Towards a reinforced European cooperation on vocational education and training

In order to strenghten european cooperation on vocational education and training, Education Ministries from EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries have adopted today the Bordeaux Communiqué.

The main instrument for European cooperation in vocational education and training is the Copenhagen process. This process was initiated in 2002, when the education Ministers of 31 European countries, the European social partners and the European Commission adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on enhanced cooperation in European vocational education and training. The Copenhagen process calls for a review of progress every two years. This has taken place in Maastricht in 2004 and in Helsinki in 2006 and now in 2008 under the French Presidency in Bordeaux.

The Bordeaux Communiqué

In all the discussions leading up to the Bordeaux review, there is a general consensus that the Copenhagen process has been a success, and that the focus should now be on consolidating the strategy, and implementing the principles and tools that have been built since 2002.

Taking stock of the progress achieved and defining priorities for 2008-2010, the Bordeaux Communiqué introduces the new objective of strengthening the links between VET and the labour market. This ties in with the “New skills for new jobs” initiative on anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs. A Commission Communication with the same title is due in December 2008.

Key initiatives in vocational education and training

Among the most ambitious objectives for VET in the coming years, will be the adoption and implementation of the European Credit System for VET (ECVET) and the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET (EQARF). In April 2008, the Commission adopted these two proposals for recommendations by the European Parliament and by the Council. Negotiations are proceeding between these institutions as scheduled, and the formal adoption is expected early 2009.

When implemented, ECVET will support and promote transnational mobility and access to lifelong and borderless learning in VET, by facilitating transfer and accumulation of learning outcomes achieved by individuals. ECVET will be compatible with the existing European credit system (ECTS) used in the Higher education sector. EQARF is designed to support Member States in promoting and monitoring quality improvement in VET at different levels. It provides a common basis for further development of quality principles, reference criteria and indicators.

EuroSkills “Best of nation” awards

On the occasion of the Informal Ministerial meeting in Bordeaux, the Ministers also awarded the “Best of nation” prizes to the top competitors in the EuroSkills 2008 event that took place in Rotterdam in September. This first ever Europe-wide competition in vocational skills was a big success by highlighting excellence in skills and providing an inspiring example on how we can increase the attractiveness of VET. It attracted 420 candidates from 29 countries and nearly 27 000 visitors. EuroSkills was called for in the Helsinki Communiqué, and will be repeated every two years. Skills organisations from Portugal and Poland have already confirmed their interest in hosting future editions.

European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning

At their meeting, Ministers will also discuss the principles outlined in the European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning, which will be presented to them by the European University Association.

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