Euromontana participated in a public hearing on vocational education and training in rural and remote areas at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 28th January 2014. The objective was to collect the feedback of stakeholders to feed the EESC position, which should be published in the coming months.
During the first part of the hearing, several good practices were presented. In particular, in Scotland, the Breadalbane School has achieved to retain young people in rural community. To encourage young people to stay, they have developed vocational training on issues that could actually give them jobs in the region, such as agriculture, equine studies, forestry, outdoor education, pest control… They have also encouraged rural entrepreneurship by developing links between young people, who want to start a new business, and experimented businesses. They have also encouraged higher education (even remotely) from a cooperation agreement with the University of Highlands and Islands, a Euromontana’s member.
During the second part of the hearing, the European Commission has presented what is already done on education and training at EU level, despite limited competence. Indeed, the Member States remain largely in charge of vocational education and training (VET), thus the European Commission is limited in its actions. Joao SANTOS, from DG Employment explained that his DG has 4 priorities:
– Work-based learning: to better understand the needs of the labour market, make the education world and the working world speak together
– Quality: the VET is often seen as something not very attractive. Most parents believe that the university is synonymous with success, whereas VET would just be a second choice. To try to change these mentalities, the European Commission focuses on the quality of the VET systems.
– Bringing continuous VET in life, allowing pathways between educational systems, providing opportunities for young people but also for all the other workers all over the life.
– Key competences: VET systems don’t provide the key competences to manage the transition: more focus should be put on entrepreneurial skills, communication skills, the capacities to adapt throughout the working life. VET systems should provide these keys to manage transitions and to adapt not only to nowadays jobs, but also to tomorrow jobs.
At the end of the public hearing, Joana Agudo I Bataller, vice president of the NAT section and in charge of the EESC opinion summarised they key points to include in the opinion.
– Be sure that there is training in rural areas and this training should be adapted to the potential jobs you could find in rural areas, not only agriculture, but also tourism for instance.
– There is a need for a better cooperation between the different European, national and regional levels, but also a better cooperation between urban and rural areas.
– Facilitate the access to funding schemes, which is not always easy at local level.
– ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) are not just one additional tool, this is the key tool to have access to the other tools. The EESC members believe that everybody should have access to the Internet; it should be a right for all EU citizens. The Internet could definitely help to have a remote access to education and training. There is also a need to develop IT skills to train young people to use these tools. Euromontana has particularly emphasised that the access to high speed broadband and to IT skills is fundamental in the development of living mountain areas.
– The links between the professional and the education worlds should be reinforced: in particular workers should be trained to be able to adapt to the changes they are going to face all over their working life.
– The need to have a political will: VET should be a key priority at all (European, national, regional and local) political levels.
You can find the speakers’presentations here6 February 2015