Status of vocational education in European countries

Education is one of the leading problems of societies as it directly affects the economic, technical, social, cultural and political developments of all societies. Every society should organize its education according to their needs. These arrangements have to take on new forms over time as needs change. The training of the labor force that can meet these needs should include social, numerical and literacy skills as well as the ability to think analytically, solve problems and take part in teamwork.

Obtaining a profession is an important point in the structuring of developed societies. They are aware of the fact that many organizations, especially the state, can only survive in manpower. While technological developments have led to changes in many branches of business, many new professional branches have emerged.

In Germany, 26 new professions emerged between 2000-2007, while 76 were updated. In developed societies, occupational branches are distributed at the right rate. For this reason, every organization has enough labor force.

Education in the European Union and especially vocational training is of great importance

With the programs it has created for the young population, the European Union finances the activities it needs to do in the process from preparation to life and provides them to contribute to production.

When vocational education and training systems are examined among EU countries, it is seen that there are different approaches and models. Especially in industrialized countries, vocational education models can be divided into two groups according to the type of education given and the institution where the education is given:

– Full-time Vocational Technical Education Model

– Apprenticeship Training Model

The full-time education model is based on 8-10 years of compulsory education within the school. After compulsory education, the model directs young people to life and work areas or to those who achieve a certain level of success in higher education.

This model, which is expensive and requires constant upgrading of school equipment, is applied in countries such as Sweden, France, Belgium and Italy, which devote significant resources to education.

In the apprenticeship model, vocational training is carried out in cooperation with state and private enterprises.

In this model, which is referred to as dual education in Germany, theoretical education is carried out in the vocational school and in the workplace.

Apprentices usually go to school for four days instead of one or two days. In countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria, vocational training is provided through apprenticeship training.

These models are applied together in each country, but the weight given to one or the other varies according to the countries.

 Accordingly, countries can be divided into three groups:

1. Countries focusing on full-time vocational model: Belgium, France

2. Countries focusing on the apprenticeship model: Germany, Denmark

3. Countries with both models predominantly: Netherlands, UK

Free movement has a very important place in EU education programs. Within the scope of free movement actions, it was made possible to carry out the mobility of the labor force and the desire for education in different countries.

The concept of free movement constitutes the EU’s starting point for the provision of vocational training, recognition of professional qualifications and the exercise of occupations.

 The free movement of professionals in the European Union has ensured the harmonization of vocational education standards, especially in the member countries, and the development of relevant principles. Some of these principles are set out as follows:

– Preparation of conditions that will provide appropriate and adequate vocational training for all,

– Creation of opportunities for training the required labor force in all sectors,

– Ensuring the acquisition of skills appropriate to new technologies and cooperation with member states in this field.

In 1963, the principles of equivalence of qualifications, exchange of young workers and vocational guidance were introduced within the framework of the ten principles regarding the implementation of a common policy in the field of vocational education compared by the Council.

In the program of action adopted in 1976,

– Improving education systems to a common level,

– Ensuring equality of opportunity in education,

– Development of foreign language education,

– Collaboration in higher education,

Vocational education is the most important parameter of development

European Center for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP)

Coordination between vocational training programs, new technologies and new production methods, such as the reflection on vocational training

CEDEFOP monitors and reports on education policies of member states. It analyzes the progress made in the implementation of common European priorities, principles and instruments. In addition, CEDEFOP assists in the design, development and implementation of these common European approaches.

For example, CEDEFOP, Europass, which makes it easier to read and work in another member state, is also involved in the development of the European qualifications framework and the European credit system for vocational education and training. CEDEFOP focuses on the specific benefits of vocational education and training to individuals, entrepreneurs and the wider economy and society rather than general education.

CEDEFOP contributes to the development of common European principles to validate non-formal education, improve vocational guidance and ensure the quality of education. These principles aim to help people to continue learning during their careers and to benefit from this learning regardless of how it is achieved.

We need to understand more about how skill demands change and how this affects what we need to learn.

For this reason, CEDEFOP makes regular estimation studies of supply and demand by profession and sector and identifies any in consistencies that may arise.

It is working on designing a common approach to anticipating 24 skills needs in Europe. In his research, CEDEFOP examines how we acquire knowledge and skills and how learning is measured. People learn in different settings – at work, in leisure time, abroad, and in schools, colleges and universities.

CEDEFOP examines what this means for institutions, curricula, teaching methods and ways of evaluating learning.

In order to provide the knowledge and skills base for increasing the welfare of Europe, the European ministers of the 32 countries, the European commission and the European social partners agreed on a policy agenda for VET in the Copenhagen process in 2002:

– Review of the process every two years,

– Quality, attractiveness of VET,

– Underlined the focus on efforts to achieve targeted dates for the implementation of common European principles and instruments with good governance.

Countries have carried out studies in these areas, which emphasize equality and importance for the labor market. The analysis of the CEDEFOP and the self-evaluation of the countries show that in 2008 national priorities and the European agenda became closer to each other. Although progress varies, a European VET area is emerging.

More than 50% of EU secondary school graduates come from vocational and pre-vocational programs, but there are differences between countries. In order to increase the number of VET graduates, many countries are trying to attract more young people with all kinds of skills and backgrounds to VET. However, due to demographic change and increasing skill needs, more efforts are needed.

In 1988, the Council adopted the directive on the recognition of higher education diplomas awarded as a result of at least three years of vocational education and training. The directive revealed that, after secondary education, the citizens of the member states who have studied for 3 years or more are allowed to work in other member states in jobs and professions where admission is subject to technical and moral qualifications.

Erasmus+ programs give many chanes to vocational education students and also trainers.

Socrates (Erasmus, Comenius, Grundtvig, etc.), Leonardo da Vinci, Youth for Europe and Eurydice, Enic, Naric and Arion will be organized to meet the needs of information. Countries are increasingly providing targeted VET and support for people with low skills, immigrants, ethnic groups, early school leavers, older workers and people with disabilities.

These measures facilitate the transition from education to working life or return to education and training, and then transition to the labor market. Examples of successful implementation range from tailor-made training to training for everyone.

Some countries are introducing (re) apprenticeship or student-on-the-job training to encourage individuals to remain in education and training or to re-enter the system.

Guidance and counseling services support work and learning preferences and provide a means for better validation of non-formal and informal learning and for better use of skills and knowledge acquired in the labor market.

There is a tendency to combine targeted support, counseling and language learning to help migrants succeed in VET.

– Increasing cross-border learning and work mobility in vocational education through the improvement of foreign language skills and recognition of competences acquired abroad;

– Improving governance at all levels and ensuring effective allocation, egalitarian distribution and sustainability of national and EU VET funds, based on autonomy, accountability and learning partnerships;

– Predicting future skills needs and supporting the ability of VET to respond to the needs of knowledge-based economics and demographic change. Monitoring progress, joint research and evaluations, benchmark criteria for vocational training and improving data are prerequisites for establishing vocational training policies.

Learning and supporting policy is becoming increasingly important. Concepts and tools need to be understood in all segments of society in order to be utilized by Europeans. This takes time. Consistency, consolidation and change are not easy to reconcile.

Source: Neslihan AKDEMİR KAPLAN

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