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Bulgaria

VET provision in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria the Ministry of Education and Science coordinates the national policy on vocational education and training (VET). Therefore the main VET providers are VET schools, VET colleges and licensed private and public continuing vocational training (CVT) centres. The age and entry level requirements for the acquisition of VET qualifications are regulated by framework programmes.

There are six framework programmes: The first three are school-based programmes and are offered by secondary schools or lower. They provide access to first, second and third national level of initial VET (IVET) programmes and lead to formal VET qualifications at EQF 2,3,4. Their completion gives access to higher education. There are programmes leading to level four (EQF 5) provided by VET colleges. Programmes are also provided by CVT centres. Apprenticeships provide short-term training courses for partial qualifications or courses to upgrade their VET qualifications. CVT programmes also offer an update or a broadening of the professional qualifications and lead to third, second and third level VET qualifications.

All the framework programmes are available to adults; however adult participation in lifelong learning in Bulgaria is low. And therefore for many people who are unemployed or are a part of a disadvantaged group the CVT centres are the only opportunity they have to enter the labour market and for employers to retain their jobs.

One can acquire VET qualifications after a complete training programme and passed state exams. The heads of each educational institution appoint a committee that conducts the examinations. The members of the committees consist of employers, employees and representatives of educational institutions. Besides the assessment of VET graduates, social partners take part in the design and approval of national education standards coordinated by the National Agency of VET before they are embedded in legislation.

In 2018 Bulgaria’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has set the priorities for vocational education and training (VET) on initiatives within the 2016 New skills agenda for Europe and the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning.

Post-secondary private college for tourism, Blagoevgrad

Industry sector

The private college for tourism (PCT) in Blagoevgrad provides training in the tourism services sector and business administration. The college maintains very good connections to two of the major Tourism Business Associations in Bulgaria and the chairman of one of the associations is also a member of the college’s Board of trustees.

Students that study at technical schools finish with qualifications at EQF level 4 and if they choose to follow a post-secondary route (an additional year of education) they finish with an EQF 5 qualification or with a Bachelor degree. That is the main reason most students choose post-secondary education aiming at achieving a degree, which increases the probability of higher remuneration at work at later stages of their life.

Good practice recognised

1. Freedom to design study programmes

As PCT is a post-secondary educational institution it has a much higher degree of freedom in designing and implementing its teaching according to the needs of the market and specific requirements of the employers. Each student must undertake practical training periods in tourism companies during their study programme. During these periods of practical training PCT also collects the opinion of employers regarding the knowledge of the students and their performance but also suggestions for improvements, identified skills gaps and knowledge. In such a way the educational programmes are adapted and directly influenced by the employers to react to rapidly changing business conditions and meet changing demands for skills and knowledge.

2. Labour market information influencing practical training

While collecting knowledge from the individual employers directly in the form of a questionnaire survey after each student’s practical training on the job, PCT also collects the sector requirements through the two Tourism Business Associations, thus reflecting on the needs of the sector as a whole. While NESPE are annually updated and the process is incremental, PCT can adjust its training programmes much faster to reflect labour market needs.

3. Company mentors

During the practical training periods each student undertakes, the employer appoints a specific company mentor who is responsible for teaching the specific needs of the type of tourist business. Mentors are current employees who possess knowledge and practical skills relating to the specific tourist business.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

The tourism industry relies on the PCT to supply well educated employees in the sector. In Bulgaria there are different types of tourism currently operating, including summer tourism at the sea side, winter tourism in the mountains, spa, religious, cultural tourism etc. Each type of tourism industry has different specific needs and in order to meet them, PCT offers general educational programmes for the tourism sector as a whole. The specific knowledge and skills for each sub-sector are being taught during the practical training periods of the students in tourist businesses. During the practical training there is direct communication between the business, the students and the lecturers of PCT.

Industry opinion is collected during annual meetings with members of the Business Associations in Tourism and members of the college’s Trustee board. If needed updates to the educational programmes are proposed. PCT also participates through the Tourist Associations in the annual update of the National VET standards organised by the NAVET, Ministry of Education and representatives of the industry.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

NAVET leads the process of development of NESPE while participation of employees’ organisations, employers’ organisations and NGO’s is mandatory. PCT collects from individual employers, and through the Tourist Business Associations, the requirements of the industry, individual company-specific needs. There is a reliance on national professional standards.

During the practical training periods each student undertakes, the employer appoints a specific company mentor who is responsible for teaching the specific needs of the type of tourist business. The mentor also provides end-point evaluation of the trainee. Mentors are current employees who possess knowledge and practical skills relating to the specific tourist business. Furthermore, each employer provides answers to a questionnaire in which specific needs, identified skills gaps and skills demands are listed. This process is conducted each year after the practical training periods of the students have finished. Thus PCT is able to constantly monitor the process of the training, while ensuring strong feed-back mechanism from employers on the general knowledge and training provided.

PCT through the links it has to the two Tourist Business Associations monitors skills needs at national level. As being part of the higher education PCT has much more freedom in designing its educational and training programmes and subjects being taught.

Through the direct involvement of the business in the form of practical summer courses for the students, there is an established strong and efficient feedback connection for updates of educational programmes and subjects.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

The structure and legal environment of the Bulgarian educational system do not provide very flexible ways of updating and/or changing the educational system and plans up to secondary level. Updates in specific courses can be included easier in higher education than in secondary schools; however, the structure of the courses must remain the same for the entire accreditation period. The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency (NEAA)1 and NAVET are responsible for the update of NESPE2 in Bulgaria along with all interested parties. PCT undergoes each 3 to 5 years (depending on the subjects) accreditation from NEAA. The NEAA is a statutory body for evaluation, accreditation and monitoring of the quality in higher education institutions ensuring the delivery meet the national and EU standards for higher education.

Providers of higher vocational education enjoy greater flexibility to incorporate new, specific training into students’ learning. Specific training acquired during practice periods in a business do not form part of the national educational standards and thus are not monitored. However, the overall lecturing and practical training of students must meet the NESPE.

The national law on recognition of professional qualifications outside of Bulgaria requires a formal procedure in order for the qualifications received abroad to be recognised. For each profession there are very specific procedure and recognition bodies responsible for issuing official recognition of qualifications. However citizens from the EU that have acquired qualifications in the EU and that they are recognised by the Bulgarian state have all the rights to practice their profession in Bulgaria.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

PCT through the links it has to the two Tourist Business Associations monitors skills needs at national level. While NESPE are annually updated and the process is incremental, PCT can adjust its training programmes much faster to reflect labour market needs. Being part of the higher education PCT has much greater freedom in designing its educational and training programmes and individual subjects.

Each employer completes a questionnaire after the practical training periods of the students have finished, in which specific needs, identified skills gaps and skills demands are listed. Thus PCT is able to constantly monitor the process of the training, while ensuring strong feed-back mechanism from employers on the general knowledge and training provided.

PCT can adjust individual courses to meet specific requirements of employers while not altering the quality of the course as a direct feed-back procedure is well established with employers. Thus identified gaps are addressed immediately and rapid changes meeting business needs can be made. Such changes must always operate within the framework of the accredited course, teaching and practical training.

PCT is also maintaining links to institutions abroad (mainly in Greece) and is collecting information about their skills needs too.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of strong and efficient connection of the training and educational materials with the current needs of the tourism industry, while specifics are being taught in the workplace during practical training periods. This in turn raises the motivation of the students as they practice on the job and gain first-hand experience of what their future job will be.

To include this type of workplace learning requires national authorities to grant learning providers the flexibility to add training that are not part of the formal qualifications to students’ study programmes. This type of learning is only beneficial to both student and the company if the learning reflects current working practices in the industry. It also helps to maintain contact between companies and education and training providers to ensure training programme content reflect the current state of jobs.

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1https://www.neaa.government.bg/en/

2National Educational Standards for Professional Education

VET provision in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria the Ministry of Education and Science coordinates the national policy on vocational education and training (VET). Therefore the main VET providers are VET schools, VET colleges and licensed private and public continuing vocational training (CVT) centres. The age and entry level requirements for the acquisition of VET qualifications are regulated by framework programmes.

There are six framework programmes: The first three are school-based programmes and are offered by secondary schools or lower. They provide access to first, second and third national level of initial VET (IVET) programmes and lead to formal VET qualifications at EQF 2,3,4. Their completion gives access to higher education. There are programmes leading to level four (EQF 5) provided by VET colleges. Programmes are also provided by CVT centres. Apprenticeships provide short-term training courses for partial qualifications or courses to upgrade their VET qualifications. CVT programmes also offer an update or a broadening of the professional qualifications and lead to third, second and third level VET qualifications.

All the framework programmes are available to adults; however adult participation in lifelong learning in Bulgaria is low. And therefore for many people who are unemployed or are a part of a disadvantaged group the CVT centres are the only opportunity they have to enter the labour market and for employers to retain their jobs.

One can acquire VET qualifications after a complete training programme and passed state exams. The heads of each educational institution appoint a committee that conducts the examinations. The members of the committees consist of employers, employees and representatives of educational institutions. Besides the assessment of VET graduates, social partners take part in the design and approval of national education standards coordinated by the National Agency of VET before they are embedded in legislation.

In 2018 Bulgaria’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has set the priorities for vocational education and training (VET) on initiatives within the 2016 New skills agenda for Europe and the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning.

National Educational Standards for Professional Education (NESPE) and the “DOMINO” project for dual education1

Industry sector

The National Educational Standards for Professional Education (NESPE) are developed and actualised annually by the (National Agency for Vocational Education and Training NAVET). They are later approved by the Ministry of Education and Science. NESPE describe in detail the needed professional competencies for each profession and are mandatory for any educational and training organisation that issues a certificate of education/training in a profession. Various commissions are formed for the annual update of these standards in which appropriate representatives of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour, representatives of the employers and representatives of the employees are always participating. As a consequence the NESPE are officially respected by both employers and state.

The Bulgarian Branch Chamber of Machine Building (BBBCMB) is an employers’ organisation. Its representatives are appointed to all commissions formed to update/create NESPE in the sector of machine building. Thus employers’ needs of skills and knowledge are fully reflected in professional education/training. As a consequence the qualifications acquired in formal education are highly respected by the companies in the machine building sector.

Good practice recognised

1. Stakeholder engagement in forum for dual VET

The involvement of different stakeholders contributing towards the introduction of the dual system in Bulgaria, including state institutions, private companies, branch associations and business organisations, local authorities and the NGO sector is coordinated by a specially organised Forum for Dual Vocational Education. The needs of each employer are fully reflected and together with the general educational subjects specific skills and knowledge needed by the employer are also taught.2

2. Collection of labour market information

In the frames of the “DOMINO” project BBCMB collects information about the needs of each employer they represent, which includes SMEs as well as larger companies from all sectors of machine building and metal casting. All members have equal influence when establishing current needs and gaps in the educational process. BBCMB also ensures that through the different regions of the country the specific needs of the local companies are established through direct communication with the VET providers.

3. Mentors

Each employer taking part in the DOMINO project appoints at least one mentor for every five students. These mentors are trained prior to the delivery of the training. The mentors are current practitioners with realistic view on needed skills and qualifications thus providing valuable feedback on the VET educational programmes.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

The industry relies on the BBCMB services, particularly in building strong relationships with the VET providers. One of the major criteria for including new schools/VET providers in the DOMINO project is their strong relation with the industry in addition to identified strong need from employers of specific professional skills and knowledge.

BBCMB is also active in the various commissions formed by the Ministry of Education and Science, NAVET, employees’ representatives and employers’ organisations that are tasked with changing the educational subjects in compliance with business needs. These subjects can be changed on an annual basis. Compromises are often needed due to the funding principles of the educational system and what is most practical for VET providers to deliver in each specific region of the country.

Employers that participate in the DOMINO project cooperate with VET providers in order to support the delivery, assessment and quality assurance process. Each employer appoints at least one mentor for every five students. Those mentors are trained prior to the delivery of the training. The VET providers also assign a teacher to each group of children, whose role is to assure the quality of the training and to provide, together with the company mentor, assessment of the skills and training delivered.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

NAVET leads the process of the development of NESPE and the participation of employees’ organisations, employers’ organisations and NGO’s is mandatory. Information about skills needed and identified gaps in the educational programmes are collected by BBCMB among its members of current practitioners. BBCMB currently represents around 300 companies from all sectors of machine building which includes SMEs as well as larger companies. They are producing about 70% of all machines and machine parts in Bulgaria. Additionally BBCMB also represents the companies from the sector of metal casting which are traditionally linked to the machine building sector of the economy. All members have equal influence when establishing current needs and gaps in the educational process. BBCMB also ensures that through the different regions of the country the specific needs of the local companies are established through direct communication with the VET providers.

While changes of the NESPE are usually slow and gradual, in the DOMINO project the employers can introduce rapid changes to their specific training programmes according to their needs. Thus while NESPE cover the basic education delivered the employers can adopt specific training to meet particular need. The mentors appointed from the employers in the DOMINO project are current practitioners with realistic view on needed skills and qualifications thus providing valuable feedback on the VET educational programmes.

BBCMB relies on industry to provide the information on skills needs and gaps and to actively influence the annual revision of NESPE. Information is also posted on websites to allow professionals the opportunity to contribute to NESPE development and upgrades.

Operational partnership groups (OPGs) are also nominated and funded under the DOMINO project3. OPGs comprise project partners, such as vocational schools, school boards, parents, companies, local authorities and other stakeholders tasked with endorsing project implementation at local level. OPGs were established to guarantee cooperation between education and training providers and companies An OPG may also provide local project partners with recommendations about process improvement in addition to participating in reviewing educational content.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

BBCMB is responsible for taking part in the annual upgrades of NESPE in Bulgaria along with other interested parties. They provide the input needed from current practitioners and employers as well as acting as the link between the VET providers and industry in the DOMINO project. Once NESPE are approved they are reflected in the VET educational programmes and training delivered. The in house training programmes provided by the employers do not have the obligation to meet NESPE and thus they are not controlled by the state or BBCMB.

The model of dual training implemented during the DOMINO project includes a tool to determine the practical skills required of the students, which will enable them to be fully prepared for the labour market. This model is based on qualification profiles, which are being developed jointly by workers with professional experience, teachers of the chosen professions and experts from the Ministry of Education and Science and the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training (NAVET). These qualification profiles serve as the basis for the curricula and the training content in the respective specialties, as well as to ensure business participation in defining them.

Several new professions have been, or are in the process of, being approved by the Forum for Dual Education in Bulgaria. The Forum is organised and administered by the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce as a subsidiary body to the DOMINO management unit. It consists of representatives of all government institutions, private companies, professional and business organisations, local institutions and NGOs, as well as media representatives and discusses and proposes recommendations regarding VET to the National Assembly, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training.

The national law on recognition of professional qualifications outside of Bulgaria requires a formal procedure in order for any qualifications received abroad to be recognised. For each profession there are very specific procedure and recognition bodies responsible for issuing official recognition of qualifications. However citizens from EU that have acquired qualifications in the EU that are recognised by the Bulgarian state have the rights to practice their profession in Bulgaria. BBCMB is partnering with the CEEMET (European employers’ organisation of the metal, engineering and technology-based industries) to identify the training and qualifications needed, as well as quality assuring VET delivery.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

BBCMB collects regional level data through its members on the professional qualifications and occupations in demand. The NESPE representatives meet annually to discuss incremental changes to the VET system to reflect the changes in NESPE. However changes in the VET system are often much more influenced by the funding mechanisms applied. For example the DOMINO project which is co-funded by the Swiss and Bulgarian states offer VET providers much more freedom to tailor programmes to meet the specific needs of each employer participating in the project. This creates deep and fruitful cooperation between the VET provider, the employers and BBCMB. Conversely companies that do not participate in the project have very little influence over the educational programmes of VET providers and must address any gaps with in house training. As the DOMINO project evolves there is strong evidence that the companies would like to continue the model of dual education in the future and thus provide more rapid change in the VET system to meet labour market changes.

The BBCMB is indirectly involved in the assessment process through the development and gradual update of NESPE and the official list of professions. They act as representative of the employer’s organisations in the machine building sector and are guardians of the specific needs and skills needed by each employer.

BBCMB provides employers’ feedback on the quality of education and training and current state which is then reflected when annually negotiating new educational programmes and courses delivered by the VET providers.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of strong relation between the VET providers, industry, industry representatives and state representatives who all influence the NESPE and the VET system. The most successful model of dual education with fast response to changing market needs of the DOMINO project indicates that is the right direction to go. Introducing the dual VET system to a country with a different style of VET requires collaboration with stakeholders from countries with long traditions of delivering dual VET. Active participation of local and national stakeholders, including employers, and the support of state authorities is furthermore vital.

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1Bulgarian abbreviation for “dual education for the modern needs and requirements of the society”

2More information about the “DOMINO” project can be found at: http://dominoproject.bg/en/

3http://dominoproject.bg/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Practical-Guidelines-eng.pdf

VET provision in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria the Ministry of Education and Science coordinates the national policy on vocational education and training (VET). Therefore the main VET providers are VET schools, VET colleges and licensed private and public continuing vocational training (CVT) centres. The age and entry level requirements for the acquisition of VET qualifications are regulated by framework programmes.

There are six framework programmes: The first three are school-based programmes and are offered by secondary schools or lower. They provide access to first, second and third national level of initial VET (IVET) programmes and lead to formal VET qualifications at EQF 2,3,4. Their completion gives access to higher education. There are programmes leading to level four (EQF 5) provided by VET colleges. Programmes are also provided by CVT centres. Apprenticeships provide short-term training courses for partial qualifications or courses to upgrade their VET qualifications. CVT programmes also offer an update or a broadening of the professional qualifications and lead to third, second and third level VET qualifications.

All the framework programmes are available to adults; however adult participation in lifelong learning in Bulgaria is low. And therefore for many people who are unemployed or are a part of a disadvantaged group the CVT centres are the only opportunity they have to enter the labour market and for employers to retain their jobs.

One can acquire VET qualifications after a complete training programme and passed state exams. The heads of each educational institution appoint a committee that conducts the examinations. The members of the committees consist of employers, employees and representatives of educational institutions. Besides the assessment of VET graduates, social partners take part in the design and approval of national education standards coordinated by the National Agency of VET before they are embedded in legislation.

In 2018 Bulgaria’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has set the priorities for vocational education and training (VET) on initiatives within the 2016 New skills agenda for Europe and the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning.

Professional school for mechanics and electricians (PGME) in Sofia1

Industry sector

The Professional School for Mechanics and Electricians (PGME)2 trains middle level technicians in the areas of mechanics, plumbing, electricians, computer guided metal processing and jewellery.

The school through its director Mr. Mardiros Zovikian has created very good relations with the industry around Sofia and is one of the few in the country with full recruitment to classes in all specialties. Apart from participating in the “DOMINO” project for dual education3 the school is also collaborating with two companies, including multinationals such as Festo4. The usual collaboration is in the form of donations of machines and equipment for student training. The school is also collaborating and taking part in the BBBCMB5 discussions and the forums responsible for updating the educational programmes.

Good practice recognised

1. Flexibility to alter training provision

The requirements of the employers are determined through direct negotiations with companies. While the educational programme cannot be changed due to the structure of the Bulgarian educational system, practical training can be altered to meet specific needs. The PGME is also providing paid services for training under the umbrella of the (National Agency for Vocational Education and training NAVET)6.

2. Monitoring practice periods

PGME collaborates with all companies included in the DOMINO project around Sofia (Coca Cola, Nestle, Festo etc.) and, on a weekly basis, visits all its students involved in practice periods on a rotational basis in the companies. Here they familiarise themselves with different working environments. The school prepares a teaching programme in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the representatives of the employers and the NAVET. In parallel the school provides education for teachers in order to participate in the dual educational system.

3. Assessment of the practical education and teaching process

The school is directly involved in the assessment of the educational process impacting on the results of the students. In parallel, in direct discussions with the mentors (professionals from the companies engaged with the students’ practical experience) assessment of the teaching process is done.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

The industry relies on PGME for training middle level professionals in the areas of machine building, electricians, pneumatics and jewellery. The relation with the industry is direct and companies are also donating equipment and machines for the school to use in its education.

PGME is also active in the various commissions formed by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, NAVET, employees’ representatives and employers’ organisations in changing the educational subjects in compliance with business needs.

Employers participating in the DOMINO project cooperate directly with VET providers in delivery and assessment of the educational process. Other employers, which are not taking part in the DOMINO project, are not allowed by the law to directly change/alter educational programmes. If a company’s needs change they can submit their recommendations to the NAVET and/or the respective branch association. However they can provide, if the school accepts this, specific machines for the students to be trained on to satisfy the official educational programme. Any company specific training is done after the school and in the form of training on the job.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

PGME is providing training to students between 12 and 17 years of age. Until the age of 16 the students are not allowed to be employed so they are provided only with training in the different companies/industries taking part in the DOMINO project and beyond it. The school is in direct communication with each company where its students are being trained and in parallel directly communicating with other companies for their specific needs.

Changes in the NESPE are usually slow and gradual, but employers and VET providers are meeting each year to discuss current issues, skills gaps and needs of the business and propose the appropriate changes in the educational programmes.

While determining the requirements of the employers, the BBCMB is also reflecting on the specifics of the VET providers and the process of delivery and development of VET programmes. As intermediate body they assure the employers needs are met in both official lists of professions and NESPE and provide updates and changes when needed.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

Introducing new qualifications involves consultations between VET providers and business representatives. It is often the industry bodies that take the initiative to propose new qualification profiles. Industry organisations may then take part in drafting the state educational standard that describes the knowledge, skills and competences necessary to practice the profession. Once the draft has been approved by the relevant expert committee, the Ministry of Education develops the compulsory parts of the VET curricula, with support from VET teachers and employers. Vocational training centres may also develop certain training programmes themselves, which require NAVET licencing7.

PGME is taking part in the annual discussions on updates of the National Educational Standards for Professional Education (NESPE) for VET providers together with specialists from NAVET, industry representatives, branch associations and representatives from the Ministry of Education. As the national law in Bulgaria requires a very formal procedure in order to recognise qualifications the school is required to follow it. Any change of standards is made as a result of discussions and acceptance by all parties in the framework of updates and changes to the NESPE.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

PGME is providing training to students between 12 and 17 years of age. Until the age of 16 the students are not allowed to be employed so they are provided only with training in the different companies/industries taking part in the DOMINO project.

PGME collaborates with all companies included in the DOMINO project around Sofia (Coca Cola, Nestle, Festo etc.) and, on a weekly basis, visits all its students involved in practice periods on a rotational basis in the companies. Here they get to know different working environments. The school prepares a teaching programme in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the representatives of the employers and the NAVET. In parallel the school provides education for teachers in order to participate in the dual educational system.

The school is in direct connection with industries and companies that employ its students after graduation. While it has to follow specific procedures and standards of education, rapid changes in skills needs can provide challenges. Changes to the NESPE are only allowed on an annual basis or if laws are changed by the parliament of the country.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of strong relationships between the VET providers, industry, industry representatives and state representatives who all influence the NESPE and the VET system.

The dual education system is to date the most successful tool/method of rapid reaction to market needs and/or changes. The main reason this school is successful in attracting students and implementing dual vocational education in Sofia is its good relations to local companies committed to provide practical training periods within the structure of the new dual system of VET. External funding from the Bulgarian state and the Swiss-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce helps run the project too.

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1In Bulgaria the “engineer” title only refers to people with degrees from university or professional school graduates at middle level technician level

2Bulgarian abbreviation for “Professional Gymnasium For Mechanics and Electricians”

3http://dominoproject.bg/en/

4https://www.festo.com/cms/bg_bg/index.htm

5Bulgarian Branch Chamber of Machine Building

6https://www.NAVET.government.bg/en/

7http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/4161_en.pdf

Finland

VET provision in Finland

The VET system in Finland has recently undergone national reform under the ‘working life initiative’ The 21 schools’ delivering forestry VET to the timber producing regions of Finland operate within this recently revised VET system. The Finnish National Agency for Education are responsible for Forestry National Vocational Qualification requirements, but permit local variation to meet employer needs, as required by the working life initiative philosophy. The ‘working life initiative’ embeds the following principles:

  • National Qualifications:

National qualification requirements are drawn up in co-operation with employers' organisations, trade unions, the trade union of education and student unions. National Education and Training Committees, local bodies as well as other representatives of working life can take part in curriculum development as advisers and consultants

  • Local implementation:

Preparation of a VET provider's locally approved implementation plan addresses the national vocational qualification requirements but allows flexibility to suit the local context and business needs.

  • Personal study plans:

The students' personal study plans offer a range of learning environments and work-related projects. Learning in the work place is a central part of vocational education and training. The learner can acquire up to 180 ‘competences points’ of the qualification in the work place, which represents an entire qualification. Working life is increasingly available to schools through the project assignments that can be offered to students.

  • Unitised VET delivery:

Individual units are assessed separately, and the assessment takes place through skills demonstration in real work situations. Learning outcomes are assessed with reference to the standards prescribed within the national qualification requirements. The assessment scale for learning outcomes is issued by Government decree and there is no separate grade for theory and practice. Teachers and employers carry out the assessment but take account of the learner’s self-assessment as a part of the process. There is no final examination at the end of the period of study.

Sedu - Forestry and Forest Machine Operation

Overview of the industry

In Finland, 30-40% of the forests are owned by the government and the remainder by the private sector. Government forests are located in the middle and the north of Finland, whereas the privately-owned forests are polarised in the south. The industry is highly advanced, and whilst basis skills including the use of chainsaws and hand-tools remain relevant, most commercial forestry operations depend on the deployment of highly advanced specialist harvesting and forwarder machines to cut, collect and transport the timber. Forestry management and harvest planning systems deploy GPS technology and high standards of health and safety and environmental protection must always be maintained. In Finland there is a strong demand for skilled operators who have completed a high-quality VET programme, within this technologically sophisticated sector of the land-based economy. Therefore, reliable occupational standards and the working relationship between the forestry industry and their VET sector are paramount.

VET provider: Sedu, Ähtäri Tuomarniemi

Sedu, Seinäjoki Joint Municipal Authority for Education, educates and trains competent professionals with special emphasis on entrepreneurship, digital and international competences. A wide-ranging education offer consists of 41 vocational upper secondary qualifications as well as a large variety of further vocational, and specialist vocational qualifications. In addition, Sedu runs a preparatory instruction, and guidance programme for vocational education and training. Qualifications follow national qualification requirements prepared by Finnish National Agency for Education in cooperation with education providers and working life. Furthermore, Sedu offers a wide selection of short-term training programmes and tailor-made in-house training for different clientele.

The creation of open and flexible learning environments and individual study paths are essential to student motivation and successful learning. A wide range of international study opportunities are provided for students and international personal development opportunities for members of staff. As an acknowledgement of excellence, Sedu recently won a national quality award from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

The school has 850 hectares of multi-generational forest which provides an excellent learning environment. Learners have access to the latest forestry machinery and equipment, including forest machine simulators to support machine operator training within their Forestry and Forest Machine Operation VET programmes. On completion, graduates are employed in forestry, which includes arboriculture and silviculture, or Forest Machine Operation, which includes harvesting and timber extraction. The learners can have ready access to work placement and skills demonstration to help them to learn and develop through hands on experience, guided by their individual learning plan.

Good practice recognised

1. Employer representation (national and regional)

Industry is involved in the establishment of national occupational standards through the involvement of representatives in Finnish National Agency for Education responsible for the development of occupational standards in Forestry and Forest Machine operation. In addition, local regional boards provide the opportunity for Sedu to meet employers once or twice a year to agree the local level implementation plan for the National Qualification (NQ), encouraging customisation to suit local business needs.

2. Employer involvement in quality assured assessment

The assessment of Forest Machine Operator skills is comprehensive and democratic and engages employers in the quality assurance of assessment within a tripartite process that starts with learners’ self-evaluation of their work quality, followed by assessment and validation by their VET tutors and employers. Through their involvement, employers witness the occupational standards they have previously helped to develop, or have been developed on their behalf by representatives, being applied in practice. This unique insight can then help them to make well informed contributions within any review and revision of standards.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

Competences are tightly defined within the National Occupational Standards (NOS) development undertaken by a standards development committee under the auspices of the Finnish National Agency for Education. There is high level support and representation of forestry contractors within the process.

Sedu and their employers meet on a weekly basis and work closely together, involving employers in the VET delivery process, including a skills demonstration at the start of the VET programme to set a long-term target for learners to aspire to. During course delivery Sedu checks the quality of the students’ work and employers follow up independently. This provides a comprehensive, fair and reliable evaluation of the forestry machine operators’ development within a tripartite assessment system that starts with self-evaluation by the learner, followed by assessment by course tutors and validation by an employer. All three parties work closely together within a well-orchestrated team and learners quickly develop a high level of awareness of the standards required of them by their future employers.

Although there is a high degree of dependency by forestry contractors on Sedu as a provider of qualified operators, as some have up to 100 operators they need to undertake training for themselves. In addition, some employers have a policy of only employing experienced drivers and do not work so willingly with young students. They have started their own system for training which guarantees a 100% secure job, to compete more aggressively in the labour market. This labour market characteristic avoids placing too high a demand on Sedu, which could be an advantage at times.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

The Finnish National Agency for Education oversees forestry and forest machine operation standards. It has established a working group for the design of new standards and guidelines to the different levels.

In addition, the 21 schools delivering forestry VET are permitted to make local variations through a regional level working group that operates in parallel to the national committee in each region. There are also 5-10 University level courses in relevant applied sciences in the professional area. Forestry VET providers collaborate to provide benchmarking and standard setting events once or twice a year with industry and the output is disseminated to every Finnish school.

Opportunities to influence standards are provided to all employers, and large and small companies are both represented. All belong to a Union which holds its own independent meetings and are represented on the National Board. However, as is often the case, in practice the larger organisations can have a greater influence.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

Forestry companies insist on employing qualified staff who as well as being competent machine operators, understand and comply with environmental protection and safety requirements contained within the national qualifications (NQs). Legally, machine operators need to comply with these standards other than when private companies are working on their own property. The NQs are underpinned by national standards and due to the close working relationship employers have with VET providers at local level and their involvement in practical demonstration and assessment activities, company standard operating procedures (SOPs) are influential.

Young students are expected to be good enough to cover the cost of running the machine during their training period. When contractors take on a graduate as an employee on completion they are expected to be profitable operators. At this stage, the contract moves from one held between the school and the contractor, to a contract of employment between the contractor and the graduate.

In addition, Sedu are involved in meetings with other VET providers for forestry in Europe to compare VET systems and standards, assisting a move towards recognition. Attempts have been made to standardise between Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Scotland, and this work is ongoing.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

CPD is provided to industry by Sedu for staff updating purposes and takes account of the qualifications of mature entrants who have not progressed via the conventional school pathway, within a sophisticated recognition of prior learning (RPL) process.

Because of the regular benchmarking and standard setting meetings at regional level and the close working relationship with employers throughout delivery and the freedom for variation at local level within NQ implementation plans, Sedu , and other Finnish forestry VET providers can be responsive to employer needs. They are not at the mercy of lengthy time delays due to long standards review cycles that commonly plague other VET systems.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

The recent 2018 reforms within the Finnish VET system have been most advantageous and suit the Sedu philosophy of flexible learning and the creation of individualised learning plans. Employers are involved in standards setting nationally and standards review and VET delivery and assessment, regionally. This fosters the development of a mutually beneficial symbiotic working relationship between industry and the 21 forestry VET providers nationally, including Sedu.

The replication of this good practice example involving three actors equally, the VET regulators, industry/employers and VET providers, requires a conducive national VET policy framework. Once in place, it is then possible for the employers and VET provider to jointly invest and share the risks and rewards within a strong and sustainable formal partnership. Local level working relationships can be constantly bolstered through informal weekly meetings and collaborative VET delivery, which is well supported by the VET regulators.

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France

VET provision in France

The French VET system is mature and offers education and training at upper secondary, post-secondary and higher education levels within a variety of sectors. VET qualifications are designed to provide direct access to employment, and the training programmes always include in-company internships. Apprenticeships are also available and lead to national certifications developed by professional branches as well as national qualifications.

Social partners play an essential role in regulatory, political and financial aspects of lifelong learning programmes. The inter-professional agreements they sign are the basis for the introduction of reforms and are generally reflected in legislative and regulatory documents. Social partners also manage the different bodies that collect compulsory company contributions to apprenticeship and vocational training, as well as the unemployment insurance system for job-seekers.

The education and training system is due to be modernised according to a recently announced reform and the Business Campus concept is likely to be expanded in volume in the coming years.

Business Campuses

Business Campuses (les campus des métiers) comprise a range of education and training providers in a region, which offer both initial work-based qualifications and continuing professional development opportunities. This system was established with the intention to serve local employer, economic and social needs with specific focus on key industry sectors in certain regions. The number of Business Campuses is rising each year and will become even more important as part of the implementation of the upcoming reform of the French VET system.

Business Campuses focus on providing education and training in key sectors in the regions in which they are located. Information contributing to this case study was gathered from the French ReferNet agency and a Business Campus specialising in aeronautical engineering and maintenance, but the principles of Business Campuses applies to a range of sectors that are considered important to the economy and development of French regions.

Good practice recognised

1. Bringing VET and businesses together

Business Campuses concentrate on a specific economic sector or professional branch that is important to its region. The Business Campus model was established to enable stakeholders, such as companies, social partners, public authorities, etc. to work collaboratively and bring different types of education and training organisations, such as schools, apprentice training centres and continuing training organisations, together in one place. This system makes it possible to quickly react to the skills needs of local and regional companies or an economic sector.

2. Labour market information communicated directly from employers to VET providers

IVET qualifications managed by the French Ministry of National Education are defined and updated on a national basis; however, the business members of Business Campuses are able to report industry skills gaps and specific company requirements for training to VET providers within the Business Campus framework.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

Business Campuses are established in certain regions of France. They concentrate on a specific economic sector or professional branch that is important to the region. Stakeholders, including companies, social partners, public authorities, etc. work collaboratively to bring different types of education and training organisations, such as schools, apprentice training centres and continuing training organisations, together in one place. This system makes it possible to quickly react to the skills needs of local and regional companies or an economic sector.

Business Campuses are established by formal agreement, and the regions and the State are involved in the labelling  process and in funding. To obtain the Business Campus label, training provision must be consistent with economic and social development needs, and a partnership between the VET providers and the local business fabric and research centres must exist. Programmes have to be diverse in terms of learning types and channels, status of learners and training pathways, be innovative and include sustainable development factors in addition to having a European or international dimension.

Business Campuses include both initial VET (IVET) and continuing VET (CVET) institutions, which makes the system responsive to both train young people looking for their first job as well as to upskill and retrain workers as needed. Business Campuses offer a range of vocational, technological and general curricula at secondary and higher education level in a high-rated sector of activity corresponding to a national or regional economic priority, including aeronautics, construction and public works, new energy, digital, metals, etc.

The French education system is; however, primarily based on the acquisition of "generalist" certifications. Therefore an initial period of training in work or theoretical training (even though short) must normally be completed in advance of starting work. However, on the other hand, a compulsory financing system is set up so that companies can finance training for adults. Companies furthermore have an obligation to train their employees as soon as skills needs arise in relation to an employee’s job. Thus an employer can not dismiss an employee for incompetence if the company has not previously offered the employee training.

The first criterion of recruitment in France is to possess a national qualification or certification. The apprenticeship training system and the continuing education system also rely on the acquisition of a certification that is very often a national education certification and sometimes a certification created by a professional branch (CQP). Graduates from Business Campuses will gain the same national qualifications as other graduates, but provision can be more closely matched to local employer needs as explained in the sections below.

Industry professionals, inside and outside of the Business Campus structure, participate as members of the jury that assess learners’ performance during and at the end of a VET programme. Industry professionals also participate in the selection of applicants for apprenticeships, as they are responsible for recruiting them.

Business Campuses operate within the framework of competitiveness hubs (pôles de compétitivité), which are designed to develop networks of companies and research and education bodies, supported by regional authorities. The innovation and research work of these hubs are contributing towards the development of up-to-date study programmes that are suitable to students’ needs, and are also enhancing the transfer and progression possibilities within their region.

In terms of quality assurance, one person is dedicated to global quality management within the Business Campus that specialise in aeronautical engineering and maintenance, Aerocampus Aquitaine, but his activity is not directly linked to the label “Business Campus”.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

Labour market forecasting and development of occupational standards occur at various levels in France. Prospective observatories of trades and qualification – (observatoires prospectifs des métiers et qualification – OPMQ) in professional branches or groups of branches decide by collective agreement to set up an Observatory to assist companies in defining their training policies and employees in developing their professional projects. The OPMQs normally consist of social partners, not employers directly; however, the Aerocampus Aquitaine, participate actively in one Observatory.

Employer representation within Business Campuses varies depending on the region, but should include businesses and employer organisations that represent the main sector(s) in the region. Both the main, large employers in the aerospace industry as well as smaller, local companies are represented within the Aerocampus Aquitaine. The Aerocampus, which is run by an association, has a Steering committee that also includes the participation of a trade union representative for the employees of the companies involved in this Business campus.

IVET qualifications managed by the French Ministry of National Education are defined and updated on a national basis; however, at regional level, information about changes in skills demand is quickly communicated to the VET providers from participating businesses within the Business Campus structure. Certain content of VET programmes may be immediately changed accordingly without the input and approval of national authorities.

While the needs for complementary skills are only reported by one business, Aerocampus may develop one ad hoc complementary training module. If the same skills needs are identified in several companies, they can be discussed through the Observatory or Steering committee. If there is a shared acknowledgement about a gap, Aerocampus may report it to the Ministry of National Education. The process of renewing occupational standards involves sectoral representatives of businesses on national level Professional Consultative Committees (commissions professionnelles consultatives - CPC). CPCs are made up of representatives of employers, employees, the government and qualified individuals, and are divided into major fields. In field of aeronautics, Aerocampus can suggest the participation of business representatives who are members of their Business Campus. The CPCs formulate opinions on the creation, updating or the phasing out of professional diplomas. The social partners can present their employment needs, and subsequently their skills and training needs, and thus influence the design or updates of initial training standards.

If a need for skills is detected (ie: 200 persons to be qualified within the next 2 years for employment in the field of aircraft maintenance), the VET provision at a Business Campus can furthermore be adapted (ie: opening of new apprenticeship classes) and the recruitment of candidates organised with the involvement of local partners dedicated to the assistance of jobseekers. In this case, the course content may also be discussed with the employer.

Regional Observatories for Employment Training (OREF) also operate in many regions of France and are responsible for setting up and managing a database dedicated to employment-training relations, enabling the production of statistical data on employment and training as well as creating and updating dashboards on employment and training in order to develop territorial and sectoral studies, particularly with an aim to identify future trends. The studies and information disseminated are intended to inform decision-making on the evolution of training provision and to provide contextual information for vocational training and guidance issues.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

Social partners represent employers in the process of defining occupational standards and are involved in VET design in France through a national interprofessional agreement where training schemes for employees and jobseekers are created. The outcomes of this agreement are passed to the government, to make them obligatory by law for any French business.

Professional advisory boards furthermore formulate opinions on the creation, updating or the phasing out of professional diplomas. The social partners can present employment needs, and their needs for skills and training, and thus influence the design or updates of training standards.

Social partners can also create their own certifications to meet a specific need in employment or skills: professional qualification certificates (les certificats de qualification professionnelle CQP). It is very often professional branches that create these CQPs, even though these certifications sometimes relate to the acquisition of transversal skills. Several professions require a certification to gain employment - often a national education certification and sometimes a certification created by a professional branch (CQP). The apprenticeship training system and the continuing education system also rely on the acquisition of a certification. These qualifications are underpinned by national standards.

Employers are in frequent contact with education and training providers within the Business Campus structure and contribute to the review of the content and validity of VET by reporting on skills gaps and changes in technology and working methods. The fact that employers are so closely linked to VET providers within this structure raises the qualifications’ value in the local labour market and employers’ awareness of the national qualifications, which may include added content tailored to meet demands in the regional economy.

Business Campuses and the sectors involved in the competitiveness hubs bring employers, research organisations and education and training providers together to develop education and training that meet sector needs. Sector needs may be national and regional, so may not always meet the definition of national occupational standards (NOS), although Business Campus graduates qualify with national qualifications.

In the case of Business Campuses, occupational standards appear to be mostly focused on meeting regional and national demand; however, in the calls for Business Campus projects, there is a preference for applications with a European or international dimension, with an emphasis on innovation and the inclusion of sustainable development issues.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The French regions which have competence in the implementation of vocational training all have an observatory comprising social partners. The Regional Observatory for Employment Training (OREF) is responsible, on behalf of the State and the Regions, for setting up and managing a database dedicated to employment-training relations, enabling the production of statistical data on employment and training as well as creating and updating dashboards on employment and training in order to develop territorial and sectoral studies, particularly with an aim to identify future trends. The studies and information disseminated are intended to inform decision-making on the evolution of training provision and to provide contextual information for vocational training and guidance issues. Some Regions have created tools to make the information available to businesses and individuals.

Vocational training programmes are related to certifications. It is the national education authorities which, through the establishment of professional advisory committees that consults the relevant industry stakeholders concerned to change training programmes. For short professional courses, it is the training organisations that update their own certificates. The social partners can present employment needs, and therefore their skills and training, and thus influence the design or updates of initial training standards.

Employers within the Business Campuses ensure VET providers they collaborate with have knowledge and access to the technology used within the industry. Parts of VET programme content may be amended quickly without the approval of national authorities; bigger changes to study programmes and occupational standards are dealt with by official national processes.

A business campus is set up around a specific business sector. The links with local economy enable then to focus precisely on the needs of the companies included in the campus project. The Business Campus partnerships develop education and training programmes with a regional focus, but graduates are issued the same national qualifications and certificates as students from other providers. When skills needs are identified by employers within the Business Campus structure, it is possible for a VET provider to add or amend a module of a VET programme. More fundamental changes to VET programmes and national occupational standards are actioned after a process involving national authorities and other stakeholders.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

The direct involvement of companies in sharing labour market information and their specific requests for education and training with a local or regional VET provider can be encouraged by inserting flexibility into the process of changing small parts of VET programmes based on regional economic and company needs. The regional changes in VET programmes must be small enough for the students to still be awarded national qualifications, but large enough to quickly fill local and regional skills gaps. Involvement of key industry stakeholders is incentivised by focusing each Business Campus entirely on one industry sector, resulting in VET provision meeting specific company needs.

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Germany

VET provision in Germany

According to Cedefop’s ReferNet Network vocational education and training (VET) in Germany is based on cooperation between government authorities, companies and social partners. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is responsible for general VET policy issues and has a coordinating and steering role for all training occupations in cooperation with the respective ministries.

The apprenticeship programme (dual system) at upper secondary level (EQF level 4) is the main pillar of German VET. Training usually lasts three years and combines the two learning venues, companies and vocational schools with the work-based learning share being approximately 70%.

Parallel to the apprenticeships, there are school-based VET programmes at upper secondary level (EQF level 2 to 4) which differ in terms of access, length, types and levels of qualifications they lead to. These include programmes at full-time vocational schools and general upper secondary programmes with a vocational component, which usually lead to the general higher education entrance qualification. At post-secondary level, specialised programmes build upon the intermediate school-leaving certificate or initial VET and impart deeper occupational knowledge. The duration of these programmes range from one to three years.

Upper secondary VET qualifies students for entrance to universities of applied sciences. Vocationally qualified applicants without a school-based higher education entrance qualification can access advanced vocational training (AVT). AVT is at the heart of the VET system. It confers the right to exercise a trade independently, to hire and train apprentices and to enter university education in addition to facilitating the acquisition of middle management qualifications in companies.

Germany’s VET is seen as a successful model, largely based on the dual system and especially thanks to the successful apprenticeship leading to high-quality vocational qualifications.

The dual system of VET in Germany

Industry sectors

Germany is one of the European countries in which learning on the job is a traditional component of the education system. The vocational education and training system in Germany is not only guided by the requirements of the labour market, but also by the need for individuals to acquire skills, knowledge and competences that enable them successfully to prove themselves in the labour market. Therefore the dual system covers every sector and provides broad basic vocational training and imparts occupational competences in around 300 recognised training occupations. According to a data report from Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB, 2014) the sectors with the highest number of trainees in 2012 was ‘Industry and commerce’; the second largest is the crafts sector. The liberal professions had the third highest amount of trainees.

Good practice recognised

1. Federal Act specifying the roles of stakeholders in the dual VET system

In the area of VET in Germany, the Vocational Education and Training Act (BBiG) is of crucial importance. The Law of 1 April 2005 comprehensively amended and combined the 1969 Vocational Education and Training Act and the 1981 Aid for Vocational Trainees Act. The aim of the reform was to safeguard and improve youth training opportunities and high quality vocational training for all young people, irrespective of their social or regional origin. This Act leads to a specific distribution of responsibilities between the VET sector and the Federal Government and the employers.

2. Partnership between employers and unions

The various Chambers are responsible for advising companies, registering trainees, certifying trainers’ specialist aptitude, accepting examinations and conducting social dialogue at regional level. The partnership between employers and unions manifests itself at federal level through cooperation in the main committee of BIBB, at State level in the competent ministry’s VET committee, and at regional level in the Chambers’ VET committees and examination committees. The VET committees are responsible for important tasks in the implementation and supervision of pre-vocational training. The BIBB develops the training directives and also carries out research projects therefore helping the development of in-company VET.

3. Structure facilitating effective stakeholder collaboration

In Germany there is a system of recognised training occupations or vocational education and training (VET) standards. Employers and trade unions jointly formulate the employment requirements for each standard. In the practice of vocational training, all cooperation is based on consensus; no regulations concerning initial or further vocational training may be issued against the declared will of either of the social partners. Thus, initiatives for vocational educational reforms either stem from the social partners or have to meet with their acceptance.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

VET in Germany is based on cooperation between state, private sector and social partners. The Federal Ministry of Education (BMBF) is responsible for general policy issues of VET and coordinates and steers VET policy for all training occupations in cooperation with the respective ministries. The Ministry also works closely together with the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) who conducts research, advises the Federal Government and vocational training providers. The Länder (federal states) have committees for vocational training with employer and employee representatives and are responsible for school education. The Ministries of Education for individual federal states cooperate in a Standing Conference (KMK) to ensure a certain degree of uniformity and comparability. KMK recommendations only become legally binding when passed by individual federal states’ parliaments.

Furthermore the organisation of dual training requires a complex but clear division of responsibilities. Employers and unions play a central role in initiatives for change because the structure of vocational training must meet the demands of industry. If there is a need for changes – in the qualification requirements, for example – the Federal Government, the Länder, the industry and the trade unions agree on the basic principles for adaptation. Then the work on the training regulations and framework curricula is continued and constantly coordinated by the individual partners involved. Without the involvement of the Federal government, the social partners furthermore agree on details of vocational training. As self-governing bodies of industry, the chambers have been assigned public tasks in dual training (competent bodies). These include counselling and monitoring functions with regard to the individual training contracts. Training advisers of the chambers verify the aptitude of companies and instructors for providing these functions.

Effectiveness and weaknesses of the dual VET system in Germany

The dual system links theory and practice in a variety of ways and thereby ensures a good combination in the imparting of occupational skills and key qualifications. The objective of training is the acquisition of professional action competence. It allows for fast implementation of new skills requirements into the training processes. The reason for that is the fact that employers' representatives and trade unions are involved in the process of developing training regulations (TRs). The renewal of existing TRs and the development of new TRs are usually initiated by the social partners. After completion of training, the companies therefore can take on a qualified skilled worker who can be integrated into the company processes immediately. This makes the transition from training to regular employment easier, on the one hand, by letting the trainees acquire practical experience in their occupation and allowing them to become familiar with the world of work and, on the other hand, by providing the companies with sound knowledge about the skills of the trainees.

However, this transition can turn out to be difficult for some young people. The prerequisite for training in the dual system is a contract with a training enterprise. The supply of training places and the demand together form the so-called ‘training place market’. Like other markets, such as the labour market, the training place market is characterised by competition. For example, the companies compete in their search for the best and most fitting apprentices. On the other hand, there is also competition between the training place seekers. The companies select those applicants who best meet their expectations. This can sometimes make the transition into training complicated for young people with poor grades or without any school-leaving certificate. For this reason, state-funded support and transitional measures are offered for these people.

The training contract between the company and the trainee defines their respective rights and obligations, thereby providing a way of assuring the quality of training. The training pay gives the trainees an additional incentive to be committed and actively involved both at vocational school and in the enterprise. Another internal quality assurance tool is the report books kept by the trainees and signed by the trainers at regular intervals. These report books contain descriptions of the work performed in the company and the vocational school. Finally, prizes and awards identify "best practice" examples and innovative models of vocational education and training and concurrently help in assuring and improving quality.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

In the dual system, the vocational school is an autonomous place of learning. Its task is to provide basic and specialised vocational training and to extend previously acquired general education. Vocational schools must provide at least 12 hours’ teaching a week, normally eight hours devoted to vocational subjects and four hours to general subjects such as German language, social studies/business studies, religious education and sport. Appropriate account is also to be taken of foreign language teaching, depending on its importance to the training occupation concerned.

Vocational schools decide on how to allocate teaching in consultation with training enterprises, the schools inspectorate and the competent industrial bodies. The aim of the various organisational forms is to ensure that trainees spend as much time in the enterprise as possible while, at the same time, allocating teaching in a way that is tenable in terms of both pedagogics and the psychology of learning.

With the development of vocational academies, since the mid-1970s more and more dual study programmes have been offered. They represent a combination of in-company vocational training with a course of study at a VET academy.

Enterprises obtain highly qualified and motivated young workers, and institutions of higher education benefit both in terms of content and, often, financially from the extensive contact with the world of work. On the other hand, students obtain high-quality training that improves their labour market and career prospects and benefits them both financially and in terms of time.

With dual study programmes the practical training can be regulated with a student-employee contract or an unpaid-trainee contract. They are characterised by close dovetailing of the content of vocational activity in the training enterprise and the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in the institution of higher education/academy and involve close coordination of and cooperation between institution of higher education/academy and enterprise.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

Vocational training in Germany is guided not only by the need for individuals to acquire skills, knowledge and competences that enable them successfully to prove themselves on the labour market, but also by the requirements of the labour market. Training programmes are designed on the principle that they should be as broad as possible and as specific as necessary. Another focal point of the guidance provided by the employment agencies is information on labour market and employment prospects following higher education. In order to provide guidance for students and those obtaining higher education qualifications and to help them to find work, the Federal Agency for Employment (BA) supports education teams on the sites of larger institutions of higher education. These teams offer seminars, workshops and presentations on many subjects associated with higher education, careers and the labour market – often in cooperation with the institutions’ own course guidance services.

Since September 2006 there has been another option that will be helpful when it comes to labour market changes. University degrees has launched two courses of study leading to a Bachelor’s degree open to staff working in the employment agencies or in the BA itself. The ‘Labour market management’ and ‘employment-oriented guidance and case management’ courses are available at the higher education institution of the BA, a state-recognised university of applied sciences for labour market management.

The ‘labour market management’ course qualifies participants for the tasks of mediation and integration, service provision and resource management in the employment agencies. The ‘employment-oriented guidance and case management’ course qualifies participants to perform vocational and careers guidance tasks and the tasks involved in employment-oriented case management.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

In Germany a great deal of importance is added to the cooperation of different VET policies in the European Union. An example for that can be the 2002 work programme of EU Ministers for Education. The cooperation at a European level with regard to the determination of objectives has been agreed on in the work programme for general and vocational education systems in Europe. The programme is currently being implemented in ten thematic working groups and in peer learning groups on selected topics. Germany is involved in almost all the peer learning groups.

The dual system of VET is being exported to other countries across Europe with help from partners in Germany, Austria and Switzerland who all successfully run dual system programmes in a variety of sectors. The Bulgarian case studies about the Branch Chamber of Machine Building and the Professional School for Mechanics and Electricians, featured in the ED2-VET portfolio, both describe a pilot project that experiments with dual system education and training in Bulgaria.

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Greece

VET provision in Greece

Human resource training in Greece includes Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes that are funded both by the private and by the public sector, through tax collected from companies for this specific reason. Private training providers may provide continuous (cVET) or initial VET (iVET) as well as programmes for adult education. Most of the providers are working with soft skills and provide training across a range of sectors.

The National Strategic Framework for the upgrade of VET and Apprenticeships sets out a plan of gradual reforms of the Greek VET system, which amongst a range of measures include to upgrade and expand apprenticeships and to strengthen the linkage between VET and the labour market.

The National Strategic Framework also introduces a new governance structure for VET (including apprenticeships), that is based on reinforced collaboration between stakeholders. A National Committee, comprising General Secretaries of key Ministries, is foreseen to assist decisions of Ministries of Education and Labour that retain overall responsibility over VET. A Technical Committee, comprising Directors and Heads of Units of Ministries and key institutions will assist the National Committee, through dealing with operational aspects and involving social partners and chambers in selected topics (working groups). Regional VET Committees are in the process of being established.

The design of the Greek National Framework for Quality Assurance in Lifelong Learning (p3) and the development of the NQF for lifelong learning (Hellenic qualifications framework (HQF)) is in line with the Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council (2009 / C 155/01 of 18 June), aiming at a coherent and comprehensive system of qualifications from all parts and levels of education and training

iVET Programme for Cooks/Chefs

Higher iVET is post-secondary and higher VET education. In Greece IVET is not very popular as most eligible students prefer to access University education to receive an EQF level 6 degree. However, there are some occupations that receive higher appreciation and attendance when it comes to iVET, most of which are connected to the tourism and hospitality industry.

Organisation

DIMITRA Education and Consulting is a training centre offering both initial and continuing VET courses as well as consulting services. It has extensive experience and unique competences in producing innovative and participative tools and methodologies for human resource development to meet the demands of the constantly changing world of work. DIMITRA’s activities and international collaborations align with Greek national aims, such as; training, consulting and research, innovation transfer and the development of social inclusion. DIMITRA has a mature and effective national network, cooperating with employer’s associations, the chamber of commerce, the financial chamber, technical chamber and employees’ and workers’ unions in several industries to keep up with the current employment and VET trends.

Good Practice Recognised

1. Employer input to programme design

DIMITRA has developed additional professional workshops on new techniques within the chef/cook profession. The trainees are obligated to participate in those seminars to complete their training, obtain their degree and participate in the national exams for the validation of their qualifications. The design of the training workshops, that are part of the iVET programme, are the result of close cooperation between DIMITRA and industry. This takes place during the design of the curriculum outline for the iVET programme reflecting the occupational profile that has been designed by the National Organisation for the Certification of Qualifications & Vocational Guidance (EOPPEP). Other organisations have cooperated, including the Panhellenic Federation of catering and Tourist industry employees and the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) who made major contributions to the development of the occupational profile and curriculum outline.

Updating the overarching curriculum is time consuming as many parties are involved, and the bureaucratic procedures are complicated. Therefore, this initiative provides a solution for employers with prospective employees who need training in current techniques and updated competences, urgently.

Furthermore, a mentor/coach is appointed for the duration of the apprenticeship period which each trainee needs to complete. The coach/mentor guides the apprentice towards methods and practices applied by the employer that are current within the labour market, thereby assisting their longer-term career prospects. This process allows the employer to influence the training course and positively impact on the trainees themselves.

2. Cooperation between VET and the employers.

DIMITRA cooperates with employers and professionals to carefully select trainers and learning materials to be used during the training of apprentices.

The cooperation is evident at 4 levels.

  1. The trainers selected are established professionals themselves and include owners and managers of successful tourism and hospitality business. Therefore, they are very aware of what the current industry looks for in a cook/chef that determines their success
  2. Meetings are held with employers’ representatives from the hospitality and tourism industry, hoteliers’ associations and employees’ unions to determine the learning materials appropriate for training cooks to produce contemporary cuisine.
  3. Apprenticeship delivery is monitored, and employer feedback received on trainee performance and development and the learning materials needed to support the next training season, selected.
  4. Regular engagement and cooperation with employers before, during and after the apprenticeship course is used to positively influence the opportunities employers provide their trainees.

3. Quality assurance of assessment

In Greece the iVET schools are accredited by EOPPEP and are ISO 9001 certified. DIMITRA has followed EQAVET instructions to develop effective VET Quality Assurance driven by the implementation of a ‘PDSA quality cycle’. Everything starts with the ‘planning’, continues with ‘doing’, followed by ‘studying’ and checking what you did and culminating with ‘acting’ upon what you have discovered during checking. Therefore, regular evaluation has been embedded in the programme and takes place at the end of each semester, undertaken by the trainers and trainees, and continues during the apprenticeship phase by involving the employers. Once the feedback has been gathered and analysed, learning materials and delivery are revised accordingly. In addition, all the trainers that are part of the iVET programme are certified Adult Trainers by EOPPEP and they are very well trained and experienced.

Detailed findings

1. The occupation

The occupation of chef is part of the tourism and hospitality sector and has become popular recently in Greece. However, the curriculum outline, which is provided to the iVET centres by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs via the General Secretariat of Lifelong Learning ,  takes some time to update. An outline of the curriculum is provided, and each iVET provider designs, develops and revises the learning materials used for teaching specific parts of the curriculum. This is also the case with the apprenticeship. For example, the cooks must learn how to decorate pastries, but the techniques taught are determined by the iVET provider. Alternatively the provider can offer an apprenticeship so that the trainees develop the skills through work-based learning. To these ends, DIMITRA cooperates with more than 400 organisations operating in the tourism and hospitality industry, the cruise sector, cooks’ associations, and recognised professionals and employees’ unions.

2. The training – Theory and Practice

There is strong competition between providers of iVET training, especially within popular occupations such as cook/chef. Consequently, DIMITRA is cooperating closely with employers to verify their training programme is at the ‘cutting edge’ of the profession. The restrictive curriculum authorised by the Ministry of Education is implemented, but enhanced through up to date learning materials, the training methods and very well-informed trainers. The current skills that the employers search for in a cook/chef are all provided within a well-researched training course.

The training is divided into theory, practice and apprenticeship. The curriculum specifies the hours to be spent on theory and practice, however, the iVET provider and the trainers are responsible for the learning material used during the classes and practical training sessions. DIMITRA utilises its stakeholder network to organise regular meetings to discuss the techniques to be taught, so that trainees are kept up to date with the current industry needs. The provider does not have a great input to the theory, besides collaborating with the trainers and stakeholders to find the best possible content. However, through the practical training they can introduce more innovative techniques. Furthermore, through the collaboration with the employers and the industry DIMITRA has made an addition to the course and introduced the “Workshops”, which has been recognised and accepted by the Ministry.

The workshops.

The workshops are the result of the close cooperation between DIMITRA and industry. Some new trends and innovative techniques in the food industry were discovered that were not in the Ministry approved curriculum, due to its general ‘unresponsiveness’, and were introduced by DIMITRA through specialist workshops. The workshops were designed in close cooperation with employers and professionals. DIMITRA meets with representatives of the industry, which includes restaurant owners, chefs and hotel managers and owners, to determine the skills and competences most needed in the industry and include them in the workshops. Each of the trainees must complete a specified number of workshops to graduate. The workshops are designed and agreed at the start of each semester, according to industry trends, and the cooks’ associations’ proposals. The selected workshop trainers are reputable professionals. The assessment is undertaken by the workshop trainers, based on the participants’ products. At the end of each workshop a self-assessment and an evaluation by attendees take place, the results of which are used to inform improvements in future training.

The Apprenticeships

All the trainees following the iVET programme to become cooks/chefs complete an apprenticeship period, during which they have the chance to apply their knowledge as well as experiencing the actual job on a day to day basis. All the apprentices are assigned a responsible person / mentor who is a professional from the organisation where they have been placed. Each one of those mentors will guide the apprentice through the learning process and evaluate their progress. All the apprentices have a portfolio to record their daily progress, new knowledge acquired, barriers that they may face and any other information that could be useful for their learning development. At the same portfolio, the responsible person will report the apprentice evaluation at the end of each week. The goal is to see the systematic progress of the trainee. At the end of the apprenticeship, the organisation will provide a final evaluation of the employee along with proposals for an improved iVET programme. DIMITRA utilises this to select and revise training material for the following year.

Objectives of the training course

The objective of the training course is to produce competent cooks that are well informed, with the skills and knowledge employers in the tourism and hospitality industry are looking for. However, through the training the learners must also develop soft skills critical to working in the tourism and hospitality industry such as social and civic competences, cultural awareness, initiative and effective communication.

3. Impact and effectiveness of the cooperation between employers and VET providers.

Since the overarching curriculum is not regularly updated, the sourcing and revision of learning materials, the various delivery techniques and the introduced specialist workshops are very important. In addition, the networking with the tourism industry leads to employment of the graduates. Overall DIMITRA is cooperating with more than 400 organisations in the tourism and hospitality Industry. Their network includes large hotel firms, hoteliers associations, cruise companies, several hospitality business and unions of employees employed in the industry. Furthermore the graduates of the cooks/chefs programme are experiencing a 100 % employment rate, which is the most important success factor, especially in Greece with an overall unemployment rate of 20.5 %.

Responsiveness of the programme to labour market changes

The training materials are reviewed and revised, when necessary, prior to each semester, according to the feedback received from the stakeholders (industry, professionals and employees). The overarching curriculum is not regularly revised by the Ministry, however, the iVET provider can design and select training materials, and make changes from semester to semester, when necessary. Furthermore, the workshops are being designed and implemented sporadically during the year. If the need is salient, a workshop can be designed and implemented within less than 2 months’, given that the appropriate trainers are available.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of a VET provider working in cooperation with representatives of the tourism and hospitality Industry to define and respond to industry demand, despite the restrictions and unresponsiveness within the national VET regulatory environment. Up to now, VET providers in Greece have had to work the best way possible within current constraints, whist awaiting reform.

Wherever VET providers can engage comprehensively and effectively with an industry sector to develop up to date learning materials, delivery methods (such as specialist workshops) and assessments, this good practice example can be replicated, with one proviso. The funding must be adequate to support the development, delivery and updating of a quality assured curriculum, whilst providing a worthwhile income to incentivise the VET provider.

Find out more

VET provision in Greece

Human resource training in Greece includes Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes that are funded both by the private and by the public sector, through tax collected from companies for this specific reason. Private training providers may provide continuous (cVET) or initial VET (iVET) as well as programmes for adult education. Most of the providers are working with soft skills and provide training across a range of sectors.

The National Strategic Framework for the upgrade of VET and Apprenticeships sets out a plan of gradual reforms of the Greek VET system, which amongst a range of measures include to upgrade and expand apprenticeships and to strengthen the linkage between VET and the labour market.

The National Strategic Framework also introduces a new governance structure for VET (including apprenticeships), that is based on reinforced collaboration between stakeholders. A National Committee, comprising General Secretaries of key Ministries, is foreseen to assist decisions of Ministries of Education and Labour that retain overall responsibility over VET. A Technical Committee, comprising Directors and Heads of Units of Ministries and key institutions will assist the National Committee, through dealing with operational aspects and involving social partners and chambers in selected topics (working groups). Regional VET Committees are in the process of being established.

The design of the Greek National Framework for Quality Assurance in Lifelong Learning (p3) and the development of the NQF for lifelong learning (Hellenic qualifications framework (HQF)) is in line with the Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council (2009 / C 155/01 of 18 June), aiming at a coherent and comprehensive system of qualifications from all parts and levels of education and training

Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

- A Continuous Vocational Education and Training (cVET) programme for developing and certifying European Reference Framework (ERF) Key Competence 7

Most of the VET curricula are made available to VET providers after being developed centrally by the General Secretariat for Education and Youth. However, there are some good VET practices that are developed by VET providers in cooperation with certification bodies and employers.

Institutions

DIMITRA Education and Consulting is a training centre offering both initial and continuing VET courses as well as consulting services. It has extensive experience and unique competences in producing innovative and participative tools and methodologies for human resource development to meet the demands of the constantly changing world of work. DIMITRA’s activities and international collaborations align with Greek national aims, such as; training, consulting and research, innovation transfer and the development of social inclusion. DIMITRA has a mature and effective national network, cooperating with employer’s associations, the chamber of commerce, the financial chamber, technical chamber and employees’ and workers’ unions in several industries to keep up with the current employment and VET trends.

I-Skills S.A. (Society Anonyme for the Certification of Skills) aims to provide a range of certification services in the field of education and vocational training. This includes the educational content of programmes, certification of the knowledge and dexterities of individuals and companies in Greece and neighbouring countries. Through its cooperation with several awarding bodies and other European and global education institutions, DIMITRA aims to develop certified educational content for vocational training programmes that support the recognition of knowledge and skills obtained through various education delivery models. ISKILLS, represent the field of continuous vocational training for both unemployed and employed individuals, within the framework of lifelong learning and skills. ISKILLS cooperates with employer associations and chambers to develop and validate certification schemes that meet labour market requirements.

Good Practice Recognised

1. Developing a training programme for the needs of trainees, trainers, employers and VET schools

The ‘Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship’ training programme and certification scheme is a product of cooperation between the VET provider DIMITRA, a certification body, employers, the Larissa and Magnesia chamber of commerce and their members, trade associations, cultural organisations and consultancy firms.

Prior to the training course and certification scheme being developed, DIMITRA conducted detailed and comprehensive market research to inform the development of the curriculum and various tools and resources needed to support the delivery of training and qualifications. This established the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed in the labour market. Focus groups with employer representatives at regional level, chambers of commerce, economy and technology and representatives from SMEs and larger companies were also arranged. The input from employers provided a local labour market perspective, leading to a precise definition of the learning outcomes employers needed their staff to achieve.

2. Employer feedback collected through the quality assurance and accreditation processes

The certification body that is responsible for the certification scheme is accredited by the national organisation “Hellenic Accreditation System”, appointed as the single Greek accreditation body according to the requirements of Article 4 of the Regulation (EC) No 765/2008. The detailed content of the certification scheme has been developed according to the standards of ISO 17024:2009, ensuring that the needs of employers, chambers and unions have been recognised and addressed through the proposed scheme and syllabi. Furthermore, the training programme follows the PDSA Quality cycle and EQAVET instructions. Therefore, after the training programme is developed the outcomes are monitored and evaluated to act upon feedback and revise when needed.

Detailed findings

The training curriculum, tools and the certification scheme

This ‘Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship’ Vocational Education and Training project was first developed by DIMITRA in 2013, as a part of the LLP project CERF. Since then, it has been further developed and revised, providing certification to more than 1500 trainees. The programme has provided:

  1. Curriculum
  2. Training tools
  3. Methodology
  4. Syllabus
  5. Certification scheme

The European Commission rated the design methodology, implementation, and innovative vision of the action and the qualitative and quantitative results of its application highly. The project was selected as an example of excellence and a good practice project in the:

  • Best of ADAM - Innovative products for vocational education
  • Life Long Learning Programme, Greece – Cyprus
  • Cooperation with organisations and business operators.

The general aim of this training course is to develop the key competence "Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship" as described by the ERF. As mentioned by ERF entrepreneurship has an active and a passive component and deals with the propensity to bring about innovation as well as the ability to welcome innovation and change. To be able to achieve the above, specific knowledge, skills and attitudes must be developed.

This training module adopts a structured view of entrepreneurship that:

  1. Distinguishes between entrepreneurship in business vs entrepreneurship as defined by ERF
  2. Develops a model of the ERF 8 key competence to facilitate a structured and systematic method of development.

The above model provides a clearly defined and systematic approach to the development of the competence since it clarifies the thematic issues within the ERF key competence 7 with reference to the development of those skills needed by employers, namely:

  • Personal SWOT analysis, goal setting and motivation for success
  • Project management
  • Team building (being a team player)
  • Business ethics
  • Innovation and change

The training course deals with each of the issues above separately and their inter- relationship.

Impact and effectiveness of employer and VET provider coordination

The training programme and certification scheme is a product of cooperation between the VET provider DIMITRA, a certification body, employers, the chamber of Larissa and Magnesia and their members, trade associations, cultural organisations and consultancy firms.

For the training course to be developed, several focus groups were arranged with employers’ representatives at regional level involving the chambers (commerce, economic and technical) and representatives from SMEs and larger companies. This included one prior to project start up and one on completion. The focus groups with the employers provided input according to current market and employee needs. Meetings for quality assurance and updating purposes were not pre-determined and took place whenever they were needed.

DIMITRA conducted detailed and comprehensive market research to inform the development of the curriculum and various tools and resources needed to support the delivery of training and qualifications. This established the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed by the labour market. DIMITRA collaborated effectively with chambers, trade associations, consultants and several employers to create a training programme that was fit for purpose. The input from employers provides a local labour market perspective, leading to a precise definition of the learning outcomes employers need their staff to achieve. This results in a workforce trained to European Standards and in European Key competences as well as corresponding to the current needs of the local labour market.

The cooperation between VET providers and employers is the essential element of this training programme. The VET provider possesses great knowledge of the ERF and how competences relate to European citizens’ Life Long Learning and development. With the help of the employers the training is enriched with the current needs of the local market and the skills and competences that the employers need in their workforce.

The project received the Silver Award at the category “Cooperation with organisations and business operators” at the “Education Leaders Awards 2018”. For a good practice to be selected under this category it should have proven contribution to the needs of trainees and trainers and the needs of employers and the VET schools.

Impact and effectiveness of providing and designing a training programme that fits the current needs

DIMITRA in cooperation with employers and ISKILLS developed the training programme and certification scheme with the objective to take into account the definition of knowledge, skills and competences within the EQF. The experts defined competence as "a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge, skills and attitudes for achieving observable results". Consequently, the related descriptions embed and integrate knowledge, skills and attitudes. Influenced by input from the chambers, employers, trade associations and consultants, the learning objectives have been set, and periodically revised.

The main principle upon which the certification methodology is developed is that the certification process should be integrated into the learning process. The main certification methodologies used for the certification of skills, knowledge and competencies for Key Competence 7 “Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship” are:

  1. In Application Methodology: The most important advantage of this testing methodology is the fact it is designed to examine the application of knowledge rather than the recall of information. Moreover, it is acclaimed for its high validity and reliability in testing skills.
  2. The Paper and Pencil Methodology: the main techniques used are multiple-choice questions and problem-solving applications.

The main axes of the certification scheme involve:

  1. The development of a reliable and valid testing methodology
  2. Application of an acceptable supervising procedure
  3. Testing questions: the pool of the assessment questions developed cover the entire syllabus and all the training material. Moreover, the assessment questions guarantee the coverage of all types of the pre-defined knowledge, skills and attitudes described in the curriculum. The quantity and the wording of the assessment questions are taken into consideration, in the sense that the pool of the assessment questions should cover all the material described.

The training course had a pilot phase to allow VET providers, employers and their employees to check that the curriculum and training materials were in accordance with their needs and complied with certification scheme requirements.

Responsiveness of the programme to labour market changes

The certification process is reviewed and revised every year, and any necessary changes to the syllabi and training programme follow, after consulting with the employers involved in the project.

To realise the impact of the training course one should consider the key characteristics of Greece today both as a working as well as a living environment. The economic crisis has deeply influenced the country, the employees and employers and the entrepreneurial mind-set and initiative are very important in order to boost enterprises and the economic activity in the country. More specifically the employers have declared that the main outcomes that they expect from such training, with their input, would be:

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Development of Innovative products and services
  3. Development competitive advantage
  4. Employees that develop and express their ideas
  5. Better management and planning of activities.

Up until now, more than 1500 trainees have been certified. These trainees have been employed, or had experience by various sectors such as tourism and hospitality, agriculture, arts and handicrafts. Therefore, the course has helped employees to develop their skills and competences and employers to benefit from their employees’ new knowledge and its application to their mutual benefit.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is a good practice example of VET provider co-operation with employers and a certification body to design and provide programmes that support Vocational Education and Training (VET).

It may be replicated when there is a need for a high-quality certified training programme informed by employers and VET providers working co-operatively. From a VET provider perspective they can summon employers and run focus groups to design a programme that meets their current needs. From an employers’ perspective, their contact with VET providers and their wider experience and networks, help the design of programmes resulting in a better informed and more skilled workforce. Companies are then able to keep their employees updated regarding their current competence needs and can actively involve them in the design process.

For VET providers operating in a bureaucratic state system, this is a great way to develop certified programmes, without having to wait for the next state consultation, which may take more than five years and can lead to national qualifications remaining out of date for much of the time.

VET providers in other EU countries could keep their qualifications current if they were able to work in cooperation with the national accreditation body and regional or national employers’ organisations. Furthermore, as the existing certification scheme is developed according to the requirements of ISO standard 17024, it can be translated and adapted to some other national systems more readily, especially those that are already ISO compliant.

Find out more

VET provision in Greece

Human resource training in Greece includes Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes that are funded both by the private and by the public sector, through tax collected from companies for this specific reason. Private training providers may provide continuous (cVET) or initial VET (iVET) as well as programmes for adult education. Most of the providers are working with soft skills and provide training across a range of sectors.

The National Strategic Framework for the upgrade of VET and Apprenticeships sets out a plan of gradual reforms of the Greek VET system, which amongst a range of measures include to upgrade and expand apprenticeships and to strengthen the linkage between VET and the labour market.

The National Strategic Framework also introduces a new governance structure for VET (including apprenticeships), that is based on reinforced collaboration between stakeholders. A National Committee, comprising General Secretaries of key Ministries, is foreseen to assist decisions of Ministries of Education and Labour that retain overall responsibility over VET. A Technical Committee, comprising Directors and Heads of Units of Ministries and key institutions will assist the National Committee, through dealing with operational aspects and involving social partners and chambers in selected topics (working groups). Regional VET Committees are in the process of being established.

The design of the Greek National Framework for Quality Assurance in Lifelong Learning (p3) and the development of the NQF for lifelong learning (Hellenic qualifications framework (HQF)) is in line with the Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council (2009 / C 155/01 of 18 June), aiming at a coherent and comprehensive system of qualifications from all parts and levels of education and training.

LAEK – Vocational training for employees working in small and micro enterprises

Greece is a country with a high percentage of small and micro enterprises forming the basis of its economy. These companies do not have much opportunity to organise in house training and therefore need to cooperate with other small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and VET providers to train their employees successfully. The Greek Manpower Employment Agency (OAED) coordinates the process that allows their employees to be trained and equipped with the skills they need.

Institution

The OAED is a legal entity supervised by the Hellenic Ministry of Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare. It is directed by a Governor and Administrative Board. The Administrative Board’s composition is based on the principle of tripartite representation and participation and social partners, and includes; state bodies, employer and employee associations. OAED consists of its Central Administration, seven Regional Directorates, the network of local Public Employment Services (PES) and its educational units (EPAS, IEK and KEK) and other activities promoting VET to employees and the unemployed.

The operation of OAED is based on the following three pillars:

  1. promotion to employment;
  2. unemployment insurance and social protection of maternity and family;
  3. vocational education and training.

OAED is the public authority and central structure managing:

  1. Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs) for halting unemployment, promoting employment, and vocational training for both unemployed and employed citizens.
  2. Passive Labour Market Policies (PLMPs) concerning unemployment insurance measures (regular unemployment benefit) and other social security benefits and allowances (family allowance, maternity allowance etc.).
  3. ALMPs for initial vocational education combined with work practice/traineeship (Apprenticeship system).

Good practice recognised

1. Customised VET for employees of small and micro enterprises

Only companies with 30 employees or less are eligible to register their employees on LAEK and for a programme to be approved by OAED, each course should consist of employees from at least four different organisations. Companies with limited employees have difficulty organising tailor-made training, so through this initiative they are provided the opportunity to cooperate with VET providers and other employers to develop their employees’ skills and competences to satisfy current demand.

2. Customised VET designed according to employer needs

The general topics for LAEK training are provided by OAED, and built on by VET providers and employers, developing customised training to fit the employers and employees needs as well as their prior experience and qualifications. VET providers meet with employers and/or their representatives, of the companies to discuss the content of the training, which is then constructed in collaboration between the VET providers and employers and/or representatives.

3. VET provider or employer initiative

VET providers may approach employers to establish their interest in LAEK supported training and to determine their specific needs. Alternatively, employers may contact their preferred VET providers. The design of the training should be driven by employee’s skills needs according to their occupation and prior knowledge, informed by their employers.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, employers and OAED

For a LAEK training programme to be effective both VET providers and employers cooperate to satisfy the needs of the employers and the labour market. All employers should have a plan of their employees’ specific training needs and the qualifications they will receive on completion. The VET provider must furthermore demonstrate that it has the necessary expertise, for the training programme to be accepted for funding by LAEK and that the programme can deliver the specified outcomes designed.

For training to be effective, it must be well designed and submitted to OAED for funding approval. VET providers may approach employers to establish their interest in LAEK supported training and to determine their specific needs. Alternatively, employers may contact their preferred VET providers. Employers could be autonomous independent organisations, or represented by Associations, Trade Unions, or Chambers of Commerce.

The design of the training should be driven by the employee’s skills needs according to their occupation and prior knowledge, informed by their employers. The training may be conducted for employees that are working in a specific sector or could be cross sectoral and target soft skills. Once the first contact has been established, the VET provider arranges for interviews with the employers and/or each union to classify the organisation representing employees in different disciplines and classes. It should be mentioned that OAED provide topics under which the employees can be trained and customised to suit their prior knowledge and qualifications. This is taking place as one of the goals of the programme is to further improve the trainees existing skills and competences, as opposed to training them in a totally new area.

Furthermore, the VET provider submits the curriculum proposal with the documented funding application. All the proposals that meet the criteria are funded by LAEK. Finally, once the LAEK projects have been approved the courses are run under the supervision of Greek Manpower Employment Agency (OAED).

Effectiveness of employers and VET provider’s coordination

The LAEK is an initiative of the Greek Manpower Employment Agency. Precisely 0.24 % of employers’ taxes are returned to employers in the form of training for their employees. Those companies with 30 employees or less are eligible to register their employees on LAEK programmes. The training takes place at various certified VET provider centres, and for a programme to be approved by OAED, each course should consist of employees from at least four different organisations. Companies with limited employees have difficulty organising tailor-made training, and through this initiative they are given the opportunity to cooperate with VET providers and other employers to develop their employees’ skills and competences to satisfy current demand.

The general topics are provided by OAED, and built on by the VET providers and employers, developing customised training to fit the employers and employees needs as well as their prior experience and qualifications.

Once the assignment to various classes and topics has been established, the VET providers meet with employers and/or their representatives, of the companies to discuss the content of the training, which is then constructed in collaboration between the VET providers and employers and/or representatives. Each VET provider may facilitate as many meetings as they and the employees deem necessary to ensure the curriculum meets the stakeholders’ needs and can be successfully delivered by the VET provider.

LAEK is a very effective programme, regarding the numbers of people trained and the employers’ involvement in the design process and has been supporting employers and employees since 1994. There are no plans to change or discontinue the programme. Of course, there have been variations over time and adjustments according to the needs of each industry/sector.

All stakeholders involved in this publicly funded programme are represented effectively and coordinated to achieve the common goal of enhancing the competences of participants according to the needs of their employers.

Effectiveness of providing and designing a training programme that fits the current needs

The LAEK training programmes are developed and delivered to suit participating organisations that wouldn’t otherwise provide any training to their employees, or would rely on generic programmes, to access training that is customised to individual needs. Without the LAEK, the required competences would not be delivered, to the detriment of employers and their employees.

Furthermore, the training is offered outside of normal working hours, reimbursing employees for their time, thereby providing an additional incentive. The programme has been running successfully for over 24 years and results in approximately 30,000 employees being trained annually.

The VET training centres that are taking part in this initiative need to be accredited by the National Organisation for the Certification of Qualifications and Vocational Guidance as well as certified by ISO. This ensures that they are following the quality assurance (QA) and assessment standards that each VET provider must comply with to satisfy the LAEK QA scheme. Furthermore, the OAED assesses all training proposals to decide which will be continued and funded following delivery during their implementation. This ensures that their provision matches their proposal and that participants complete the time required to receive their certificate of attendance.

Responsiveness of the programme to labour market changes

A LAEK programme is an available "public sector training tool" that enables:

  1. each organisation/business, to train its staff on specialised subjects that will contribute to increasing productivity and improve the quality of service delivery;
  2. each employee to increase their knowledge and the specialisation within professional qualifications, taking account of their prior knowledge, so that they remain competitive in an ever-changing labour market;
  3. the VET providers to keep abreast of the latest training needs of the employers in each sector/industry and update their training curricula;
  4. networking between the VET sector and the employers for the development of successful vocational programmes.

A key factor contributing to the programme’s success is the annual review by VET providers and their employers, providing the opportunity to revisit the programme and adjust it according to the current needs. Each company has specific staff development needs, but due to the cooperation with their peers they develop a shared awareness of labour market trends. This results in each industry striving towards the same workforce development goals, allowing VET to more readily address specific employers needs as well corresponding to the needs of the national labour market.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of a long-standing public sector institution providing a holistic programme of support to the customisation and delivery of Vocational Education and Training (cVET) for businesses. Consequently, small and micro companies can keep their employee’s competences updated and can actively involve them in the design of their training and qualifications.

The ease with which the LAEK system can be replicated in other countries will depend on the responsiveness of the VET regulatory environment and how effectively small and micro enterprises are represented and involved in VET design currently. In addition, the degree to which they already collaborate with each other would be influential. A reliable national system of QA is an essential part of the mix, to ensure that only high-quality relevant provision receives funding, safeguarding the system from exploitation by unscrupulous providers.

However, within a conducive environment, the principles underpinning the LAEK could be replicated to foster cooperation among VET providers and representatives of small business allowing their employees to develop their skills and competences, taking full account of their prior knowledge and qualifications.

Find out more

VET provision in Greece

Human resource training in Greece includes Vocational Education and Training (VET) programmes that are funded both by the private and by the public sector, through tax collected from companies for this specific reason. Private training providers may provide continuous (cVET) or initial VET (iVET) as well as programmes for adult education. Most of the providers are working with soft skills and provide training across a range of sectors.

The National Strategic Framework for the upgrade of VET and Apprenticeships sets out a plan of gradual reforms of the Greek VET system, which amongst a range of measures include to upgrade and expand apprenticeships and to strengthen the linkage between VET and the labour market.

The National Strategic Framework also introduces a new governance structure for VET (including apprenticeships), that is based on reinforced collaboration between stakeholders. A National Committee, comprising General Secretaries of key Ministries, is foreseen to assist decisions of Ministries of Education and Labour that retain overall responsibility over VET. A Technical Committee, comprising Directors and Heads of Units of Ministries and key institutions will assist the National Committee, through dealing with operational aspects and involving social partners and chambers in selected topics (working groups). Regional VET Committees are in the process of being established.

The design of the Greek National Framework for Quality Assurance in lifelong learning (p3) and the development of the NQF for lifelong learning (Hellenic qualifications framework (HQF)) is in line with the Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council (2009 / C 155/01 of 18 June), aiming at a coherent and comprehensive system of qualifications from all parts and levels of education and training

Training and Certification for Painters

Until recently, several construction occupations did not need a specific certificate to be able to practice their occupation. However, with the help of the European Union, the Ministry of Employment, Social Security and Social Solidarity has funded the development of a training programme for the certification of skills in several sectors and occupations, including painters. The aim is to train unemployed people from 24-65 years old, redirecting them to the national labour market and concurrently improving their chances of employment across Europe and therefore mobility.

National Operational Programme for the Development of Human Resource

The National Operational Programme for the Development of Human Resource, Training and Life Long Learning is funded by a combination of European Union and national funds. The programme’s vision is to contribute to the achievement of national employment targets through the design and implementation of employment, education and training and lifelong learning interventions. This fight against poverty through education supports the revival of the Greek economy and strengthens social cohesion. See annex for information about the specific goals of the programme.

The programme is designed to bring employers and the labour market closer to the VET development process, as exemplified by the design of training (cVET) with contributions from the employers and professionals.

Good practice recognised

1. Employer feedback and assessment during on-the-job learning

The training programme for painters consists of standardised materials needed to train painters. A qualification framework, curriculum content, and a trainer’s pack with trainee notes are all included in the programme delivered by accredited cVET providers in Greece. The trainees are provided with learning materials and have access to a “question bank” for ‘online’ assessment and certification. All trainees undertake a work-based learning period to apply what they have learned, receive on the job training from employers, to receive employer feedback and be assessed in the work place. All trainees are supervised by a responsible person from the work place that cooperates with the VET provider, to report on the trainees’ progress and give feedback.

2. Development of training and certification of internationally recognised qualifications in collaboration with industry representatives

All organisations, confederations and associations involved in the development and delivery of the programme are professionals’ and employers’ representative institutions with committees and subcommittees in each sector. In addition to contributing to the qualification design of the training programme for painters and through the relevant committees, industry representatives have cooperated with VET providers to ensure that VET is expressed as competences and learning outcomes that reflect the current needs of the labour market. A certification scheme has been developed so that the painters receive a qualification that is recognised nationally, within Europe and internationally.

3. Employer feedback via the EQAVET cycle

The training programmes follow the EQAVET cycle of quality assurance, meaning that they feedback is received from the stakeholders (VET providers, employers, institutions) and responded to. The employers also have the chance to assess what the trainees have learned, during on the job training and report progress to the VET provider. At the end of the practical training, an evaluation for each of the trainees takes place. Furthermore, trainees are certified according to the standards of the international certification ISO 17024, significantly strengthening the quality assurance of the qualifications and programs delivered.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector and employers

The training for painters was developed as part of the action “development and certification of unemployed people in leading sectors” of the National Programme “Development of Human Resource, Training and Life Long Learning”. VET providers cooperated with the Institute of Small Companies, the General Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Traders of Greece and the Labour Institute of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece. Furthermore, the proposed curriculum received feedback and input from the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, the Institute of Trade and Services of the General Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Traders of Greece and the Institute of the Greek Tourism Confederation.

Effectiveness of employers and VET providers’ coordination

All stakeholders involved are represented effectively to ensure that the programmes are developed and delivered to enhance the competences of the participants according to the needs of the labour market, which is a shared common goal.

This programme for painters has proved to be very effective and both employers and employees are very satisfied with its implementation. It is noticeable that the number of students dropping out of the programme has been very low and those leaving do so for reasons unrelated to the training. For example, some of the trainees may discover a more suitable career path.

The VET design takes place according to the skills development employees and their employers require. The training is quality assured by the employers and the VET providers. Furthermore, only VET providers that are accredited by the National Organisation for the Development and Recognition of National Qualifications have the right to train the prospective painters. The VET providers cooperate with the employers when delivering work-based learning to their trainees and reporting their progress. They also endorse future improvements that the employers have requested.

Effectiveness of providing and designing a training programme that fits current needs

The total duration of the programme is 120 hours in class and 600 hours of work-based learning, for which the trainee is reimbursed. The training programme for painters has been revised and distributed to various accredited cVET providers in Greece with the standardised materials needed to train painters provided. A qualification framework, curriculum content, and a trainer’s pack with trainee notes are all included. The trainees are provided with learning materials and have access to a question bank for online assessment and certification.

All trainees complete a work-based learning period to apply what they have learned, receive on the job training from the employers, to receive employer feedback and access work-based assessment. All the trainees are supervised by a responsible person from the company that cooperates with the VET provider to report on the trainees’ progress and give feedback.

The training programme enables unemployed people to:

  1. Develop new skills, which are in accordance to the current labour market needs.
  2. Update their knowledge.
  3. Gain recognised qualifications.
  4. Apply their knowledge and get a deeper perspective of the occupation with EBL
  5. Network with other professionals in the sector.
  6. Use their qualification for mobility across national borders.

All the trainees that conclude the training course can proceed with the certification process which takes place at work. It includes both technical and theoretical testing and on successful completion the trainees receive their diploma. The certification scheme has been developed in cooperation with the Accreditation Organisation TUV and according to the standards of ISO 17024, so that the painters receive a qualification that is recognised nationally, within Europe and internationally.

Each VET provider is responsible for ensuring that their programme is correctly delivered, according to stakeholder needs. This initiative has been essential, as many of the participants are long term unemployed. Therefore, the project provides them the opportunity to acquire up to date knowledge to help them to enter the construction workplace and gain lasting employment. This target audience are often disengaged from the labour market and face difficulty accessing suitable re-training and or employment and are often battling with low self-esteem. The reimbursement of trainees also makes this a very successful programme. To date, more than 1,000 painters have been certified with this programme.

Responsiveness of the programme to labour market changes

According to ISO 17024 the programme must be reviewed annually which can lead to the qualification and assessment process altering each year to meet any new or changing requirements.

The goal of the training is to teach the participant how a modern painter applies their substantial knowledge and behaves professionally in the field. The desired outcome is that the future craftsmen/women will apply most of the practical components of this programme routinely, within their daily work.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of systemic good practice within a challenging VET regulatory environment undergoing reform. Representative structures and mechanisms have been developed to foster collaboration between VET providers and employers, culminating in quality assured VET for painters that is recognised nationally and internationally, thereby improving labour mobility. In Greece currently the national programme prioritises unemployed people, but other countries not addressing high unemployment may prioritise the updating of their existing workforce knowledge and skills.

Other European countries facing short and/or medium-term VET regulatory challenges may benefit from a similar approach, built on their own existing representative organisations and existing partnerships, but following the same principles. Replication at a systemic level could accommodate numerous other occupations and could impact on industry or VET provider level. Adequate resources, political commitment and the cooperation of a reliable qualifications awarding body and VET regulator are essential ingredients.

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The Netherlands

VET provision in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country that implements “freedom of education”, meaning there is freedom to establish schools, organise teaching, and to determine the principles on which education is based.

The freedom to organise teaching leaves both public and private schools able to determine what is taught and how, within legal boundaries. Vocational education is a well paved path in the Netherlands and it may be followed once the first eight years of education has been completed by joining the prevocational educational schools at 13 years old.

The middle Vocational Education and Training (VET), EQF 2-4, has a diversity of approximately 180 vocationally oriented educational programs which differentiate by job level and content. The main structure is formed by seven sectors and eighth general area:

  1. Technology and built environment
  2. Mobility, transport, logistics and maritime
  3. Care, welfare and sport
  4. Trading (including fashion, interior, tapestry and textile industry)
  5. ICT and creative industries
  6. Food, ‘green’ and hospitality
  7. Business services and security
  8. Specialist expertise (crafts sectors)

Furthermore, in the Netherlands someone may follow higher vocational education programmes, corresponding to EQF levels 5-7. Most upper secondary VET learners consider a higher-level qualification the best guarantee for employment and over 70% follow programmes leading to EQF level 3 or 4 and half of all level 4 graduates progress to higher VET programmes.

VET providers in the Netherlands are relatively autonomous. They work within a broad legal framework and a national qualification structure but have the freedom to shape curricula and organise provision. Reliable national and regional labour market and VET intelligence helps them in the process.

SBB - Accredited Organisations for Work Placements

The institution

The objectives of the Cooperation Organisation for Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB) are for students to receive the best possible vocational training with prospects of a job, and for companies to be able to employ the professionals that they need, now and in the future. Within SBB, vocational education and training (VET) and the labour market (employers, industry representatives, employees and chambers) cooperate at national, sectoral and regional level.

As required by the Dutch Act on Adult and Vocational Education, SBB works together with VET schools and the labour market on executing the following:

  • Advise, accredit and coach work placement companies
  • Develop and maintain the qualification structure for VET
  • Provide research and information on the labour market, work placement and efficiency of VET-programmes

The SBB is furthermore advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science on ways that vocational education and training can be linked to the job market.

Good practice recognised

1. Facilitating on-the-job training according to National Occupational Standards

The Centre for Cooperation between Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB) provides regional advisors to assess, support and evaluate work placement companies. The work-placements selected must be in accordance with the National Occupational Standards that are developed jointly by the business community and the education sector, working together in sector units within the SBB. Furthermore the regional advisors also work as liaison officers between work-placement companies and schools. The work-placement companies are a very important part of the training system as the qualifications and competences delivered are directly connected to the labour market needs. Many apprentices and interns continue working for the companies on completion as the employers have trained them according to their specific competence needs.

2. Relationship building and mediation

SBB is the organisation that mediates communication among VET providers, employers, employees and advises the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture on educational matters. SBB works with all sectors of industry in the Netherlands. In most sectors there is a special committee or organisation to address issues regarding iVET, which includes members of trade unions and small, specialised branch organisations for employers called “Centres of Expertise” and “Centres of Innovative Craftsmanship”. These Centres take part in the development of VET programmes, through which SBB receives useful information to inform the revision of existing curricula and/or the development of new courses. Centres contribute to the creation of educational content, innovation and the translation of education into practice.

3. Quality assurance of on-the-job training and assessment

The SBB standards and guidelines issued must be followed by VET providers and all SBB accredited work-based training providers. The assessment of participants’ progress is undertaken using approved tools to ensure assessment is objective and valid. The work place trainer assesses the trainee, guided by the assessment tools provided and their own expertise. Therefore they must be qualified to at least the level of the work-based learning they are supervising. Furthermore, tutors must be able to share their working expertise with students and must be pedagogically competent (validated by diplomas/certificates). In all fields, the workplace trainer needs evidence of their vocational skills, competence and knowledge prior to becoming a workplace trainer to assess the progress interns or apprentices. In some sectors, such as business services, security, ICT and the creative industry, workplace trainers must acquire coaching and assessment competences within an agreed time-period. This can be achieved by following a training course developed and provided for the sector.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector and industry representatives through the work placements

The SBB fully involves employers in the design of VET and qualifications in various ways. The most distinctive initiative within VET design and implementation, and where employers are heavily involved, is the work placements.

The Dutch Act on Adult and Vocational Education requires VET-students to carry out part of their education or training in work placement companies accredited by the SBB. For a company to be accredited, it must comply with the following conditions.

  • The workplace must be safe and relevant to the students’ education or training and offer appropriate work tasks and experience.
  • A workplace trainer must be assigned to the students with good professional insight and the ability to coach and manage students in work. They must have time and resources available for the workplace trainer to carry out these tasks.
  • The workplace must cooperate with VET schools and the SBB to provide the necessary information regarding the trainees’ qualifications and feedback to inform the revision of qualifications and VET programmes.
  • Agree to the publication of their business details on Stagemarkt.nl: - the website that students use to find a practice placement opening or apprenticeship.

The students can follow two paths to be trained at an accredited work placement. During a practice placement, students on the school-based pathway follow daily education and look for an available practice placement with companies themselves. A practice placement period can last from a few weeks to a few months and accounts for 20 to 60 percent of their education. Students usually receive financial compensation from the work placement company, depending on the company's collective labour agreement. Students on the work-based pathway may look for an apprenticeship within a company, which accounts for at least 60% of the total training. They usually work for four days and spend one day a week at school. Students usually get a formal labour contract with the company and receive a salary. It is also possible for companies to 'hire' a student through a joint venture of companies that together provide training for entry-level professionals. On average, a tutor spends about 25 days a year on supervising and coaching a student during the apprenticeships. On-the-job trainers provide training that reflects the overall description of the qualification.

The companies can recruit students for both apprenticeships and placements in various ways, including specialist websites for accredited learning companies, a company website or through school contacts. Schools and students can also try to find placements through their own network, so long as the companies are accredited. The VET schools coordinate workplace learning, the planning of return days over the school year and facilitate sessions helping students to reflect on their workplace learning experiences. The school also monitors students’ progress by means of regular visits to the workplace.

Centres of Expertise

SBB works with all sectors of industry in the Netherlands. In the so called “organised industry”, nearly all sectors have a form of national consultation between trade unions and employers. In most sectors there is a special committee or organisation to address issues regarding iVET. This is a high-level national structure with formal representation that includes members of trade unions and branch organisations for employers. Nearly 90% of employers are members of a branch organisation. Only a shrinking percentage of aging workers (20%) belong to a union. Employers are organised in small specialised branch organisations called “Centres of Expertise” and “Centres of Innovative Craftsmanship” to take part in the development of VET programmes, through which SBB receives useful information to inform the revision of existing curricula and/or the development of new courses.

The Centres of Expertise are action-oriented partnerships between educational institutions, companies and other public organisations. The network of Centres started in 2011 with a few pilots and had expanded to over 150 fully operational public-private partnerships (Centres) in 2016. Centres often start with a group of founding partners and over the course of time, a community will develop. The main objectives of the Centres are:

  • Creating a link between education and the labour market
  • Educating innovative and skilled professionals, craftsmen or craftswomen
  • Promoting life-long learning and timely retraining
  • Accelerating and enhancing the innovation capacity of companies

Each Centre focuses on a specific sector (High Tech Systems & Materials, Horticulture, Life Sciences & Health, Agriculture & Food, Water, Energy, Chemicals, Logistics, Creative Industry, ICT, Construction or Culture, Living & Welfare). On average, each centre involves several companies from the sector to take part in research and development projects, provide input to the VET curriculum to satisfy employers’ needs, join innovation teams, provide guest lectures and supervise work placements. This all helps to ensure that the VET learners are trained in the competences needed by the employers.

There are various ways in which companies can contribute to the Centres. Foremost they contribute to the creation of educational content, innovation and the translation of education into practice. The business world also makes cash contributions to the Centres.

The active role and commitment of businesses and professional partners is the basis of educational partnerships. These may include public institutions such as hospitals or water authorities.

Fighting youth unemployment through Work Placement

Work based learning has been used as an instrument to reduce youth unemployment in the Netherlands. One of the first activities in the new initiative ‘Attack on Youth Unemployment’ was launched in March 2013 to create new VET-placements for unemployed youth. In a sector-based approach the SBB was able to accredit 10.000 companies as a venue for learning, but not exclusively for the dual track. Notably approximately 8.200 of them were not involved in VET before and 1.200 companies were accredited for delivering new qualifications. These organisations depend on the VET graduates that have followed the work placement to fill job-vacancies

All accredited companies must publish their details at the open website (Stagemarkt.nl) for students to be able to search for work placement offers. This website helps learners and VET schools to find work placements for practice placement and apprenticeship. The quality of the company is monitored as a venue for learning and from the perspective of the individual learner by ‘education advisers’ employed by the Centres of Expertise who make sure that the learning provided meets current professional needs.

The SBB promotes student mobility, as opportunities to undertake work placements abroad with SBB accredited companies are offered.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The Centre for Cooperation between Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB) is the authority responsible for setting the National Occupational Standards for all industry sectors in the Netherlands. The need for, and content of, iVET programmes, qualifications and specialisations at middle level are discussed and defined by the eight sector chambers.

The work placements are the labour market. The accredited organisations have the chance to appoint trainers that will train the learners in all the competences needed by an employer for the specific occupation so long as it fits the overall description of the occupation. Furthermore, the accredited companies provide feedback on the skills that they would like their future trainees and apprentices to develop, to help the VET providers build curricula that will provide the competences that the labour market needs. The accreditation of the companies is reviewed every four years.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of a specialist public sector VET regulatory body bringing together VET providers and employers to provide high quality and relevant practical training in the workplace, a most valuable aspect of VET. Through the accreditation procedure, the SBB can ensure organisations provide ‘on the job training’ up to the required standard and gather feedback to inform the future redesign or development of future curricula. Moreover, through the accreditation of the organisations the SBB can assure that the training that the learners are receiving meets national and European standards as well as the needs of the employers.

For this good practice to be replicated in another country there would need to be sufficient demand from employers in a range of sectors to justify the establishment of a similar ‘quality assured work placement brokering service. Then a new public sector organisation could be set up or an existing organisation reconstituted with the remit and authority to work with employers and VET providers to develop an inventory of accredited placements.

For the employers to agree to take part in the accreditation procedures some benefits might be presented, similar to those that are offered to the employers cooperating with SBB:

  • To help train students is a great way to attract new and motivated employees. Many students end up working for the work placement company after they graduate.
  • Students may bring in new knowledge and techniques and they can offer new insights on your company and profession.
  • Students usually get to work straightaway. Employers can enjoy the help of young professionals in the daily activities of the company.
  • Students can increase the appeal of the company among their peers and the younger crowd.
  • The special logo that can be placed on your company vehicle, notepaper, website and so on, which provides a positive image to their clients, showing that they are involved, care about the development of the new generation and the skills and competences of employees are always updated.
  • It promotes a great corporate responsibility profile.
  • Eligibility for subsidies and funds, such as the subsidy scheme for practical learning provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

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Norway

VET provision in Norway

The responsibility of all education in Norway, including VET, lies with the Ministry of Education and Research. However, to reduce the administrative burden the system has been divided into three administrative levels.

The county level administration is of relevance to the aquaculture industry as cooperation within the upper secondary and tertiary VET system, involving social partners and education and training authorities is well established and-regulated. Employer organisations and trade unions actively participate in the development of vocational training.

Social partners are represented in the advisory bodies at national and county level and ensure that upper secondary VET provision meets the skills needs of the labour market. They advise on curriculum development, the structure of training programmes, and the examination and quality assurance system at national, county and local level.

When a young person has completed their compulsory lower secondary education, they have a statutory right to three years of upper secondary education. There are a range of options available, including full time school-based programmes and VET programmes. The full-time school-based programmes do not lead to formal craft or trade certification, whereas the VET programmes do, and most are four years in duration. This can vary from one year in school and three years apprenticeship to three years school and one-year apprenticeship.

The standard VET delivery model is two plus two, which entails two years school education followed by two years training and productive work within a commercial enterprise. Once the two years apprenticeship is complete, the candidate will take a practical and theory-based examination. Successful candidates are awarded a trade certificate for industrial and service trades (Fagbrev), or a journeyman’s certificate for traditional crafts (Svennebrev). Both certificates have equal status and lead to a qualification levelled at EQF level 4

There are 14 Upper Secondary Schools in Norway offering the aquaculture journeyman certificate to young learners who have just left compulsory schooling, and mature learners in work, some of whom have had considerable industry experience.

Aquaculture at Guri Kunna VET School

Overview of the industry

The aquaculture industry in Norway has experienced rapid growth since the 1980’s, largely attributed to Atlantic salmon production, which represents 94% of farmed fish output, making Norway the most significant fish producer in Europe. In 2014 aquaculture companies employed 5751 staff and national production totalled 1,370 090 tonnes and was valued at €5,486 million. Most farms are based within Norway’s extensive fjordic coastal zone, as conditions are perfect for siting cage-based fish rearing systems that dominate the industry. Due to the industry’s rapid expansion, the demand for qualified aquaculture staff has also grown over the last decade. The workforce has become increasingly specialised as fish production process evolved into an industrial scale operation. Aquatic surveillance cameras and automated feeding systems allow farmed salmon to be fed and monitored remotely, reducing the labour required to maintain farms, but increasing the level of digital and environmental management skills needed within a growing workforce.

VET provider: Guri Kunna VET School

Guri Kunna VET School based on Froya Island in central Norway’s Trondelag region is an aquaculture training and education provider serving the aquaculture sector at local and regional level. In their rural community there are approximately 750 people working on cage farms for various companies, including Salmar, one of the largest producers in Norway. Every year over 100 people from the fish farming industry attend their VET courses and the number of students from overseas has been growing annually, reaching 20% in 2015. Consequently, the local community is multicultural and multilingual. The local industry can influence their VET courses through direct communication with the school as a very close working relationship has been nurtured over many years.

Guri Kunna has an extensive educational network, including; VET schools, research organisations and industry companies within the aquaculture sector. In 2012 the school established their own cage-based fish farm. The three largest global producers of salmon operate the farm on a rotational basis, allowing the VET students to undertake practical workplace-based learning on modern well-maintained commercial facilities.

The Guri Kunna school owns a catamaran boat and several speed boats used to support aquaculture training. They are one of three VET schools in Norway that are a member of the expert panel for the preparation of national VET examinations in aquaculture, reflecting their national status and influence within aquaculture VET.

Good practice recognised

1. Employer driven updates of the local curriculum

Regular formal and informal communication between aquaculture employers and the Guri Kunna school ensures that the aquaculture VET provision is continuously updated to reflect current and emerging aquaculture practices and technology. The broadly defined journeyman’s certificate is interpreted by school teachers to accommodate local salmon farming company needs expressed by those employers that they regularly work with.

2. High quality practical training

The aquaculture companies work closely with the Guri Kunna school to plan and provide high quality timetabled practical training opportunities on local commercial farm sites. This training is undertaken by learners working in small groups supervised by their teachers and it is accessed using the school’s fleet of boats.

3. Employer led quality assured assessment

Employers are actively involved in the assessment process in two ways. Employer representatives join Guri Kunna as members of an expert panel responsible for the preparation of national VET examinations in aquaculture. In addition, they team up with school teachers from another school to help assess the Guri Kunna school learners’ practical skills within their final practical exam following their apprenticeship period. This gives the assessment process a high level of industry credibility.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

There are many opportunities for formal and informal communication between industry representatives and VET providers that are a part of the Norwegian VET system philosophy, by design.

Norway has a strong democratic tradition supported by policy frameworks under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Research, which ensure social partners are all effectively involved in the VET development process. Whilst the ministry provides governance and regulation nationally, each county administration also has devolved responsibility for consultation locally. The social partners consulted include representatives from business and the public sector who work as an advisory body to ensure that changes, such as advances in technology or labour market dynamics, are considered within the VET design decision-making process.

At school level there are formal committees’ that meet periodically with the remit to review and suggest revisions and/or additions and updates to the aquaculture VET provision. In addition, there are regular informal meetings for practical purposes, most notably the scheduling of practical training sessions to suit the farms operations and the daily weather conditions. Risk assessments when working with groups of learners must be rigorous as the marine environment is unforgiving and all measures are taken to ensure the safety of inexperienced young learners when working out on the cages.

It is these regular informal meetings that help to maintain a constant dialogue between the farm managers and VET teachers, allowing many opportunities for ideas and exchange regarding the content, delivery and assessment of the VET programme, creating a strong co-dependency. The relationship between industry and VET sector is further bolstered by their involvement on the national committee that sets the national examination, although this is restricted to a relatively small number of industry representatives.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

Employers are represented nationally and locally at county level in the various ways described above. Although fish farming in the Trondelag region is dominated by larger companies, the Norwegian system does encourage smaller companies to be included within the social partners consulted.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

The Norwegian VET system strikes a balance between national standardisation and local level customisation to suit business needs. The journeyman certificate is composed of three sections; Operation and Production, Construction and Technology and aquaculture and the Environment. Each section is defined in terms of a series of ‘broad competency statements. By design, these competencies interrelate, and they are interpreted by VET teachers through informal and/or formal consultation with local employers to determine the specific learning outcomes to be delivered. There is a continuous assessment system in operation which the teachers control in terms of the assessment method and specific content of each assessment. The results of this assessment have some bearing on the learners’ final grade, despite the heavy reliance within the national system on the final theory and practical examinations.

The experienced employees on farms that lack a national qualification can undergo shorter courses that prepare them to undertake the theory exam which they must pass. However, once they have had 5 years of experience in industry, they are exempt from the practical exam.

To support work-based delivery and collaborative development of VET learning resources, there is a growing interest at Guri Kunna in unitisation of the curriculum, leading to a more prescriptive teaching and assessment process.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The broadly defined competences and flexibility of the system allows VET teachers to update their course delivery rapidly in response to industry feedback and information on new methods. As aquaculture is evolving so rapidly, teachers are also very dependent on industry for up to date technical information which they can then include within the curriculum to ensure learners are well equipped to enter the apprenticeship stage of their ‘two plus two’ journeyman certificate.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

The Norwegian system provides VET schools and their teachers a high level of control over both the delivery and continuous assessment process. This system could only be replicated within a VET system that is not highly defined and prescriptive at the national level and encourages local level interpretation. Although the Norwegian system is based on a fixed syllabus, the broad competences referred to above are interpreted by teachers to meet local business needs.

Reflecting on Norwegian aquaculture VET more specifically, the transfer of this good practice model, whereby employers offer VET providers access to modern commercial training and assessment facilities, would require an aquaculture industry with farms located near to aquaculture VET providers. This would make it possible for the close working relationship and access to modern aquaculture facilities for training, underlying the good practices identified, to evolve. With investment, it may be possible for some other aquaculture countries to emulate this VET system in selected regions. However, due to the sheer scale and distribution of the industry in Norway, it is unlikely that any other fish producing country in Europe could provide the same level of access on a national scale.

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Sweden

VET provision in Sweden

Swedish vocational education and training (VET) includes programmes and study pathways within upper secondary education and non-academic and academic tertiary education. After compulsory school, students have the right to proceed to upper secondary school to vocational programmes or higher education preparatory programmes. Upper secondary VET programmes may be offered as school-based or as apprenticeship pathways.

Learners can acquire an upper secondary vocational diploma in municipal adult education. Non-academic tertiary VET mainly consists of one- or two-year higher VET programmes leading to a diploma or advanced diploma in higher vocational education. Workplace-based training is compulsory in upper secondary vocational programmes and accounts for at least 15% of the programme. In upper secondary apprenticeship pathways, more than half the learning takes place at a workplace. Non-academic higher vocational programmes combine school-based learning with training at the workplace.

The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for most education; this includes upper secondary schools, adult education, and higher vocational education for VET. Steering documents regulating upper secondary school and municipal adult education are drawn up by the government and by the Swedish National Agency for Education. Upper secondary schools may be run by municipalities, county councils and the State. Private actors may also be approved as education providers and run independent upper secondary schools. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education approves providers and government grants for higher vocational programmes. Providers draft an education plan and programmes should be developed and delivered in cooperation with the world of work.

To strengthen cooperation between education and the world of work, national programme councils include social partners for each of the national vocational programmes in upper secondary schools. Representatives from the public employment service and social partners are members of the Labour Market Council, a body linked to the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education. The councils are a permanent platform for dialogue on quality, content and organisation of VET between national agencies and stakeholders.

Source: Spotlight on VET in Sweden (2016), Cedefop

Folkuniversitetet – Development of Higher Vocational Education Programmes

The institution

Folkuniversitetet (FU) grew from the university world with university students organising courses and lectures for the general public. The school still retains close cooperation with universities and colleges, both in Sweden and abroad. FU is Sweden’s largest organiser of vocational training. This is a form of training that is characterised by a strong link to work life and the approach of “learning at work”. FU organises training programmes and municipal adult education on behalf of municipalities and other public bodies, such as the Swedish employment service (Arbetsförmedlingen). FU develops the skills of staff from companies and organisations of all sizes, through everything from short courses and longer diploma programmes to tailor-made training for groups or individuals, based on employer needs.

Good practice recognised

1. Development of Vocational Education programmes

FU offers study cycles, courses and Higher Vocational Education (HVE) programmes which all correspond to the need of the current labour market. In order to develop a VET programme FU consults closely with employers and other stakeholders. The development of the course follows a competence based education cycle (figure 1) starting with the demand for a competence. Furthermore, the formulation of the competence requirements is expressed in occupational standards. Subsequently, once Swedish and European standards have been agreed, the learning processes and the certification scheme are developed. This is a continuous process, therefore, any new competence needed will be recognised within the cycle described below. The embedded collaborative process results in a VET provider that is responsive to market needs as revisions may take place once, or twice, per year, according to the market’s needs.

Figure 1

2. Work placements

A higher vocational education programme normally includes several periods of work placements. The purpose of work placements is to increase the students’ knowledge and experience through mentorship. During their internship, all the students are assigned mentors that help them go through the internship in addition to guide and monitor them. Students will gain practical experience and have the opportunity to apply new knowledge gained during studies to real life situations. The work placement allows the students to get a feel for their future professional role during studies and offers an opportunity to combine theory with practice. At the same time, the employer has the opportunity to get to know a potential future employee.

3. Employer input

Employers and industry representatives play a significant role in the planning of a higher vocational education programme. Employers and industry contribute to and influence the design of the programme as well as its content by proposing new skills needed and taking part as lecturers, joining in on projects, welcoming study visits and by offering work placements.

Key stakeholders, business representatives, public authorities, student and teacher representatives are members of the FU management board. This means that they constantly collaborate with each other and, since the management board should always be aware and approve the programmes, the employers have a great input in the design, development and implementation of the training programmes.

Detailed findings

Market research and curriculum development for new VET

Swedish employers trust FU to train employees to develop all the competences that are needed in the industry and that their employees should possess as the employers, along with other stakeholders, have worked together to design the HVE programme.

The Folksuniversitet is continuously in contact with business associations, individual companies and other stakeholders such as media, municipalities and local authorities etc. FU is collecting feedback via questionnaires and whenever there is the need for a revision of a curriculum, or the creation of a new one, FU utilises the feedback and proceeds with drafting the new/revised curriculum. Furthermore, FU reviews and revises draft curricula together with business sector representatives. Once the corrections and finalisation has been made, FU proceeds with implementing the curricula and revisions whenever needed. This cycle leads to continuous improvement, as FU’s first priority is quality based on constant evaluation and revision according to current industry requirements (see figure 2).

Figure 2

Organisational Structure and employers’ representation

Folkuniversitetet is a VET public institution, which has very strong links with the Swedish society and business. The connection is salient as the management board of the organisation comprises business representatives, public authorities, students and teachers’ representatives. All activities that are taking place within the FU are reported to the management board, which is active within the quality assurance processes of the training continuously provides feedback on improvement to the curricula, which is responded to immediately. The FU analyses results of research to determine when there is a need for curriculum revision. Whenever employers’ answers reveal that the current competences are not sufficient to cover the labour market needs, FU proceeds with revising the respective training programmes to include all the competences employers require.

You can see a graphic depiction of the organisational structure below (figure 3).

Figure 3

Higher Vocational Education lasts for at least six months and participant progress and outcomes are assessed and recognised through a certificate/diploma that validates their skills for employment. The certification of assessment is in accordance with the training programme as developed with the contributions of all stakeholders. Concerning the QA, FU employs experts of the EQAVET group that continuously works towards the QA improvement of VET programmes.

Effectiveness of the practice and responsiveness to the labour market changes – new VET model.

FU is able to respond very quickly to labour market needs as it is in continuous communication with business associations and employers’ representatives. Furthermore, the business representatives that form part of the management board provide feedback on the market and employers’ needs.

Moreover, since 33% of the training takes place inside companies, the employees have the chance to be trained according to each industry’s current needs. The curriculum is revisited according to the feedback received and changes may be introduced prior to the beginning of each semester. The below graphic (figure 4) depicts the steps that are taken for the development of a new VET programme and the responsiveness of the VET provider to the markets’ needs.

Figure 4

Step 1: The need for a new skill arises from the labour market
Step 2: FU defines the demanded skill in learning outcomes
Step 3: FU proposes the draft curriculum, which includes this new skill
Step 4: The new curriculum is reviewed and corrected by the labour market
Step 5: FU together with the labour market brings the curriculum before the board
Step 6: The curriculum is implemented.

The most important indicator of the programme’s effectiveness is that three months after the training the employability rate is 95%.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This VET systemic good practice example depends on VET institutions having strong connections and systemised, regular communication with employers, the labour market and other stakeholders. This is accomplished predominantly through close liaison with employers’ representatives, who in turn support and recommend new curriculum according to the current needs of the labour market. Furthermore, business representatives are part of the management board and are involved in quality assurance. The employers are heavily depended on the cooperation of the VET provider to develop those competences that are essential for the Swedish labour market. Thus, by cooperating with the VET provider the employers know that the Higher VET provided will develop the competences the company requires to progress in an ever-changing market.

These ‘principles’ of effective employer representation in VET design including their active involvement in quality assurance and review could be replicated within any VET system and are evident within the working practices of other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland. Any country that already has robust institutional structures for employer representation and most importantly employers who value the provision of high-quality National Qualifications to equip their workforce and are prepared to contribute their time, could replicate this good practice at the VET systemic level.

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Slovenia

VET provision in Slovenia

Formal vocational education and training (VET) in Slovenia starts at upper secondary level and is offered predominantly in public schools. There are two types of VET qualifications. The first may be acquired following the VET school system and the second by following the non-formal NVQ learning system.

Both systems are linked to occupational standards (poklicni standardi), which represent a learning outcome standard for each qualification that can be acquired. The procedure for the preparation of occupational standards is determined in the National Professional Qualifications Act.

Adults can enrol in the same formal VET programmes as young people, but can also participate in continuing VET, which is usually provided by private companies.

The latest VET reform increased the autonomy of schools and teachers over curricula, management and teaching methods. There are also regulations in place to ensure the cooperation of social partners. Improving VET relevance to labour market needs has been at the heart of the development of competence-based curricula since 2006. Efforts are being made by integrating in-company training into the learning process and competence-based assessment as well as piloting apprenticeship provision. Greater involvement of employers in vocational examinations remains a priority.

Employer involvement in designing open curriculum modules

National Occupational Standards and associated qualifications are developed by sector committees established by the Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

Providers and schools put into practice the delivery of biotechnical sector education based on the development of qualifications through the national sector committee. They also develop the content for 20% of the programme which can be developed by schools in cooperation with local industry partners.

Good practice recognised

1. National Occupational Standards (NOS)

National standards are set by sector committees that include representatives from chambers, ministries and trade unions. These committees are established by government and under the auspices of laws on the development of VET in Slovenia.

2. Local curricula

The schools are given the freedom to develop 20% of the vocational study programme according to local needs – a practice known as the “open curriculum”. The VET provider Biotehniški izobraževalni center Ljubljana (BIC-LJ) is one such example. The school develops 20% of each programme in cooperation with local enterprises, and has had particular success in the case of longer specialist programmes for the unemployed.

3. Employer initiative

In most cases, the initiative to develop a module within the open curriculum are taken by employers, but schools, museums, health centres etc. may also take the initiative. The VET provider takes the lead in developing the module following the initial request from the employer.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

The Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities established ten sector committees for occupational standards, which are composed of experts and representatives from the chambers, ministries and trade unions. This enables industry representatives to collaborate with educationalists in setting standards and designing VET programmes in addition to approving textbooks and teaching aids for professional modules.

The BIC-LJ VET provider reports that employers are reliant on national programmes to hire qualified employees and look “daily” to VET schools for potential employees.

Employers are encouraged to engage with VET providers through the opportunity to influence parts of VET programmes. Up to 20% of VET programme curricula are left open for VET providers to develop courses designed to meet very specific needs of employers. Employers who feel that formal VET programmes do not fully teach students the skills they need to be employed in their company may subsequently approach VET providers and request a module covering these specific skills be included in a VET programme.

In most cases, the initiative to develop a module within the open curriculum are taken by employers, most of whom already cooperate with schools in the area of work-based learning, but schools, museums, health centres etc. may also take the initiative. The VET provider takes the lead in developing the module following the initial request from the employer.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

The establishment of sector committees and the support from stakeholders including CPI ensures that labour skills forecasting is a key part of the development and updating of the VET qualifications in Slovenia. CPI’s mission includes: studying development trends in the labour market and preparation of occupation profiles as well as competently conceiving occupational standards; development of methodologies and preparation of modern, module-based education programmes for pre-secondary and secondary vocational education and secondary and college expert education; and monitoring the process of the introduction of education programmes, evaluation of final examinations and development of new methodical and didactical concepts of knowledge, learning and teaching.

The sector committees include chamber representatives; in turn, chambers are made of up industry members of different types and sizes. The representatives on the committees ensure the voices of different types of employers are heard during the design and development process for new and existing VET programmes. Employees also have a voice in the process, through the inclusion of trade union representatives on the sector committees.

Employer involvement in developing modules of the open curriculum of VET programmes varies from taking part in developing the study programme content, delivering part or the whole of a module in the workplace (for example: coalmines and nuclear power plant), others come to school to teach a module or part of module. The most common reason employers ask VET providers to create an open curriculum module is that they would like their labour force to possess certain competences and skills.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

The use of national occupational standards is embedded into the Slovenian VET system. The occupational standard must be compiled in accordance with the methodology determined by the competent Council of Experts. The national methodology provided by the CPI serves as a uniform basis for all occupational standards and catalogues, thereby ensuring the transparency and comparability of documents at the national level. On the basis of the occupational standard, a working group prepares a proposal for an NVQ catalogue which is coordinated by the sector committee for occupational standards. Once the coordination has been completed, the sector committee submits the catalogue to the Council of Experts for discussion. The expert committee for occupational standards and the commission for educational programmes, operating within the framework of the Council of Experts, then propose the adoption or rejection of the catalogue to the Council, whereupon the Council proposes its adoption to the minister for labour.

CPI reviews professional/occupational standards every 4-5 years. If they show that standards must be updated, CPI needs approval from a council of experts which is part of the Ministry for Education. During the following year, CPI makes changes to the content of the educational programme, which is subject to approval by the council of experts. Finally the minister for education validates the change. Modules developed as part of the open curriculum with input from employers may be included in the national occupational standards, but this does not happen to frequently.

As there are no restrictions on what content can be included in the open curriculum, modules can be too specifically designed to suit the employer that asked for it to be developed. Although modules may be transferred to other study programmes if suitable. Some VET providers, which conduct different study programmes, already share some open curriculum modules in areas such as sustainable development. Such modules can also be adapted to suit schools. Agricultural schools have for example agreed on the content of forest management modules which can be delivered in both agricultural and forestry schools. This is; however, not common practice, because open curriculum modules are often used as a competitive advantage of individual VET providers.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The CPI is responsible for the preparation of a proposal for the revision of occupational standards and catalogues for NVQs every five years. The procedure for revision is the same as the procedure for the preparation of new occupational standards.

Employers can also take the initiative for a revision whenever they find it appropriate. As mentioned earlier, 20% of the curriculum may be updated by providers within the open curriculum, which allows for flexibility in response to local employer needs. It is important for education and training providers to collaborate closely with local employers when developing these elective courses to reflect the labour market needs in the region. BIC-LJ works closely with employers in this regard.

The Mechanical, Transport and Woodworking School at the Nova Gorica School Centre was involved in the MUNUS 2 project that developed the new VET curriculum that included the open curriculum part. In a three-year Wood Technician programme an additional module was developed within the open curriculum part of the course. Here teachers took local labour market information gathered from local employers into consideration when creating the Projects from Practice module. This final year-module is linked to practical training at the employer where the student is mentored and train within a work situation. This module allows the student to learn current work routines and use up-to-date work equipment leading to a more independent and work-ready student (1).

It often takes approximately two months from first contact to completion of the final open curriculum module, but this varies depending on how engaged the employers is and how efficient the school is organised. Open curriculum modules be changed every school year, but in practice, VET providers change modules more commonly every 4-5 years. These changes must be approved by school councils and be included in schools’ yearly plan. Small parts of the content of a module can; however, be changed during the school year should there be a need for that.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of a centralised system involving established sector committees to ensure the development of relevant qualifications with input from the sector and industry bodies. Centralised-type systems can take into consideration this model in terms of ensuring a balanced representation on committees setting on the terms of each qualification, as well as permitting a degree of flexibility to providers to tailor the provision to local needs.

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1https://cumulus.cedefop.europa.eu/files/vetelib/2014/2014_Innovation_in_VET_SI.pdf

United Kingdom

VET provision in the UK

The VET system in England is going through a reform where new apprenticeship standards and programmes are being developed and new technical education routes and qualifications have been proposed. Currently, a wide range of qualifications developed by multiple independent awarding organisations are delivered by well-established colleges and private training providers alongside the increased emphasis on apprenticeships. Current VET qualifications are based on National Occupational Standards (NOS) in England, but new reforms are allowing employers to define occupational standards more directly and take the lead on developing qualifications.

New apprenticeship standards have been developed by ‘Trailblazer’ groups led by employers and employer representative organisations. These Trailblazer groups define the occupational standards, technical and basic skills as well as assessment standards. New standards are quality assured and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships.

The apprenticeship reform is routing funding for off-the-job apprentice training through the employers that hire the apprentices rather than the VET providers that train them. This puts employers in a position to choose the most appropriate training for their apprentices.

The new system of apprenticeships is only just being implemented, so it is too early to assess its longer-term impact. However, as detailed in this case study, Swindon College works closely with local employers to tailor provision to their needs.

Trailblazer apprenticeship

Industry sector

Swindon College offers a range of VET programmes, including the new ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship programmes, in various sectors including maintenance technician toolmaking for the automotive manufacturing industry. This example details the relationship between the college and two local car manufacturing plants belonging to BMW/Mini and Honda with particular focus on the toolmaking apprenticeship programme. As fewer machine operators are needed in the plants due to increased automation, the companies are providing their staff with new skills through apprenticeships in the area of machine toolmaking and maintenance.

Good practice recognised

1. Quick updates of education and training programmes

Swindon College delivers off-the-job education and training for apprentices employed at local companies, including the car manufacturers BMW/Mini and Honda under the new apprenticeship system in England that are based on standards developed by employer-led consortia. There is flexibility within this new system to quickly update the education and training provided at the college and to develop bespoke training for the apprentices. Swindon College meets with technical managers at BMW/Mini on a weekly basis to discuss the apprenticeship training and ensure that it meets the company needs.

2. Direct, regular contact between college and local companies

Trailblazer apprenticeships are developed by consortia led by companies on the forefront of technological innovation. Quicker and more up-to-date labour market information and specific company training needs are provided directly by the companies Swindon College delivers training for than from the larger surveys and reports normally produced by Sector Skills Councils

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

Apprentices in England are employed by a company, but there is a requirement to train the apprentices outside of work for at least 20% of the apprenticeship. Swindon College develops off-the-job training for apprentices based on the standards developed by the employer-led trailblazer groups and the specific requirements of local companies that include the BMW/Mini and Honda car manufacturing plants.

Companies in the automotive manufacturing industry appears to provide the basic staff training themselves and then use formal work-based learning (WBL) and continuing professional development (CPD) for upskilling and retraining purposes. Due to the increased automation of the industry, new, updated and higher skills are needed. The upskilling and retraining provided through Swindon College apprenticeship programmes are not specifically in automotive engineering, but in making and maintaining specific parts for machines and robots used to assemble the cars.

Apprenticeships are open to young people coming directly out of school as w ell as adults in the UK. BMW/Mini and Honda use the apprenticeship programme to train current employees who wish to upskill from machine operators to maintenance technicians and engineers repairing the increasingly automated machines in the factories. Apprentices enrol onto a technician level toolmaking programme at Swindon College. There is flexibility built in to the new apprenticeship programmes to add bespoke training into the off-the-job training. Swindon College liaise with BMW/Mini, Honda and other local companies to provide and develop training – often bespoke – to equip employees with the necessary skills relating to new manufacturing technology and IT skills demands.

The college provide training for a limited number of companies within the apprenticeship programme, but this is a fairly new programme. As the new apprenticeship standards become more common place, the demand for this type of training is likely to increase. The companies currently requesting upskilling programmes for maintenance technicians are dependent on the college sector to provide these programmes with elements tailored to companies’ specific needs, but have the option to choose the education and training provider that best suits their needs.

Possession of national vocational qualifications isn’t generally necessary for entry to the automotive manufacturing industry where very specific training is often required to operate machinery. The companies train new entrants themselves to operate machinery and use VET providers, such as Swindon College, for the upskilling and retraining of employees. General secondary education in the shape of GCSE English and maths are required when starting apprenticeships though.

Within the trailblazers, employers provide in-company training and often provide machinery for the off-the-job training. Employers define what they want to be assessed when developing the apprenticeship standards, but need certified end-point assessors to do the assessment. As employers want and demand training specific to their machines and production methods, they communicate effectively and frequently with the college to ensure the training reflects their needs.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and other employer representative bodies provide labour market forecasts, but employers are much more directly involved in developing occupational standards according to their and the industry needs within the new trailblazer system, The development process is guided by the Institute for Apprenticeships.

The Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA) was the SSC involved in the development of the apprenticeship standard in toolmaking offered at Swindon College; however, once the apprenticeship standard has been completed, it can take some time for it to be updated. Quicker and more up-to-date labour market information is provided directly by the companies Swindon College delivers training for than from the larger surveys and reports normally produced by the SSCs.

There is a trend for VET providers to rely more on direct information and involvement of companies rather than a specific SSC as reforms – particularly in England – are introducing a system where apprenticeship standards and in the future also college-based VET standards will largely be developed by employer-led consortia.

Official guidelines dictate that the consortia developing the Trailblazer standards should include both small and large employers, but the new apprenticeship system appears to incentivise large employer to a larger extent. Larger employers also have, in general, more capacity to take part in this process. The companies requesting training according to the new apprenticeship system at Swindon College are currently larger (levy paying) companies, but smaller companies are now also starting to look for providers of these new standards. As the system is still new, it is difficult to predict how well it will suit smaller companies.

Trailblazer apprenticeships are developed by consortia led by companies on the forefront of technological innovation and also include SSCs. There is furthermore flexibility within the trailblazer programmes to change and add off-the-job training based on newly identified industry needs. Technical managers from BMW/Mini and Honda – and other companies – meet weekly with the Head of Learning for Engineering at Swindon College to discuss the apprenticeship programme and skills needs and how these skills needs can be met through apprenticeship training and other courses. This ensures the education and training provided is quickly updated to reflect the job roles apprentices are trained for.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

Within the new apprenticeship system, employers and employer representative bodies come together to develop the standards of training they require in the industry.

The trailblazer standards are separate from National Occupational Standards (NOS); however, the new apprenticeship standards are created by employers and are subsequently certainly respected by employers who are in direct contact with the VET provider and involved in the trailblazer development. There is a very close link between the apprenticeship standards, the VET provision and specific job roles within companies that are involved in development of the new apprenticeship standards and that are currently training apprentices under the new system. The first trailblazers in operation currently accurately reflect occupational standards for the jobs the apprentices are being trained for. It is too early to determine whether the new apprenticeship standards will meet the needs and be respected by the industry as a whole. The trailblazer standards must be general enough to meet the needs of a range of companies and be flexible enough to tailor parts of the programme to individual companies’ needs, which could be a difficult balance to strike. The Institute for Apprenticeships has a role to play in ensuring standards have a broader appeal.

Swindon College develops off-the-job training – also bespoke training – within the apprenticeship programmes based on the apprenticeship standards and specific requests from companies with apprentices at the college. Detailed specifications for off-the-job training content are requested from Swindon College by large local employers in the engineering and manufacturing sector. Particularly Honda and BMW/Mini demand that study content is updated quickly when they inform the college about developments in the industry.

By using apprenticeship standards developed by employers and when colleges work closely with employers to develop industry relevant curricula, the study programmes do reflect the profession – at least for the employers involved in the trailblazer standard setting. The future will show whether the standards meet the needs of the whole automotive sector.

Trailblazer apprenticeship standards are very much designed to meet the industry needs in England. Certain elements of maintenance of technical equipment are similar across borders and various manufacturing sectors. Trailblazers lead to recognised national qualifications, but are not unit based, so recognition across borders are based on employers’ knowledge of the profession rather than the qualification being designed to be transferable across borders.

Employer representative bodies have a less prominent role in the new apprenticeship system although do still provide labour market information.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

SSCs still produce local and national labour market information, but it is less up-to-date than the information coming directly from the companies according to Swindon College. Trailblazer standards reflect the current state of the labour market and the companies working with the college in the area of engineering and manufacturing are innovative companies that drive technological change. The involvement of these companies in the trailblazer apprenticeships benefits the sector as long as the apprenticeship standards being developed reflect the needs of the sector as a whole, which will be more evident in the future when a broader range of companies start training their apprentices under the new system. apprenticeship standards can quickly be updated by employer groups and the Institute for Apprenticeships.

Employers now have much more leverage in the new apprenticeship system (as they pay for it through the levy) to demand changes in the curriculum and can choose which training programmes and providers suit them best. Swindon College tries as much as possible to tailor programmes to specific needs of employers.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

The direct involvement of local companies in sharing labour market information and their specific requests for education and training with a college can be encouraged by giving businesses more power in developing qualifications that suit their needs and redirecting funding for apprenticeship through employers. The ability to incorporate bespoke training into apprenticeship provision in colleges requires a flexible system of education that strikes a balance between widely recognised national qualifications and specific local employer demands.

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VET provision in the UK

Typically, company staff development programmes include Vocational Education and Training (VET) provided by both the public and private sectors. Private training providers tend to specialise in the more generic supervisory management qualifications, as they can deliver them across a range of sectors.

However, the construction industry is not entirely dependent on external VET providers. Some companies select and customise short courses which are delivered in house by their own staff. The CITB only funds short-courses that meet their standards and insist on quality assuring the assessment process. The CITB ‘Site Safety Plus’ training scheme delivered through a network of specialist training providers, performs a vital role.

In Scotland, the Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ) are widely adopted, as work-based assessment demonstrates that individuals have the competences required to be employed in the industry. In addition, the College Network of Training Providers are directly involved with the design and delivery of what CITB refer to as, ‘training qualifications’ which are delivered and assessed in a college facility, as opposed to the workplace. The Scottish National Progression Awards (EQF levels 2&3) and Professional Development Awards (EQF levels 4 and above) are widely adopted. Most learners will progress to SVQ completion after leaving college and on entering employment.

The VET system in England is going through a reform where new apprenticeship standards and programmes are being developed and new technical education routes and qualifications have been proposed. Currently, a wide range of qualifications developed by multiple independent awarding organisations are delivered by well-established colleges and private training providers alongside the increased emphasis on apprenticeships. Current VET qualifications are based on NOS also in England, but new reforms are allowing employers to define occupational standards more directly. The new system of apprenticeships is only just being implemented, so it is too early to assess its longer-term impact.

CITB – Designing construction qualifications

Industry sector

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) sets National Occupational Standards (NOS) that underpin the design of qualifications for all sectors of a diverse UK construction industry. This is done through a clear and transparent process that involves well-chosen employer representatives to ensure that the standards and qualifications are fit for purpose.

The ‘Construction Skills Network’ operates a 4-year labour skills foresight system for the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as specific regions. This industry insight helps to inform the NOS and is referred to by government when devising their macro-economic plans.

Good practice recognised

1. Pervasive National Occupational Standards (NOS)

By selecting employer representatives with the appropriate trade skills knowledge for sector specific standards setting meetings, the CITB determines the labour skills requirements for all sectors of the diverse UK construction industry inclusively and very effectively. Consequently, the NOS are widely respected by industry and in addition to underpinning qualifications are referred to by companies when revising their Standard Operating Procedures to remain NOS compliant.

2. Relationship building and mediation

Whilst determining employers’ labour skill requirements, the CITB remain sensitive to the VET provider perspective, reconciling industry demand with the practicalities of VET design, development and delivery. As mediator, they negotiate amendments to proposed industry standards with sector representatives, encouraging compromise when necessary to accommodate the VET sector.

3. Quality assurance of assessment

The CITB is involved in the quality assurance of the assessment process, directly, within work-based training (VQs) and short courses, and indirectly through the development of Recommended Qualification Structures’ for VET providers to adopt. Consequently, they act as the guardian of occupational standards within the delivery of all modes of education and training.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

The industry relies on CITB services and leadership and there are strong indicators of a high degree of trust. Most notably, the industry has a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) that provides construction site workers with the mandatory certification required to work on building sites. The CSCS cards are issued based on having completed recognised training and assessment, in line with CITB-developed standards and qualifications.

Informed by the appropriate NOS, the CITB create Recommended Qualifications Structures that reflect current Occupational Profiles and include a Consolidated Assessment Strategy. This recommendation is taken to the ‘Built Environment Awarding Body Forum (BEABF), a representative organisation that includes Awarding Body and VET interests, as well as industry. The BEABF provides the VET sector and Awarding Bodies an opportunity to comment on the proposal. Any points of contention can be taken to employer groups by the CITB for re-consideration. Compromise is often necessary, as the funding system influences what is practicable for colleges to deliver. As the CITB anticipate potential issues and moderate any unreasonable demands at source with their employer representatives, conflicts are rare.

Employers generally cooperate with their VET providers to support the qualification delivery, assessment and quality assurance process. Large companies can more readily support all aspects of training delivery through collaboration with their VET providers, than smaller companies. All VQs must be work based, therefore the integrity of the assessment process is very ‘employer dependant’. The Consolidated Assessment Strategy for VQs is offered to employers to support them as they engage with the assessment process. In extreme cases, where an employer does not have the facilities needed to satisfy the assessment of a learning outcome, the CITB will permit simulation. This places the CITB in direct control of the integrity of the work-based assessment process, as opposed to the Awarding Bodies.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

The CITB leads the NOS development process, and through consultation with industry federation bodies and their diverse membership, they ensure employers from different types of construction businesses are engaged. Large employers are represented, but as 98% of UK construction employers are small to medium enterprises (SMEs), they have a strong voice. The CITB have set criteria on how to involve employers that are applied within all four UK nations, thereby ensuring that both the small and larger companies are well represented. The portfolio of NOS which needs to be periodically updated is diverse and composed of 260 suites. Some NOS change slowly, whereas others are very fast moving and need to be updated rapidly in response to changes in technology and/or industry practices.

The CITB are dependent on industry representatives to ensure that the internal consultation of those they represent is effective, and they are expected to cascade information as and when required. The CITB consistently ensures industry engagement with occupational standards review and development. They encourage the attendance of current practitioners at development meetings to ensure that those most familiar with each sector’s technical requirements are inputting to standards development, as opposed to administrators. Information and proposals are also posted on web sites to provide all practitioners the opportunity to contribute to standards development.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

The CITB are responsible for ensuring the development of the NOS, which are well defined, and underpin both CITB-designed qualifications as well as those developed by the various Awarding Bodies in the UK.

Through the development of ‘Recommended Qualification Structures’ which prescribe the mandatory and optional elements, the CITB in effect specify each ‘Occupational Profile in terms of the essential knowledge, understanding and skills requirements, informed by NOS. Once approved following presentation to the ‘Built Environment Awarding Body Forum (BEABF), the essential knowledge and understanding is embedded within college-based ‘training qualifications’. In addition, as the CITB quality assure the short courses delivered by industry themselves, they can ensure occupational standards are upheld within ‘in house’ short-course training.

There is very little recognition of standards from other countries by the UK construction sector, despite the mobility of the European workforce. This is a conscious policy to maintain a strong and reliable standard. However, CITB has recently concluded a piece of work with UK NARIC to design a process to map relevant overseas qualifications to UK qualifications for the specific purpose of helping incoming workers to gain CSCS cards necessary to legitimise their employment.

It is noteworthy that the NOS influence company operations and are often referred to when revising company Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to comply with the NOS. As the industry informs the NOS from a technical perspective, they are widely respected, creating a virtuous cycle. The work based VQs are ‘industry owned’, and individual companies do not want their working practices to ‘fall out of step with the NOS. If they do, the VQ completion by their trainees would become problematic.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

CITB relies on regional level forecasting based on a five-year horizon to anticipate which job roles will be in demand. They also rely on national labour forecasting to inform standards and qualifications development. In the past, there was a set schedule for reviewing NOS. Now, by a process of incremental review, the standards may be reviewed at any time. Employers may approach CITB to request a review, at which point the standards would be put before a working group which could in turn make a small change or recommend a wholesale review if required. Any change to legislative requirements is responded to immediately through NOS revisions and corresponding changes in the VQ. The CITB prioritises its response to requests from industry for technologically driven changes, according to the ‘volume’ of requests they receive. Prioritisation has become essential since the budget for this work was markedly reduced. Non-technological changes are also made, but are more at risk of ‘drifting’, as industry is less vocal.

The VET system is responsive to changes in standards, although the updating of some qualifications can be delayed. Whilst the response to changes in legislation is immediate, other ‘technical’ changes are phased in over time and can take up to a year, depending on the Awarding Body. Labour market forecasting can be less influential than the changes in funding incentives, which VET providers must address urgently.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

This is an example of an industry training board with strong support from the sector. This is accomplished predominantly through close liaison with industry bodies who in turn support and recommend CITB qualifications.

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VET provision in the UK

In England and Northern Ireland, Ofsted are responsible for inspecting further education providers. Funding for work-based training is devolved to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and the recent ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeship initiative, although very influential within the English system, does not apply across the UK. Latterly, the Independent Motor Trade Factors Associated (IFA) represent land-based engineering and have been lobbying to try and ensure a positive outcome for the Trailblazer. One of their main challenges has been to address the development of ‘end point assessment’ (EPA), which is a fundamental component of all Trailblazer programmes. Some fear fragmentation within the UK arising due to the Trailblazer influence, others are more optimistic and believe in the underlying government philosophy to incentivise the development of current, industry led work-based qualifications.

According to some larger companies, this disparity within the UK has had a detrimental impact on the consistency of the quality of work-based qualifications. What is more, variable quality assurance requirements in each country with devolved authority prevent the unification of delivery and assessment systems in the short term at company level. This has been frustrating, but despite these challenges, there are two well established land based engineering apprenticeship frameworks at EQF levels 3, 4 and 5, which are widely respected by industry and delivered on a block release basis typically:

In Scotland, there is a mature, stable and reliable VET system which includes the public-sector colleges and private training providers and Education Scotland perform regular reviews focussing on the ‘learner experience’. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the awarding body for work based vocational qualifications and they operate a comprehensive quality assurance system, including VET provider centre approvals and external verification of the assessment process. The awarding bodies used for the college-based National Qualifications (NQs) has included Edexcel (Pearsons) and the International Motor Industry (IMI), selected latterly by industry partly due to their greater flexibility, which includes the potential to offer an ‘on-line assessment’ facility.

Several VET providers have played a very significant role within land-based engineering NQ development by working with CLAAS, the most influential multinational manufacturer. This includes Reaseheath College in the north of England and the former Barony College (now SRUC Barony campus) in the south west of Scotland, both exemplifying the nature of the formal partnerships that have been forged. The SRUC Barony campus and CLAAS partnership has won an award from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) for business innovation and partnership development. Hartpury College’s involvement in land-based engineering and its impact on the Hartpury Certificate has also been described.

Land Based Engineering

Industry sector

The land-based engineering industry includes the manufacture and distribution of machinery and equipment to the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors and is led by large multi-national machinery manufacturers. These companies are influential, shaping the business environment for many independent machinery dealerships that provide machinery servicing and the customer support service interface. The industry has become increasingly sophisticated due to the advent of advanced digital diagnostics and machinery optimisation systems, leading to the creation of a ‘higher level of technician’ during the last 15 years. In addition to machinery servicing, the parts supply service is important to the dealerships. Business profitability is often built on the sales team’s knowledge of the product (machine) benefits and strong customer services which are central to the sales process.

There have been several machinery manufacturers who have forged close partnerships with selected colleges over the last 15 years, including John Deere, CLAAS, New Holland, Krone and Stihl. Some of these relationships have stood the test of time, despite changes in senior personnel, as they have been based on formalised business partnerships between the organisations as opposed to personal agreements and working relationships established between individual managers.

The multinational company CLAAS provides examples of company level good practice. In addition, good practices within a medium sized company, Jas P Wilson, a specialist Forestry machine manufacturer in the south west of Scotland, have been included. This exemplifies the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) perspective, adding greater breadth for comparative purposes within the case study.

Good practice recognised

1. Involvement of small employers in standards development

The involvement by proactive VET providers taking a keen interest in standards development and the facilitation they have offered has been important to widening engagement with employers. The former Barony College held regular meetings with employers after 5.00 pm to encourage attendance and input to standards development discussions by smaller businesses, who were unable to attend during the working day, hence strengthening the voice of the smaller organisations within the process.

2. Employer VET provider partnerships

Some of the larger machinery manufacturers have formed close alliances with selected public-sector VET providers in the UK, as exemplified by the multinational company CLAAS. There are several VET providers that CLAAS work closely with nationally, forming mutually beneficial partnerships including:

  • The provision of machinery assets from the CLAAS academy on partner college campuses for use for training apprentices during their college blocks. In addition, three ‘state of the art’ tractors are provided annually for training purposes, all at no cost to the college.
  • Access to the CLAAS specialist machine training catalogue by staff, allowing them to incorporate specialist skills updates within their personal continuing professional development programmes at no cost. This has improved the quality of their teaching and instruction to the benefit of all learners, including the CLAAS apprentices.

In addition, there is a positive relationship between Babcock a private sector training organisation and John Deere. Babcock manages John Deere’s apprenticeship programme in the UK and develops its apprentices.

3. Learning and assessment platform

The SRUC Barony campus were contracted to develop a learning and assessment platform for the Land-Based Technician scheme to serve the needs of the independent dealers. CLAAS and the former Barony College initiated this process, yet the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA) and the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) owned the intellectual property rights and therefore had unlimited access and rights of use. As a result, digital resources for learning and assessment were developed that can be readily accessed by CLAAS learners and other apprentices in the work place, using ICT and learning technologies.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

There is a high degree of dependency on VET provision from the public and/or private sector within company staff development programmes in the land based engineering sector and some VET providers work well with industry representatives to set standards, and design and develop VET. The former Barony College in South of Scotland and Reaseheath College in the north of England have been amongst the most active UK college VET providers and were instrumental in this process, working closely with employer representatives to develop standards. The British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA) were involved and represented the smaller independent dealers.

The industry depends on VET providers for work-based qualifications and the larger companies are particularly dependant on the well-established apprenticeship system and continued professional development (CPD). Although a challenge, employers support the delivery, assessment and quality assurance (QA) process for qualifications and work well with their VET providers. With patient nurturing, most cooperate to adopt good training and record keeping disciplines, which VET providers require to ensure the quality of work-based assessment.

The National Qualifications (NQs) are referred to by employers as essential requirements when recruiting new entrants for approximately 80% of those employed, whereas for the remainder, this is not a pre-requisite. However, some will enter an NQ pathway following their initial employment. [Ref: Drew Easton - former Head of land-based engineering and SRUC Barony, per comm]. Others will remain unqualified, although this is the exception, and is more likely to occur within the smaller businesses that do not have to comply with the demands of the larger machinery manufacturers (multi-nationals).

The larger manufacturers have invested in those VET providers they believe to be the most motivated, industry focussed and able to respond to their evolving needs. Several very close alliances have been formed between some of the larger companies and innovative VET providers. This is exemplified by the on-going CLAAS partnerships with the SRUC Barony campus in south west of Scotland and Reaseheath College in the north west of England. A high degree of trust, reliance and mutual benefit has developed over time.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

Due to the domination of the sector by a small number of large multi-national manufacturers, the wider representation and active involvement of smaller companies and many VET providers is limited at times. However, the processes for researching the sector’s needs and updating competency requirements are robust, with a select minority of proactive colleges playing a key role within the process.

The LANTRA Sector Skills Council have the responsibility for labour skills fore-casting and National Occupational Standards (NOS) updating, supported by BAGMA (representing the independent dealers and franchise holders), and the AEA who represent the manufacturers. Although the door is open to smaller organisations, the larger employers are the most pro-active, as they have the staff resources to get more fully involved. They influence the NOS through regular and active attendance of the key committees. This reality reflects the structure of the industry and consequently some VET providers have adopted practices to widen employer representation in VET development.

LANTRA Sector Skills Council meetings to discuss labour skills foresight and the development of occupational standards are well attended by appropriate managers from industry. They are well led by the main companies and an independent consultant representing the independent dealers through BAGMA. Company representatives are consulted and actively involved in the development of occupational standards and VET design. However, the larger manufacturers tend to drive the process, and it is hard to judge the effectiveness of employee consultation. Many in the industry passively accept that standards are set above them by the larger manufacturers, and they comply with whatever the vested interests demand. The consultation on standards involves colleges, but only a minority get actively involved and they tend to become very influential and important mediators within the NOS and NQ development process.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

The mapping of occupational standards across national boundaries out with the UK has been limited. However, BAGMA have been involved and subcontracted work of this kind. The awarding bodies and their development groups have mapped the NOS across national boundaries within the UK, ably assisted by leading colleges who have played a key role.

Although an up to date NOS underpins the NQs, the industry will generally take some time to change Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in response to NOS updates. However, the VET providers often facilitate such changes as the assessment of learning outcomes often necessitates SOPs alignment for NQ completion. The NOS are well defined, reflecting the skills and knowledge requirement for each occupational level and respected by employers. However, despite the familiarity of some employers with the development process, they remain very dependent on support from VET providers when it comes to the application of the NOS within assessment processes and the recording of ‘assessment evidence’.

Generally, the sector is forward looking, and the content and structure of the curriculum reflects the current and anticipated development needs of the profession. The larger companies are very proactive in this respect and have set the pace. The content and validity of the curriculum is acknowledged by employer representatives, and the larger companies such as CLAAS are involved in ongoing, systematic review and continuous improvement. However, the smaller companies have not been so proactive due to their resource constraints.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The organisation, facility and processes exist to support labour skills forecasting and review on behalf of the industry. With the assistance of BAGMA, the LANTRA sector skills council keep the NOS up to date regarding technological advances, industry good practice and legislative requirements.

However, allegedly, there has been some variability in the quality of VET provision nationally, leading some companies to work selectively with those providers who can meet their more exacting needs. Once they have come to trust in the quality of their provision and responsiveness to company needs, thes e partnerships have been formalised. The VET qualifications, curriculum and resources fordelivery are updated promptly by the best VET providers in response to labour skills forecasting and changes in the NOS. Those working within a formal partnership with the major companies tend to be the most responsive, as this is what leading companies expect of their preferred providers.

The above forecasting and review process led to the creation of the Master Mechanic and Technician referred to above. Latterly, frameworks have been written in generic terms so as the learning outcomes do not date so quickly. However, this can result in variable standards between VET providers if external QA processes are not fully effective and led CLAAS to establish their own company standard. The standard Level 2/3 (EQF level 3-4) Apprenticeship in Land Based Engineering (underpinned by the NOS) is used as their entry level training, but on completion, trainees can progress to the Master Mechanic and Master Technician which focus on enhanced technical skills and knowledge based on their own company products.

Organisation level good practice

CLAAS Academy

The apprenticeship system is the start of the CLAAS skills pipeline. The ‘Master Mechanic’ followed by the ‘Master Technician’ programme (which is exclusive to CLAAS) were developed following the realisation by CLAAS and others in the sector that a higher-level ICT proficient technician was essential to the industry’s progress.

In addition, the CLAAS Academy has been established in Bury Saint Edmunds, Suffolk in England to address, certain aspects of commercial training that VET providers lack the capacity to deliver. This specialist company bespoke VET builds on the apprenticeship platform but is very closely aligned to the company’s own products and sales process. It includes; soft skills, financial management, high level product features and benefits. This training is customised to the CLAAS product range, service and brand and is also effectively sold to franchise holders selling CLAAS machinery. The model is replicated across Europe through similar CLAAS daughter companies. There is a central CLAAS learning resource team of four dedicated learning technologists who develop the training resource for the company, centrally. The delivery is customised to suit local needs in countries which include Germany, Spain and Romania. In addition, CLAAS have designed exchange periods within their training schemes, encouraging staff to work in Germany, Australia or New Zealand and have an ongoing interest in Erasmus+ as a vehicle for supporting learner mobility.

Following the appointment of a CLAAS learning resources manager in 2012, the company has developed their ‘ICT enabled learning’ capability and the SRUC Barony campus provides a hosting service for their digital learning resources. A company based ‘360 degrees blended learning approach’ has been established and particularly rapid progress is being made with the development of learner diagnostics to allow bespoke delivery to individual learners, according to their own development plan priorities.

Jas P Wilson - Forest Machines

Jas P Wilson is a dynamic company located in Dalbeattie, Southwest Scotland. The company imports forest machinery and firewood processing equipment from several European manufacturers which is retailed throughout the UK and Ireland. They are also manufacturers and exporters, producing a range of specialist trailers, cranes and grapples under the BOTEX brand name. Apprenticeships are at the heart of the company’s staff development policy with over 20% of their staff on apprenticeship programmes. A unique relationship with local VET providers and schools has been initiated and nurtured, based on the provision of work experience and authentic work based training, which are highly valued by the local community and company alike.

The company has invested in an on-site Education Centre which is made available to all partners. An experienced and qualified assessor is employed on site to manage the Education Centre programme, undertake assessment and coordinate activity with schools and VET providers. Secondary school pupils are integrated into the business for work experience gaining employability skills and qualifications to complement their mainstream education. By design, post school apprentices are supported by a network of trained and experienced company mentors with exemplary product knowledge. They spend 95% of their time on site undertaking real tasks required by the business and directly related to the NOS allowing naturally occurring evidence of competence to be gathered and verified. Regular standard setting meetings held by the Education Centre manager with the company mentors to ensure that the team interpret the NOS consistently when observing apprentices undertaking daily work tasks. The company has been recognised as a ‘Champion Business in the Development of the Young Workforce 2018 in the recent Chamber of Commerce awards for the on – going work they do in the development and support of young people.

Hartpury College – Gloucestershire

Hartpury College places great emphasis on employability within the curriculum and works hard with their employers in all sectors to define and develop skills and/or standards which go beyond the NQ. Not only do Hartpury students complete their main award, but also work towards a Hartpury Certificate, mirroring and exceeding the 16-19 Study Programme requirements. This ‘added value’ is made visible within the Hartpury Certificate which is highly regarded within the English sector and with employers, and the college was recognised as outstanding in all categories, including employability, during their recent 2018 Ofsted review.

This general concept is also apparent in their land-based engineering provision due to a symbiotic relationship with CLAAS. Hartpury are provided with CLAAS machinery and equipment which supports VET delivery beyond the NQ requirements. In return, Hartpury provide CLAAS with a venue and facility in the Gloucestershire area that they can access to train their company staff.

How can this be replicated in other systems?

Employer VET provider partnerships: Potentially, alliances and formal partnerships with preferred high-quality VET providers could be formed by large companies or collectives within other sectors, once the VET and associated resource requirements have been clearly defined. The relationship must be symbiotic. Although it is practical for CLAAS to provide machinery for college use, in other circumstances the equipment and technology will not be so mobile, and learners will need to travel to an employer’s facility, unless the VET provider is able to replicate the facility. Generally, for many manufacturing and engineering processes, the capital cost of keeping up to date with the latest equipment and technology is prohibitive for VET providers, and the CLAAS model, or some equivalent access arrangement, is the best way to provide access to the most up to date equipment, thereby achieving the highest quality VET by design.

Company level ICT enabled VET: It is possible for any large company, or collective, to become more independent within the design and development of company bespoke VET resources that allow their staff to progress from NQs. By investing in a team with the skills to develop ‘ICT enabled learning’, the capacity can be created to provide flexible access to company bespoke learning and assessment opportunities. The viability is greater the more learners who are served, which tends to favour the larger companies. Alternatively, partnerships with a progressive college provider could offer the same ICT enabled VET capacity and resources. This model may work best for smaller organisations that are able to provide a predictable and reliable critical mass of learners collectively to justify college investment in ICT enabled VET.

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VET provision in the UK

There is a mature, stable and reliable VET system in Scotland which includes colleges and private training providers. The UK City and Guilds system is widely adopted by many in the sector, in addition to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) as qualification awarding bodies. Therefore, the VET is formal, quality assured and standardised and informed by appropriate Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) for each relevant trade. In addition, at provider level the environment is highly collaborative and very responsive to the needs of industry and any new knowledge and improved practices are immediately adopted in response to the outcome of investigations in to accidents or fatalities when disseminated by industry. The Trailblazers programme recently introduced to England and still ‘bedding in’, has not been implemented north of the border, contributing towards the continuation of a VET regulatory and funding environment that is well understood and stable. Nationally, an unusually high level of responsiveness by the VET sector to industry needs has evolved, and well-designed curriculum pathways derived from combinations of National Qualifications (NQs) and company bespoke programmes have been created.

Engineering – energy sector

Overview of the industry

Engineering within the energy sector embraces electrical power production and transfer, renewable energy, and oil and gas exploitation. A wide range of engineering disciplines and trades are relied on, within the large utility providers as well as smaller companies. Construction, metal work, the design and development of infrastructure for the extraction and transfer of natural resources (oil and gas) and production and transfer of electrical power are all integral to the sector. By its nature, the workforce often faces high risk situations and environments, and this has been a catalyst internationally for the development of a highly regulated sector with respected global standards adopted by national level regulatory bodies and reflected within occupational standards.

Forth-Valley College

The Forth Valley College (referred to as ‘the college’ henceforth) located in Fife, central belt Scotland, has been a VET provider for the Scottish energy engineering sector for many years and are an outstanding example of the very positive and long-standing relationship between VET providers and the energy sector nationally. The main employers that the college work with are Scottish Power and those within Oil and Gas. Both sectors need their staff to comply with Health and Safety (H&S) requirements through the attainment of NQs as this cannot be achieved through in company non-formal VET.

Good practice recognised

1. Employer involvement in the quality assurance of delivery

Company managers are encouraged to make unscheduled visits to the college premises at any time they choose and can enter the training workshops and pass comment to the Head of Department on anything they observe, including compliance with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and H&S. This has benefited both the attitude of students and staff involved with the full-time college-based courses as well as work-based apprentices and demonstrates a very high level of trust.

2. Employer portal

The college have developed an employer portal, allowing employers to access records on their trainee’s behaviour and progress during their time at college by simply logging in to the system. This high level of transparency and information sharing on the individual learner has raised standards.

3. VET provider responsiveness

The college are informed immediately of any changes to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that necessitate an immediate curriculum revision. An exceptional level of responsiveness is evident through the college 'tool box talks' every morning before classes when instructors meet their department head for a 10-20-minute update. Any paper-based or digital 'news flashes’ received from the industry are related to staff and changes to course delivery are agreed and immediately implemented. This simple but very effective mechanism pre-empts NOS updating which can be subject to significant administrative delays.

4. VET sector collaboration

The Scottish Engineering Sector Partnership (ESP) has been established following a damaging period of competition which led to potential Scottish VET business being lost to a competitor. This avoids unnecessary and counterproductive competition and has led to the development of a very collaborative environment, from which industry derives great benefit. VET provider sub groups have formed within the ESP based on established employer links and their investment in specialisms. Access by VET partners is encouraged by design, sharing high-quality resources within the VET provider network, raising the quality of provision for industry nationally. This is exemplified by the wind energy sub-sector.

Detailed findings

Relationship between the VET sector, industry representatives and employers (trust and effectiveness)

Employers cooperate very well with the college to support the delivery, assessment and quality assurance (QA) process for qualifications. There is a high level of dependency on VET providers for Work Based Qualifications and Continued Professional Development (CPD). The Oil and Gas sector depends on college VET providers or private training companies for core NQs. Specialist provision, such as survival training, is also accessed through the formal VET system and provided by Blackpool College. Some training is accessed through other companies who have the specialist equipment needed. Likewise, Scottish Power depends on VET providers for core National Qualifications. However, they have their own training centre for 'bespoke training', technical updating and Continued Professional Development (CPD).

National Qualifications are referred to by employers as essential requirements when recruiting new entrants. However, recruitment from communities is commonplace by Scottish Power (SP) and Access 4 level courses are used to provide pathways to qualifications including the Modern Apprenticeship. However, the initial recruitment does not depend on being pre-qualified.

Higher level school qualifications in subjects such as physics and maths are typical entry requirements for the 'Advanced Technician Apprenticeship in the Oil and Gas sector, which is academically demanding. Transition courses are also provided by the college to support 'transition from other sectors and disciplines and tend to be 12 weeks in duration.

The college work closely with industry representatives to set standards and to design and develop VET. Employers are led by the college regarding the methodology for the delivery and assessment of qualifications and provide excellent support to the work-based assessment of competence that the apprenticeship system relies on. This is exemplified by Scottish Power who acted upon the college’s advice to increase the level and time allocation for maths skills development during the National Qualification development process. The two days proposal originally was assumed to be adequate by industry was insufficient, and through careful negotiation, the six-week allocation deemed necessary was made.

Due to the inherent dangers that abound within the sector, the college delivers bespoke training for the Oil and Gas sector, as well as the more generic NOS based NQs, leading to a high level of dependency and a very close working partnership.

A close working partnership has been established in both sectors to ensure the assessment process is robust and reliable. College Assessors and Internal Verifiers visit the employers’ premises every four weeks and observe trainees in the work place and gather assessment evidence. In addition, witness testimony is used between visits, using company staff who are registered with the CITB ( ) as having valid experience and qualifications, thereby ensuring that the assessment evidence gathered is robust and reliable. Employers can also access an employer portal (See Good Practice 2).

Employers have a very high level of access to the college training facilities (See Good Practice 1) and mid-term reports which have been signed off by the apprentices themselves are made available to their employers. This has led to early intervention with learners underperforming in the more subject areas that are commonly more challenging, such as applied maths.

Effectiveness of employer and employee representation

There are effective Sector Skills Councils (Energy Utility (EU) Skills and Cogent) that are well supported by industry representatives who provide continuity of attendance at meetings to address occupational standards. They lead the labour skills foresight process and the development of occupational standards in consultation with industry, publishing their research online.

Both small and large employers are represented on appropriate committees, reflecting the structure of the industry sector and can influence the standards. Scottish Power (SP) is a large employer involved in standards development with the VET sector. Conversely, the Oil and Gas sector’s composition includes smaller companies, who are involved, but with greater difficulty. In the past, privatisation led to fragmentation of the sector and each company refused to recognise each other's courses and standards. This situation has been overcome during the last three years, creating a differentiated system. The National Occupational Standards (NOS) underpin generic NQs delivered by the college sector that must be recognised by each company and this assists labour mobility within the UK. The NQs are complemented by company bespoke courses delivering training specific to company Standard Operating Procedures and technology.

Standards development meetings are effective, with the same training managers attending each meeting, consistently, ensuring continuity of their involvement. Scottish Power’s training manager is an engineer with a strong feel for standards across a wide range of trade skills. There is less dependency therefore on consulting other staff. Conversely Ineous (a large company in the Oil and Gas sector) have a training manager who is a former banker. Therefore, he relies on his staff with current trade knowledge and skills, during consultations on occupational standards, which increases the level of engagement internally.

Effectiveness of applying standards to VET design

Both the NOS and progression pathways are very well defined and mature, reflecting the skills and knowledge requirement for each occupational level and are respected by employers. In Scotland, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) system has helped to drive the creation of lateral links between vocational and academic pathways, improving learner's access, mobility and progression. The NOS underpin the qualifications that employers recognise and company Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are revised regularly to ensure consistency with the NOS. Scottish Power (SP) is very responsive to any NOS revisions. Generally, SOPs are aligned to NOS within the Oil and Gas sector and the ‘Ineous’ company have aligned their SOPs to the NOS completely, to which the college is very responsive (See Good Practice 3).

The industry, Scottish Power and Oil and Gas, have also defined occupational standards at European and in some cases international level, enabling qualification equivalencies to be recognised to assist labour mobility. In addition, the main awarding bodies active within the sector in the UK, City and Guilds and the SQA, have a global reach. Consequently, many countries developing emerging oil and gas sectors rely on UK qualifications as opposed to their own VET system, which in many cases is rudimentary and relatively unregulated.

The sector has been subjected to intense international regulation for many years, leading to convergence, culminating in widely respected international standards. Therefore, there is less incentive to evaluate equivalencies between NQs within Europe, as NQ frameworks have been harmonised. In the UK, these strong international standards inform the Institute of Electrical Engineering regulations, which in turn inform the UK NOS. This norm is reflected in other EU countries, within any national systemic constraints that may exist.

The curriculum is fully aligned to the trade skills within the power and oil and gas industries and is kept up to date with changes to those professions. VET providers are engaged in a process of continuous improvement and are working closely with employers to enhance the curriculum, often through bespoke bolt on provision to improve course structures and the overall VET package.

The sector has become highly collaborative both between companies and between the sector and VET providers. The content and validity of the curriculum is acknowledged by employer representatives, who are involved in ongoing, systematic review and continuous improvement. This ensures that the curriculum reflects the actual status of the sector’s constituent trades and the anticipated future knowledge and skills needs. This is exemplified by the recent Risk Assessment campaign which led to the production of a booklet. Its application stimulated a culture of ‘real time risk assessments’ that took full account of the current circumstances and became embedded into work practices.

Responsiveness of the VET system to labour market changes

The SSCs deal with the routine labour skills forecasting through the work of their representative committees. In addition, the industry is very vigilant and particularly quick to investigate accidents or other failings that could have a detrimental impact on companies and their staff. All inquiry findings are immediately disseminated through their networks and are received by VET providers as news flashes (See Good Practice 3).

The NOS are kept up to date regarding technological advances, industry good practice and legislative requirements and reflect the highly regulated international environment which places a high premium on the health and safety of its workforce.

The VET curriculum and qualifications are updated in response to changes in the NOS and labour skills forecasting.by VET providers who operate very collaboratively. The VET sector is very effectively coordinated to enable it to compete collectively and more effectively for business, based on the recognition of each other’s specialisms and referrals (See Good practice 4).

How can this be replicated in other systems?

Forth Valley College is well-equipped to serve the engineering energy sector within a conducive Scottish VET regulatory environment and funding mechanism and are very responsive to employer needs. They have an exceptionally strong working relationship with their employers, based on a mature, high trust, working partnership under the dynamic leadership by their head of department.

The college has been heavily involved with industry NOS development whilst remaining responsive to the additional bespoke training needs of specific organisations. This has led to the creation of effective curriculum pathways, assisted by the SCQF, established on a platform of highly respected NQs. Through the ESP the college can access specialist facilities when required, without having to incur a prohibitively high level of investment, improving the quality of provision, by design.

There are many good practices evident for others to reflect on which could be replicated elsewhere potentially, but require a mature VET regulatory environment, strong working relationships and collaboration at several levels and VET provider responsiveness to industry needs.

However, to match Forth Valley College’s level of success requires most of the quality parameters identified by the project team at the outset of ED2VET to be fully satisfied (See the evaluative report posted on the ED2VET website).

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