality criteria and indicative descriptors to help national authorities set goals, devise standards and undertake reviews.
Reference indicators, such as investment in training teachers, are designed to help evaluate and improve the quality of VET systems.
National authorities are encouraged to play an active role in the framework and to further develop common principles, reference criteria, indicators and guidelines.
Quality assurance national reference points keep stakeholders informed about the framework’s activities, support and develop its work and help to evaluate its achievements.
National authorities should review the process every 4 years.
In May 2014, EU governments noted the advances that had been made in quality assurance in education and training and agreed on the need to make further progress.
The recommendation should help to modernise education and training systems and ensure people do not leave without qualifications. It also aims to improve the interrelationship between education, training and employment.
Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the establishment of a European quality assurance reference framework for vocational education and training (COM(2014) 30 final of 28.1.2014).
Council conclusions of 20 May 2014 on quality assurance supporting education and training (OJ C 183 of 14.6.2014, pp. 30-35).