The socio-professional structures of countries having a high level of welfare and equity have more workers in the middle levels of the employment structure and fewer workers at the most qualified levels, but also in the lowest levels of qualification. Qualified technicians dominate the socio-professional structure, products and services provide high added value, there is a very low rate of early school abandonment, there is no unemployment and young people mostly opt for vocational training in their post-compulsory studies, not University. We are talking about countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Finland, Holland, among others.
Conversely, some others countries within Europe share a very different socio-professional structure. Workers gets basically concentrated on the lower and upper qualification levels, reducing the relative weight of the intermedium levels. Unemployment rates are above 10%, early school abandonment is higher than expected in compulsory education. Most of the young people, after compulsory educations, rejects vocational training in favor of trying Higher Education or labor market directly. Vocational training lacks social prestige. These countries are mainly found in Southern Europe.
Are we taking seriously vocational training as the tool that can makes a difference?
Vocational training as a solution
Vocational training in Spain is organized as follows:
- Initial Professional Training, Intermediate Degree and Superior degree, two years each. The Intermediate Degree is accessed from compulsory education, and the Superior Degree is accessed from the Intermediate Degree and from the Baccalaureate The Higher Degree is higher education, as are the University Degrees, but until a few years ago they have been excluded from the University Campus. Vocational Training is structured by professional families.
- Training for Employment, aimed at young people who have not successfully passed compulsory education and to people who need official recognition of their professional qualification. Training for employment is delivered by short courses and once they are passed a Professional Certificate is officially obtained. Training for employment courses are also structured by professional families.
- Permanent Training, which is aimed mainly at active workers and companies, can be bonused by the cost of training with the payments that companies make to Social Security. Training is organized privately and companies can hire it
Source: author’s elaboration from Departament d’Ensenyament
Can this entire offer improve the socio-professional structure of the country? From a social point of view, vocational training has much less prestige than University, and families still see the former as the option for students who fail in their compulsory stage. In addition, in Spain the University competes with vocational training instead of complementing it, and this is a major educational policy mistake that no one dares to address. In fact, in November 2017 the European Commission warned Spain for the low number of VET students compared to other EU countries, where in fact the percentage of students of 15 to 19 years (29%) more than doubles the Spanish average (12%).
New trends and hope
In any case, four facts allow us to glimpse a possible change based on the high employability generated by Initial Professional Training studies, as demonstrated by the annual study on the Professional Insertion of Vocational Education of 2016. For professional families, those who enjoy the highest rate of labor insertion is mechanical manufacture (67%), food industries (66%), maritime-fishing (64%), agrarian (63%), hotel and tourism (62%) and installation and maintenance (61%).
New trends are:
Start of the deployment of Dual Professional Training System. The student is also an apprentice: the training is carried out at the educational center and at the company, who work in a coordinated way and are responsible for the student’s education. The center provides the essential knowledge, while leaving the bulk of practical knowledge through work in the company. This model is inspired by the case of Germany, where 40% of VET students are enrolled in the Dual System. In Catalonia, this model started in 2012. According to the CTESC study “The VET Dual System in Catalonia“, its degree of insertion reaches 70%, it has 76% full-time recruitment (55 % in traditional VET) and 52% earn more than € 1,200 gross monthly (27% of traditional VET graduates). However, only 4.3% of the total VET students (5,075 students) took this modality the 2015/2016 course.
The consolidation of the private offer. In the last years, the offer of VET has also grown by private operators to the point that it has become a niche market beyond the traditional agents of the education system (religious orders, cooperatives, public centers). Following the model, online learning has also found a opportunity for business due to strong demand. Here you can mention the cases of iFP and Ilerna’s, which is currently the leading company in Spain in online VET. Likewise, UOC offers VET from 2016 in a joint initiative with Jesuitas Educación, currently offering eight Initial Professional Training Superior Degree courses.
University campus sharing VET. Some universities are choosing to blur the traditional borders between Higher Education and VET, incorporating the later to University campus. This is a trend that is expected to accelerate over the next few years due to the high employability of the technical profiles. The case of the UVic-UCC Professional Campus is paradigmatic and offers VET in the agri-food sector, communication technology and healthcare.
Organizations providing support for VET. Beyond public powers, there are many actors deserving acknowledgement for their efforts to support vocational training: Fundació Barcelona Formació Professional, Consell General de Cambres de Catalunya, Fundación Bertelsmann and Alianza FP Dual
As a concluding remark, professional training is the opportunity to improve people’s employability, provide the professional profiles that companies seek, and also to improve the socio-professional structure of a country, lacking qualified intermediate technicians. U·TRANS has in this bet one of its lines of expertise.