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Pisces Learning Innovations Ltd.

 

Seeking good practice in VET design

Pisces LI were delighted to be informed by NARRIC, early in July 2016, that the Erasmus+ Strategic partnership bid, known by the acronym of ED2VET, had been selected for financial support by the UK Agency (Ecorys).

NARRIC, the lead partner based in Cheltenham, will be teaming up with Pisces LI, Dimitra Education and Consulting Ltd., from Greece and the Bulgarian Development Agency, to undertake this European study spanning two years. Various approaches will be used, investigating a range of sectors, in order to find and disseminate best practice in ‘employer involvement in the design and development of Vocational Education and Training (VET)’. We are looking for examples of good cooperation between employers and their VET sector, leading to effective up-skilling and labour mobility that can be shared and ultimately influence policy.

The thinking and rationale behind this work is described more fully in the summary provided below.

ED2VET summary

Europe is experiencing a rising wave of unemployment, which is most prevalent within the Southern Member States. Figures from 2015 show that in Greece, unemployment soared from less than 10% in 2009 to almost 25% currently, while in Bulgaria the rate rose from 6 to 10%.  As a result, a greater emphasis is being placed on the development of VET to meet industry needs, so as learners can access and gain qualifications in their chosen vocations that are trusted and recognised both within their own and other EU countries, thereby supporting labour mobility. Whether qualifications are delivered in a tertiary education centre, the workplace or a blend of the two, the European VET system must be capable of providing learners the knowledge and skills needed to become productive and valued members of the European workforce within their chosen sector.

Implicit within this challenge is the need for effective employer involvement in the design and development of VET. This will to ensure that VET is “fit for purpose”, future proof and addresses the technical, green and digital skills relevant to employers, as defined by each industry sector through its representatives.

This project will investigate the factors that determine the extent and impact of employer involvement in VET design and will identify good practice for sharing. Based on the limited anecdotal evidence available, it is anticipated that the general attitude and approach by employers towards engagement in VET design varies due to a range of factors, including the:

  • nature and maturity of the sector,
  • size and profitability of the sector,
  • structure of the sector (large company or SME dominance)
  • learning cultures (or lack of) established in different companies and sectors and
  • the availability, accessibility and quality reputation of relevant VET providers

Larger companies often have the resources to become self-contained, delivering their own in-company training schemes, with no regard to the national occupational standards that may exist. This can be due to a lack of confidence in the relevance of national qualifications or the VET provision available for their sector and a belief that they are best placed to customise their own staff development to best match their own standard operating procedures. Whilst this may serve the companies short term needs adequately, it can lead to labour mobility issues. A lack of recognised qualifications may restrict an employee’s employment prospects when seeking employment within another company or country, effectively making them captive.

Typically, SMEs – which make up 99% of all European enterprises – don’t have the resources to become self-sufficient regarding staff development. However, unless well represented nationally, they can fail to influence VET provision. In the worst cases, both the provision of formal VET and in company training is inadequate or lacking leading to an under skilled, underutilised and ‘captive workforce, impacting on the competitiveness of the sector.

In order to better understand the issues and challenges regarding employer engagement in VET design and development and in order to identify good practice, the investigative work will be structured and phased to include an examination of practices within:

  • different member states to explore the ‘macro level’ influences such as government policy, public sector regulation and national cultures,
  • different sectors including manufacturing, construction and land based industries to determine the influence of the nature of the sector on employer representation and practices, and
  • companies of different sizes, from large multi-nationals to SMEs, and “micro-enterprises”, to determine the influence that the scale of an operation has on the nature of employer involvement and representation.

Based on anecdotal evidence, no one country, sector or company has the monopoly on good practice, therefore a transnational approach is essential in order to identify the range of best practices, disseminating the results at European and national level in support of the development of more effective policies for employer involvement in VET development.

 

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