On 26 January, the “Green and digital transition: the role of regions and cities for apprenticeships” webinar was co-organised by the European Commission (European Alliance for Apprenticeships) and the European Committee of the Regions. The event welcomed speakers from two EARLALL Member Regions: the Basque Country and the Autonomous Province of Trento.
The aim of the Commission to make Europe greener and more digital needs to include apprenticeships as a key area of development. European industries require new technologies, new investments and innovation, with a renewed local approach, and people must be at their core. Furthermore, linking training provision and apprenticeships to regional smart specialization strategies will be an essential tool to thrive in this enterprise. In this context, the conference brought to light best practices at regional and local level in supporting apprenticeships that facilitate a green and digital transition.
The event was chaired by Norbert Schöbel (Team leader, Apprenticeships, VET and Adult learning, DG EMPL) and moderated by Sandra Parthie (German Economic Institute). The speakers present for the discussion were representatives from the automotive sector, regional authorities, VET providers, and large and small companies.
Two EARLALL Member Regions took part in the discussion: the Basque Country and the Autonomous Province of Trento. Francesco Pisanu (Head of the Office for the Evaluation of Educational Policies, Department of Education and Culture at the Autonomous Province of Trento) presented the educational system in his region and the new conception of a “green personality.” He highlighted the need of students to face the gap between their training and education on one side, and the social reality on the other. He stated that non-cognitive skills are a way to develop student’s social identity and civic engagement.
The Basque Country was represented through the voices of Rikardo Lamadrid (Director of Technology and Advanced Learning, Basque Government Vice-Ministry of VET) and Maria Jose Barriola (Head of Unit Biosciences and Sustainability, TKNIKA – Basque VET Applied Research Centre, Basque Government). Mr. Lamadrid presented the Basque country’s VET system strategy, which is aligned with European policies, such as the Green Deal. Then, Maria Jose Barriola presented the work of TKNIKA’s Unit of Biosciences and Sustainability in relation to the Green Deal. The Unit has three different lines of work: the Agro-Food and Natural and Ocean Environment; Smart building and Sustainable Construction, and Environmental Health and Sustainable Bioscience.
Maria Jose Barriola
The RegALE (Regional capacity for Adult Learning and Education) project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme (KA3), was launched by means of an online pre kick-off meeting on 27 January with all the partners. The meeting was hosted by the EAEA (European Association for the education of Adults), project coordinator, and EARLALL. Its purpose was for the partners to get to know each other better and begin the project work.
The RegALE project aims at setting up or reinforcing networks of adult education organizations and creating synergies with regional and local authorities in order to increase their impact and sustainability. This will be achieved by increasing the partners’ capacity (and of their networks, stakeholders, partners and members at their level of action) to respond to their challenges, build cooperation structures, and promote an adult education culture in communities, cities and regions.
Project partners include the EAEA (coordinator), EARLALL, Varaždin County, Vestland County Council, Hellenic Adult Education Association (HAEA), AONTAS, Estonian Non-formal Adult Education Association, the Learning and Work Institute, vhs Baden-Württemberg, Adult Education Borås, and the University of Siena. During the meeting, partner representatives to be involved in the project introduced themselves briefly and identified key expectations and fears for the years to come.
Vestland County Council’s international network for municipalities hosted a meeting on 10 December, gathering municipalities in Vestland. The event counted on the participation of Noelia Cantero (EARLALL Director), who praised the organisers for this good example of regional cooperation.
She briefly introduced EARLALL and the work that the organization does at three main levels: contribution to policy development, information (on EU education and training policies but also about regional projects and initiatives) and project work. She highlighted a few of the events and actions that EARLALL is planning to carry out in 2021 in the context of its working groups, EU funded projects or in cooperation with EU institutions. Moreover, she underlined the support provided by EARLALL when it comes to cooperation with other regions and municipalities at European level through European projects, mainly in the context of Erasmus+.
All in all, she invited participants to take an active role in preparing or joining EU initiatives and to set the example for their education and training centres. Regional and local authorities have the capacity to reach out to and mobilise local stakeholders and also to exploit and transfer the project results.
Further presentations were held by representatives from Vestland County Council and the West Norway Office in Brussels, and an example of best practice in cooperation through Erasmus+ was introduced by Hardanger Council.
One more year, EARLALL took actively part at the Lifelong Learning Week, organised by the Lifelong Learning Platform at the European Parliament. This time, the Week took a fully digital shape, attracting participants not only from all over Europe, but the whole world. EARLALL, together with EfVET (European Forum for Vocational Education & Training) and the EAEA (European Adult Education Association), organised a workshop on the topic of green competences on 3 December 2020. This event built on the work that began at the previous Lifelong Learning Week (more information available here), during which EARLALL and EfVET hosted the “GreenComp?” meeting. This first event already brought to the table the need of a European framework for green competences before MEPs and representatives from the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Under the title “GreenComp: taking green skills one step further,” the three organising associations brought together stakeholders from different education-related sectors (i.e., VET, adult learning, development cooperation) and institutional settings (civil society, VET providers, EU institutions, UNESCO), hosted by MEP Marcos Ros (S&D group). The discussion, moderated by Noelia Cantero (EARLALL Director) revolved around the best way to provide an effective green competences framework that has an impact across education sectors and helps build more sustainable societies.
MEP Marcos Ros highlighted European initiatives that already mention the need for education systems to be involved in a transition towards a more sustainable Europe, such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Skills Agenda, among others. He welcomed the GreenComp policy paper launched by EARLALL and EfVET in spring 2020, also joined by the EAEA, and advocated for “a well educated childhood” as a “guarantee of a better citizenship competence in the future,” including sustainability, but also for lifelong learning opportunities for all. From the side of the European Commission, Anusca Ferrari (DG EMPL) acknowledged the important role of education in achieving the twin transition towards a green and digital Europe, and reminded that “the EU’s [COVID-19] recovery must not be at the expense of a green and sustanaible development.” From the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) perspective, Tatjana Babrauskienė stated that “green skills education needs to be mainstreamed throughout all sectors and levels of education — formal, non-formal and informal —, from early childhood to adult learning, and including also teacher education.” She called for a rebalancing exercise, putting green skills at the same level of digital skills in terms of priority, going beyond the labour market to everyday life.
Grassroots level experiences and local and regional realities must pave the way towards achieving a common framework. TKNIKA, Basque VET Applied Research Centre, introduced with a video how green skills are embedded within the VET curricula with a sectoral approach towards sustainable gastronomy, energy and building industries, among others, extending the green colour to a full palette of sustainability: VET colours. From an adult education point of view, Lidwien Vos de Wael presented best practices in the Netherlands: Environment Centre Rotterdam (environment coaches), Exercising.nl (Doing Green online course), Colorful Green, climate tables and citizens’ assemblies.
Within a more international scope, Murray Biedler (UNESCO) showcased best practice examples on human capacity development and water sector development in Africa. He highlighted the role of African networks of centers of excellence on water, which provide a platform for regional dialogue and collaboration with policy representatives.
Closing words by James Calleja (EfVET President) and Gina Ebner (EAEA Secretary General) reminded of the importance of teacher and educator training as well as the role of a true inter-generational dialogue in order to achieve the aims outlined during the event. Gina Ebner also insisted that “there are many good initiatives around already, but what we need is to upscale and mainstream them, as they are often still in a project stage and financed through project grants.”
The event was a key milestone within the GreenComp initiative. A high level of participation over 80 attendants representing different sectors and levels, and a strong interest from the European institutions in the topic demonstrated that this initiative arrives at the right time and that needs to be boosted to mainstream green skills at all policy levels. Noelia Cantero, EARLALL Director, announced the launch of a new website, jointly developed by EARLALL, EfVET and EAEA in partnership with p-consulting.gr, which aims at supporting the development of a European framework of green competences that is based on the needs on the ground and builds on regional and local best practices. The website will be available in the upcoming weeks.
The YESpecialists project, led by Vestland County Council (Norway) and co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, was officially kicked-off at a two-day conference held on 22 October and 9 November 2020. The Youth Entrepreneurial Spirit Specialists project aims at building local and regional ecosystems that foster youth entrepreneurship in rural areas by having local stakeholders joining forces: regional/local authorities, education centres, businesses, youth organisations and civil society. Project parters that are joining this innovative initiative are Tuscany Region (Italy), the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy), Varaždin County (Croatia), Ringkøbing Skjern Municipality (Denmark), and the Principality of Asturias (Spain).
The kick-off conference introduced key topics that will be touched upon during the project, gathering experts on different aspects in relation to youth entrepreneurship and rural development. The first day focused on good practices of entrepreneurship education in rural Europe, featuring examples of best practices from the project partner regions. The conference was opened by Mette Nora Saetre, Head of Urban and Rural Business Development at Vestand County Council, who introduced participants to Vestland, a region with a “wide variety of industries, mainly ocean-oriented,” and Barbara Harterink, YESpecialists project coordinator (Vestland County Council).
Regional good practices followed. Iván Diego, from Valnalón, entrepreneurship agency from the Principality of Asturias, introduced Asturias’ strategy to boost entrepreneurship, based on three strategic axes: entrepreneurial culture and talent, start-up support, and impact & dissemination. Then, Miriana Bucalossi, from Tuscany Region, presented how community cooperatives have contributed to the development of rural areas in the region, and Emil Sloth Sig, Volunteer Coordinator at Ringkøbing Skjern Municipality, focused on the promotion of youth volunteering and its benefits for the community and individuals. Lastly, the case of Varaždin was introduced by Petra Županić, who showcased how entrepreneurship education is organised at Ivanec High School, and Vestland’s best practices in Florø Upper Secondary School and Odda Upper Secondary School were presented by Geir T. Rønningen.
Good practices in building local partnerships to foster youth entrepreneurial skills were showcased during the second day of the conference. The film creative center VANIMA’s activities in Varaždin were highlighted by Hrvoje Selec, and the Clue to Inclusion project was introduced by Arthur Tøsdal (Årstad Upper Secondary School, Vestland), which sucessfuly transferred non-formal education methods into formal education. With regard to best practices in Ringkøbing-Skjern, Michele Lykke (startup consultant) presented the activity of Ringkøbing Skjern Erhvervsråd, the business council in the municipality, and Emil Sloth Sig (volunteer coordinator) showcased how youth inclusion in voluntary work is achieved in the area. Key actions in Tuscany were highlighted by Miriana Bucalossi, who introduced the region’s support to smart villages and co-working spaces. The research perspective was added by Rita Agdal, from the West Norway University of Applied Sciences, who explained the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) method for community building.
Project partners are already working on their first work packages, identifying and mapping best practices across Europe to foster youth entrepreneurship in rural areas, and developing regional and local youth entrepreneurial skills ecosystems. The next transnational project meeting will take place in Asturias in spring 2021.
EARLALL and Brittany Region hosted on 6 November the online conference “Resilience and Skills Matching in European Regions” on the occasion of the Stride4Stride project kick-off meeting and EARLALL Annual Conference 2020. Stride4Stride aims at exchanging best practices and finding new solutions in matching skills provision and labour market needs in 6 European regions.
Participants to the conference were welcomed by Tangi de Rochefort, Stride4Stride project coordinator and Project Manager for Innovation, Employment and Business at the Directorate for Employment and Lifelong Learning of Brittany Region. Then, a policy introduction by the OECD was followed by best practice presentations regarding how the COVID-19 outbreak affected skills matching strategies at regional level.
Jonathan Barr (Head of the Employment and Skills Unit, Local Employment, Skills, and Social Innovation Division, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions, and Cities at OECD) introduced the role of local employment and economic recovery by presenting data from OECD countries. He stated that regional and local governments are on the frontlines of managing the crisis and its recovery on areas such as communications and awareness; social distancing measures; continuity of public services; workplace access and transport; support to vulnerable groups; and support to firms. Key findings also point at the city-rural gap, with cities having a greater share of occupations amenable to teleworking, and the acceleration of digitalisation and automation in many sectors.
Regional best practices followed. Rikardo Lamadrid (Director of Technology and Advanced Learning at the Basque Vice-Ministry for VET) introduced the Basque Vocational Education and Training Strategy within the educational system in the context of the pandemic, including also a strategy supporting the health sector and a strategy supporting Basque companies, particularly SMEs and MicroSMEs. In terms of internationalisation, support was provided at the request from the Chilean Ministry of education and adaptations were also made within the European dimension, including information exchange via EARLALL. His presentation was followed by Tangi de Rochefort, who introduced the main challenges identified in Brittany: saving lifelong learning centers from bankruptcy, trying to make training restart fast, and preventing dropout. Among others, measures to tackle them included legal pathways for lifelong learning centres economic health, provision of an LMS Platform to help centers to organise distance training by distance, and a new communication strategy.
Maria Pascual (Head of Unit of International and Cooperation Projects for VET, Department of Education, Government of Catalonia) and Irma Núñez (Project manager of International and Cooperation Projects for VET, Department of Education, Government of Catalonia) introduced the key measures implemented in the Catalan education system to support VET centres. These included promoting new tools , digitalization and methodologies for teaching and learning (ImpulsFP); tools for online counselling (OrientFP); fostering digital project based learning (ActivaFP); planifying strategies to adapt skills provision to new labour market needs (FuturaFP); supporting and promoting DUAL professional training through a research team (EmpresaFP); and designing blended/virtual mobilities for students and teachers, as well as fostering best practice exchange (MobilitatFP).
Miriana Bucalossi (Head of the VET Policies and European Project Management Unit at Tuscany Region) and Silvia Duranti (Researcher at Istituto Regionale per la Programmazione Economia della Toscana, IRPET) presented the situation in Tuscany. Key findings include the fact that interaction between the teachers/trainers and the students was key and was facilitated thank to the virtual environment provided. Furthermore, in the commerce and retail sector, the companies hosting the trainees decided to transform most of the traineeships in proper employment contracts (e.g. big supermarket chains), and for traineeships that could take the shape of a distance experience, the Region elaborated guidelines to legally adapt them to the situation and make them ‘safer’, addresing the three stakeholders involved in any traineeship: company, trainee and the ‘promoter’ (usually, public employment services).
Nikolina Vlahek (Srednja strukovna škola Varaždin, Varaždin County) introduced the challenges and measures identified in Varaždin. Key challenges include the implementation of vocational practical classes, ensuring sufficient space in classrooms, lack of quality monitoring of online classes, limitations of distance learning, and practical work in direct contact with the customer for apprenticeships. Lastly, Kjell Helge Kleppestø (Senior Manager, Careeer Guidance Centers, Vestland County Council), and Jostein Eitrheim (GM Hardanger Council) presented how the situation was managed in Vestland, where the COVID-19 added to other challenges such as demographic shortages in rural areas (young people leaving areas such as Hardanger), which are being overcome by establishing a strong cooperation between education centres and businesses.
EARLALL hosted its Annual Conference 2020 online. The event took place on 5 November, split in two sessions: Board Meeting and General Assembly. During the morning session, Board members (Basque Country, Brittany, Tuscany, Baden-Württemberg and Catalonia) assessed the progress of the network along 2020 and agreed on the main lines for its work in 2021, which were ratified afterwards by the General Assembly.
Key highlights in 2020 included a strong cooperation with the European institutions (European Commission, European Parliament and Cedefop), the OECD and stakeholder organisations at European Level, as well as a solution-oriented approach in transnational project development. On another note, looking into the future, main EARLALL work areas for 2021 were agreed upon:
All details about EARLALL’s activities in 2020 and plans for 2021 are gathered in the Activity Plan 2020 and Work Plan 2021, available online soon.
Furthermore, the General Assembly welcomed three new members to the EARLALL network as associate partners: GO! Education of the Flemish Community, Adult Education Borås, and Movetia (Swiss national agency). In addition, a new report was launched (available online soon) gathering the experiences and measures by EARLALL Member Regions’ education systems during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020.
The Annual Conference events were closed on Friday, 6 November, with the “Resilience and Skills Matching in European Regions” conference, hosted in the context of the Stride4Stride project kick-off meeting.
On Wednesday, 14 October 2020, the Centres of Vocational Excellence worskhop was jointly organised by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), DG EMPL, PEEP and EARLALL in the context of the European Week of Regions & Cities 2020. The event was aimed at analysing how platforms of centres of vocational excellence (CoVEs) contribute to create skills ecosystems that drive regional innovation, development and smart specialisation, along with social inclusion.
The workshop was opened by João Santos (European Commission, DG EMPL). He introduced the background in which the CoVEs initiative is being developed at the European Commission, ensuring that people have the necessary skills to support the green and digital transition, as well as to help recover the economy from the COVID-19 crisis. Key highlights outlined were the new Skills Agenda (July), the proposal for a Council Recommendation on Vocational Education & Training (VET) (July 2020), the Communication on the European Education Area (September 2020) and the European Digital Education Action Plan (September 2020).
Fernando Hervás (European Commission, JRC) introduced their support for the “embeddedness of CoVEs in the regional innovation ecosystems so they can contribute actively to the sustainable economic transformation agenda of the region,” highlighting that “VET is at the core or regions’ needs for reskilling and upskilling.” His research introduction was complemented by the political views of MEP Eva Meydell (PPE), who introduced three key initiatives within the European Parliament (EP) to support skills: the position aiming at the extension of the scope of areas eligible for funding (youth funding and access to education) under the Technical Support Instrument, within the EP’s ECON Committee; a paper on education within the EP’s PPE group with emphasis on supporting dual education in VET, lifelong learning for all generations, and adult learning; and the European Education Alliance, jointly developed with MEP Victor Negrescu (S&D).
|MEP Eva Maydell||Iñigo Araiztegui (TKNIKA)|
Afterwards, current projects of CoVE platforms were presented during world café group meetings (see table below). Participants were divided into 5 groups, during which the different CoVE pilot initiatives funded by the European Commission in 2019 and 2020 were introduced. Noelia Cantero, EARLALL Director, moderated one of the discussion groups, during which the DIHUB project was introduced by Helsinki Business College.
During other of the discussion groups, Iñigo Araiztegui, (TKNIKA, Basque VET Applied Research Centre), introduced the EXAM 4.0 project (Erasmus+, with the participation of EARLALL), underlining the importance of strategic partnering between regional actors. He explained the rationale behind the project, pointing at ageing population as a key challenge: “many workers are retiring and we’re losing their experience, but there are also workers who need reskilling & upskilling and are not retiring any soon.” He also highlighted the need to pay attention to the “human side” of technological development, focusing on human-oriented skills that will be needed in the future that the digital and green transition will render.
|2019 call||2020 call (starting in November 2020)|
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On 13 October 2020, EARLALL and the StartNet initiative by the Goethe Institut hosted a joint workshop in the context of the European Week of Regions & Cities to link inspiring regional practices with a European dimension in the fields of education and employment with current EU policy discussions regarding the MFF, the future of cohesion, educational, social and economic policies. The session and debate were moderated by Jan Wilker, StartNet project manager at Goethe Institut, and counted on a variety of views by the European Parliament (EU level), the University of Verona (academic perspective), the Principality of Asturias (regional level) and the City of Turku (local level). Key aspects from the presentations and the debate are presented below.
MEP Monica Semedo underlined that “cohesion means solidarity and support, as well as diversity,” as “each region and city need different support.” She pointed out that “everything is connected, especially education, social matters and employment,” and highlighted the need of equal opportunities for everybody, since “life is not like a highway […]. People might need a second change, and they should get it.” MEP Semedo highlighted the European Youth Guarantee as a key initiative to support the education and youth sectors, with a focus on social aspects beyond economic and statistical ones.
From an academic perspective, Marcella Milana, Associate Professor at the University of Verona, looked into social cohesion as a three-level concept, based on the individual, the community and social institutions. These three levels are interconnected and are interdependent. However, research lacks about the institutional one. She indicated that “individuals can only actively take part in the group if public laws, regulations, laws and values allow them to do so.” She also introduced the ENLIVEN project (Horizon 2020) through which lifelong learning was researched.
|MEP Monica Semedo||Matti Mäkelä||José M. Secades García|
Hands-on experience was provided by Matti Mäkelä, Head of the Project Management Office at the City of Turku, and José M. Secades García, Teacher & Head of Department, Caudal Adult Education Centre (Principality of Asturias). Mr. Mäkelä introduced the STEAM Turku project, aimed at promoting the science and technology path in school and secondary education, as well as Vocational Education and Training (VET). The need for such a project came from the challenge of talent attraction in the field of technology in the Turku area, and builds on three main pillars: participation, openess and innovativeness.
On another note, focusing on adult education, Mr. Secades presented the Key Competences Programme in the region of Asturias, which faces a challenge of depopulation and decrease of the labour force. A need for education programmes that lead to a higher level of social cohesion has been identified in the region, and the Key Competences Programme aims at bridging that gap through the action of adult education centres.
EARLALL joined forces with Porto Business School to host a joint event on the occasion of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020. An online workshop held on 6 October introduced strategies for multi-stakeholder cooperation in fostering higher education institutions’ (HEI) and vocational education and training’s (VET) engagement with regional development, and vice-versa. Presentations by representatives from Porto Business School, Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, ESOZ Chomutov and the University of Macerata were followed by a paneltr discussion.
Participants were welcomed by Rui Coutinho, Executive Director, Innovation & Growth, Porto Business School. He introduced UCITYLAB, Univercity Action Lab, a project aimed at linking European universities with their urban stakeholders to jointly address societal challenges. This goal shall be achieved by developing social and environmental responsibility, innovative mindset and social entrepreneurship skills among university students through the provision of tools, knowledge and skills. He underlined the importance of the quadruple helix (academia, government, civil society, business) in accelerating the transfer of research and innovation results to regional growth.
Afterwards, the KEYMOB project was introduced by Josep Francí, Director of Territory and Professional Qualification, Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. He highlighted that “regions and territorial authorities can make use of their capacity of intervention when recognising the skills acquired during a mobility period […] and certify the acquisition of those skills to make them relevant for [students’] careers.” On the practical application of the KEYMOB project outcomes, Blanka Hvozdová, ESOZ Chomutov, explained how the KEYMOB guidebook (available soon) can be implemented from a VET centres’ perspective, offering higher possibilities for employment; better cooperation between companies, centres and students; and better networking.
The last project introduced was Re-ACT: Self-reflection tools for Smart Universities Acting Regionally. Alessio Cavicchi, Professor at the University of Macerata, explained the experience of his institution and the Marche Region in fostering civic engagement at local and international level. He also illustrated the role of universities’ engagement through other examples, such as the Wine Lab and the HEInnovate projects.
Lastly, a round table moderated by Maria Palladino, European Commission, DG EAC, allowed reflection on multi-actor cooperation and role of regions in education engagement. Workshop speakers were joined by Maria Pascual, Head of Unit of International and Cooperation Projects for VET, Department of Education of the Government of Catalonia, and Paulo Calçada, CEO, Associação Porto Digital.
Rui Coutinho, Porto Business School
Josep Francí, Barcelona Chamber of Commerce
On 29 September 2020, the European Commission’s European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) organised an online workshop about the impact of COVID-19 on apprenticeships. The event counted with the support of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU and a strong involvement of EARLALL and the Basque Government (EARLALL Presidency). Regional best practices to support apprenticeship systems in the context of the pandemic were showcased, with the participation of two EARLALL Member Regions: Basque Country and Rhineland Palatinate.
Petra Jendrich, Head of Department ‘Vocational Schools and Securing the Supply of Skilled Workers’, Ministry for Education of Rhineland-Palatinate, introduced the effects of digitalization on Vocational Education and Training (VET). She reminded that, even if these are challenging times, the German Presidency is working “to ensure that in the framework of the European Education Area, learning mobility is increased, the recognition of education qualifications is facilitated and an umbrella for cooperation in VET is initiated.”
Then, Virginia Raggi, Mayor of Rome, introduced the EAfA’s cities’ network, aimed at engaging the local perspective in promoting apprenticeships. She insisted on the importance of investing in reskilling and upskilling, offering new VET opportunities to workers who faced redudancy during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rikardo Lamadrid, Director of Technology and Advanced Training, Department of Education, Basque Country provided a regional perspective and showcased lessons learnt during the pandemic outbreak. He introduced the measures established by the Basque VET system (FP Euskadi) and implemented by VET centres in the region. A key element was the support to the health sector, producing medical equipment such as facemasks and ventilators at the VET centres’ facilities. On another note, support was provided to companies, and, more specifically, SMEs, so they could respond to trainees’ needs. Regional partnerships and efficient communication channels were identified as main success factors.
The European perspective was finally introduced by Chiara Riondino, Head of Unit ‘VET, Apprenticeships and Adult Learning’, DG EMPL, European Commission. She highlighted the role of a renewed EAfA and its new targets, among which “mobilising local and regional authorities” is considered a key priority. On the Committee of the Regions’ side, Csaba Borboly, CoR Member (Romania, EPP) assessed the role of the Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness.
A discussion among speakers followed about how education systems can support resilience at local and regional level. Lastly, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the Committee of the Regions, provided some closing words and insisted on the importance of dialogue between the European Commission, Member States and regional authorities.
On 28 September 2020, EARLALL and its Member Regions welcomed representatives from the European Commission at an online workshop during which key EU programmes to fund skills-related initiatives were introduced. Regional and local officers, VET and adult education school headmasters, and relevant stakeholders got first-hand information from the Commission about how they can participate in the upcoming programmes. Even if political negotiations about the EU’s next financial period are still ongoing at the Council and the details are uncertain, the main characteristics of the programmes have been already been set out and were shared by Commission representatives. The session was moderated by Camilla Winter (Adult Education Borås) and introduced by Noelia Cantero (EARLALL Director), who reminded that “cooperation is more needed now than ever.”
A general vision of the new Skills Agenda and the Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training (VET) was provided by Anna Barbieri (DG EMPL). The Skills Agenda’s implementation will be articulated into 12 key actions distributed in four building blocks: joining forces, tools for lifelong learning, skilling for a job, and unlocking investment. She also introduced the Commission’s vision for an inclusive, excellent and lifelong VET, and called for a strong commitment of stakeholders in achieving it. This will be done mainly through the upcoming Skills Pact, to be announced during the European Vocational Skills Week 2020 (9-13 November) and in which regions will play a key role.
Then, José Manuel Fernández (DG EAC) introduced the novelties of Erasmus+ programme for the 2021-2027 period from a policy point of view. Under a premise of evolution rather than revolution, the new Erasmus+ aims at being more inclusive, greener, more digital, simpler and forward-looking. Synergies with other EU programmes (ESF+, ERDF, Horizon Europe, etc.) will be encouraged, for example to scale up projects or top up funds. The programme will still be based on three main pillars, even if some changes are expected (for example, regarding mobility of school students): mobility, cooperation and policy development, along with the Jean Monnet actions. The programme guide is expected for the end of 2020.
On a more practical note, Michele Grombeer (EACEA) presented the Centres of Vocational Excellence initiative and its prospective calls under the new Erasmus+. This initiative is a pillar in the VET strategy and regional authorities will have a key role in it, with a big focus on regional smart specialisation strategies (RIS3), inclusion, and cooperation between education actors, the scientific community and businesses. Boosting innovation through cooperation and flow of knowledge among higher education and VET will be fostered under sector skills alliances, involving also the broad social economy environment, including research. More simplification is expected, although no major changes will be made to the programme.
Lyubomira Derelieva (DG EMPL) gave an overview of REACT EU and ESF+ (European Social Fund Plus). The ESF+ will work under three main principles: shared management between the Commission and Member States, a partnership with civil society and social partners, and co-financing. The specific objectives (11) of the fund for the next seven years include education and training as a key area, with a focus on improving education and training systems, equal access, and lifelong learning and skills anticipation, covering the entire education and training cycle with support both to people and reforms. On another note, REACT EU will provide 58.3 blln EUR of additional funds for the ESF+, ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and FEAD (Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived) to foster crisis repair in the context of COVID-19.
Lastly, Anne Bajart (DG CONNECT) introduced digital education and learning in Europe. She presented the main actions of the Commission in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including online platforms and disinformation, and skills, collaborative working and creativity. Then, she presented some examples of good practices, such as Horizon 2020 projects DEL4ALL, dealing with digital enhanced learning, and IMPACT EdTech, providing help to education technology start-ups.