Today in Europe we have more than 14 million people under 30 years old that are neither in employment, education or training (NEETs). NEETs cost society millions of euros every year, through tax losses, inactivity and the cost of measures targeted at NEETs. However, the situation also costs the individuals; young people remain continuously at risk of further exclusion and other social and financial difficulties in their lives. Therefore an entire generation is in urgent need of tailored and meaningful actions that will support their full participation in society and the realisation of their potential and life chances. Participation in lifelong learning (education and training, or continuous VET) can be one of the springboards to better prospects, although it must be accompanied by a range of parallel measures.
In the recently published New Skills Agenda for Europe, the European Commission has highlighted the importance of Vocational Education and Training, as a tool for fostering job-specific and transversal skills, facilitating the transition into employment and maintaining and updating the skills of the workforce. Consequently a lot of actions were planned to increase the attractiveness of VET so that it is not perceived as a second class choice. The EC plans to do it through quality provision, flexible organisation, and closer connections with business, higher education and research.
1. Making data available on labour market outcomes of VET and increasing flexibility for VET learners will be pursued through proposed revision of the existing instruments for quality assurance and credit, in line with the revised EQF Recommendation.
2. Streamlined governance for European cooperation on VET will be pursued, with a more explicit coordination role for the Advisory Committee on Vocational Training.
3. The Commission will work together with Member States and stakeholders to define a target to ensure that a higher number of learners have the opportunity to undertake a work-based learning experience as part of their studies.
4. To showcase vocational studies as a first class option, the Commission will organise a first VET Skills Week in 2016 in co-operation with Member States, social partners and education and training providers.
SOLIDAR Foundation agrees that we need to make a shift to recognise VET as an integral and equal part of the education systems in Europe, that has an important role in enabling young people to become active in the labour market and fosters their social inclusion. Moreover we need to work towards improving the quality of VET, including the working conditions of apprentices, to change the perception of vocational training in the long run. The quality of VET and opportunities for VET graduates in employment and further education are a major factor in the attractiveness of VET.