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Developing cooperation between VET, higher education and adult learning in response to the challenge of lifelong learning

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Can VET be attractive? How to enhance the cooperation between VET institutions and HEIs? How to engage employers in the education and training process and support the adult education? Polish and foreign experts in the area of HE, VET and adult education tried to answer these and many other questions during the conference that took place on 23 September 2011.The main theme of the conference was “Developing cooperation between VET, higher education and adult learning in response to the challenge of lifelong learning”.


The conference was opened by representatives from the Ministry of National Education, the Foundation for the Development of the Education System, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and from the European Commission. All these institutions cooperated with each other in order to organise the event.
- The idea of lifelong learning is becoming the only reasonable idea in the present world – said Zbigniew Marciniak, the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, who, on behalf of Minister Barbara Kudrycka, welcomed the arrived guests. The Undersecretary assured that the conference is very  important for his ministry. – We need changes in the education system. We have to take more and more actions to provide people with better qualifications – he said.

Other persons delivering welcoming speeches included Joao Delgado – the representative from the European Commission, Jacek Falkowski from the Ministry of National Education and Mirosław Marczewski – the General Director of the Foundation for the Development of the Education System. In their speeches, they highlighted the role of discussion concerning VET, adult learning and lifelong learning.

The keynote speech, delivered by Richard Lewis, former President of International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE),  was the second stage of the meeting.  Through his speech, Lewis tried to invite the participants to the discussion, which took place during the workshops.
- Communication is needed between HEIs and wider community – he argued, adding that in the highly developed countries it is a standard to survey the graduates of individual HEIs on their employment and satisfaction from their career development. Lewis said also that thanks to this type of control Higher Education can be adapted to the needs of labour market. – Why should be Higher Education different from VET? – he asked provocatively. This question accompanied guests till the end of the conference. They tried to find and discuss all pros and cons.

The  keynote speech was followed by three lectures, aiming to introduce the participants into the themes of the workshops. Mieczysława Nowotniak, Deputy Director in the Education Office of the Capital City of Warsaw, gave a lecture on Cooperation between vocational schools, HEIs and employers in the city of Warsaw. Barbara Holler from the Austrian Agency for Academic Cooperation OEAD talked about possible ways to improve the quality of VET, while Raimo Vuorinen, Project Manager and Coordinator of European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network ELGPN, highlighted the role of vocational guidance in lifelong learning.
Workshops commenced after the lectures. They lasted for more than three hours and, in the opinion of the participants, there was not enough time to discuss all the important issues. The discussion took place in two groups. Each of the groups concentrated on different subject.

One of the workshops centred around the theme of cooperation between IVET and HEIs. Five persons made presentations related to that subject. Isabelle Le Mouillour from CEDEFOP, during her presentation entitled “Articulating qualifications frameworks, credit systems and validation for permeability in education and training”, told how to unify the qualifications recognition system and if it is possible to create a system where certificates and academic degrees acquired in one institution or country can be recognised elsewhere. She highlighted that European Qualification Framework is the answer to these issues. - We have different education systems in Europe. This is why we need to create permeability mechanisms – stated Isabelle Le Mouillour.

The titles of the other presentations were:
1. “Can the ECVET be an added value to ECTS?” by dr Tomasz Saryusz-Wolski from the Centre for International Education at Łódź University of Technology,

2. “Opportunities and challenges for permeability between VET and HE   examples from Austria” by Karin Luomi-Messerer from 3s Research Laboratory in Austria,

3. “Actor, Advisor, Consumer: The Role of the Social Partners in the Knowledge Triangle   VET, HE and labour market in Germany” by Berthold Hübers from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training BIBB in Germany and

4. “The need for continuing vocational training of construction industry employees – equal chances on European Labour Market” by Barbara Pużańska and Maciej Siemiątkowski form the Polish Association of Construction Industry Employers.
This last presentation deserves particular attention, as during his presentation Maciej Siemiątkowski has shown a good example of a way to raise the attractiveness of VET.
– Our aim was to raise the quality of VET on the national and European level – Siemiątkowski explained. Later, he presented a way in which PZPB organised trainings. Partnerships were acquired with Polish and foreign partners from the construction industry, among them CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building in the United Kingdom) and PBCP (Polish British Construction Partnership). Maciej Siemiątkowski highlighted that the aim of the trainings was to complement the knowledge of future construction workers. – We have identified shortages in the education of people trained to work in eight professions, such as bricklayer, carpenter or electrician – he said. It was done through theoretical and practical trainings. They took place in Poland and abroad, among others in Portugal. – We hope that the project will have further use in the process of improvement of VET in our country – with these words Siemiątkowski summed up his presentation.
The second workshop group worked on the CVET – HEIs cooperation subject. In the framework of that issue following presentations have been made:
1. “Is Lifelong Learning essential for Lifelong Employment in 2011?” by Michael Ryan from Gecko Programmes, United Kingdom,
2. “Education for lifelong activity” by prof. Marek Góra from Warsaw School of Economics,
3. “Engineering observatory on Competence-based Curricula for job Enhancement (Ecce)” by Clementina Marinoni from Fondazione Politecnico di Milano in Italy,
4. “Validation of skills acquired in an informal and non-formal way” by
dr Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak from Educational Research Institute IBE in Warsaw
5. “Guidance in Lifelong Learning from strategies to practice; Career guidance without barriers” by Tibor Bors Borbely-Pecze, a senior advisor of the Hungarian National Employment Service – National Employment Office and
6. “Dual university programmes – a contribution to innovation in HE and VET” by Klaus Fahle, National Agency Director (BIBB) in Germany

The last of the presentations deserves particular attention in this group. Klaus Fahle has shown how can a practical cooperation between VET, HEIs and employers look like. In the 1980s, dual education system has been introduced in Germany. The system means simultaneous vocational training in the workplace and in school. Students who are at least 19 years old may also choose to continue their education in the framework of higher education system, for example at the university.  – It is an attractive solution both for employers and for the students – stated Fahle. He also informed that more than 25 thousands companies are engaged in the project in his country. The number of students continues to grow. There were 50 thousands students in 2010 whereas in 2011 there are 10 thousands more. This type of cooperation helps to better understand each other and find common ground – said Klaus Fahle.


– Most importantly we can see, based on examples from different countries, that education can be supplemented and developed thanks to properly tightened cooperation with particular partners – stated Joao Delgado, the representative of the European Commission, in the end of the workshop discussions.
The workshops were additionally summarised by specifically appointed rapporteurs - Marek Polak, Director of the Centre for International Cooperation at the Warsaw University of Technology, Joanna Basztura from Leonardo da Vinci programme, the representative from the European Commission and Andrzej Kraśniewski, Secretary General of  the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland. They have unanimously stated that developing cooperation between IVET, HE and CVET Institutions is an idea which should be realised. Institutions providing education should tighten cooperation, adapt to the needs of labour market and create an elastic system supporting lifelong learning.

The “Developing cooperation between VET, higher education and adult learning in response to the challenge of lifelong learning” conference was organised by the Foundation for the Development of the Education System in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and with the support of the European Commission. The meeting was an event accompanying Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and took place in Warsaw.

Click to view the galery.