Lifelong learning for all: recommendations for the sector

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Education social partners representing the staff and employers in the vocational education and training (VET) and adult learning sectors came together virtually on 28 September for the closing conference of the project ‘Lifelong Learning (LLL) for All: Social Partners in Education promoting quality and inclusive VET to enhance lifelong learning for all’, launched in 2019 and led by MBO-Raad in partnership with ETUCE and EFEE.

After five successful peer learning activities and two thematic webinars, the final conference offered participants the opportunity to get acquainted with the outcomes of this project, as well as to discuss the future of VET and the role education social partners and social dialogue plays within. Most importantly, the conference aimed at introducing the EFEE/ETUCE Joint Policy Recommendations on Lifelong Learning for All’. The recommendations are a direct reflection of the lessons learned through these project activities and are designed for the use not only of the education social partners, but also for the EU institutions, the EU Member States, and national, regional and local decision-makers.

ETUCE President Larry Flanagan opened the conference - alongside EFEE President, Barbara Novinec and MBO-Raad Senior Policy Advisor, Manfred Polzin. He reminded about the central role of social partners in the success of VET and LLL systems and underlined that according to the latest OECD report, 53% of education institutions’ principals had found teacher recruitment difficult over the last three years due to an ageing teacher population and low attractiveness of the profession. In many places in Europe, VET teachers with temporary position are not able to find a permanent job and the average VET teachers’ salaries are 8% less than those of teachers in general education. Therefore, effective social dialogue with them at national, regional and school level must be ensured to achieve the goals of the 1st principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is to make quality and inclusive VET for all learners a reality.

Maria Brugia, Deputy Director at Cedefop, underlined the importance of the education social partners within the new Cedefop project on setting up a EU-wide survey on VET teachers and trainers. Chiara Rondino, Head of Unit at Cedefop, pointed out that the joint ETUCE/EFEE recommendations are an important contribution for the implementation of the European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeship (2018), which identifies 14 criteria to guide member states to improve their apprenticeship systems and focuses also on the VET teachers’ role within.

Trade union representatives from Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany shared their experiences on the role of education social partners in VET.  They underlined the needs of VET teachers and trainers on well-being, decent working conditions and salary, and continuous professional development. The education social partners also discussed that social dialogue regarding VET and LLL remains limited in many contexts. Moreover, although COVID-19 had forced systems towards digitalisation and more innovation, problems of inclusiveness, adequate teacher training, and sustainable investment have arisen. This includes the need to fund apprenticeships and practical VET, which cannot easily be conducted online.