02 SES 02 A, A Consideration of the Future of VET: Learning from the Nordic Countries
The four Nordic countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, have different models of vocational education, but face a number of common challenges for the future development of VET. In all countries, the shift towards a knowledge society has been followed by a significant expansion of general and higher education. The VET systems struggle with declining participation rates, falling esteem and high dropout rates - except in Finland where VET has seen an increased enrolment (Virolainen & Stenström 2014). At the same time, VET has an important role to play by linking school-based and work-based learning and by connecting education with the labour market (Wolbers 2007). Incorporating longer periods of work based training in the VET-programmes makes them connect better to the labour market and promotes significantly the employment prospects of the students/apprentices (Müller 2005; Andersen & Werfhorst 2010; ). Accordingly, in all four countries policymakers have over the last two decades tried to revitalise apprenticeship in modernised forms to improve the transition to employment of non-academic youth.
But improving the linkages from VET to the labour market seems to be inherently associated with weakening otherlinkagesin the transition system (Raffe 2008). Increasing the duration of work based training and strengthening employability of the students tend to weaken the connection of VET to higher education. When VET gives priority to training placement and specific occupational skills it becomes more difficult to offer eligibility for higher education. And weak links to higher education make VET appear as a dead-end in the education system and contributes to lower the esteem of VET (Deissinger a.o. 2013; Høst & Michelsen 2010) ).
In addition, the VET-systems in the Nordic countries have a variety of different, politically defined aims: to qualify for employment in a specific occupation, prepare for future mobility on the labour market, promote competitiveness and economic growth, prepare for studies at the tertiary level of education and to prepare for democratic citizenship (Olofsson & Panican 2008; Antikainen 2006). These diverse aims are to some extent competing and contradictory (Powell & Solga 2010; Juul & Jørgensen 2011)). For example, being socially inclusive for weak learners makes it difficult for VET to also be attractive for high skill companies and for ambitious students, who aim for higher education(Shavit & Müller 2000). Developing VET for the future thus involves coping with inherent dilemmas that call for innovative solutions.
The Nordic countries provide unique opportunities for comparative research on these challenges, as they share social and political traditions: well-organised labour markets, consensual political cultures and universal welfare states (Elvander 2002). At the same time they have developed divergent models of VET and this situation has made the Nordic countries a living experiment of different forms of VET.
The purpose of this symposium is to explore different ways of managing some key dilemmas for VET in the Nordic Countries. A special interest is in how VET can provide access to the skilled labour market and to higher education at the same time. The symposium will examine the implications of the different institutional arrangements in the four Nordic countries for the handling these dilemmas by presenting preliminary results from a comparative Nordic research project www.nord-VET.dk.
Antikainen Ari (2006): In Search of the Nordic Model in Education, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, Volume 50/3 Deissinger, Thomas & Josef Aff & Alison Fuller & Christian H. Jørgensen (eds.) 2013. Hybrid Qualifications – structural and political issues in the context of European VET policy. Zürich, Peter Lang. Elvander, Nils 2002: The Labour Market Regimes of the Nordic Countries – a Comparative Analysis, Scandi-navian Political Studies, Vol 25, No 2, 2002 Høst, Håkon; Michelsen, Svein (2010). Ungdom, lærlingordning og overgang til arbeidsmarkedet : en-dringer fra 1994 til 2008. Søkelys på arbeidslivet. 27: 175-190. Juul, I. & C.H. Jørgensen (2011). Challenges for the dual system and the occupational self-governance in Denmark, Journal of Vocational Education and Training Vol 63/3. Müller, W. (2005). Education and Youth Integration into European Labour Markets. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 46(5-6), Olofsson, J. & a. Panican (Eds.) (2008). Ungdomars väg från skola till arbetsliv, Nordiska erfarenheter, (Transition from school to work, Nordic Experiences), Nordiska ministerrådet, Copenhagen. Raffe, D. (2008). The concept of transition system, Journal of Education and Work, 21/4, Shavit, Y. and Müller, W. (2000). Vocational Secondary Education. Where Diversion and Where Safety Net?. European Societies, 2, Virolainen, M., & Stenström, M.-L. (2014). Finnish vocational education and training in comparison: Strengths and weaknesses, International Journal for Research in VET, 1 (2),
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