Building on the findings of Cedefop’s research project ‘The changing nature and role of VET in Europe’ (2015–18), this article outlines the development and transformation of European VET over the last two decades. Exploring change from epistemological-pedagogical, institutional and socio-economic perspectives, the research not only illustrates the stability and path dependence of national VET systems (and how this sustains overall VET-diversity in Europe), it also demonstrates how the combination of incremental change and major societal and economic shocks shift the orientation of VET. This mapping and analysis of the past is used to outline possible scenarios for the future of vocational education and training in Europe. Three main scenarios - pluralistic, distinctive and special-purpose VET - illustrate the different directions VET can take in the next two decades and the challenges and opportunities involved in this. The final part of the article discusses the potential use of the scenario-approach and how this is taken forward in Cedefop’s follow-up project on the Future of VET (2019–2022).
The aim of this article is to explore methodological issues related to scenarios on vocational education and training (VET). In particular, we examine the extent to which VET scenarios depend or build on generalizable future expectations (“myths of the future”) or archetypes of the future. The analysis builds on a review of recent methodological literature on scenario building applied to three international scenario studies on VET carried out by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), in which the authors were partly involved.
We argue that neither scenarios on a particular issue (“issue-based”) nor on the future of a particular society (“area-based”) do justice to diverse VET systems but that scenarios in VET need to be “institution-based”. Hence, both the relative independence of VET systems and their path dependency – especially in transnational projects – need to be taken into account. In conclusion, we propose that the regular application of the scenario approach could be a useful complement to various other prospective approaches used to guide European employment and vocational training policies.