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Vocational Education and Training to counter Social Exclusion – Stakeholder meeting report

On Friday 22nd November 2013, the Representation of the State of Hessen to the EU hosted a SIRIUS stakeholderLogo Hessen meeting organised by MPG on vocational education and training to counter social exclusion.  This meeting gathered European, national and local stakeholders working in the field of migration and (vocational) education and training to exchange best practices and consider what policies could be implemented to improve the professional and social inclusion of young people with a migrant background across Europe today.

Barriers to access and successful participation of VET

1)      Language: This may be one of the main barriers to VET, especially for newly arrived migrants. However, according to research on school performance, language, together with school grades, are always controlled for and do not significantly influence access or successful participation for young migrants.

2)      Aspirations: Immigrant parents wish for improved social upward mobility for their children meaning that they generally send them to university. In countries where VET is seen as a second choice, such as in Belgium, young immigrants are overrepresented.

3)      Information deficit regarding VET opportunities: How to access VET? Why is it beneficial? Difficulties in finding answers to these questions, and a lack of contacts due to reduced social networks result in less people with an immigrant background applying for VET.

4)      Discrimination: Although there is a lack of robust research on how discrimination affects education, there is information on how it affects the labour market. From this, we can deduce that it is likely to play a role in SMEs.

5)      Structural factors: Deindustrialized areas with fewer jobs in general, are likely to have fewer apprenticeships available.

Information exchange needs to take place to tackle information deficit and influence aspirational choices, for example through information campaigns, job orientation in schools, early internships targeted at migrants and mentoring projects that include parents. Tackling discrimination can be achieved by employing intermediary agencies to aid placement of apprentices, awareness campaigns, mentoring and anonymous applications.

European instruments

The Commission plans to tackle youth unemployment through education in particular. The European Alliance of Apprenticeships aims to aid the transfer of knowledge regarding apprenticeships, such as the identification and sharing of best practices. This is being carried out with the help of Eurochambers who are encouraging national chambers of commerce to partake in this initiative. The Alliance also promotes the benefits of apprenticeships in general and aims to change the mindset of people regarding VET. Stakeholders are being directly asked to make pledges on this issue on the Alliance website, and these will then be promoted through the Alliance.

Additional instruments include:

  • Erasmus+ programme will focus more on apprenticeships – mobility in particular – with the objective of having 6% of VET students mobile by 2020.
  • Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans are currently being developed by Member States in order to set up the Youth Guarantee scheme which aims to offer a good-quality job, apprenticeship, traineeship or education to anyone under the age of 25. The Youth Employment Initiative has gathered €6billion to implement the Youth Guarantee.
  • The European Social Fund has a helpdesk which gives advice on how to use funding for apprenticeship schemes.

The Commission thinks that it is important to bring more attention to the access barriers to apprenticeships currently facing young people with a migrant background. Public employment agencies need to diversify and consider immigrant NGOs and communities as partners. Business chambers need to represent all the self-employed, including migrant entrepreneurs.  Best practices should be gathered in order to give incentives to any countries not yet dealing with this issue.

Examples of good practices given during the meeting include the following:

Focus on migrant-run SMEs:

Small migrant-run enterprises need to have someone going to them directly and encouraging them to offer apprenticeships. Chambers of Commerce are a good source of funding for this.

  • For example, the Chamber of Skilled Crafts Frankfurt-Rhein-Main runs a project wherein it contacts SMEs in Frankfurt, particularly migrant-run companies, in order to include them in the dual-training system that is so well-established in Germany. They visit each company individually in order to establish whether or not they have training positions available, and if not, they explain the benefits of offering apprenticeships, thus encouraging many to sign up. At the same time, parents are also informed of how the system works and the benefits of training in skilled craftsmanship.
  • Since 2007, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, together with the Public Employment Service and the Vienna Employee Promotion Fund offer “Professional advice for ethnic economies”. There are over 100,000 companies in Vienna with active licenses, of which approximately one third are migrant companies. They are motivated to participate, get help training their staff and are supported in the creation of new and additional apprenticeships. Having native speakers (from a Turkish, ex-Yugoslavian or Polish background in particular) on the project team is very important in tackling the information deficit surrounding this issue, as well as utilising pre-established networks.

Raise the appeal of VET:

A positive spin needs to be given to VET, focusing on innovation and competitiveness.

  • The Emilia-Romagna region in Italy has reformed its dual education system since 2011. Due to the large amount of industry in the region, only 15% of students go to university, with the rest taking part in VET and industry directly. Schools and enterprises work closely together in order for students to see direct links between school and employment, and enterprise has played an important role in the reformation of the education system. The large migrant population in the region is appreciated for its language abilities and discrimination is rare in schools.
  • The Jobstarter KAUSA training coordination office for self-employed workers from a migrant background, run by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, aims to improve participation in VET and create additional training positions all around Germany. Currently there are a higher number of positions than candidates, and the matching programme sometimes has difficulties matching desired positions to actual offers. However, the expansion of KAUSA offices around Germany in 2014 should help. 2014 will also see regional Youth Fora taking place to promote VET and job opportunities to young people and their parents. The KAUSA Media Prize is a high-level campaign that awards young journalists who contribute to differentiated reporting on the various education and training paths of migrants in Germany.
  • European-Turkish Business Confederation – UNITEE aims to show new Europeans the advantages of VET. They tackle the stigmatization around VET and promote it as a positive option that allows young people to be more successful on the current labour market. VET needs to be made more alluring, and perhaps linking it to a job guarantee or entrepreneurships might be one way of doing this. They support the idea of entrepreneurship education in schools and the importance of cooperation with civil society, especially businesses.
  • OBESSU has launched a campaign entitledRaise your voice! Stand up for VET!’ in order to raise awareness of VET in Europe amongst students themselves.

Vocational training as an integral part of vocational education:

  • In The Netherlands, although vocational training is a necessary requirement to finish vocational education, undocumented minors were not allowed to do apprenticeships as they did not have permission to work. Fischer Advocaten – Sociaal economische mensenrechten took this issue to court on behalf of a young person from Surinam in order for him to finish his education completely. Supported by Article 2 of the first protocol of the European convention, every child has a right to education, they won the case. Since May 2012, all undocumented students under the age of 18 are allowed to carry out work experience if it is part of their education. Undocumented migrants over the age of 18 however are still fighting for this right.

Involve parents in schooling:

  • A Finnish member organisation of Confederation of Family Organisations in the EU focuses on practices that enhance school-home communication in order to best inform parents about the choices available to their children within the education system. Group leaders speaking different languages are trained to be able to inform other parents regarding schooling options.


Apart from focussing on migrant SMEs, raising the appeal of VETs, facilitating training to undocumented migrants and including parents more in schooling, the following recommendations should be taken into account:

  • The link between stakeholders and practitioners should be strengthened. Civil society, including youth organisations and immigrant organisations, should be considered as strategic partners rather than being just policy targets. Both youth and immigrant organisations can offer extracurricular support activities that give young people experience. Peer to peer learning through mentoring should be supported.
  • Government, businesses, Chambers of Commerce etc. need to cooperate to find a solution for the mismatch of jobs and skills that increase youth unemployment.
  • Resident status constitutes another layer of discrimination which restricts undocumented migrants’ access to VET. This issue must be tackled.
  • Entrepreneurship education needs to be offered from an early age in schools. There are over 260 apprenticeship trades in Germany, for example, and yet everyone always applies to the same 5 or 6. Girls and boys need to be informed that all paths are opened to them, and their parents also need to be given information on VET options.
  • Local and regional authorities need to support migrant organisations and help highlight their positive contribution.
  • Further research needs to be carried out to facilitate statistics regarding the numbers of young children with a migrant background that transition into and drop out of VET.

Adem Kumcu, President of UNITEE


Oliver Diehl, German Federal Minstry of Education and Research



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