VETNET, EERA-ECER network 2, experienced a rich program and stimulating conference in Dublin. The program was designed within two parallel sessions with more than 90 paper presentations, symposia, roundtables, workshops, and poster contributions. Attendance at network sessions was good, the most presentations were of high quality and stimulated lively discussions in the sessions. As always, participants came from all over Europe and abroad (e.g., Canada, Australia); we continue to be a very international network.
Thematic focus of VETNET: Vocational Education and Training (VET) is on the agenda of all those that strive to foster individual and professional careers of adolescents, young adults and older people in accord with the economic and social situation and development. VET is initial VET, continuing education and training, and higher vocational and professional education and training. There is a mutual understanding that VET helps to bridge the world of education, training and the economy. Hence, VET-research and practice address questions at the individual, organizational, social, economic and political level. The contributions in VETNET cover a wide range of topics with a reference to practice and divers theoretical and methodological strands.
Within this framework topics discussed at ECER 2016 included:
- Reflections on VET: a thoughtful look at the past and present state of VET, its dynamic nature and the necessity for continuous adaptation to current and future needs.
- VET-Systems: the social and political legitimization, reputation and organization of VET through different VET-systems, such as dual training systems or nordic model(s) of VET.
- Different manifestations of VET: initial, higher, technical, or continuous VET
- Trainers and teachers in VET: initial education and training as well as life-long learning and professionalization of VET trainers and teachers
- Life-course and transitions: individual career decisions, pathways through VET and from VET to full employment, development of professional identity
- Workplace learning: individual aspects of learning and socialization at the workplace.
- Competence: development and assessment in VET, especially considering competency based learning and training.
- New technology in VET: role of mobile devices in fostering work-related vocational and professional learning
- Theory and methods: theoretical underpinnings and methodological approaches to VET-research, their potential and shortcomings
VETNET opened the conference with two invited keynote speakers. James Wickham, Ireland, reflected on the development of VET in Ireland, its past, present and future. Martin Mulder gave a laudation on 20 years of VETNET, presenting important milestones in the development of the European VET-research community and its future challenges. This made for a very good start for the conference and set the agenda for addressing the conference theme Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers. It also made links with the local research community.
Plans for the 2016 conference included the aim to even further develop the quality of the presentations and to specifically encourage a more sophisticated consideration of philosophical underpinning, societal links, theoretical frameworks and methodologies employed, and discussion of findings. It was pleasing to see a definite move to achieving this.
To strengthen the discussion on theoretical and methodological issues, we grouped papers in specific sessions on VET theory and on research methods in VET. A highlight was also our network dinner, with 69 VETNETers enjoying local music, food and good company. This, and indeed the whole conference were an opportunity for us to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of VETNET!