Helsinki, Finland was home to Vocational Educational Skills Week (VET Week) 2019

31 Oct 2019
Helsinki, Finland was home to Vocational Educational Skills Week (VET Week) 2019
Finland, Oct 2019

Helsinki, Finland was home to Vocational Educational Skills Week (VET Week) 2019

The focus of this week is showcasing excellence in VET bringing policy makers, education specialists, experts, academics, learners, tutors, and Government officials together from across the European Union. AONTAS was part of this collaboration with both Niamh O’Reilly, CEO, and Dearbháil Lawless, EU Projects Officer attending and contributing to different sections of the week.

AONTAS is the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning. A key aspect of this role and the Agenda itself is the Pan-European cooperation between all Co-ordinators. Kicking off the week representatives from this programme got together on Monday and Tuesday for a meeting followed by a peer learning activity. Staff from the European Commission welcomed participants and updates were provided on the collective progress of the work programme closing the 2017-2019 project phase.

Those leading the Peer Learning Activity, including Finland and Denmark, presented on the current structures, practices, funding systems, and models of education. Finland’s system includes access to free education programmes with the ability to complete multiple programmes at the same level on the European Framework of qualifications, and with no negative consequences for a learner who needs to pause, leave or change programme due to personal and academic reasons. This issue is continually flagged by AONTAS members with adult learners losing opportunities to study at another Level 4 or 5 programme and needing to progress higher on the National Framework of Qualifications in order to receive free education, despite learners’ personal or professional needs at the time. Learners also face barriers moving across programmes or re-engaging if they needed to step away for medium or long-term pauses to their studies. The Finnish model provides learners with more time to engage and complete their studies.

As part of the PLA participants were tasked with reading and responding to case study examples from the organisers. This provided an opportunity to learn about different countries’ education systems, provide practice and innovative examples to support them in moving forward and identify challenges across Europe. The Turkish model, as selected by AONTAS for this activity, highlighted a system whereby many adult learners are taught by school teachers within State schools if they return to learning. A barrier that is faced by learners in numerous countries across the European system that may deter a learner as they are not provided with a learning environment based on the principals of Andragogy and in meeting the learners needs as an experienced individual re-engaging within the system.

AONTAS CEO, Niamh O’Reilly, participated in events during VET week on Wednesday and Thursday alongside representatives from SOLAS and the Department of Education and Skills. Focusing on Governing structures, policy, funding models, and further education systems, Niamh highlighted the need for vocalising and naming adult learning and community education. Other participants called for the recognition and value of such systems in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised learners through informal, non-formal and accredited programmes.

VET Week is an important event for the adult learning sector each year. It provides organisations with the opportunity to continue building understanding and awareness of adult learning, identify and share challenges while continuing to build partnerships across Member States in support of adult learners.

For information on the European Agenda or VET Week, please contact Dearbháil Lawless, EU Project Officer on