Region Västra Götaland (VGR) is a county council governing the territory Västra Götaland, located in the southwest of Sweden. The Region includes 49 municipalities, divided into four larger local assemblies of regions (i.e. Göteborgsregionen, Fyrbodal, Skaraborg, Sjuhärad). Taken together, the territory has approximately 1.7 million inhabitants, whereby 55 000 of these inhabitants are employed by VGR. Region Västra Götaland is responsible for regional growth and development matters, along with healthcare and medical treatment. Apart from working with municipalities, VGR devotes itself to forge and foster connections and networks with trade, industry, and academia broadly. VGR wants to become “a region for everyone” and puts considerable effort towards this end by, for example, working to create successful matching on the labour market, creating and supplying appropriately skilled labour to society, building infrastructure connecting the region, and overcoming social alienation and segregation.
The development of a well-functioning labour market where education and expertise are utilised properly, and where everybody is given equal opportunity for skill development, remains a priority. Whilst all of the above-mentioned responsibilities remain important to the region’s overall work, these responsibilities towards the labour market are particularly pertinent towards EARLALL’s work. VET and efforts towards lifelong learning are some ways in which this is being realised further. Within the realm of EARLALL’s activities, VGR participates in the “Mobility” working group. Other actors, such as regional universities (University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, University West), educational institutions (e.g. folk high schools (these provide adult education outside of the national curriculum)), labour market organisations, and the Swedish public employment service, remain equally important in facilitating VGR’s work of continued education and lifelong learning.
The four different local assemblies of regions within VGR work together on several joint development activities, for example within study and vocational guidance, internships, competency validation and college development (especially within the areas of healthcare and technology). In work on regional vocational adult education at the upper secondary level together with institutions of higher education, VGR contributes with analyses, reports, and forecasts, as well as mapping at the regional and sub-regional levels.
The Region continues to prioritise the betterment of educational institutions to promote lifelong learning as it increases both the competitive edge of VGR, as well as civic inclusion. Priorities and goals of the Region’s work towards a more inclusive labour market are, to name a few, to increase the percentage of inhabitants in higher education; shorten and simplify the way into the labour market through competency validation; guidance based on the individual’s own terms; and more effective ways of making use of existing skills and competence.
If Sweden – as a small country existing relatively far away from the larger markets and therefore reliant on the export industry – is to adequately hold its ground as competition for jobs and industry hardens worldwide, efforts towards increased lifelong learning is likely to be one of the most effective solutions to help people develop the appropriate skills to establish themselves on the labour market. Enhanced coordination efforts between educational institutions to supply enrolled students with the right competency for future work will be pivotal to this end. One such example is VGR’s participation in the Smart Factory (“Smarta Fabriker”) project where technological institutes come together with businesses and industries to provide education and knowledge on industrial digitalisation to students and professionals alike.
Examples of EU-funded projects relevant to VGR’s work on lifelong learning are BRIDGE+, FIER, TALENTS, and InVäst. These projects are international collaborations done together with a myriad of different actors, including, but not limited to, counties, other Regions, federal governments, companies, and educational institutions. BRIDGE+, with co-funding from the EU Erasmus+ programme, has its aim towards skills development by building, testing, and implementing new strategies of labour market integration at a regional level with the help of innovative technology. FIER(Fast-Track Integration in European Regions) aims at developing instruments and strategies for a fast-track labour market integration of disadvantaged groups among refugees and asylum-seekers. The project is funded by the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), and has spanned two years, wrapping up in December 2019. The TALENTS project has a similar target group of immigrants and refugees and aims to increase their inclusion in society through language training and professional training to facilitate fast access to the labour market. Additional initiatives to strengthen immigrants’ and refugees’ position on the labour market is done through the InVäst project, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), with a focus on language training, competency validation, and network-building. VGR’s own initiative – Future Kitchen – similarly emphasises language training and vocational training as important factors for successful labour market integration.
Apart from the network included in VGR itself, one can find several other such initiatives within the territory attempting to bring industry, education, and businesses together to create a more cohesive and inclusive labour market. Examples include Westum and Syvonline (guidance), both bringing educational institutes and industry closer together. One Stop Future Shop as been another rewarding project to the Region’s development, looking to bring entrepreneurs, start-ups, and businesses together.