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European Vocational Skills Week
News article25 September 2018Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion2 min read

What is vocational education?


Put simply, vocational education teaches you skills directly related to work.

By developing skills that are specific to a trade or job role, you can improve your employment prospects, get ahead in your current career… or even turn a hobby into a business.

Some people assume vocational education and training (VET) only covers practical, hands-on subjects like plumbing, construction or childcare, but this is an old-fashioned view. Of course, these vital subjects are still taught, but vocational education has expanded and diversified over the last thirty years and now offers a huge range of choice in subjects related to a wide range of careers.

Modern vocational education allows people to learn highly transferable creative and personal development skills, as well as practical skills and activities specific to a chosen job role. Those who undertake vocational training or apprenticeships can expect to learn a lot about themselves, and to discover talents they didn’t know they had!

What’s more, vocational education is no longer only available at school. Now, across Europe, there is a vast range of full-time and part-time courses available at higher-education and vocational colleges, as well as on-the-job training and apprenticeships. You can even learn online, with a growing number of courses available on the web, delivered by specialists and professionals.

For people who want to turn the theory into practice straight away, you can learn while you work, attending training sessions directly in the workplace. Many companies and sectors even have their own dedicated training facilities. For employers, the priority is to ensure that skills supply meets skills demand, so businesses all over the world are investing in the resources to provide high quality vocational training to their current and potential employees.

Perhaps the best people to explain what vocational education is all about are the people who have already taken advantage of VET. People like Hannah Colston, a Trainee Quantity Surveyor at UK construction company Trojan Group, and a Member of the European Apprentices Network.

Speaking at last year’s European Vocational Skills Week in Brussels, Hannah said, “apprenticeships and vocational education are definitely worthwhile career choices. You have the opportunity to study a subject, and work alongside studying that subject, and it can lead to future employment.”

Khaleb Ouared is an Apprentice who took part in an event at Nestlé in Vittel, France, during last year’s European Vocational Skills Week. He said, “I strongly recommend it because when you're at school, when you study, it's all about the theory – they teach us things that are only theoretical. When we leave school, we do not necessarily know what we are talking about – we only have theoretical notions – whereas here we practise, and it gives us a real experience. A real experience for your CV.”

If you’d like to find out more about vocational education and the opportunities available in your sector or country, why not discover your talent at this year’s European Vocational Skills Week? Join us from 5–9 November in Vienna, or between September and 31 December 2018 at one of the many hundreds of events across Europe.