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Preparation of papers for 1st Word Congress on Rail Training

Competence framework for vocational education and training: from rhetoric to reality
Kristiina Volmari
Finnish National Board of Education

Article Information Abstract

Keywords: A European study on teacher and trainer competences in vocational
K1 Vocational education and training
K2,Vocational teacher education and training revealed serious discrepancies between the
K2, In-company trainer training and work realities of these professions. The Defining VET
K4,Competence framework
K5. Professions project developed a systematic inventory of the activities
and competences of teachers, trainers and leaders in vocational
Corresponding author: education and training. The final outcome is a competence
Name1 Surname1
Tel.: framework for VET professions and a handbook to support its
Fax.: implementation.

skills needs. The initial education of teachers and

1 Introduction: Discrepancy between trainers does not equip the individuals with the
requirements and support for required skills and competences and there are also
shortcomings regarding their continuous
training professions? professional development 4 .
The situation is particularly worrying when we
Training professionals have been in focus for a look at in-company trainers. More and more training
number of years and recognised as key actors in takes place in the workplace. Training models such
the development of vocational education and as apprenticeship training are undergoing a
training. The strategic framework for European renaissance. Also school-based training is
cooperation in education and training emphasises becoming less school-based and more work-based.
the importance of teachers, trainers and educational The trainers’ responsibilities have widened. If the
leaders for the quality of education and training. A trainers in the past got away with just showing how
recurring priority area for European cooperation in things are done and supervising the trainees, today
education and training during the last ten years has trainers’ responsibilities include planning of training,
been the professional development of teachers and assessment and evaluation, guidance, international
trainers. Issues raised have included the quality of cooperation, and so on.
initial education, early career support for new When we talk about trainers we list a lot of
entrants and improvement of the quality of “shoulds”. The trainer should be an expert in his
continuing professional development opportunities. own field and have a good command of the
1, 2. practices in the work place. The trainer should be
In Europe the vision is that by 2020 we have an interested in and capable of supporting the students’
attractive and inclusive vocational education and professional growth. The trainer should have a
training (VET) with “highly qualified teachers and sound knowledge of the education system and
trainers, innovative learning methods, high-quality qualifications. He should also be able to create and
infrastructure and facilities, a high labour market maintain networks that benefit VET and be familiar
relevance, and pathways to further education and with the factors behind the enterprise’s productivity,
training” 3]. This is the rhetoric. efficiency and quality. In many countries the trainers
The reality, however, is that there are serious also have a bigger responsibility in assessing the
discrepancies between the education and work students’ learning outcomes 5 .
realities of teachers and in-company trainers. There The qualification requirements, initial training and
is a gap between the training on offer and the actual further training for teachers and trainers vary
Volmari, Kristiina Competence framework for vocational education and
training: from rhetoric to reality

considerably from one country to another. Against labour market and technology have put pressure on
this background, it could be argued that a coherent both the individual teachers and trainers to develop
competence framework for teachers would support themselves and the decision-makers to provide
the improvement of the quality of vocational opportunities and motivation for their further
teaching and training in Europe. Competence professionalisation 8 .
frameworks, inventories of the knowledge, skills and Further, the surrounding context of the labour
competences required of these professionals can market, society and the families affect their work
be used in many ways to support the trainers and directly. The changes are fast. The list of issues
the training organisation. For example to assess affecting teachers and trainers that have emerged
professional effectiveness, identify professional during the last 10-15 years is long: quality
learning needs and assist career development assurance, recognition of prior learning,
planning. internationalisation, cooperation between
educational institutions and the world of work,
inclusion, individualisation... Therefore, teachers
2 Cedefop’s project Defining VET and trainers should have a right to training that
Professions provides them with skills and competences for
continuous development and continuous self-
assessment and reflection.
The Defining VET Professions project was co-
funded by Cedefop, the European Centre for the 4 Teachers and trainers concerned
Development of Vocational Education and Training
and the participating institutions. The data about quality assurance, increasing
concerning the knowledge and skills of the administration and disruptive
teachers, trainers and leaders was collected in students
semi-structured interviews. Altogether 176 VET
professionals were interviewed in 17 countries.
Part of our study consisted of direct interviews
These interviews were analysed and complemented
with VET teachers and trainers across different
with country background information, research on
European countries. Common across all countries in
VET professions as well as policy priorities and
the study was the finding that in most countries
trends in Europe.
neither VET teachers nor in-company trainers enjoy
The interviews covered five areas of activities,
a high status compared with teachers of academic
namely Administration, Training, Development,
subjects in the general school sector. Also the
Quality assurance and Establishing and maintaining
teacher and in-company trainer profiles and
networks. The outcomes of the analyses were
backgrounds were more varied and complex than
finally validated by stakeholders in more than 20
those of teachers in general education.
European countries.
The activities of the teachers and trainers varied
One of the results of the project has been the
slightly from one context to another, the biggest
revelation that the distinction between teachers and
differences being between centralised and
trainers is becoming more and more blurred.
decentralised education systems. However, the
Teachers’ and trainers’ activities have come to
similarities in the professions were striking. Similarly
resemble each other. However, the training of these
striking were the concerns arising from the analysis.
professional groups are often a world apart:
The results of the analysis strengthened the
teachers are in many countries educated within
assumption that it is realistic to create a common
higher education while trainers mostly either have a
competence framework and to provide
much lower level training or are not trained at all.
recommendations regarding VET teachers at a
European level.
The major concerns voiced by those interviewed
for the study were 1) the feeling of being
3 Pressure to professionalise overburdened with administration tasks and
vocational teachers and trainers bureaucracy; 2) dealing with students in need of
special support; 3) quality assurance was
In Europe, the objective of making vocational conceived as something bureaucratic and annoying,
education and training (VET) globally competitive instead of something that should be embedded into
and attractive has brought VET professions, such all activities.
as teachers and trainers in the spotlight. There is a
consensus that more efforts are needed regarding
these professions 6 . In many countries the
professions of VET teacher or trainer are not
attractive or sufficiently recognised 7 .
In addition, the constant changes in the operating
environment, such as education policies, legislation,

April 6th – 8th, 2011, Madrid,Spain Proceedings of the WCRT2011

Volmari, Kristiina Competence framework for vocational education and
training: from rhetoric to reality

5 Conclusion: can a competence [4] K. Volmari, S. Helakorpi, & R. Frimodt. Competence

Framework for VET Professions. Handbook for
framework be a tool for recognition practitioners. Finnish National Board of Education (2009).
and professionalisation in VET? [5] K. Volmari. Do trainers in Finland get enough support
for their growing role in VET? European Cooperation in
A competence framework for VET can be defined VET. Leonardo da Vinci in Finland, CIMO - Centre for
as a generic description of the skills, knowledge and international mobility (2006).
wider competences that VET professionals should [6] P. Cort, A. Härkönen & K. Volmari. PROFF –
possess to enable high-quality vocational training. Professionalisation of VET teachers for the future.
Competence frameworks can serve as tools for Luxembourg: Cedefop. Cedefop Panorama series; 104
quality assurance, development of skills, knowledge (2004).
[7] Cedefop. A bridge to the future European policy for
and personal competences. They can also serve as
vocational education and training 2002-10 (2010.
a basis for initial and continuing VET training and [8] Cedefop. Continuity, consolidation and change.
tool for recognising and validating informal and non- Towards a European era. (2009).
formal learning 9 . [9] K. Marsh and K. Volmari. (2009). Defining VET
We should not forget the fact that a competence professions in Europe: Rhetoric and Reality. Vocational
framework is not necessarily a description of the education research and reality 2009/17 (2009) Vytautas
competences required by all individuals. The Magnus University.
competences in a framework are not necessarily all
performed by the same person. Instead, it is more
likely that this range of activities will be carried out
by a team of people. Thus different VET
professionals can specialise and together improve
the competence profile of the whole organisation,
and develop a wide selection of learning
opportunities for the students and trainees.
Competence frameworks can further be valuable
tools for increasing the esteem for both vocational
education and training and its professionals. The
esteem arises from making transparent the
complexity of their work and the versatility of the
professional competences that they need to
successfully carry out their work.
Thus it serves as an “advertisement” for the
professions. It can particularly support the
development and the quality of VET in contexts that
do not provide as much structural support as in
training organisations. For example trainers in small
and medium-sized companies carry out their
training in isolation, not being able to rely on support
from a pedagogical leader or counselling services.
Lastly, competence frameworks can help policy-
makers and decision-makers to move from rhetoric
to concrete actions. They can steer developments
and decision-making in a direction of better and
relevant education for educators and the end-users,
the trainees.


[1] Council of the European Union. Council Conclusions

on a strategic framework for European cooperation in
education and training (2009).
[2] European Commission. Draft 2008 joint progress
report of the Council and the Commission on the
implementation of the 'Education & Training 2010' work
programme "Delivering lifelong learning for knowledge,
creativity and innovation" – Adoption. Brussels: European
Commission (2008).
[3] European Commission. The Bruges Communiqué on
enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education
and Training for the period 2011-2020. (2010).

April 6th – 8th, 2011, Madrid,Spain Proceedings of the WCRT2011