D-VET – Educate for life, prepare for work

Author: Pazaurek Szabina from Budakov Films, Project Manager from Pécs, Hungary
Digitalisation has been with us, with varying degrees of intensity, sporadically, but for decades, in all
areas of our lives. Digitalisation is also beginning to conquer the field of Vocational Education and
Training (VET). New learning concepts and jobs are transforming vocational and continuing training.
But what is really changing? What are our expectations and are we ready for them?
Competitiveness both in business and on the labour market is fundamentally determined by the
labour productivity characteristics on which digitalisation has perhaps the most intensive impact, and
its development is in the common interest of all actors. Achieving this requires a complete change of
mindset, which can be most effectively achieved through closer cooperation between
education/training and the world of work.
Education is a key sub-system of society, and the need for and role of innovation in education
systems is undeniable. More importantly VET ensures skills development in a wide range of
occupational fields, through school-based and work-based learning. It plays a key role in ensuring
lower school dropout rates and facilitates the school-to-work transition. In the ever-changing world
of work, well-structured VET systems can play a crucial role in developing the right skills for the
labour market.
In line with this, the themes of vocational training should – already – include sustainability, green
education, digitalisation.
Even though the acquisition of digital skills is a basic requirement in VET systems throughout Europe
everyday experience and businesses report that students lack digital skills and are therefore less able
to compete on the labour market. They cannot fill jobs that require such skills or, in the case of IT
professions, IT expertise. All this is holding back economic development and hampering employment.
Digital literacy, the ability to use and manage the IT tools that increasingly surround us all, has
become essential and necessary. This key competence is indispensable not only in the labour market,
but also in everyday life. The growing expectations of the past decade have led to the condensation
of the output requirements for IT into subjects and sub-modules in the curriculum that trying to
meet these expectations. Unfortunately, in most cases, labour market demand don’t match the
supply from education and the aquired digital skills only create users on the lowest level.
Digital education is a complex system of several interdependent elements that cannot function
without each other, and therefore cannot be clearly prioritised. In the following the essential areas
are highlighted that need improvements right now, in order that we can talk about digital education
and competence development in any VET school:
Internet access, network bandwidth – to this day many VET school (and any other educational
organisation involved in public education) are mostly connected to the internet using ADSL
technology. The average bandwidth measured in schools is typically lower than the European
average (functionally minimum 30 Mb/s)
Equipment availability – in most countries VET schools are equipped with computers in line with the EU average, but the age and distribution of equipment insufficient. (Though most schools used to
having to manage maintenance and repairs on their own, often with the help of businesses,
Digital (reading) comprehension – today, the critical ability is the use of existing systems, effective information search and filtering, the ability to combine tools appropriately, flexibility and adaptability (at least a basic level should be an input requirement in any secondary school).
The lack of digital literacy, especially in VET school, results in a significant disadvantage and reduces
the labour market opportunities of at least one third of pupils. What is particularly alarming is that
this low take-up rate is not the result of a slow increase, but of a decrease, due to a reduction in IT
lessons and a cutback in ICT infrastructure and its continuous development.
There are various intitatives, strategies, actions in progress on national and transnational level aiming
to integrate digitalisation and digital skill competence building for VET systems but without meeting
the basic requirements listed above they won’t achieve their obejctives and remain underutilized
while the VET students won’t have the opportunity to reach their potential and aquire the neccessary
digital skills and competences to successfully enter the labour market.