Aide et Action /AEA: Vocational training has often been discredited in Europe. How do you explain this?
Stylianos Mavromoustakos / S.M: For many years, the emphasis has been on general and higher education both at national and European level. Vocational education has long been considered the poor relation of the education system.
In her speech at the Informal Council of Ministers for Vocational Education and Training in Bruges on 7 December 2010, Antroulla Vasiliou, Commissioner for Education and Culture, explained that in many education systems, vocational training is seen as a negligible part of the education system. It often functions as an escape route for young people who have no other opportunities or who are not suited to study. But times are changing and today's economic reality no longer allows us to neglect this education.
AeA: According to the European Commission, vocational training would be one of the solutions to revive growth following the economic crisis of 2008? What is the situation?
At European level and in many Member States, it has been recognised that without vocational training, Europe could not become one of the world's leading economies. The link is now made between vocational training and the development of key competences. The contribution of training to the improvement of individual skills and knowledge is now recognised, even in the context of general education. This clearly encourages interaction between theoretical knowledge and practical activities.
It is now recognised that practical education promotes efficiency, innovation, flexibility and creativity. It strengthens social cohesion and improves professional and geographical mobility. But making vocational training a response to the crisis will require strong cohesion between educational, cultural, social and economic policies. It will also be necessary to increase the impact of Council of Europe decisions and to ask governments to maintain adequate levels of investment and to continue to support education during the current economic crisis. The authorities must also be willing to promote and stimulate the involvement of public and private actors in vocational training.
AEA: What is missing from the European offer today to support growth?
S.M: The essential role of vocational training (including adult education) in economic and social development must be recognised and valued. It is important that technical skills are recognised as important as book-based knowledge.
This education should be on a par with more traditional education. Dividing European and national public funds equally between the two types of education would be a first step in the right direction.
Finally, there are 27 different education systems in Europe. In the USA there is only one. The tools and instruments we develop must be adapted to meet the requirements of the different education systems. This diversity is not necessarily an obstacle, it can be a source of benefit for the member states.
AEA: What do you recommend to achieve this?
S.M.: To promote vocational training in Europe, it is now necessary to agree on a common timetable, a system of regular checks and indicators of effectiveness between the different Member States.
EFVET, which is a unique professional association in Europe created by and for technical and vocational education providers, has a key role to play in this context. By bringing together vocational education networks and promoting the sharing of knowledge and good practice between member states, it is a real platform of influence that can contribute to the European debate on vocational education and training.
For EFVET it is important that a long-term learning strategy is developed based on knowledge, skills, experience and learning outcomes. We need to put in place the instruments to promote cooperation between education actors, employment agencies, local authorities and social partners. Vocational training must be made a career pathway as well as an instrument of social cohesion.
AEA: Aide et Action is currently running a vocational training project in Haiti. What do you think about it?
Projects like this are a step in the right direction. We need to fight poverty by accompanying under-qualified people to acquire the knowledge, skills and competences that will help them to achieve a better future in their own country. This would be a much more effective instrument to avoid large flows of people migrating in search of a better future. A more skilled workforce would help the national economy by attracting more foreign investment.