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European Vocational Skills Week
News article1 September 2020Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

VET Social Utility - The AFPA experience


© Solity

For some time now, Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers all around Europe have been given the opportunity to self-assess their social impact, quality and performance.

This is made possible by a benchmarking tool, based on a specific pool of qualitative and quantitative indicators, produced by means of the “SOLITY – VET Social Utility Monitor” project (

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme (Key Action 3 - Sub-Action: Forward Looking Cooperation Projects, under the EACEA-41-2016 call: Support for Policy Reform), the SOLITY model is the result of the collaboration between vocational training providers and umbrella associations from different European countries (Italy, Germany, France and Belgium), faced with the challenge of measuring their performances in terms of social utility, i.e. their positive impact on society.

The idea of transforming the model of Utilité Sociale already used in France by AFPA (Agence nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes) in a tool accessible to training providers in all European countries comes from the analysis of challenges that are transversal to the VET sector, the first one being the shared effort to “make VET a first choice”. Trying to assess VET social utility is not only a way to measure its direct and visible impact or to evaluate whether the funding that public or private bodies put into VET is well spent, but also a way to educate society to see the individual and social value of Vocational Educational and Training, which is on the contrary often perceived as a second choice.

The project aims indeed to highlight the value and excellence transferred to the whole of society by training providers, as well as their role in fighting against discrimination, supporting personal development, increasing sustainability and fostering good environmental practices.

As a member of the French public employment service, AFPA has demonstrated a consistent commitment in the support of the long-term unemployed, and social utility is one of the pillars of their vocational training strategy. This can be seen in their training and trainees’ support activities, as well as in the internal management of human resources. Moreover, part of AFPA’s courses are actually implemented through work-based training on life-like platforms and are designed to accommodate people that would have difficulties with a more theoretical learning process.

Although AFPA has always paid close attention to the concept of social utility, enough to be the first to develop a model to analyse such a field, the work carried out through the SOLITY project and the indicators identified by the partnership further enriched the existing national model. It indeed gave them opportunity to self-assess in activities that were previously not being taken into account, in particular as concerns proactive approaches to fight against social exclusion and inequalities.

Overall, thanks to the SOLITY tool, AFPA has improved its data analysis instruments and better identified its strengths and weaknesses, understanding with more transparency how and where to intervene in order to enhance its overall performance.

SOLITY is an opportunity for AFPA to promote its focus on social practices by providing concrete data and disseminating them on a European scale. It also encouraged benchmarking and mutual learning by developing a shared, bottom-up approach, which proved to be a fruitful opportunity for moving together towards a more supportive and inclusive society.

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