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  • Reputation boost for vocational education

    - European Parliament Member Katarína Neved’alová thinks that good vocational education should be one of Europe’s top priorities in order to reduce the massive youth unemployment. “Parents should not push their children so much to go to university. If you love cars, become a mechanic.”

    ScienceGuide spoke with the Rapporteur of the EP's Committee on Culture and Education, Katarína Neved’alová, about the future of Europe’s youth and their education. A topic that suits Neved’alová very well, before she became a Member of the European Parliament for S&D, she was a youth representative in Slovakia.

    In the report ‘Rethinking Education’ six priorities are set, although Neved’alová thinks that “all six of them are very important”, the extensive program to support Vocational Education and Training (VET) is her personal priority.

    “It is very important that young people will have the right skills for their job. In order to make this happen, it is not enough to solely allocate money from the EU to this project. To create a breakthrough we need schools to cooperate much more with business. Together they can create a program in which students learn the skills they will need in their jobs. As a result companies will get employers that are better suited for their job.”

    Universities are not superior

    “One of the most important things we have to do is to boost the public’s esteem of vocational education. Many students and their parents still view education at a university as superior. That has to change since it is not true.” Neved’alová believes that children have to get in contact with vocational careers at an early stage, “maybe already in primary school. It would inspire many children when good professionals that had vocational education would go to schools and show the children, and their parents, the possibilities of VET.”

    “I had some good guides myself that showed the possibilities of vocational education, they said 'you shouldn’t want to go to university at all costs'.” Neved’alová is still happy with this advice.

    “I am more adaptable now than I would have been when I went to university. Parents shouldn’t push their children so much to go to university, all jobs are important. If you really like cars, you should study to become a mechanic instead of going to university because you think that is what you are supposed to do.”

    Skills for flexibility

    It is hard to predict the jobs European teenagers will have after they graduate. The job market changes ever more quickly. “It would be great if we had predictions like that, but that is impossible. Instead we should give young people a variety of skills that can be used in different jobs. Management skills and foreign languages increase a student’s flexibility on the job market of the future.”

    “One of the most important things that has to change is the way young people choose their study and profession. People need a job at the end of their study. Philosophy is a wonderful study but it does not have great career perspectives. We can’t all have our dream job, it is more important that you can pay for your rent and food.”

    Free movement of people

    For the employees of the future a high professional mobility will be reality. “I believe in a European Federation. I believe in free movement, it enriches people when they learn from other cultures and traditions. On top of that free mobility within the EU enlarges the potential job market. We need to be able to get recognition of skills and diploma’s across Europe.” Neved’alová is optimistic, “I believe it will be reality in one generation.”

    “Students in Slovakia do not even remember Slovakia before it was a member of the EU. They are all used to travel to other countries without border control. I believe that my generation, people that are now in their thirties or twenties, can change the European Union for the better. After the great expansion of the EU in 2004, Eastern-Europe and Western-Europe no longer existed, we became one European Union. Before that there was a lot of solidarity behind the ‘iron curtain’, now we find this solidarity in the EU.”

    One of the most successful EU programs, ‘Erasmus for all’ can help this important process of European integration and the creation of a strong European identity. Erasmus is often seen as a purely educational program, but it also helped to create a European identity in millions of young people. “Erasmus is the most successful child of the EU, if someone can travel across Europe and meet other people from other cultures he can’t be a racist or fascist.”

    Food for thought

    The entire report “Rethinking Education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes”, can be found here.

    In this report six priorities are set to tackle youth unemployment and educating young Europeans with the right skills for the future:

    1 Promote excellence in vocational education and training (VET)

    2 Improve the performance of student groups with high risk of early school leaving and low basic skills

    3 Strengthen the provision of transversal skills that increase employability such as entrepreneurial initiative, digital skills and foreign languages

    4 Reduce the number of low-skilled adults

    5 Scale up the use of ICT-supported learning and access to high quality OER

    6 Revise and strengthen the professional profile of all teaching professions