The role of VET teachers in green and digital transition


To facilitate a smooth twin transition, there is a need to foster and promote social dialogue between governments and education trade unions to ensure a quality and inclusive green and digital transition process of VET schools. This was the conclusion of a joint seminar organised by the European Training Foundation (ETF), the Swedish Presidency of the EU, and ETUCE on 20 April 2023, on the role of VET teachers in green and digital transition.

Shortages of VET teachers and a declining attractiveness of the profession is identified as a problem also in the ETF partner countries. One of the factors negatively impacting retention, is the issue of continuous professional development (CPD). The seminar touched upon the CPD needs and opportunities from the perspective of ETF partner countries with a particular focus on the experiences of Georgia and Serbia, by Borka Visnic, of the Teacher Union of Serbia and Marina Alugishvili, of the Trade Union of Teachers of Georgia.

They both underlined the importance to acknowledge the green transition as a priority and accordingly organise more trainings for VET teachers. While in some countries it is an obligation for every teacher to attend seminars to keep the teaching license, the design of the whole system does not facilitate participation. In fact, these additional courses are held normally out of working hours, mostly during weekends and are paid by VET teachers themselves. In this regard, social partners should be able to contribute to the discussion and be involved in defining the professional needs for teachers. Education trade unions are acting to both promote professional development of teachers and ensure protection of labour and social economic rights of education staff.

The digital transition in education was precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic which had a particularly harsh impact on VET students and apprentices as they could not attend practical learning. The digital transition in VET school was not smooth, as there is still a huge divide among VET teachers of different age groups concerning the use of the digital tools, reminded Agnes Roman, Senior Policy Coordinator of ETUCE.

The green transition of VET schools has started more reluctantly than the digital transition, by introducing environmental topics and adapting the VET qualifications. Social partners` contribution has been possible and crucial in updating the VET curricula for the green transition, yet it is not a common wide-spread practice in all member states. It is essential that vocational education and training institutions consider several factors to promote the attitude towards the green transition, as in several countries citizens still do not take any actions in their everyday life and household to fight against climate change. Nearly all Europeans have taken at least one action to help tackle climate change (recycling waste, electric car, reducing meat consumption, reducing electricity / water/heat consumption, isolation of buildings, etc.), but 16% of the people in Romania and Bulgaria and 10% in Cyprus have not taken any of these actions, compared with 0% in Belgium, Ireland and Portugal. VET institutes need to make changes such as ensuring selective waste management, sustainability of the equipment, sustainable transport for students and staff, providing legume-based meals in the school, and promoting outdoor teaching.

Rather than focusing on VET teachers` duties, effective support should be granted to them in the green and digital transition of VET, such as effective access to professional development. Moreover, democratic school leadership and collaboration of school actors and parents could facilitate this process, by designing cooperatively solutions to effectively implement the twin transition.

Rossella Benedetti, Chair of the ETUCE Equality Committee concluded the event, by reminding about the importance of adopting an holistic approach within VET, which would enable students to acquire soft skills. In fact, VET should not merely serve the purpose of labour market needs, rather to spread and promote values through qualified VET teachers. This would require enabling teachers to access and attend free of charge and high quality professional development courses within working hours. Finally, she stressed the need to focus not only on high-level, excellent VET experiences, but rather to address the needs of VET which are directed towards low-skilled students, such as in Eastern European countries.