Danish Presidency conference: VET-Business Cooperation Promoting New Skills, Innovation and Growth for the Future

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1 Danish Presidency conference: VET-Business Cooperation Promoting New Skills, Innovation and Growth for the Future Aim and format The objective of the conference was to promote VET-business cooperation and partnerships by providing a common understanding of key challenges while sharing experiences and discussing new ideas for action from a policy and best practice perspective in VET. During the two days of the conference activities included plenary key notes; ten different workshops including topics and questions in initial and continuing training; and a concluding panel discussions with ministers, social partners and the European Commission. Key messages VET is facing a number of key challenges related to global competition and the economic crisis in Europe requires high quality and inclusive VET systems VET-business cooperation is crucial for making VET more responsive to the labour market We need to tell a new story about making VET more visible to people and businesses highlighting advantages of VET and the role of partnerships Apprenticeships and other forms of work based learning must be promoted within partnerships between governments, social partners, businesses and providers Dialogue on implementation of continuing training and lifelong learning concepts should be enhanced in particularly between governments and social partners VET holds a huge potential to promote innovation in businesses - requires innovative VETbusiness partnerships for the future Workshop summaries: main issues and conclusions Day one April 24 Workshop I Work-based learning and apprenticeship models are important tools for promotingattractiveness and employability. Learning through solving practicaltasks in real working places attracts practically minded students and has asignificant influence on the completion rate.research has shown that thedual systems have a positive influence on employability. However, the benefitsof practice-based learning and the dual organisation are currently being questionedparticularly in relation to two issues: Firstly, due to lack of apprenticeshipsand secondly, due to the quality of work-based learning. The workshop particularly focused on how VET-business cooperationcould motivate enterprises to establish apprenticeships and how VET-businesscooperation could promote the quality of work-based training.the main conclusions were that demand driven training should be promoted and cooperation between schools and firms should be developed further, while still recognising that school-based training can be of a high quality. 1

2 Workshop II The workshop entitled Partnerships on promoting relevance and esteem in VETfocused on discussing the key issues of relevance and esteem. First, relevance in relation to the labour market with the aim being to adjust VET to the current and future needs for qualifications. One of the key questions was how a close correspondence between labour market needs and VET can be established and maintained. Second, the individual student perspective in which the esteem and attractiveness of VET becomes linked to a number of factors, e.g. the general perception of the image of VET compared to general youth programmes, employability, quality of training, career opportunities and wages. During the discussion several opinions were shared between the participants. Some of the main conclusions that emerged were the need for making sure that newly educated people are employable.to meet this need it would be necessary to establish closer cooperation between schools and labour market. It was also concluded that the process of providing a higher level of quality in transnational mobility should come more into focus than the outcome. International competences should be developed and all stakeholders should take part in the initiative-taking in order to foster transnational mobility. Lastly, the workshop participants concluded that a possible way of heightening the esteem of VET could be to develop a corporate culture of mobility in VET which includes establishing for example international offices and personal guidance centres. Workshop III For workshop III the theme was flexible pathways in VET and validation of non-formal and informal learning promoting lifelong learning. Flexible pathways in vocational education and training are a prerequisitefor promoting access and participation in vocational education and continuingtraining including all types of learning. Studies and experiences frombest practice have clearly demonstrated that participation of especiallylow skilled and skilled adults very much depend on flexible learningarrangementsincluding validation of non-formal and informal learningbuilding on close cooperation between VET institutions and businesses.validating non-formal and informal learning thus has the potential of promotingaccess to VET and for learners to acquire new qualifications. Validation of learning,as a consequence, should become better integrated and taken much more intoaccountin VET. The workshop focused on how governments, social partners, VET institutions and businesses can work together and introduce arrangements for validation of non-formal and informal learning in VET, facilitating lifelong learning for adults and skills development for businesses and employees. The outcome of the workshop discussion was conclusions on both individual and policy levels. First, validation has yet to make a deeper impact on European lifelong learning policies. It is important to involve regional-, local-, and national level during the policy-making process, and as a consequence it is essential to form a national strategy. Second, to the individual a cultural change is important due to the concern of whether or not a qualification acquired on the basis of validation of non-formal and informal learning is equivalent in value to a traditional certificate. Furthermore, fragmented ownership and delivery has a negative influence on access and use, thus making it important to address the issue of trust. 2

3 Workshop IV In workshop IV the participants discussed partnerships promoting skills development in continuing education and training. Continuing vocational education and training at all levels is paramount to facilitatenew skills and meet the qualification needs of businesses and thelabour market. Flexible provision of continuing education and training atsecondary and post-secondary levels, developed in collaboration with stakeholdersat national or regional levels, contributes to promote attractivenessand acquisition of new skills and qualifications. A recent study from CEDEFOPpoints at how important developments in this field are in promotingpermeability in VET-systems and employability in the labour market. The workshop focused on how stakeholder collaboration can be enhanced in the buildup of both continuing vocational education and training programmes and effective pathways between initial vocational education and training. Additionally, the participants concentrated on how partnerships between VET institutions and businesses on continuing education and training can promote skills development and new competences for low skilled and skilled workers. The main conclusions of the workshop revolved around basing key partnerships on a common understanding of the characteristics of CVET, and ensuring that the partnerships are created with confidence and relevance for all parties. Furthermore, the participants suggested that funds consisting of contributions from both governments and employers should be established and serve as a starting point for forming collaborations and partnerships. Workshop V Reducing early school leavers in VET was the subject matter of workshop five. Throughout Europe the huge dropout rates in VET remains a major challenge. Early school leaving and drop out is influenced by a number of factors such as the students technical, general and personal competences and their social background. Combating dropout consequently includes promoting a number of initiatives. Among them are differentiation in course content and pedagogy; accreditation of prior learning; improvement of key competences; improving learning environments in schools and enterprises; and social and psychological support through for example mentoring. The various initiatives will often be conducted in parallel. The last workshop of day two focused particularly on how VET-business cooperation can play a role in reducing early school leaving and which initiatives including practical training could benefit which learners. From the discussions during the workshop session, conclusions were made on both practise- and policy levels. Providing sufficient numbers of apprenticeships is crucial for reducing dropout, and in order to do this it is essential to enable successful local cooperation at micro level. This was the message addressed to the policy-makers and employers. From a practise-based level, more collaboration is needed between teachers and enterprises, and it is equally necessaryto create better incentives for companies to enable training and guidance. 3

4 Day two April 25 Workshop I The first workshop on Wednesday April 25 had new skill and competences in VET promoting innovation as its headline. New approaches in initial and continuing education and training are needed.by fostering innovative skills and competences it is possible to facilitateintelligent and smart growth. Within all sectors private businesses as wellas public services the demand is growing for highly qualified and innovative employees. Employees that are capable of e.g. participating in the developmentand improvement of products, services and work organisation have become the direct response to the needs of customers and users. The workshop focused in particular on which types of knowledge, skills and competences are and will be needed to promote innovation and innovative practises in companies and sectors. Furthermore, it was discussed how collaboration between the VET-sector and stakeholders can promote innovative knowledge, skills and competences in VET-programmes. The participants concluded from the discussion that innovation and VET is still a relatively unexplored area. Experience, however, is crucial for obtaining innovative skills. Working mobility is one way of achieving support in innovative skills and studies have shown that skills have an impact on employment rates. When an employee shows the ability to be mobile, routines are being challenged and new ideas emerge. Questioning routines creates creativity and should influence school and work-place learning and as a consequence working mobility should be prioritised. Furthermore, social innovation was highlighted as a focus point. Examples of how workers real skills can be used in the process of changing companies need to be given much more attention. Workshop II Workshop II was based on a discussion of new learning methods in VET including ICT. New learning methods in VET supporting and promoting innovative thinkingand practises are required to facilitate innovation in companies with regardto especially consumer- and user-driven innovation. With the currently fastpaceddevelopments in ICT, providers of VET are also faced with the challengeof updating learning methods including ICT. In order to be successfulin doing this, recent studies show that a combination of factors such asteacher ownership, ICT strategies and committed leadershipare crucial for reaching this goal. The workshop focused on what it means to be innovative as part of a VET qualification for skilled jobs, and on how VET-business cooperation can contribute to continuous development of innovative and technologically updated learning methods. The participants of the workshop discussed how VET-business cooperation can strengthen development of innovative practice in VET colleges as well as in enterprises. The main conclusion was that a traditional approach to web 2.0 does not work well because the rapid change of technology makes it impossible for teachers and schools to stay up to date. Instead teachers in VET should ask how communication, sharing, collaboration and interaction are used in the profession they teach and figure out how to apply this onto a learning environment. Also, teachers should give the students tasks that require them to use web 2.0 and let the students 4

5 present their solutions, also while being apprentices. In order to implement these new methods, ICT should be intensely integrated in the training of VET-teachers. Workshop III The third workshop concentrated on VET-business partnerships in initial vocational education and training promoting innovation. Its main idea was that stronger VET-business partnerships will open up for a broader concept of innovative practice, and the workshop therefore focused on mutual interest in VET-business partnerships concerning the promotion of innovation. Innovation was in this connection defined as the transformation of new ideas into a better practise. Enterprisesmay have an innovative practice agenda; however this practice shouldbe transformed into learning activities. These activities should not only trainthe students for solving tasks but also for observing and transforming dailyroutines into solutions for new practices. The contributors of this workshop discussed how VET-business partnerships can establish practises that transform new ideas into new and better practices, products and services. Furthermore, they discussed how innovative practises are transformed into relevant learning activities, and how to single out the characteristics of VET-business partnerships that promote innovation. The policy environment at national level should be adapted to allow for more structured VET-business cooperation at regional, local and school levels promoting innovation specifically articulated in the policy narrative. This was one of the workshop conclusions. In addition, it was concluded that each level should establish clear goals including support frameworks for VET-business cooperation; incentives to generate ideas; and improved teaching and learning which is linked to enterprise production. In relation to the question of how to characterise partnerships that promote innovation, the key message from the workshop was to ensure consistency of business partners in school development agenda with commonly agreed goals, backed up with concrete activities. Moreover, all levels regional, local and school should develop strategies, activities and monitoring in order to enable successful innovative partnerships. Workshop IV VET-business partnerships in continuous vocational education and training (CVET) promoting innovation was the main topic in workshop IV. Close cooperation in CVET between VET-institutions and businesses isessential to convey the transfer of knowledge, skills and competences intonew and more innovative practices in products, production and servicesprovided by companies. One key challenge is how content and learningconcepts should be developed in CVET in order to facilitate innovativepractices, and how to implement new skills and competences into activitiesin the workplace. The workshop focused on the question of how VET-institutions and the provision of CVET can facilitate innovative practises and, moreover, how national, sector or regional strategies can promote VET-business cooperation and encourage VET-institutions to engage in partnerships. From the discussions during the workshop session, the participants concluded that study circles for innovation should be established and teacher training should be strengthened. Additionally, platforms for the construction of a strategy on the topic should be created upon which stakeholders could discus innovation in practise and establish a closer cooperation on learning processes between schools and enterprises. 5

6 Workshop V The last of the workshops addressed the topic Training of teachers and trainers with a focus on innovation. It focused on the development of teacher training competences that enables teachers to support the development of innovative competences. This includes the teachers ability to design a learning environmentthat encourages students and teachers to try out new practices. Inaddition, the use of ICT as a pedagogical tool to enhance innovative thinkingand the ability to differentiate challenges in accordance with the students varied qualifications also supports this development. Lastly, more teachersin VET-institutions should have knowledge about innovative methods inenterprises in order to better match courses to relevant innovative practices In particular, the workshop focused on the kind of training that teachers and trainers need in terms of pedagogy and content in order to promote innovative thinking. Furthermore, the participants discussed how barriers for cooperation between teachers in VET-institutions and trainers in enterprises can be succumbed. The main findings of the workshop were that every competence should include entrepreneurship in every aspect of training and school life. It is necessary to receive better support from the politicians of Europe in recognising the importance of teachers and continuous training for them in technical and transversal competences. 6

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