Cedefop European Public Opinion Survey on VET

UK national ReferNet reports and links to reports from other European partners.

High quality vocational education and training (VET) systems can contribute to combating unemployment, improving labour market integration and fighting social exclusion. However, in many EU member states, participation in VET is lagging behind general education, and VET is often seen as a ‘second best’ option compared to general education. Understanding perceptions about the value of VET, its ability to equip people with the right skills, and the likelihood of finding employment are decisive elements in creating VET as an attractive educational option. Evidence is scarce on citizens’ perceptions about VET in existing literature, particularly when comparing VET perceptions to views on general education, and insights into specific attractiveness factors of VET such as permeability or satisfaction with skills acquired. In light of a desire to fill this gap and provide a richer picture of VET perceptions in Europe suitable to inform VET policy-making, Cedefop launched its first-ever opinion survey in 2016. The opinion survey provides unprecedented data on Europeans’ opinions on awareness, attractiveness and effectiveness of VET in Europe. The survey covers the 28 Member States of the European Union and the final report was published in October 2017.

The accompanying ReferNet article aims to present a more contextualised interpretation of the survey findings from a UK perspective.

Outreach and Guidance Article

People with low qualifications have increasingly weaker career prospects within the EU. Early disengagement from education and training is an acute issue in many Member States, frequently leading to unemployment and inactivity. Adults with low qualifications are three times more prone to fall into a situation of long term unemployment. Due to lack of information and demotivation, many long term unemployed do not search for training solutions which could enable them to change their situation. To be successful in identifying, contacting and reengaging young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) and the long term unemployed in learning activities, employment services have to develop effective outreach services.

To address the challenge of low qualification levels the European Commission has developed two fundamental initiatives, to finance national programmes:

  • The Youth Guarantee, aimed at providing young people under 25 years of age with a job or a learning solution within four months after drop-out; and
  • Upskilling Pathways, aimed at providing adults over 25 years of age with an opportunity to acquire upper secondary qualifications in a flexible way.

The success of both initiatives in addressing the needs of NEET’s and the long term unemployed depends, to a large extent, on the capacity of Member States in improving guidance services and establishing effective outreach mechanisms.

This article provides a brief overview of NEETs in the UK and an introduction to national outreach strategies in addition to two examples of good practice.

Article on key competences

To adapt to new life situations and career shifts, manage change, take initiative and risk, innovate and engage in further learning, purely job-related skills are not enough. Vocational education and training (VET) learners also require key competences. It is one of the aims of the Bruges Communiqué which defined the strategic objectives for VET until 2020 to ensure that key competences are adequately integrated in IVET curricula and that they can be acquired through training opportunities in CVET’. The five medium-term deliverables for VET set out in the Riga Conclusions of July 2015 reconfirm the emphasis on key competences in VET curricula and provision of more effective opportunities to acquire or develop these skills through initial and continuing VET.

The distinctive feature of key competences is that they are not directly relevant to a certain job, but have the ability to be used flexibly in different situations for further learning and the labour market, although some key competences overlap with those directly linked to a specific sector/occupation. The purpose of the article is to inform on systematic national approaches to, and opportunities for, acquisition of key competences in upper secondary VET.

Professional development of teachers and trainers

The purpose of this ReferNet article is to gather updated information regarding systematic national approaches to, and opportunities for, initial and continuing professional development (CPD) of VET teachers, trainers and mentors in both school and work-based settings in the UK.

Professional development of VET teachers and trainers is key to ensuring quality and relevance of VET, both school-based and work-based. Achieving aims such as implementing new curricula, strengthening links between education and the labour market, providing more and high quality apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning, developing quick and flexible responses to emerging competence needs and applying the common European transparency tools all requires committed and competent teaching staff who have access to adequate professional development and support. The Riga Conclusions moves support for initial and continuing professional development of teachers and trainers higher up on the policy agenda, as one of the five 2015-2020 deliverables for European cooperation in VET.

Innovation in VET in the UK

This article provides a brief overview of the link between VET and innovation in the UK, and a more detailed description of the Studio School model of education, which is a relatively new approach in England to teach the skills and attitudes necessary for young people to become innovative.

The European Commission Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014 shows that Europe’s innovation performance is lagging behind its competitors. Innovation policies have normally focused on technological R&D and its connection to university research. However, ‘Innovation Union’, one of Europe 2020 flagship initiatives also advocated for a strong VET to further develop an appropriate set of skills that empowers people to be more entrepreneurial, creative and innovative.

Similar articles on the topic of innovation are produced in European countries covered by the ReferNet network. Cedefop will use the articles to complement existing evidence and studies and the work will contribute to overviews prepared for the Latvian EU Presidency in 2015 and other EU-level events on the contribution of VET to innovation strategies.

Apprenticeships in the UK

This article on Apprenticeship-type schemes and structured work-based learning programmes written in 2014 is the second one of a set of articles prepared within Cedefop’s ReferNet network. The article provides an overview of the existing Apprenticeship programmes in the UK, their specific features, main strengths and weaknesses. Similar articles are produced in European countries covered by the ReferNet network. These articles are intended to support Cedefop in developing a comparative picture of Apprenticeship-type schemes and structured work-based learning programmes across the EU. More specifically, the information in these articles will contribute to:

  • Cedefop’s research work, and specifically to support cooperation at European level and among Member States, also in the context of the European Alliance for Apprenticeship;
  • A snapshot with comparative information and country examples on this issue that Cedefop is to prepare for the meeting of Directors General for VET in autumn 2014 under the Italian Presidency of the EU;
  • Inform the activities of the Commission’s thematic working group (TWG) on VET whose primary focus is on the effective implementation of national VET reforms.
Early leaving from VET article

This article aims to help understand why young people drop out from VET in the UK, by focusing on reasons why learners drop out from VET and describing measures within VET programmes to prevent learners from ‘dropping out’ or measures to encourage learners to re-engage in education and training once they have dropped out of VET.

The article contributes to the joint Cedefop / Eurydice study ‘ Tackling early leaving from education and training in Europe: Strategies, policies and measures’ which was published in November 2014.

Improving education levels is at the core of Europe’s 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Reducing the share of early leavers from education and training to less than 10% has subsequently become one of its headline targets. Moreover, amongst the priorities within the Bruges Communiqué, member states agreed to maximise the contribution of VET in combating early leaving from education and training; use monitoring systems to support the participation of ‘at-risk’ groups in VET; and raise participation of low-skilled and other ‘at-risk’ groups in education and training.

Spotlight on VET brochure

ReferNet members have produced short overviews of VET systems in their countries including a standardised VET flow diagram. The 2016/17 UK brochure is now available to download here. Brochures from other European countries can be found at Cedefop’s website.

ReferNet members have produced short overviews of VET systems in their countries including a standardised VET flow diagram. The 2016/17 UK brochure is now available to download here. Brochures from other European countries can be found at Cedefop’s website.

The Spotlight on VET 2018 compilation has been published on the Cedefop website. The compilation contains information on the core components of VET in Europe. The 2018 brochure is now available to download here.

Country Reports

ReferNet agencies produce annual narrative reports describing the key issues associated with vocational education and training in their country. These publications are known as VET in Europe Country Reports. Understanding national VET systems, their characteristics, developments and priorities is a key element in different levels of the VET coordination and development process. It may also bring additional ideas and examples of good practice. Downloading the country reports is highly recommended for policy-makers, researchers and practitioners involved in VET activities, including conferences, seminars or projects.

The latest reports from other ReferNet agencies across Europe can be found on the Cedefop ReferNet site.

Policy Report

The 2002 Copenhagen Declaration launched the European strategy for enhanced cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (VET), commonly referred to as the “Copenhagen process”, involving the EU countries, Norway and Iceland. The progress and priorities of cooperation have been assessed and reviewed at two-year intervals and produced the Maastricht, Helsinki, Bordeaux and Bruges communiqués. The long-term strategic objectives for the current decade (2011-2020) were defined in the Bruges Communiqué in 2010. The Bruges communiqué combines a long term vision until 2020 with a set of 22 short-term deliverables to be put in place by 2014.

The results of the review of the Bruges Communiqué were published in the Riga Conclusions that include five priority areas for the period 2015 to 2020. The priorities are known as the medium-term deliverables, which aim to:

  • promote work-based learning in all its forms, with special attention to apprenticeships, by involving social partners, companies, chambers and VET providers, as well as by stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • further develop quality assurance mechanisms in VET in line with the European quality assurance in VET recommendation and, as part of quality assurance systems, establish continuous information and feedback loops in initial VET and continuing VET systems based on learning outcomes;
  • enhance access to VET and qualifications for all through more flexible and permeable systems, notably by offering efficient and integrated guidance services and making available validation of non-formal and informal learning;
  • 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.

ReferNet agencies have completed annual surveys since 2012 to monitor national progress towards these short-term deliverables. Cedefop has subsequently produced three reports on policy development and implementation, based on ReferNet and other contributions, detailed below.

Stronger VET for better lives

This report covers member states’ progress towards the Bruges short-term deliverables in the period 2010-2014. The report finds that the Bruges communiqué has inspired reforms to VET systems in more than two thirds of EU/EEA countries; however, the communiqué has had a lower influence in countries with well-developed VET systems.

Specific areas of success include development and implementation of national qualifications frameworks, and introduction and strengthening of apprenticeships, as well as making VET in general more inclusive. Many countries have been prioritising increasing employer engagement in VET, enhancing quality and opportunities to acquire basic and key skills, but challenges remain in securing and monitoring quality processes, and using labour market information and tracking of learners to inform VET provision.

The economic crisis and high unemployment has resulted in a strong focus on young people’s transition to work, which has meant fewer resources have been spent on areas such as promoting lifelong learning and mobility, and encouraging creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Other areas of VET that have seen little progress are professional development opportunities for VET teachers and trainers, and validation of non-formal and informal learning.

Stronger VET for better lives” is available for download from the Cedefop website.

Trends in VET policy in Europe 2010-12

This Cedefop working paper from December 2012 shows that attention across Europe has focused on helping young people remain in, and return to, education and training through work-based learning routes. Countries have furthermore advanced in setting up qualifications frameworks and devising approaches to assure quality in VET, but much work is still in the planning stage. More attention to the professional development of VET staff, better monitoring of VET labour market outcomes, and considering incentives where appropriate, could help progress in the coming years. Progress is visible regarding the European quality assurance reference framework for vocational education and training (EQAVET) and reducing early leaving from education and training, but many policy measures are still in the planning stage. Areas where there has been less action so far require further attention, such as monitoring labour market outcomes and informing VET provision, using incentives, and the professional development of teachers and trainers. European tools and principles will need to interact and become more coherent to benefit European citizens fully.

Trends in VET policy in Europe 2010-12” can be downloaded in full from the Cedefop website.

A bridge to the future

This policy report was published on 7 December 2010. It evaluates progress since the beginning of the Copenhagen process until 2010. “ A bridge to the future: European policy for vocational education and training 2002-10” is available from the Cedefop website.

Best practice examples from the UK

The focus of the 2012 ReferNet policy survey and the “Trends in VET policy in Europe 2010-12” working paper is national policy developments since 2010. These refer to new initiatives and actions introduced since 2010, but also to developments of initiatives which already existed before 2010. The survey followed a common format initiated by Cedefop and was structured around the following themes:

  • Promoting VET and related career opportunities
  • Supporting participation in VET
  • Partnerships and cooperation
  • Work based learning and entrepreneurship
  • Monitoring VET outcomes

The 2012 survey was completed in collaboration with and peer reviewed by the members of the UK ReferNet Steering Group.

Some interesting developments towards the 2014 short-term deliverables in the UK have been extracted from the survey here: