Labor market challenges in Europe and Asia
The TVET seminar in Riga brought together common views and ideas on the challenges that both the Asian as the European regions are facing linked to the development of the labor market and in the society as a whole. Digital transformation, automatization and robotization are at the basis of rapid technological development on the labor markets in European and Asian countries. Therefore current and future generations in both regions should adapt in all stages of their life and should be equipped with skills and competences to cope with these rapid changes. It goes without saying that education in general but especially TVET and Lifelong Learning play an important role in developing and transforming skills that help individuals to adapt constantly in a person’s life for better employability and access to decent work: vocational and technical skills but also skills and competences to adapt more easily to changing labor markets, such as Lifelong Learning Skills, Life Skills and Key Competences.
Building Blocks of TVET
Throughout the seminar, some crucial building blocks were emphasized by different speakers from both policy level as at the level of TVET in practice. First of all, countries should focus on a vocational pathway approach or a Lifelong Learning approach, meaning that a TVET system should be developed on different educational levels starting from an initial TVET system (in Compulsory Education), a TVET system in higher education and TVET courses or programmes for adults (for reskilling or upskilling). In order to increase the coherence between different TVET systems, modularization of TVET courses is crucial as well as a decent validation and recognition system. Furthermore, TVET requires high flexibility in learning provision: classroom learning, distance learning, work placements and flexible transfers between different pathways. The needs of the learner should however always be central in developing flexible TVET approaches.
To realize a flexible and adapted TVET system, sustainable collaboration with enterprises and industries are crucial for different reasons. Employers sectors should assist in matching curricula with requirements of industries and sectors, enterprises should provide expertise and support in infrastructure and equipment, and should provide practical learning experiences and work placements and support TVET in anticipating technical developments. However, it is a challenge in most countries to get companies committed to provide this support. Often collaboration works well in projects and if additional financial support is provided, while sustainable partnerships and collaboration between companies and the TVET sector remains difficult.
Throughout the presentations it became clear that both in Asia as in Europe there is still a long way to go in improving the reputation of TVET. Too often, TVET is considered as a negative choice of students, often linked with social classes and learning abilities. Stronger investment in both the TVET systems itself as in the promotion of TVET is needed. The ASEM Education Process could play an important role in changing attitudes towards TVET.
TVET collaboration in ASEM Education
To conclude, all participants agreed that the ASEM Education Process can strengthen mutual learning and exchange regarding TVET in order to strengthen TVET systems both in Europe as in Asia. Exchange and collaboration should be achieved both at policy level and by sharing experiences from practice.
Some concrete suggestions have been made for further collaboration for TVET and Lifelong Learning within the ASEM Education Process. Teacher Training has been mentioned as an important aspect within TVET development, for which ASEM collaboration could provide a good platform to develop an international programme for TVET teacher training. Furthermore, ASEF will propose a new capacity building programme in which all ASEM countries can participate with a focus on practical skills development, lifelong learning as well as science and technology advancement to advance sustainable growth.
The ASEM community could also serve as an interesting platform to bring TVET policy makers, practitioners and businesses together to shape the TVET of the future by anticipating to the skills needed in the future.
All participants were convinced that this seminar brought together like-minded expertise and motivated people to develop and start new initiatives on TVET within the ASEM Education process.