„Skills for the Future: Managing Transition“

European Training Foundation hosts conference in Italy

More than 300 participants from the European Union and neighbouring countries accepted the invitation of the European Training Foundation (ETF) to discuss changes on the labour market from a skills perspective in Turin/Italy from 21 to 22 November 2018.

„Skills for the Future: Managing Transition“
Birgit Thomann (BIBB) participated a panel discussion on the impact of global trends on developing and transition countries.

With the aim of exploring how developing and transition countries can respond to global trends shaping the labour market of tomorrow several issues were addressed: How do global forces interact with local realities and how does this affect the demand for skills? How should governments, businesses, social partners, civil society, research institutions, communities and education and training providers work together to manage change? What skills policies work in different contexts?

In the context of the conference “Skills for the Future”, Birgit Thomann, head of the international department at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) participated in a panel discussion on the impact of global trends on developing and transition countries. The discussion evolved around two key questions:

  • Considering all global trends impacting on jobs and skills, what are the challenges and opportunities they bring to VET systems, which are extremely diverse in every country?
  • Based on the global experience of your country, how can VET students in developing countries acquire subject-specific knowledge and competencies so to be prepared for the new learning culture 4.0?

Birgit Thomann outlined three main principles of the German VET system: The principle of occupation is one of the central aspects of the system. It implies that besides training for a job, profound qualifications are acquired for a longterm perspective. Secondly, it is the dual learning aspect that qualifies young people in terms of theory (school-based learning) and by means of practical experience (work-based learning). A third principle focuses on the cooperation of state, private sector and social partners that all play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the dual system.

Furthermore, she pointed out that along these principles the German system has to deal with uncertainty and the fact that VET is becoming increasingly global – a challenge that other nations are facing as well.

Thus, the three mega-trends technical progress, demographic change and worldwide migration affect the quantity and quality of jobs that are available as well as how and by whom they will be carried out.
Ms Thomann numbered certain challenges resulting from the technical progress as there are the

  • stimulating innovation
  • option to make VET more attractive
  • growing complexity of work requirements,
  • automation and job loss
  • to devalue experience

This makes it necessary that employer associations and trade unions assume the role of active creators, that companies develop digitalisation strategies and that VET provision is expanded at tertiary education. Forecasts say that only a few occupations will disappear but new occupations will emerge. The majority of occupations will change and need to be adapted. In this sense digitalisation has potential for the development of lifelong learning because it facilitates access to VET and career advancement.

In reference to the second mega-trend, the demographic change, Ms Thomann names the challenge to find qualified staff on the middle management level (according to BIBB research the level with the highest demand) and for SMEs, to keep work and VET at SMEs attractive. This is an increasing challenge for German SMEs as the number of companies offering apprenticeships is going down (19,8 %).

The worldwide migration is the third global trend that Ms Thomann addressed in her speech. For Germany, migration is one opportunity to secure a qualified workforce and VET offers great integration potential for migrants, which in particular is true for smaller / family owned companies in the craft trades. Currently, the number of migrants in VET is stagnating. The integration of migrants in the labour market as well as into the VET system assumes that skills of migrants and refugees are assessed and recognized within the official education system.

Based on these explanations Ms. Thomann resumes in the second part of the panel her recommendations on how VET students in developing countries can acquire subject-specific knowledge and competencies to be prepared for the new learning culture 4.0:

  • Work-based learning has to be fostered within the national TVET Systems
  • The training of digital literacy skills as the ability to solve problems and assignments in a digitalized environment has to be part of TVET curricucula
  • Students have to be trained holistic thinking, process cycle and systemic understanding
  • Digital media and OER should be used in training (distance learning / E-Learning / WBT as a means of lifelong learning)
  • Learning pathways have to become flexible
  • Nationally recognised certificates are a precondition to make recognition abroad easier
  • Countries should engage themselves in the UNEVOC Network, an international network of TVET institutions to learn from other countries.
  • New requirements for communication as collaborating and communicating in networks and platforms and interdisciplinary communication should be implemented.