The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Immigration, together with the Spanish Ministry of Education and the Regional Government of Catalunya hosted a Peer Review in Barcelona. The joint policy programme highlighted by the host country was the Roadmap for the enhancement and improvement of VET which has recently been agreed and is currently being implemented. The meeting brought together ministry representatives and independent experts from 12 peer countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Norway, Serbia and the UK) as well as representatives from DG Education and Culture and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities at the European Commission.
Various presentations demonstrated the core of the roadmap to be an integrated approach, drawing strongly on the input of all key stakeholders in the VET framework. The meeting concluded that initial and ongoing VET is a cornerstone for a competitive Europe during as well as beyond the current economic crisis, as it is a sound foundation in education and training which allows the workforce to be employable and remain adaptable to change. The main conclusions of discussions have been summarised under the following headings:
- Making VET attractive: In many participating countries the VET pathway can still be seen by many as being "second choice" to pursuing a higher education route. In order to change this perception information about the benefits of VET in terms of positive labour market outcomes, competitiveness and long term employability has to be disseminated effectively to learners and their parents, employers, teachers and guidance professionals. As well as awareness raising and effective dissemination, the creation of flexible pathways within VET and between VET and other systems was seen to be critical. The involvement of employers in the design of curricula was considered to be an important way to create "buy in" from SMEs and larger employers. As well as the financial benefits of VET, longer term outcomes such as improvement competitiveness and employability were highlighted.
- Ensuring relevance of VET content: Much of EU as well as national policy is currently focussed on seeking to ensure that training supply meets demand, as well as on anticipating future skills requirements. This was seen to be important, but one needed to be realistic about the possibility of predicting skills requirements in the long-term, beyond the core trends of employers' seeking more transferable skills as well as enhanced soft skills. The importance of strategic skills planning was also highlighted to ensure competitiveness development at regional and national level. As well as content, the quality of VET needs to be closely monitored and curricula should be made adaptable to meet the needs of employers and learners themselves. Modularisation was highlighted as an important development in this regard.
- Recognition and validation of competences: In the context of striving towards a knowledge society, the validation of informal and non-formal learning has attained increasing prominence with most countries present already developing - or keen to develop relevant systems. The importance of a strong link between such systems and the general qualifications framework and the quality assurance of validation systems was emphasised in order to ensure such validated competences are recognised by employers. More needs to be done to ensure validation is made attractive for learners. In countries with longer experience in this regard research has shown that while validation may not have an immediate financial impact, it certainly contributes to raising self esteem and the likelihood to pursue further training. As such, it is a particular important pathway for low-skilled workers.
- Involving stakeholders: It is important to involve social partners in the development and implementation of VET systems, but other groups (training providers, learners, parents and trainers) should also be involved in such developments at points where their input can provide the greatest added value. A particularly successful feature of the Spanish Roadmap is the close collaboration between the ministries of labour and education.
Peer country comment papers from independent experts:
Participating independent experts