A Closer Look

VET in Europe – 3 basic scenarios on its future role

‘Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming’, said David Bowie forty years ago. Jobs, labour markets and economies are rapidly changing: globalisation, technology and a growing services sector are both causes and symptoms. Ageing populations and dwindling youth cohorts, on the one hand, and labour migration, on the other, are affecting workforce composition. And that’s not to mention the lingering impact of the financial crisis. All these are leaving their mark on European economies and societies. Against this backdrop, what is the role of vocational education and training (VET) in Europe in addressing the challenges ahead?
To help in shaping future policies, a Cedefop project considers different routes and multiple options for VET. An analysis of VET developments since 1995 has helped to outline a series of potential paths – scenarios – pointing towards plausible and consistent pictures of how VET can evolve by 2035, depending on today’s decisions and policy choices. Using these scenarios, Cedefop intends to inform strategic discussions on future European cooperation on VET.

These dimensions stand out as significant both in the mapping of the 1995-2015 developments and in the stakeholder survey responses. Combining them offers three main development scenarios that imply highly different policy choices in the years to come.

Scenario 1: Lifelong learning at the heart – Pluralist VET

This scenario broadens our understanding and conception of what is meant by VET. The emphasis is on vocationally and labour-market-oriented learning at all levels and in all institutional settings. Vocationally oriented learning will not be restricted to the institutions explicitly defined as VET providers today, but form part of an integrated lifelong learning approach.

Scenario 2: Occupational and professional competence at heart – Distinctive VET

The distinctive scenario seeks to strengthen the existing and dominant conception of VET as focused on entry into occupations and professions.

Scenario 3: Job-oriented training at the heart – Special purpose and/or marginalised VET

This scenario narrows down the understanding and conception of VET. Its focus is on training for jobs, reskilling and upskilling for short- and medium-term labour market needs.
What lies ahead?

These three basic scenarios point to critical dimensions when discussing the future role of VET in Europe. However, the different scenarios are likely to coexist, influencing and perhaps dominating VET systems and institutions in different ways.

What they demonstrate is a need for strategic reflections and dialogue to decide on:

  • VET’s future purpose and role;
  • the position VET is meant to have in relation to other policy areas and society at large.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Briefing note – What future for vocational education and training in Europe?


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