The project SAT – Smart Electronic System for Tracking Apprenticeships (SmartApprenticeTrack system) – is addressing the Improvement of The Work Based Learning Quality. The high-quality apprenticeships are essential for Professional Higher Education (PHE) which are defined as a distinct form of Higher Education that offers a particularly intense integration with the world of work in all its aspects (including teaching, learning, research and governance) and at all levels of the overarching Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area (i.e. EQF 5-8). Its function is to diversify learning opportunities, enhance employability, offer qualifications and stimulate innovation, for the benefit of learners and society.
The EC Communication on “Rethinking Education: Investing in Skills for Better socio-economic outcomes” highlights significant discrepancies between countries across Europe in their development of VET and PHE. It specifically points out that while some European countries have world-class VET and PHE systems (Germany, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands), many others, typically in souther Europe, lag behind in terms of participation, quality outcomes and attractiveness. In countries with developed PHE systems, professional education is characterised by dual systems which have a high proportion of work-based learning, apprenticeships and other models which facilitate transition from learning to work. The communication further points out that excellence in PHE comes from systematically renewed curricula, constantly modernised delivery, and, crucially active involvement of businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The differences in development of PHE across Europe is due to differences in socio-cultural traditions and perceptions, diverse structures of education and training systems and of the economy and labour market, reforms undertaken, the extent of involvement of social partners as well as the employment prospects of PHE graduates, and the preferences of individuals. Council conclusions on developing media literacy and critical thinking through education and training adopted on 30 May highlight digital competence, which encompasses the confident, creative and critical use of ICT as a crucial component of media literacy. A low level of digital competence can leave a person at a disadvantage, not just on the labour market where almost all jobs require some level of digital competence, but also in society at large. As such, there is a clear link between enhancing digital competence and efforts to create more inclusive and cohesive societies.
The project SAT takes particular note of these regional influencers, and attempts to tackle some of the problems present by grouping together institutions from the same region – South-Eastern Europe, to tackle commonly felt weaknesses in the organisation of their PHE systems, in particular, the cooperation with the business sector in the field of apprenticeships. Effective partnerships and strategic alliances between employers and institutions are key elements of successful apprenticeship schemes. The SAT will develop a toolkit on premises of collaborating with PHEIs, on-boarding apprentices and employers to enhance digital competence of all three stakeholders groups involved and to improve efficiency and transparency of apprenticeships. The project aims to:
- increase the capacity (competences) of staff (in particular supervisors) in universities and enterprises to provide high quality work experience
(placements/internships, traineeships) and entrepreneurship,
- support the accreditation of all kinds of work experience through ECTS and effective quality assurance,
- ensure that the skills needs of employers are understood.
The project will review existing policy development and support further policy development in this field.
- Open and innovative practices, in a digital era: priority will be given to actions that promote innovative methods and pedagogies, participatory governance where appropriate, develop learning materials and tools as well as actions that support the effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education, training and youth. This includes supporting synergies with research and innovation activities and promoting new technologies as drivers of improvements in education, training and youth policies.
Field specific priorities
In the field of higher education, priority will be given to the following actions in line with the challenges identified in the public consultation on the review of the EU Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education:
- enhancing the quality and relevance of students’ knowledge and skills, promoting more student-centred learning approaches, better use of ICT, better links between higher education institutions and employers or social enterprises;
- improving institutional and system-level governance, transparency and feedback mechanisms.