Dual Vocational Education and Training (VET) or apprenticeship schemes as a promising approach to overcome economic crisis in south Europe and to accelerate economic speed-up of former socialist states in East Europe are since years high on the agenda of European (cp. EU 2018) and national policies. Consequently a manifoldness of approaches and projects have been started to support Work-Based Learning (WBL) in “all of its forms”, for a comprehensive overview see for example WBL-toolkit (2018). But when having a closer look at these approaches it has to be stated that many of them are rather far away from “real” apprenticeship schemes; most measures are internships, learning projects, simulations, etc. – and lack of sustainability after the end of projects` funding. To discern our approach from internships or learning projects, we refer to “curricula-driven WBL”. In our current ERASMUS+ project “Integrating Companies in a Sustainable Apprenticeship System” (ICSAS) we are working (beside others) on the question, under which circumstances a successful curricula-driven WBL-pilot of 1 year can be integrated into the formal VET-regulations of Portugal (PT) and Romania (RO).
Another approach on policy level to increase linkage between VET and the labour markets have been Qualification Frameworks (QF) (cp. EU 2008 and EU 2017). To achieve transparency and comparability of qualifications, National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) were established in the European countries and have been connected to the European Qualification Framework (EQF). In the last years already many papers were published, arguing that general Qualification Frameworks, might they claim national or transnational relevance, are somehow nothing but “a paradigmatic case of travelling educational reforms” (Bohlinger 2019). On the other hand, some evidence that Sector Qualifications Frameworks (SQF) could be of added value for enhanced transparency of qualifications in the respective sector has been published (cp. for example SIQAF 2018).
Against this background, we have drawn three conclusions for our research and development project:
- To include “sustainability” not only as a flowery phrase – but as a core element in our approach.
- To try to stop “travelling” of QF via giving an anchor in the form of a Sector Qualification Framework (SQF).
- And thus; consequently, to focus on one sector; only: Industrial shoe production.
Our project (for findings cp. results) worked on the following questions:
- What could be learnt in real work-processes?
- What should be learnt in real work-processes?
- What are the supporting or hindering factors of including curricula-driven WBL in the governing of national VET-Systems?
- Is there any added value by Sector Qualification Frameworks (exemplarily)?
We found no “objective” or “hard” barriers for developing apprenticeships in countries with traditionally school-based VET; but a row of “subjective” or “weak” factors, like scepticism about quality of Learning Outcomes (LO) from curricula-driven WBL, concerns that apprentices are exploited as cheap work-force, uncertainties about roles of involved stakeholders, etc.. Despite these factors, we successfully designed, implemented and piloted a one-year lasting curricula-driven WBL in PO and RO.
Apart from this, we developed a SQF (level 2-4); a mapping of the PT, RO, ES and DE qualifications from industrial shoe production with the potential of a benefit for holders of qualifications from the sector of industrial shoe production. Finally, we worked on a transfer handbook, hoping that our approach is transferable to other sectors.