The aim of vocational training in the EU policy context is to produce a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, a primary objective of the European Union, as set out in Article 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The Commission’s 1993 White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment stressed the need for a significant increase in investment in human capital and greater and more effective efforts in vocational training. The Lisbon European Council in March 2000 set the European Union the strategic goal of becoming ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society in the world’. The Barcelona European Council in March 2002 gave a mandate to make European education and training a world reference by 2010, and to develop closer cooperation in vocational training.
A number of initiatives in the 1980s were precursors to what is now the Leonardo Programme, adopted in 1994. The aim of the Leonardo programme is to contribute to the implementation of an EU vocational training policy. On 12 November 2002, the Council of the European Union approved a Resolution on the promotion of enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training, giving a formal mandate to pursue the objectives developed under the Leonardo Programme. The aim is to support and supplement action taken by the Member States, using transnational cooperation to improve quality, promote innovation and strengthen the European dimension of training systems and practices. The programme has been progressively opened to participation by 30 countries.