Focusing on key competences – a generic set of skills and attitudes which can be useful in all work situations – is one of the surest ways of keeping education and training relevant in a fast-changing environment.
In the past, most VET systems specialised in preparing people for a clearly defined trade or profession. Nowadays, labour market conditions in both developed and transition economies are often extremely volatile. Therefore this traditional kind of training can quickly become obsolete.
The answer lies in focusing on key competences, thus equipping people to adapt to changing circumstances and deal with unknown situations.
As well as instilling specific knowledge and skills, today’s education and training systems must encourage motivation, reflection, self-evaluation, self-guidance, critical and cross-disciplinary thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills. They should train people to respond to complex demands, communicate with and understand others, plan ahead, make innovative choices and take risks and accept the consequences.
These kinds of competences cannot be taught or assessed in isolation nor can they simply be bolted onto existing programmes designed to produce narrow trade-related knowledge and skills. They call for a much more holistic approach to organising education and training in which both the content and the roles of teachers and learners will change dramatically.
The ETF aims to support these changes and help individuals not only to acquire key competences during their initial education but also to build on these throughout their lives. Work so far has concentrated on learning to learn and entrepreneurial learning. A project on key competences in five countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) has assessed state-of-play in these two transversal topics and helped national research teams develop their proposals for changing policy. The ongoing Entrepreneurial Learning project is helping develop lifelong entrepreneurial learning in general and in higher education in 16 countries of South Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.