<!–:es–>Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB): Report from the ECER conference, Part 1: The opening session of the VETNET network<!–:–><!–:en–>Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB): Report from the ECER conference, Part 1: The opening session of the VETNET network<!–:–><!–:eu–>Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB): Report from the ECER conference, Part 1: The opening session of the VETNET network<!–:–><!–:hu–>Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB): Report from the ECER conference, Part 1: The opening session of the VETNET network<!–:–><!–:de–>Pekka Kämäräinen (ITB): Report from the ECER conference, Part 1: The opening session of the VETNET network<!–:–>

Two researchers from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) represented the “Coop-PBL in VET” project at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER”12) that took place from 18.9. to 21.9.2012 in Cadiz, Spain. I will report of our experiences via six blog posts. In the first post I will focus on the opening session of the VETNET network – the European research network on vocational education and training (VET).

Background: The first ECER conference was organised as a pilot event in Enschede 1992. This led to the founding of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) as the umbrella organisation of national educational research associations in Europe. From the year 1995 on the ECER conferences have been organised regularly. In ECER”96 in Sevilla the participants who represented research in vocational education and training (VET) founded a common European umbrella network that was given the short name VETNET. It was established as the EERA network 2 and it has organised the VETNET section of the ECER since ECER”97. From ECER”99 on VETNET has had a joint opening session based on a keynote speech or panel discussion or participative workshop.

The VETNET opening session in Cadiz: The Board of the VETNET network had agreed on the following theme “Crisis, Youth Unemployment and the Role of Vocational Education and Training (VET). The Board had also agreed to invite three board members to prepare brief input statements to introduce the topic: Fernando Marhuenda (University of Valencia, Spain), Margaret Malloch (Victoria State University, Australia) and Michael Gessler (University of Bremen, Germany). Since two of the panelists represented countries that are involved in the Coop-PBL in VET project, the following report will focus on their contributions.

(VETNET network getting prepared for the presentation of Fernando. Foto by Michael Gessler, ITB)

The Spanish input to the VETNET opening session: Fernando Marhuenda gave us a colourful picture of the current economic crisis and of the alarming rate of youth unemployment. He also gave some examples on the the measures to save public expenditure and and on the side-effects employment promotion initiatives (e.g. social enterprises). Concerning the role of VET, he reminded us of series reforms with which the Spanish governments had tried to improve the quality of VET provisions and to invite employers and their organisations to closer collaboration in the field of VET. Therefore, it seems somewhat strange that in the current public debate there are several statements that Spain should learn more about the German dual system of VET. To Fernando, it seemed that some of these views do not take into account that the dual system adds more responsibilities on the employers (as the main providers of training opportunities) and ignore the hitherto provided role of employers as c-developers of VET provisions.

The German input to the VETNET opening session: Michael Gessler firstly demonstrated with statistics that the youth unemployment rate had come down since 2002 to 2010. However, in the recent years a new problem has come into picture: the proportion of young people who are not entering apprentice training is growing. Therefore, the Germans are currently talking more of the “unapprenticed rate” (Ausbildungslosigkeit) than of unemployment rate (Arbeitslosigkeit). Michael referred to two ways to compensate the problem by introducing bypass routes: firstly by via a set of separate transition schemes (Übergangssystem) and secondly answer via full-time school-based provisions of vocational education (vollschulische Berufsbildungsangebote). The growth of these bypass provisions gives rise to critical questions, whether these represent an erosion of the dual system of VET or whether they complement it. Secondly, they give rise questions, whether they facilitate transition processes or lead to dead ends. Therefore, Michael emphasised that the dual system of VET is well anchored to working life but is not free of risks.

The discussion was lively but short since the speakers had had a lot to tell. Most of the questions were requests of more information on the functioning of the transition processes. In my input to the discussion I addressed the role of European internal market and of trans-national cooperation initiatives. I told of the German region of Emsland and the difficulties of SMEs in crafts and trades to attract apprentices to small towns and rural areas. Therefore, a regional development initiative has contacted the partner region Murcia in Spain and brought a group of young people to Emsland. They are provided a shorter internship period and a language course. After this pilot period the hosting enterprises will decide whether to offer an apprentice contract for the trainees. This initiative raises the question, whether this is a model for “brain drain” (attracting young workforce to leave Spain) or a model for “capacity building” of which Spain can also benefit in the long run.

To be continued …

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