New Commission report and initiatives on continuing training

In a report published in April 1997, the European Commission takes stock of progress made towards the achievement of equal access to continuing training. The report also recommends a number of concrete initiatives aimed at involving the social partners and member state governments more closely in the process of monitoring, and the development of strategies for improving access to continuing training.

The importance of continuing vocational education is increasingly being recognised by policy-makers across the European Union, not only because of its positive impact on maintaining the competitiveness of enterprises, but also because of its potential contribution to the free movement of labour and the improvement of employment prospects. This is particularly important in the context of the evolving "information society". The Commission has given particular emphasis and resources to continuing training through its vocational training programme, LEONARDO, and in declaring 1996 the European Year of Lifelong Learning.

In 1993, the Commission issued a Recommendation on continuing training, whose central objective was to encourage member states to develop their vocational training policies, so as to ensure that every worker in the Community has access to vocational training throughout his or her working life. It also called for the development of transnational aspects of continuing education.

At its meeting on 30 April 1997, the Commission adopted a report on access to continuing training which provides an assessment of the progress made to date on the application of the principles set out in the 1993 Recommendation. The report is based on reports from the member states and the social partners. It includes a look at the following:

  • progress to date in relation to improving access to continuing training;
  • the importance of narrowing current disparities in access to continuing training existing across the EU;
  • the necessity to readjust the priorities in vocational training policies; and
  • the importance of considering competitiveness and employment in determining approaches to vocational training

The report concludes that the objective of equal access to continuing vocational training is far from being achieved. Substantial discrepancies remain between member states and between sectors in the level and ease of access provided for workers. There are, however, seen to be a number of encouraging initiatives being carried out, originating both from public authorities and the social partners. Good practice lessons from these initiatives should be disseminated further.

The report recommends three concrete initiatives under the current Confidence Pact for Action on Employment in Europe:

  1. the organisation of consultations with the social partners on access to skills, following on from their joint opinions on lifelong learning. These consultations should start in the autumn of 1997;
  2. the presentation (in October 1997) of a proposal for a Council Decision to consolidate the procedures for reports from the member states and social partners and for the collection of comparable data (company surveys). These arrangements would permit a regular comparative assessment of the progress achieved ("benchmarking");
  3. a high degree of priority for continuing training projects and access to skills during the last two years of the LEONARDO programme, and for the preparation of the future generation of vocational training programmes.

The report also includes a number of other action proposals:

  • the establishment of common conditions for facilitating access to continuing training at Community and sectoral level;
  • the presentation of a plan for action on vocational training (Learning in the Information Society) in 1997; and
  • the extension of the current pilot projects on skill self-accreditation to occupational areas involving both technical and horizontal skills and giving preference to transnational pilot projects concentrating on new access factors.
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