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Quality education and training for all

Vocational education and training initiatives

Vocational education and training prepares people for work and develops citizens' skills to remain employable and respond to the needs of the economy.

Why is vocational education and training important?

Vocational education and training (VET) provides learners with essential skills enhancing their employability, supporting their personal development and encouraging active citizenship. VET boosts enterprise performance, competitiveness, research and innovation.

VET systems in Europe rely on a well-developed network of VET stakeholders. These networks are governed with the involvement of social partners, such as employers and trade unions, and in different bodies, for example chambers, committees and councils.

Initial vocational education and training (I-VET)

I-VET is usually carried out at upper secondary level and post-secondary level before students begin working life. It takes place either in a school-based environment (mainly in the classroom) or in a work-based setting, such as training centres and companies.

On average, 50% of young Europeans aged 15-19 participate in I-VET at upper secondary level. However, this EU average masks significant geographical differences in participation ranging from 15% to more than 70%.

Continuing VET (C-VET)

C-VET takes place after initial education and training or after beginning working life. It aims to upgrade knowledge, to help citizens to acquire new skills and to retrain and further personal and professional development. It is largely work-based.

What is our goal?

Through the Council of the EU, Member States have set the target that by 2025 at least 60% of recent graduates from VET should benefit from exposure to work-based learning during their vocational education and training.

What is the EU doing in the field of VET?

European cooperation on vocational education and training dates back to 2002 and the Copenhagen process. It has been further enhanced over the years, for example by the Bruges Communiqué and the Riga Conclusions.

Vocational education and training has been identified as a focus area for cooperation under the European Education Area initiative for the period 2021-2030.

2020 Council Recommendation on VET

On 24 November 2020, the Council of the EU adopted a Recommendation on vocational education and training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. The Recommendation defines key principles for ensuring that vocational education and training is agile in that it adapts swiftly to labour market needs and provides quality learning opportunities for young people and adults alike.

It places a strong focus on the increased flexibility of vocational education and training, reinforced opportunities for work-based learning, apprenticeships and improved quality assurance.

The Recommendation also replaces the EQAVET – European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training – Recommendation and includes an updated EQAVET Framework with quality indicators and descriptors. It repeals the former ECVET Recommendation.

Osnabrück Declaration 2020

On 30 November 2020, ministers in charge of vocational education and training from EU Member States, Candidate Countries, EEA-EFTA (European Economic Area – European Free Trade Association) countries, European social partners and the Commission endorsed the ‘Osnabrück Declaration 2020 on vocational education and training as an enabler of recovery and just transitions to digital and green economies’. 

The Osnabruck Declaration is supported by VET providers’ associations at the European level (VET4EU2) and representatives of VET students (OBESSU, European Apprentices Network). 

It sets out new policy actions for the period of 2021-2025 to complement the Council Recommendation on vocational education and training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience: 

  • promoting resilience and excellence through quality, inclusive and flexible VET 
  • establishing a new lifelong learning culture emphasising the relevance of C-VET and digitalisation 
  • fostering the sustainability of VET 
  • develop a European Education and Training Area and international VET

The Advisory Committee on Vocational training endorsed an opinion on the future of VET, which will contribute to the Commission’s policy beyond 2020.

VET funding instruments


The Erasmus+ programme for education, training youth and sport has an estimated budget of €26.2 billion for the period 2021-2027. This is nearly double the funding compared to its predecessor programme (2014-2020). Every year, more than 130,000 VET learners and apprentices, as well as 20,000 VET staff benefit from Erasmus+ mobility opportunities, contributing to achieve the 8% target of all VET learners benefiting from a mobility abroad by 2025

The programme will fund 100 networks of Centres of Vocational Excellence, hundreds of Alliances for Innovation, projects with third countries for Capacity building in VET, as well as a number of forward-looking projects in the field of VET. It also supports more than 600 cooperation partnerships managed by the National Agencies every yearFind out more about Erasmus+ VET opportunities.

European Social Fund Plus

VET and Adult education are key priorities for the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) towards the green and digital recovery. The ESF+ has a budget of almost 99.3 billion for the period 2021-2027. It will continue to provide an important contribution to the EU’s employment, social, education, training and skills policies, supporting people with the upgrading of their skills at any stage in their lives. ESF+ funding will support equal access to good quality education and training for all, skills anticipation, development and recognition, tackling skills mismatches and the current challenges of shortages, focusing on the people most in need.

EEA strategic framework

As part of the European Education Area strategic framework for the period 2021-2030, a Working Group on Vocational education and training and the green transition and sub-group of the group on schools focusing on education for environmental sustainability have been established. The Groups will encourage mutual learning and the exchange of information and best practices between Member States.