Career paths becoming less and less linear in a world on the move; professional and geographical mobility required more and more in an increasingly selective labour market; the demand for new skills relating to the evolution of the work and the way it is carried out; the scarcity of jobs and the rise in the number of job-seekers; and poor workers: these are just some of the many factors which are affecting the world of vocational training in Europe.
How does this world of adult training (VET) take these developments into account? From this perspective, four issues appear to be fundamental:
1) First of all, making better allowances for training 'at work' in the development and implementation of training devices.
Because if it is indeed exercising the work which develops the skills, then it would be better for vocational training to start from the employee's actual activities, rather than the tasks prescribed, and to devise training systems which are better suited to their career paths and organisational development. In other words: analysing the work better to improve performance and ensure the maintenance, development and transfer of skills. The renewed interest which we are currently seeing in workplace learning seems to be heading in this direction.
2) Secondly, improving the conditions of work-based development by and through training.
The development of skills at work does not happen without conditions: the development of the activity and the development of the person are inseparable. In this area, it seems essential to take both the individual and the collective experiences into account. It’s about ensuring or strengthening the transmission and circulation of what is learned in both formal and non-formal training in work organisations. Experiments, whether conducted here or there; collective reflexive activities in work situations and in training; new forms of management (today we sometimes speak of free enterprise): these have all clearly shown how much 'acting with skills' as well as 'acting autonomously' are behaviours which depend largely on the environments in which they are deployed. Training devices cannot reasonably ignore this aspect.
3) Third point: ensuring that qualifications acquired at work are recognised
The ability to view the social signals of recognisable qualifications on the labour market (national and/or international) is a must, to be able to progress in an environment consisting of multiple professional, sectoral, geographical, and other mobilities.
The issue here is that of the framing of the terms of reference for skills in the national and/or European common contexts in order to allow the greatest number to access credible and 'bankable' qualifications. For this, the provisions of Validation of Acquired Experience (VAE) in France and Luxembourg seem to lead the way.
4) Last, but not least: ensuring that access to lifelong learning becomes a right.
The evolutions of the market and of the organisation of work lead to a more complex path, more likely to be challenged in the course of a professional life; but one which should be made – and all European countries more or less agree on these two points - both 'fluid' and 'secure'. This has been able to lead to a whole series of local, national and/or European initiatives which, especially through vocational training, have aimed to bring responses to the situations identified as the most critical: access to first jobs, mobility in employment, breach of contract, the ending of careers, etc.
However, if the training that we carry out throughout our lives (lifelonglearning) mainly relates to our working lives, it is not confined to that: it also helps form our openness to the world and to culture; it is the very essence of our development. Adult education in Europe must also be the guarantor of this development. For that, the training of adults in Europe must also remain 'the people's learning'. For that, access for all to training is a crucial question: the right of the individual to learn, to develop, and to participate in social and professional life, must always come first.
Translation (French to English) : EPALE France