On 9 April 2015, "Gdynia Education Solidarność", Gdynia municipality and local authorities organised a regional conference on "Good quality of vocational education as a path to success". About 100 VET teachers and trainers of the county, educational employers, companies and regional policy makers attended the event. A delegation of Austria's Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst teachers' branch (GÖD-Lehrer) and an ETUCE representative was among the special invitees.

Mr Bartosz Bartoszewicz, deputy mayor of Gdynia for Education and Health and Mrs Zdzisława Hacia, president of "Gdynia Educaton Solidarnosc" opened the conference, underling the importance of the subject for the schools' environment and local society.

The conference was one of the key actions of KSN NSZZ Solidarność to implement their pledge in which the union committed itself to make concrete steps to support the European Commission's European Alliance for Apprenticeship. KSN NSZZ Solidarność organized school visits for the international guests to a hospitality and tourism school as well as to a mechanic school both VET schools based in Gdynia. The visits showed the urgent need for investment in Polish VET schools and particularly with regard to the technical equipment.

The conference was a great success as it focused on the challenges of the VET schools in the region to find common strategies of social partners for the future. The speakers discussed possible solutions to challenges in the VET and apprenticeship system, employability and apprenticeship opportunities in companies, company experiences and labour market needs, financing and social dialogue.

Mr Roland Gangl, vice-president of GÖD-Lehrer's VET branch underlined that effective social dialogue with teachers on VET reforms is essential to achieve success and increase the employment rate among young VET-graduates. He highlighted that the companies' participation in providing apprenticeship in Europe should be enhanced.

Ms Agnes Roman, ETUCE policy coordinator informed the participants about recent European-level VET and apprenticeship policies related to financing of VET in the framework of the European Semester process. Poland received country-specific recommendations for 2014-2015 (PL - EN) to reduce youth unemployment, particularly by increasing the availability of apprenticeships and work-based learning places and by better cooperation between schools and employers. ETUCE believes that VET-systems can be improved by increased sustainable financing of VET schools with special attention to updating the technical equipment, to improving the status and salary of VET teachers and to providing them the possibility of professional upskilling in companies.

For the first time, participants learned about the possible impacts of the EU trade agreements on public education in Poland. Ms Monika Kończyk, vice-president of KSN NSZZ "Solidarność" of Education Employees Gdynia informed the participants about CETA, TISA and TTIP underlining thier dangers to the education sector.

KSN NSZZ "Solidarność" intends to pursue its efforts to improve the status and working conditions of VET teachers and trainers in Poland and to achieve better VET and apprenticeship system in the region. ETUCE and GÖD-Lehrer will continue to support these efforts also in the future.

Further pictures are available at: ETUCE Flickr