By / October 2, 2013

European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (Europe 2020 strategy)

Vocational education and training (VET) has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European…

© Ben Chams / Fotolia

Vocational education and training (VET) has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European Community. Vocational education and training  has a key economic function in up-skilling and integrating young people into the labour market and in providing high quality technical skills. It is also a crucial element of the EU Lisbon Strategy, which aims at transforming Europe into the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society. A strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training is in place and will be the principle European guideline until 2020..

The main objective is to secure lifelong learning for all EU citizens. By agreeing on the strategic framework, the EU’s Member States have defined their shared challenges and goals for education and training in the EU. The principle target is to motivate Member States to take the EU’s educational challenges into consideration when shaping national policies. The overall purpose of the agreement is supported by four strategic objectives: (1) making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; (2) improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; (3) promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship; (4) enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training.

© Ben Chams / Fotolia
© Ben Chams / Fotolia

European co-operation in education and training will continue through the open method of coordination, where clusters, with specific focal points, exchange their knowledge on a voluntary basis. The new strategic framework will follow the framework, which was agreed upon in 2001 and expired in 2010. To meet the four long-term, strategic objectives before 2020, Ministers of Education in the EU have agreed to focus on five common European benchmarks. The benchmarks cover (1) adult participation in lifelong learning, (2) low achievers in basic skills, (3) tertiary level attainment, (4) early leavers from education and (5) training and early childhood education. Furthermore, the European Commission develops benchmarks in the political areas of student mobility, employability, creativity and an indicator in the field of innovation, including entrepreneurship.

EU Legislation

Legislative overview / General information

Work programme on the follow-up of the objectives of educational and training systems in Europe / The work programme seeks to achieve the concrete future objectives of educational and training systems

Education, vocational training and youth policy / Fact sheet European Parliament

Legislation in force

A new impetus for cooperation in vocational education and training /  summaries of EU legislation – The European Union’s policy in this field is based on the Treaty (art.166, TFEU) which gives it the role of supporting and supplementing the Member States activities. This should be achieved via the exchange of best policy practices, the design and implementation of common European tools and innovative projects supported through the Leonardo da Vinci programme

The Copenhagen process: enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training / The Copenhagen process aims to improve the performance, quality and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) through enhanced cooperation at European level

Cooperation in vocational education and training (VET) /  summaries of EU legislation – These conclusions encourage Member States and the Commission to enhance European cooperation in the field of vocational education and training (VET) by adopting measures under four priority areas: implementation of common tools, promotion of quality and attractiveness of VET, development of links with the labour market and enhancement of European cooperation

European cooperation in vocational education and training to support the Europe 2020 strategy /  OEIL Legislative Observatory [based on the Commission’s Commission’s Communication on a new impetus for European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training to support the Europe 2020 strategy /  PreLex]

Further parliamentary procedures in the VET field.

EU Institutions

European Parliament

European cooperation in vocational education and training to support the Europe 2020 strategy (P7_TA(2011)0263). Text adopted by the EP on the basis of the report of: Nadja Hirsch, 8/6/2011 – EMPL committee outlined that vocational education and training has to be treated as a long-term common political priority, which can be translated into reality only with the participation and commitment of all stakeholders, as well as the EU institutions and the Member States. The Europe 2020 strategy  will enable people at different stages of life and specific groups to have access to vocational education and training, financing opportunities should be widened, simplified and made more readily available, using the funding currently provided under the ESF, the Lifelong Learning Programme as a whole, and Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs.

A new impetus for European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training to support the Europe 2020 strategy /  CULT Committee, Rapporteur Maria Badia i Cutchet, 23/3/2011 (from p. 22). The Europe 2020 Strategy puts a strong emphasis on education and training to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The draft report is based on a Commission Communication, the draft opinion calls for adequate financial resources, and for better coordination between the requirements of the labour market and VET courses.

Resolution P7_TA(2012)0323 of 11 September 2012 on Education, Training and Europe 2020 (2012/2045(INI)). In response to the Commission Communication entitled “Education and Training in smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe” (COM(2011) 902 final)  the resolution notes that despite some improvement in education and training, for the majority of the EU population lifelong learning (LLL) is still not a reality, and certain indicators are, in fact, worrying.

European Council

Conclusions (and related documents) of the European Council of 27-28 June 2013 on youth employment, strengthening competitiveness, growth and jobs, and completing the economic and monetary union. Among the measures to support youth employment: “high quality apprenticeships and work-based learning will be promoted, notably through the European Alliance for Apprenticeships…

The Bruges Communiqué on enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training for the period 2011-2020, 7/12/2010 – The Bruges Communiqué is a package of objectives and actions to increase the quality of vocational training in Europe by making it more accessible and relevant to the needs of the labour market. The Bruges Communiqué is the latest revision of the Copenhagen Process for European co-operation on vocational education and training

Meeting of the Directors General for Vocational Education and Training from EU countries as well as acceding and EFTA countries, together with key stakeholders including the EU Commission and social partners during the Irish Presidency to the EU, 21-22 May 2013. The webpage provides access to a selection of important documents, e.g. on the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.

Council of the EU

Council Conclusions on investing in education and training – a response to Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes and the 2013 Annual Growth Survey, 15/2/2013, reiterating “the promotion of excellence in vocational education and training in cooperation with the social partners, for instance by developing quality-assured VET systems with a strong workbased learning component, … focused on potential growth areas or areas with skills shortages …

Council conclusions on education and training in Europe 2020 – the contribution of education and training to economic recovery, growth and jobs, 26-27/11/2012. In particular points 4 -6  invite the Member States to “include more work-based elements in education and training programmes, … set up structures of cooperation between VET institutions, enterprises, social partners and local and regional authorities; and increase the attractiveness of the VET sector, … promote flexible pathways between VET and higher education in the context of national qualifications frameworks. … widen participation in higher education and VET … by developing, where not yet in place, professionally or vocationally oriented higher education as complementary to university education.

Priorities for enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training for the period 2011-2020 – Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, 18-19/11/2010 – Member States are invited to consider adoption of the following: A global vision for VET in 2020; Strategic objectives for the period 2011-2020, together with a number of supporting transversal objectives; Principles underlying the governance and ownership of the Copenhagen Process; Short-term deliverables for the first four years (2011-2014)

The Bruges Communiqué on enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training, 7/12/2010 – The Bordeaux Communiqué on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training, 26/11/2008 – The Helsinki Communiqué on Enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training, 5/12/2006 – Maastricht Communiqué on the Future Priorities of Enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (VET), 14/12/2004 – Copenhagen Declaration, 29-30/11/2002 – The declaration underlines the contribution of VET to achieving the Lisbon goals and sets priorities for VET systems reforms through enhanced cooperation. Every two years, the Member States’ progress in modernising VET is reviewed and priorities for reform are refined. These documents and other language versions can be found on the Commission’s website on the “Copenhagen Process“. National authorities and social partners from 33 European countries are taking part in the Copenhagen Process to help develop vocational education and training systems.

European Commission

Vocational education and training for better skills, growth and jobs. Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the communication on Rethinking Education [see the Library Keysource for further information]: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes (SWD(2012) 375 final), 20/11/2012

A new impetus for European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training to support the Europe 2020 strategy (COM (2010)296 fin) – The European Commission sets out its vision for the future of VET, building on the Europe 2020 strategy and the Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training up to 2020. The Commission wants to encourage more people to take up vocational education, improve the quality of training offered and make it easier to move between jobs and countries. Ministers are expected to discuss and adopt the plan by the end of 2010

Main policy initiatives and outputs in education and training since the year 2000 – Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020)

Commission encourages vocational education and trainingLeonardo da Vinci programme

Impact assessmanets, evaluations and other studies on the Leonardo da Vinci programme

A new impetus for European cooperation in VET to support the Europe 2020 strategy / by Erik Hess, DG Education and Culture May 2010

Other EU bodies


New Skills for New Jobs Policy initiatives in the field of education / December 2010 – With 24 countries participating in the 2010 Eurydice reporting exercise on ‘New Skills for New Jobs’, the consultation provided a unique opportunity to gather information on recent national developments in skills forecasting and to assess how this information is channelled into education and training provision.

Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

School’s Over: Learning Spaces in Europe in 2020: An Imagining Exercise on the Future of Learning / Riel Miller et al., 2008 – “…At the core of this model is a carefully elaborated idea of learning spaces that encompass new ways of ensuring that people have the capacity to control, direct, share and deepen their knowledge throughout their lives. These multi-dimensional learning spaces are imagined as operating in a systemically different economic and social context. One where non-technocratic, non-hierarchical learning is central to the production of local well-being and community based identity…

Joint Research Centre – CRELL Lifelong Learning Programme

Towards a benchmark on the contribution of Education and Training to Employability: a discussion note / by Elena Arjona Perez et al., 2009 – In May 2009, the Council conclusions on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (“ET 2020”) invited the Commission to present a proposal for a benchmark on employability. DG EAC together with CRELL have prepared this proposal which has been endorsed by the Danish Presidency.

Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe

Achieving the EU 2020 objectives on employment, education, training and social inclusion, May 2020


Skills outlook 2025 and VET system reforms. Mara Brugia and Pascaline Descy. Contribution to the Cedefop conference “Renewing vocational education and training to tackle skill mismatch: work-based learning and apprenticeship for all ?” 12-13/6/2013

Roads to recovery: three skill and labour market scenarios for 2025. Briefing note. 27/6/2013

Trends in VET policy in Europe 2010-12 – Progress towards the Bruges communiqué. Working paper no 16, 2012.

A bridge to the future European policy for vocational education and training 2002-10, 7/12/2010 – the report looks at how the Copenhagen process for enhanced cooperation in vocational education and training has affected vocational education and training reform over the past eight years

Learning to change: vocational education and training reform 2002-10. Briefing note, 3/12/2010 – The achievements of European cooperation are significant, but their impact has yet to be fully realised

Contributions to the bibliographic database: the page gives access to the contributions of ReferNet (the European Network of Reference and Expertise) to Cedefop. It also provides an access point to national collections on vocational education and training from all EU member states.

Modernising vocational education and training. Fourth research report, 2009 – This fourth report on VET research in Europe analyses the above pressures for VET modernisation. Research, however, also underlines the key role of VET itself in addressing these socioeconomic challenges. VET, therefore, not only reacts to change, but is also a driver of success and competitiveness for European economies and societies

Terminology of European education and training policy,  2008 – Multilingual glossary

European Training Foundation (ETF)

Promoting Social Inclusion and Combating Poverty through Cooperation in Education, Training and Work in EU Neighbouring Countries. Conference, 2-3/12/2010 – Objectives: enhance policy dialogue and cooperation on social inclusion and combating poverty through education, training and work in ETF partner countries; to create a platform to share innovative programmes and actions for promoting social inclusion and combating poverty through education, training and work with particular focus on youth and gender equity.

Country Approach

The situation in the EU Member States and beyond has been analyzed using the same methodological approach by Cedefop (for EU) and OECD (EU and beyond). As the situation of youth employment is different from most other Member States in Austria and Germany. special country reports for these countries have been added below.

Focus on Vocational education and training in European Union. Cedefop country reports

The OECD policy review of vocational education and training: Country reports

The World Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Database is an online repository developed by UNESCO-UNEVOC. It aims to provide concise, reliable and up-to-date information on TVET systems worldwide in one single place.


A Skills beyond School Review of Austria. Pauline Musset et al. (OECD), 2013 – This report examines VET programmes in Austria, covering how they are changing, how they are funded, how they are linked to academic and university programmes and how employers and unions are engaged.


A Skills beyond School Review of Germany. Mihály Fazekas et al. (OECD), 2013 – This report examines VET programs in Germany including how they are changing, how they are funded, how they are linked to academic and university programmes and how employers and unions can be engaged.

Germany’s dual vocational training system: a model for other countries? Dieter Euler (Bertelsmann Foundation), 2013. “…most evaluations of attempts to export the German system show little long-term effects. Despite considerable effort from the German side, the dual vocational training system has been adopted only by a few countries in Central Europe. A closer look shows that importing a system, or parts of it, involves more than mere duplication. It is a process of selecting and adapting certain components to suit the objectives and conditions of the potential importing country…” [author’s abstract]

International organisations

United Nations


Technical and vocational education and training for the twenty-first Century. Recommendations, 2002: technical and vocational education and training (TVET) help develop the individual’s knowledge of science and technology in a broad occupational area requiring technical and professional competencies and specific occupational skills. For further details see the Technical and Vocational Education and Training web site of Unesco’s International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and the 3rd International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training of May 2012 website.


OECD Skills Strategy – Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: “skills.oecd is an OECD web portal that presents all the most recent OECD reports, data and videos related to skills. Central to this site is the OECD Skills Strategy, the underlying data visualisations and country-specific data, findings and recommendations. The data and content found in this site draw on significant work carried out by the Directorate for Education, the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs and the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development.” [from website]

Learning for jobs – The OECD policy review of vocational education and training, September 2010

Systemic innovation in vocational education and training, 2009 – The study analyses innovation systems and strategies in VET by bringing together evidence of the drivers for systemic innovation in six different countries: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Mexico and Switzerland.

Research, NGOS

Research institutes, Think Tanks, Universities

Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) (->

The key role of education in the European 2020 strategy / Felix Roth & Anna-Elisabeth Thum, working document, October 2010. The paper states that many EU Member States, including Germany, will not be able to meet this target. Moreover, the crucial topic of educational quality is not even touched upon. Comparing the EU with China in total numbers, the authors state that China’s education system already produces the same number of graduates with tertiary education as the whole EU15.

European Policy Centre (->

Skills and education for growth and well-being in Europe 2020: are we on the right path ? / Sotiria Theodoropoulou, October 2010. The Paper explains why skills are necessary for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It argues that future skill needs are difficult to predict with sufficient accuracy to steer policies. Seeking to meet the targets for participation in education on its own is not necessary for delivering the appropriate skills. Success equally depends on the quality of Europe’s education systems.

European Foundation Centre (->

European Commission tables its proposals for ‘EU2020’ strategy. Briefing, 17/3/2010. The briefing confirms the Commission’s strategy responding to the Europe 2020 Strategy’s call to reinforce the attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) and maps out its potential with respect to the Flagship Initiatives “An Agenda for new skills and jobs” and “Youth on the Move”, including its Youth employment framework.

European Skills, Competencies and Occupations (ESCO) (->

ESCO Stakeholder Survey. Final Analysis. 25/1/2011 – Conference / 17-18/3/2010

Open Society Foundation (->

The education of migration children – An NGO guide to EU policies and actions / Jana Huttova, Elif Kalaycioglu & Lina Molokotos-Liederman, 2010. The education of migrant children and youth is viewed not only as an economic issue, but also most importantly as a political and human rights issue. As a result, education has become a key instrument in long-term integration and social inclusion strategies and consequently a key policy area for the EU. The crucial role of the value of education and training in making the EU “the most competitive and knowledge-based economy” has been highlighted as a key component of EU policy in the Lisbon Agenda.

European Trade Union Committee for Education (->

Consultation on the future EU 2020 strategy / 2010

Deutscher Bildungsserver (->

European cooperation in vocational education (Copenhagen process). Political background documents, publications, general information.  The 2002 Copenhagen declaration claimed enhancing the European cooperation in the vocational education sector. Aspects are transparency with regard to vocational qualifications within the national systems, instruments for quality ensurance, validation of informal qualifications, a European qualification frame (EQF) and a credit point system (ECVET).

World Economic Forum (->

Global Education Initiative – European Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education. Report, May 2010. The Europe 2020 Strategy emphasizes skills and education, but the mandate needs to go beyond quantitative measures to qualitative outcomes. The main objective of the roundtable is to convene these key stakeholders and develop action plans to advance entrepreneurship education in secondary and higher education within Europe.

European University Association (->

EUA Response to EC Consultation on the future “EU 2020” Strategy. 15/1/2010

DICE (->

The DICE has been cast: Research findings and recommendations on educational theatre and drama / Drama Improves Lisbon Key Competences in Education (DICE), 2010. Research proves that educational theatre and drama also significantly support the targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. Educational theatre and drama have a significant and objectively measurable impact on five of the eight key competences: Communication in the mother tongue; Learning to learn; Interpersonal, intercultural and social competences, civic competence; Entrepreneurship and Cultural expression.

European Research Council (->

Contribution of the Scientific Council of the ERC to the Consultation on the Future “EU 2020” Strategy. 14/1/2010

European Expert Network on Economics of Education in Europe (->

The Cost of Low Educational Achievement in the European Union / Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, June 2010. The paper uses estimates of the effect of educational achievement, as measured by international student achievement tests, on economic growth to simulate the impact of improved educational achievement for individual EU countries and the EU as a whole.

The Future of European Education and Training Systems: Key Challenges and Their Implications / Martin Schlotter, Guido Schwerdt & Ludger Wößmann, 2008. The four key challenges identified by the report are: demographic and population change; new forces of global competition; a long-run perspective on social cohesion; enacting innovation under given political realities. These key challenges are main drivers that are going to affect how European E&T systems will look like in 2020.

European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (->

Lifelong Guidance Policies: Work in Progress,  2010. The European network aims to assist the European Union Member States and the European Commission in developing European co-operation on lifelong guidance in both the education and the employment sectors. Its purpose is to promote co-operation and systems development at Member State level.

European Youth Forum (->

Policy Paper on Vocational Education and Training, April 2010. In the policy paper the European Youth Forum (YFJ) continues the process of building a European educational policy agenda for young people by young people and addresses a crucial education field: vocational education and training. The paper puts forward the view of young people and youth organisations on VET and is a first step in the discussion on the complementarity of VET and looks first at the concept of VET and the realities in the different countries in Europe.

Dualisation as Generational Layering – An Analytical Framework / Paulo Marques. Prepared for the 10th European Conference of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) Amsterdam, 20 June 2013. Youth unemployment is only the tip of the iceberg, and that to successfully tackle this problem it is crucial to identify its causes. The paper provides a conceptual framework for shedding new light on the process that has led to a deterioration in the position of young people in the labour market. After reviewing the literature on institutional change and labour market segmentation (labour market segmentation theory, economic insider-outsider, and the dualisation literature).

From the Lisbon Strategy to Europe 2020: the statistical landscape of the education and training objectives through the lens of the capability approach / Josianne Vero. in: Social work and society, vol. 10 (2012), is. 1, pp. 1-16. The article brings together and comment on official statistics and indicators that make up educational targets that are increasingly favoured in the European Union policy context from the Lisbon Strategy to the Europe 2020 Strategy. The chapter concludes by offering some thoughts for an alternative set of indicators.

Young people and the post-recession labour market in the context of Europe 2020 / Heejung Chung, Sonja Bekker and Hester Houwing, in: Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research August 2012 vol. 18 no. 3 301-317. This article examines how the recent global recession, together with the general flexibilization of labour markets, is affecting young people. It examines different forms of social exclusion, including unemployment, temporary employment contracts and periods of inactivity, as well as the subjective insecurity arising from such labour market exclusion and what Member States have done to address this issue, especially as part of their response to the crisis at both EU (through the Europe 2020 strategy) and national levels.

Strategies for education and training within the framework of Europe 2020 agenda. / Liana Son & Gratiela Georgiana Carica, 2010. The paper analyses the synthetic indicators identified and adopted for education and training within the framework of the new Europe 2020 Strategy, in order to highlight the educational progress achieved by the EU member states until 2010 and the new targets and strategies adopted for 2020 by highlighting lifelong learning as a fundamental principle and a key element of theses strategies.

Intellectual Capital in Waiting / Tanja Cesen,  August 2010. The paper proposes a model to measure intellectual capital on national level, based on a set of indicators related to human capital by gender, business environment, market capital, innovation, technology and development capital.

Pedagogy for economic competitiveness and sustainable development / Pasi Sahlberg & David Oldroyd, in: European Journal of Education,Vol. 45, No. 2, 2010, Part I, p. 280-299. This presentation argues that what schools are expected to do in order to promote national economic competitiveness often contradicts commonly accepted global education reform thinking

Drivers and Impediments for Innovation in Europe / Knut Blind & Luke Georghiou, in: Intereconomics, Volume 45 (2010), Issue 5, p. 264-286. The EU 2020 strategy relies on innovation as the core driver of economic dynamics. The paper discusses the strategies established by the European Commission and the Member States for the intensification of innovative activities. Analyses of aspects of innovation policy, such as measurement of intangible investments, service innovation and a regional innovation system complement the picture.

Link collections

Education & Training in the European Union, EUBusiness dossier / New skills and jobs: Mind the gap, Euractiv dossier / The EU battles youth unemployment, DPA Insight-EU-Dossier (providing access to stakeholder views and official documents, references at the end of the dossier)

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