Reducing the number of early leavers from education and training across the member states is one of the EU’s priorities in the field of education. The risk of an increased number of drop-outs from education is a growing concern in Europe; with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the challenges faced by vulnerable learners. In this context, young peoples’ feelings of exclusion and isolation may impact their motivation to continue studying, enrol in training or find a job, with considerable costs for individuals and society at large. To counter this trend and facilitate mutual learning between regions and vocational education and training (VET) organisations, the AER hosted our second Skillnet webinar of 2021. This webinar focused on how to prevent young people leaving education and training early in the challenging context of a global pandemic.
The event was part of our series of webinars on EU funding opportunities organised as part of the Erasmus+ project, Skillnet. These webinars bring together experts in different fields linked to vocational education and training (VET) and aim to build partnerships for future EU project proposals.
A tool to support learners at risk
On 28 January, the Skillnet webinar “Vocational Training in Times of Lockdown and Pandemic – Preventing early school leaving” brought together experts working in the field of Vocational and Educational Training (VET). The webinar had the aim of sharing knowledge and concrete examples of how regional authorities and educational institutions are coping with the new challenges posed by the pandemic.
The event brought together around 70 participants, and drew on the expertise and insights of an international panel of experts in the field. The discussions began with a presentation by Irene Psifidou, Expert at the Department for Learning and Employability of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP). Ms. Psifidou underlined the importance of community involvement to support learners at risk. Young people dropping out of school happens as a result specific social, economic, educational, and family circumstances. Therefore, the type of support a learner requires will depend on the specific needs of that individual.
With this in mind, Ms. Psifidou then presented CEDEFOP’s VET toolkit for tackling early school leaving, the first online toolkit of its kind. This valuable, evidence-based and interactive source of support to policymakers and education & training providers is designed to help students reintegrate, remain in, and graduate from upper-secondary level education. It contains an array of resources ranging from from good practices to statistical reports, with the ultimate aim of developing tailored, targeted policies aimed at meeting the specific needs of learners at risk.
Moreover, CEDEFOP is at the forefront when it comes to reducing the rate of school drop-outs. Through its network of Ambassadors tackling early leaving from VET, they help disseminate the toolkit and enrich its resources by disseminating good practices, news, publications, and statistics. The opportunity to become an ambassador is open to individuals from all EU member states, the European Economic Area (EEA) and EU candidate countries.
A societal problem; an emotional response
Closing the discussion, Borja Castellet, Project Manager at El Llindar, gave an overview of how their “Second Chance School” in Catalonia has kept their students engaged during lockdowns by adapting teaching to their needs, both emotional and educational. Their education programmes are based on diverse learning environments designed to offer each student a training itinerary tailored to their needs and aspirations. This highly personalised and integrative orientation and subjective accompaniment ensure that young people at risk of isolation are monitored and supported while they develop their skills for the future labour market.
The examples presented during this discussion show that despite the pandemic there are practical solutions available to support learners at risk. In the first instance, it is crucial to ensure the right equipment is available to all students to support distance learning, that appropriately translated material and opportunities for digital training are provided, and there is a greater focus on the emotional side of learning through actively listening to learners at risk. At the same time, collaboration among regions and VET organisations across Europe and beyond is essential to develop tailored actions and programmes that can be applied broadly to different social contexts.
Open and Future EU funding opportunities and initiatives:
- Become an ambassador on tackling early leaving from VET: for policy-makers, learning providers, experts or other stakeholders involved in tackling early leaving from vocational education and training and interested in helping to promote and disseminate the VET toolkit
- Making excellence inclusive: towards a new Cedefop survey of VET teachers and trainers: the event will be held online on 3 February from 09:00 to 13:00 CET.
- What does quality mean in practice? Integrating the apprentice’s perspective: the event will be held online on 11 February, from 11:00 until 12:15 CET.
- Financing apprenticeships in the EU: Financial flows, shared funding, apprentice pay, and the COVID crisis: the event will be held online on 23 February at 10:00 AM CET.
- EIB Social Innovation Tournament: Apply before the 3 March!
- European Conference on Educational Research (ECER): The conference offers an inclusive platform for initiating, reporting, discussing, and promoting high-quality educational research.
- LIFE2021Remote: a training program that offers an exclusive opportunity to visit Finnish kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, as well as the University of Lapland’s Teacher Training School
- ICVET 2021: International Conference on Vocational Education and Technology, July 29-30 in Vienna (AT)
This webinar was organised as part of the SKILLNET series of webinars on EU funding opportunities. SKILLNET is a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission. Through building transnational and cross-sectional partnerships, SKILLNET aims to strengthen the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system’s capacity to design high-quality VET programmes tailored to current societal needs. To this end, after each webinar, a bulletin with open and upcoming EU opportunities is circulated among relevant stakeholders.