In Europe vocational qualifications are highly regarded by all, employers and students alike. Moreover such qualifications are essential to employment, in marked contrast to a number of other countries where they are seen as low value. In part this is a function of a close match between the higher order skills that the economy needs and the skills that are taught. The curriculum is not merely instrumental, limiting their outlook and preparing them simply to be ‘compliant employees’. Citizenship and ‘learning to learn’ are a part of many European countries` national core curricula.
The new realities brought by the economic crisis brought a resurging interest in career and vocational training and education (VET) from business leaders, policy makers, and educators who have discovered, and in some cases rediscovered, the benefits of authentic applied learning embedded in career pathways that address a robust mixture of relationships, relevance, and rigor.
Despite the growing interest though, there are still many policy makers, parents, employers, and - in some European countries - the community at large - continue to view VET as a second-tier program for those students who are not realizing success in the traditional, first-tier college-prep high school program. EYNCRIN works to change those attitudes and promote the importance of creative and inclusive VET for innovation and inclusive growth.
Why is EYNCRIN`s InVET work so innovative?
The first is the establishment of an innovation force within EYNCRIN as a whole. This takes the shape of InVET Center, the brainchild of a team that EYNCRIN affectionately calls ‘the propeller heads’. The InVet Center started work in August 2013. It is probably unique, but will undoubtedly be copied rapidly (it is already starting to attract international partners).
The second area of innovation is one in which the EYNCRIN InVET Center has already demonstrated profound impact. The organization took on the task of working with staff to re-cast the Business and Administration programme for 16-19 year olds, a group that had the highest dropout rate in Europe – a grisly 60 percent. The major change was to increase the proportion of work-based learning and to integrate it into the programme each week – increasing from Year 1 until in Year 3 it is full-time (with teacher support and monitoring). The programme also began to use mobile learning technologies: iPod Touches and iPads for a wide variety of purposes, including assessment. And assessment is flexible: depending on progress and prior experience, it can be completed well in advance of the nominal three years. To achieve this, teachers have made great strides. They have learned how to use cloud-based services and their own mobile devices in new ways. And they have understood that all those involved in the programme assume different roles at different times. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner.
Finally, The InVET Center of EYNCRIN promotes an innovating apprenticeship.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, apprenticeship is perhaps the oldest formal means of acquiring work-related skills. It has endured because the central concept – the structured learning of accredited skills, whilst in a real job – incorporates the key ideas of practice-based learning and relevance to employers. In parts of Europe where it is strongest (Germany, the Netherlands, Austria) it is a highly regarded option.
In a nutshell, the InVET Center aims:
1. To join the community of innovative national and European VET institutions.
2. To support vocational schools, which implement innovative educational projects.
3. To disseminate information on innovative training methods.
4. To develop new vocational training curricula regarding market requirements.
5. To promote international projects, support exchange and study visits.
6. To organise conferences, seminars, competitions for the association members.
7. To co-operate with similar organisations in Europe and globally.
The mission if the InVET Center is to enrich vocational education and training (VET) through co-operation by building an European Youth Network of VET institutions and social partners which will:
• Disseminate innovative ideas and projects done by and for young learners
• Promote quality and innovation in Vocational Education and Training
• Develop collaboration, mutual co-operation and sharing of good practice.
Rebranding Vocational Training:
Developing Innovations in Career and Education