‘VET is a first choice not a plan B’

We spent an inspiring few days in Helsinki, in Finland, last week, at the European Vocational Skills week. Participants attended from all over the world, sharing their experience of delivering VET in Egypt, Brazil and Kenya, to name a few, as well from across Europe.

In a changing world of work, experiences and solutions were shared to tackle some of the most pertinent issues facing the sector; globalisation, climate change, demographic change, robotisation and digitisation. Together, we discussed how vocational education will need to adapt to remain relevant in the modern world.

We joined focus groups on;

Entrepreneurship in vocational education;

VET lends itself to business set up. Vocational skills, particularly in the service industry, provide a clear opportunity for entrepreneurship education to be integrated.

What does entrepreneurship within the VET curriculum look like? Entrepreneurship competences are useful to a learner who wants to set up their own business but also offer a transferable set of skills that will help young people to be better employees as well.

Through our work, we have seen many examples of young people who want to take the step to set up their own business after completing a vocational course. Tom, for example; a hospitality & catering student, who is converting a horse box into a pizza van which will tour festivals and events.

Vocational education and the sustainable development goals (SDGs);

As an organisation, we are exploring ways to align our work more closely to the SDGs. The SDGs are a good starting point for collaboration with partners, as they provide a clear set of common goals. TVET is specifically mentioned in Goal 4; quality education, and so all of our work can directly contribute to achieving this goal.

We heard some great examples of how Colleges are integrating the SDGs into their programme delivery; Frank Van Hout from Friesland College in the Netherlands shared this short video which captures how the Colleges contributes to each of the 17 goals. As he explained, it can be very attractive to young people entering TVET if they see things that are important to them reflected in the education system. His ambition is to education ‘skilled world citizens’ who are familiar with the SDGs and who integrate these goals into their personal and professional life.

Dr Edwin Tarno, the Chief Principal of the Rift Valley Technical Training Institute in Kenya, shared his approach to ‘Greening TVET’, which has been delivered in Colleges in Kenya, and also further afield, in Nigeria.

We were delighted to hear Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility,  make such positive commitments to vocational education in the next Erasmus Plus programme, with three times as much funding available for VET projects over the next seven years. One of the key themes will be Europe learning from the rest of the world, and for the first time, VET learners and staff will have the opportunity to learn skills anywhere on earth, as the programme is opened up to other global regions.

We leave full of ideas and enthusiasm for innovation and collaboration within the sector.