BILT Bridging Event Europe 2024 in Como, Italy

How can vocational training be inclusive and excellent? – Interview with Alessandro Mele, President of Cometa

On the occasion of the BILT Bridging Event in Como, Italy, we asked Alessandro Mele, President of La Cometa Società Cooperativa Sociale (Cometa), to comment on the conference’s focus and some of its highlights. Cometa, a UNEVOC Centre and European Centre for Inclusive Excellence, is the TVET provider that hosted the event.

From 22 to 24 April 2024, the BILT Bridging Event: “Towards Inclusive Excellence in TVET” took place in Como, Italy. Around 70 in-person representatives and 200 online participants from European, African and Asian UNEVOC centres joined other members of the BILT community to discuss and share innovative solutions for promoting inclusion and excellence in TVET through policy and practice. Video recordings of the conference are available on the conference website (link on the right).

This European BILT conference was organised by the UNESCO International Centre for Vocational Education and Training (UNESCO-UNEVOC) and the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) It was hosted by the TVET provider Cometa.

In the following interview Mr Mele explains why Cometa was the right partner – and why Como was exactly the right place for this conference.

BILT: Mr Mele, why is Cometa the ideal host?

Alessandro Mele, President of Cometa

Mele: Cometa embodies the conference theme of “inclusive excellence”. Cometa is a network of individuals who support and foster each other’s growth. Cometa includes educators, talented students, young persons not in employment, education or training (NEET), migrants, and more. All these individuals not only learn together, but also coexist.

By hosting the event, Cometa is sharing its expertise and experiences and at the same time learning from global perspectives, further enriching its educational approach and contributing to the broader dialogue on VET excellence and inclusion.

This is what an inclusive and collaborative approach to education and personal development is all about: different perspectives and experiences that enrich learning.

BILT: Promoting inclusion and excellence is central to the event’s objectives. How does Cometa actively do this in the Como region?

Mele: Cometa is a European Centre of Excellence for Inclusion in Vocational Education and Training. We offer a range of accessible educational programmes with an emphasis on practical and holistic learning, engaging with the community, focusing on personal development, and building networks that support collaboration and growth.

Picture of a buidling in Cometa
Cometa is a welcoming place

Over the years Cometa has grown organically into an institution that now offers innovative programmes to 400 vocational students, as well as of 400 migrants in work-based learning programmes every year.

Cometa grew from an encounter, not a project.

Alessandro Mele, President of Cometa

It all started by saying “yes” to one foster child, and then another. Since then it has blossomed into a network of 70 families and 120 foster children. Support ranges from a daily fostering programme to assistance for an additional 150 children each year.

We always start with needs, and it was observed that some of these young people dropped out of school early. This was the beginning of our educational component, working to remotivate these 16 children. It has since doubled every year, with a current rate of 400 VET students plus the placement of 400 migrants into many innovative programmes each year.

The next step was the development of the International Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (IATH), an EQF Level 5 VET school, and negotiating employment opportunities for disabled students: a bar bistro, a carpentry workshop, a shop with Inditex, a work café at LVMH in Milan, a shop with Calzedonia, a bakery (Il pane di Sandro), and other activities (described under Le attività on their website, link on the right).

These efforts align Cometa with the core themes of the BILT Bridging Event, showcasing our commitment to these values and the excellent local results.

BILT: As host, Cometa plays a central role in the success of the BILT Bridging Event. What aspects of the conference are you most looking forward to at Cometa? And are there any particular discussions, sessions or contributions that you think will have a particular impact on attendees?

Mele: All the sessions scheduled for the BILT Bridging Event are set to be profoundly impactful for the attendees, due to the diversity and richness of the presented perspectives. We will have the opportunity to hear from educational experts from various parts of the world, bringing their valuable experiences and enhancing our understanding.

Cometa is very interested in sharing its inclusive culture in hopes of positively influencing the VET world. Sharing is in our DNA. We have a great network and reputation as an educational organisation and social enterprise, and we appreciate the attention we get from the conference participants.

The variety of the conference is remarkable, with formats such as poster presentations on projects from the BILT community or the hybrid Learning Lab on inclusive practice in hospitality training. And the inspiration to visit Cometa itself and see inclusive excellence put into practice is also part of it.

The fact that the perspectives of VET institutions are represented alongside those of policy makers and trainees ensures a well-rounded and deeply insightful event.

Alessandro Mele, President of Cometa

Aerial view of people forming the letters for "Cometa"
The Cometa approach is centred around the learners.

In the end, it is crucial that the learners and their direct experience of what it means to be in vocational education and training are the focus of our discussions, ideas, projects and work – and therefore also the focus of the conference.
Cometa wants the event to help develop a deeper understanding of inclusion in vocational education and training and to build networks between participants. The aim is to implement specific projects with a major impact and thus shape the future of VET.

The aim is to develop a deeper understanding of inclusion, to build networks, and shape the future of vocational education and training.

Alessandro Mele, President of Cometa

Alessandro Mele

As President of Cometa, Alessandro Mele has been involved in the Cometa network since 2004. The Cometa network has around 300 employees and 260 volunteers in Como, Italy, and is committed to the promotion, training, social inclusion and employment of young people. Today, Mele is President of the Cometa VET School with around 600 students, Secretary General of the International Academy of Tourism and Hospitality (IATH) and is also active in the National Association of Colleges (ITS), the Italian national association of technical institutes.