Every half year, the presidency of the Council of the European Union changes, and from July to December 2018, it will be held by Austria. As a part of the Presidency, Austria wants to put Vocational Education and Training front and forward on the agenda, and as a start they arranged this conference on the future of VET.
Often with conferences about youth and education, students are missing, but this time the team invited OBESSU, and as member of the VET working group, and a former VET-student, I got to represent students at the conference as a participant and speaker. My name is Bicca Olin, and I graduated with a VET-qualificiation in audiovisual communication in December 2016. Currently I’m the full-time president of OBESSU’s member organisation FSS in Finland.
So what happened at the conference?
The opening speakers consisted of Austrian Ministers, the Commissioner of Employment and Director for skills and SG Employment. They all adressed VET as a tool to strengthen the economy, but also as a self-worth for young people. They addressed VET’s role in lifelong learning, as a way to develop skills and change careers at any point in life.
Common subjects, that also very much are on the OBESSU agenda, include digital skills for everyone, VET as a first choice and increased mobility of VET-students. I was happy to hear the sentence “Future VET is learner centered and flexible” coming from someone else than myself! It really shows that years of advocacy work has reached the highest level of decision making and suddenly, learner centered VET is the new normal.
During the afternoon I attended a session about future VET-policy. We went over the different systems and problems in each country, and tried to share best practices and make some policy recommendations. A subject that turned out to come up again and again as a solution, was including students more in making curricula and changing the school system itself. This was something I kept reminding my colleagues in the round table about, and it was also one of the main point the rapporteur or spokesperson brought back to the plenary.
On the second day I represented OBESSU in a panel discussion on the topic “Reality check“. Here’s a short summary of my main points during the discussion:
- Flexibility is the word we should hold onto. We talked about time and how fast the world needs results, as well as how slow education works. Flexibility is something we can take from VET and transfer into other sorts of educational paths, as well as the rest of our lives.
- Student’s wellbeing and the interest of companies or the economy in general shouldn’t be put up against each other. The student’s, or young person’s right, is to be skilled, to be well, to have knowledge about everything in life from personal stuff on how to rent an apartment to how to start your own business and/or apply for a job. A democratic, well being, active citizen
- We shouldn’t be afraid but instead involve students in creating a system that responds to the needs of the learner and the potential employer. A functioning education system is one that evolves and changes and adapts every single day, instead of needing huge reforms every few years. And this is knowledge that the VET-sector kind of already has, teachers and trainers already implement this flexibility and strives to create a perfect path for each individual, so that when they graduate, they have the skills to survive in life – And more importantly, the skills needed to learn more, continuously throughout life.
- Nothing of this comes free or even cheap. This is an investment, not only in the future of the individual student, or in VET, but in society and in the EU and even globally, in general.
- Education is the biggest investment you can make in the future, and right now we should turn our eyes to VET, empower VET and take the best practices, the flexibility and the learner centered approach we find in there and implement into the rest of the school system.
I got a great response and OBESSU was mentioned multiple times during the afternoon, consisting of panel discussions about the future.
Don’t hesitate to write to the VET Working Group of OBESSU for further discussions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Bicca Olin, member of the VET Working Group