International VET-Conference 2017 in Rostock

Opening ceremony of the conference (photo © Julia Tetzke)
82 participants from more than 20 countries attended (photo © Julia Tetzke)
Daily gatherings in the university assembly hall (photo © Thomas Rahr)

From August 16th to 18th 2017 an international conference on Vocational Education and Training on the topic

Crossing Boundaries in Vocational Education and Training:
Social Dimensions and Participation

took place at the University of Rostock. It was organised by the Institute for Vocational Education in cooperation with the Institute Technology and Education at the University of Bremen (ITB).

All contributions to the conference are made available as proceeding paper, which can be downloaded here. A list of all participants can also be found inside.

We thank all authors and presenters for their contributions and support. Our special thanks got to our Co-Organizers Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. Michael Gessler and Larissa Freund at the Institute Technology and Education (ITB) of the University of Bremen and our financial Sponsors: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Federal State Government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (MBWK), Faculty of Humanities at the University of Rostock (PHF). For the network support we thank the International Research Network in VET-Research (IRN-VET) and Research Network in Vocational Education and Training (VETNET).

Greeting remark by Prof. Schareck, rector of the University of Rostock (photo © Julia Tetzke)
Welcome speech by Kurt Schanné, Ministery of Education, Science and Culture (photo © Julia Tetzke)
Prof. Kaiser presenting the conference proceedings (photo © Katharina Priebe)

One year after founding the Institute for VET at the University of Rostock and two years after the first “Crossing boundaries in Vocational Education and Training - Conference” in Bremen the conference with focus on social dimension and participation took place in August 2017 in Rostock.
We invited researchers from the field of vocational education and training as well as from adjacent disciplines to participate and contribute presentations for the conference with respect to the following reference levels.
Boundaries defining and shaping the field of vocational education and further training (VET):

Systems: Socio-culturally different VET systems have evolved along conceptual lines. The comparison of different skill formation systems and governance of VET systems are on the one hand of theoretical and on the other hand of practical importance in the context of economic development and international cooperation. The comparison allows for the identification of strengths and needs of improvement and the recognition of gaps. In a comparative perspective with regards to the current state as well as the necessary/possible developmental directions for the respective systems, the question of support of educational justice and a successful transition to the labour market arises.

Institution and Agency: The different VET systems are defined by the interactions of the involved institutions, stakeholders and participating individuals. These are not only an expression of professionalization they also indicate the systems boundaries and interfaces. These inter-institutional spaces of open or closed discourses, depend to the regional and national culture and the political mission statements of the collaboration partners. Which rules have been established? How do educational institutions and labour institutions communicate and interact? Which cooperation’s and transitions are possible or would be needed to increase participation?

Practice and Actors: In the institutions or systems of rules, practices have been established to cope with the central questions of teaching, learning, and competence development. Practices of teaching and learning can help to lower boundaries of qualification and employment biographies. What is needed for teacher training, students` collaboration and for research itself to cross institutional boundaries or to focus central conflicts and contradictions to encourage the individual person to face them? How to ensure the aim of ‘Bildung’ in VETDidactics and the culture of interaction? What are the different formal and informal practices, how do they relate to each other, and what developments are evident for social inclusion and public welfare?

The three reference levels are influenced by conceptual ideas, terms, and constructs. We focused on conceptual ideas and structural approaches that are helpful for crossing boundaries towards democratic society with well trained and self-confident workers as well as sustainable development. Therefore it has to be discussed which developments are evident, and which of these are fit for future requirements and the specific history of their region? Collaboration in the Baltic region is given a special attention in the conference, discussed by researchers from Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Germany (see programme below), as well as the discourse about European research strategies in VET, moderated by Barbara Stalder, Christof Nägele and Michael Gessler.

Profile & Summary Keynote Speakers

Prof. Dr. habil. Markus P. Neuenschwander
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland

Prof. Dr. James Avis
University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

Prof. Dr. Sabine Pfeiffer
University of Hohenheim, Germany

Prof. Dr. Stephanie Allais
University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Transition from educational to professional context - the case of Switzerland

In Switzerland, about two thirds of adolescents move on to VET after having finished compulsory school in age 15 and cross the boundary from the educational system to VET. The transition starts with a vocational choice process, in which adolescents work out career plans in interaction with their parents and teachers. They apply for an apprenticeship that fits with their competences and interests. I will present theoretical concepts and results from our longitudinal studies, how student characteristics and expectations of parents and teachers affect vocational choice and the socialization process after having entered VET.

Crossing Boundaries: VET, the Labour Market and Social Justice

The lecture explores the relationship between vocational education and training (VET), the labour market and social justice. It places this discussion in the wider socio-economic and political context. This enables an exploration of the changing nature of waged labour in the current conjuncture, facilitating a discussion of its intensification, allied to the effective expulsion and marginalisation of particular groups of workers from employment. Importantly, such processes need to be placed in their localised and spatial context within particular social formations. This leads into a discussion that consider equity contrasted with equality models of social justice. The lecture examines the salience of VET in the current conjuncture as well as its significance for a post austerity democratic and radical politics. Such a position warrants a relational analysis that seeks to interrupt the patterns of inequality precipitated by neo-liberalism.

Work 4.0 – new challenges for participation and qualification

Germany is one of the most complex economies in the world and is seen as one of the major players in developing what is discussed as „Industrie 4.0“ or the Manufactural Internet. Especially in the manufacturing and the automotive sector, the vocational training is seen as precondition and consequence alike for the global success of these sectors. The scientific and public discourse on Industrie 4.0, and on the digital transformation as a whole in Germany though sees workers on the shopfloor as one of the major employment groups that mostly fulfils routine tasks and therefore has to be highly susceptible to automatization. The contribution challenges this widespread opinion on the basis of quantitative and qualitative results, revealing how important non-routine work is and how much more employees on the shopfloor are apt to handle digitalization than often assumed. The empirical results show that not employees but much more their management are the obstacle for a participative approach to making Industrie 4.0 happen

Labour market outcomes of national qualifications frameworks

This paper reflects on the labour market outcomes of national qualifications frameworks internationally. It derives primarily from a recent study conducted for the International Labour Organization which investigated labour market outcomes in Belize, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia, as well as the regional framework in the Caribbean, but also reflects on an earlier 16 country study. Both studies suggest that there is limited evidence of success, but fairly strong support for the frameworks. The continued popularity of qualifications frameworks as a reform mechanism seems to be symptomatic of the ways in which transitions from education to work are in flux in many countries, coupled with the fragmented and complex systems of vocational provision in some of the countries. Even where such systems are not overly complex they have weak and possibly weakening relationships with work. Insufficient differentiation of different types of frameworks by policy makers obscures these factors, leading to misleading ideas about what frameworks can do in general.


The programme for the conference can be downloaded here.

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