02 SES 10 B, Transitions in VET: A European Perspective
A basic principle for vocational education and training (VET) is to design and plan teaching and learning processes which meet the needs for skills and competences in the labour market. Hence, identifying future skill requirements and ensuring that these requirements are incorporated into education has long been the subject of research and political discussion (Haskel and Holt, 1999). This sort of interplay between the labour market and the education system has been more recently described as ‘feedback mechanism’ (Cedefop, 2009; Fretwell, et al., 2001; Gielen et al., 2000, Cedefop 2013). The term broadly summarizes the cooperation of actors, institutions and processes constantly ensuring the renewal of VET provision (i.e. new qualifications or curricula). The way this renewal is organised differs tremendously between countries. The diversity of education and training systems has been studied by a several authors and led to a number of useful country typologies (Green, 1999; Saar & Ure, 2013; Crouch, 1993; Crouch et al., 1999; Greinert, 2004; Winterton, 2007; Bosch & Charest, 2008; Busemeyer & Trampusch, 2012). It is meanwhile generally acknowledged that focusing exclusively on the internal dynamics of education systems is not sufficient to explain these differences. Industrial relations, welfare states, income distribution and product markets have been identified as important reason for the diversity. However, to fully understand the differences between VET systems, it is not only necessary to understand their main drivers and the context into which they are embedded, the operational functioning of the feedback mechanism between VET and the labour market has to be equally scrutinized.
The aim of the paper is to better understand the functioning of ‘feedback mechanisms’ established to ensure dialogue between education and the labour market. Feedback mechanisms in this sense are defined as purposefully implemented institutional procedures, determining how stakeholders in various areas and at different levels can influence the review of VET provision. Feedback mechanisms typically have a legal foundation, are established on a permanent basis, and comprise two or more actors (e.g. the state, employer and employee organisations). Questions, which guided the research, are: Do particular types of feedback mechanism better suit particular subsystems or types of VET? Do particular types of feedback mechanism demonstrate complementarities/incompatibilities with particular skill formation systems, types of market coordination and types of welfare regime? In which countries are new types of feedback mechanism emerging and what are driving factors for these changes?
Based on a comparison on 15 European countries (see below) four main types of mechanism have been identified: ‘liberal’, ‘statist’, ‘participatory’ and ‘coordinated’ types. The ‘liberal’ type is characterised by a low degree of coordination and more direct feedback between VET providers and the labour market through market signals. The ‘statist’ model is characterised by strong state regulation of education and weak links between education and the labour market. The ‘participatory’ type allows for a particular role for social partners. In the ‘coordinated’ type the social partners are the drivers of renewal processes and are also partly responsible for their implementation.
These types can be used to describe VET more precisely than previous typologies as they do not classify countries in their entirety, e.g. in Austria the dual system was identified as a coordinated type, while the equally important school-based VET system in the country is characterised as statist; in Sweden up to four feedback mechanisms following different types were identified. The models help, however, to understand how particular processes of renewal of VET are organised in respective countries, how this is dependent on the availability of certain types of VET, and how specific VET governance structures are embedded in broader social, economic and political environments.
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