Network to Support VET Trainers in Europe
Project website: www.trainersineurope.org
This project has been funded with support from the European Commissiom through the Lifelong Learning Programme.
The Network to Support Trainers in Europe is a direct result of two studies on trainers in VET that the European Commission commissioned in 2006. One major reason for the studies has been the fact that very little data and material is available on the situation, work and qualification of trainers as their field of activities is closely linked to informal, work-based learning, which is difficult to define and assess. At the same time has the promotion of a knowledge society and the developing impact of lifelong learning led to ever wider contexts and processes of learning, in which trainers take a new and increasingly important role. Recent research indicates a need for both initial and continuing training for trainers, linked to practice. Research also suggests that numbers of trainers who combine training responsibilities as part of their occupational profile is increasing. Against this situation, the EU has identified an urgent need to put programmes and actions in place, which on the one hand can generate more information on the situation of trainers, their training needs and future trends, and, on the other hand, can support the development of strategies and policies to meet actual and projected future needs.
The network is a major initiative to meet both requirements. It is set out to compile and synthesise, but also generate new data and information on the situation, work and qualification needs of trainers across Europe. Thereby it places an emphasis on the development and accessibility of tools and e-learning approaches, which can directly be applied by practitioners and programme managers. Concurrently, the network is fostering the political dialogue and exchange to identify strategies for improving the situation and qualification of trainers both at the national level, but also in a European perspective. It aims at combining information and content with a programmatic strategy and recommendations of how such a strategy can be put into practice at sectoral and national level as well as a European level.
We believe that mutual exchange, learning and communication among experts and practitioners is the best way to achieve this goal. Thus, community building is a key approach of the network as is an inclusive approach that can reach out to as many countries and members of the target group as possible by applying innovative web-based tools and technology. The network’s platform in particular is piloting innovative e-features for knowledge sharing and distribution. Apart from organising two major joint network activities for data collection and developing a European ‘roadmap’ for the continuing professional development of trainers, the network organises two e-conferences. With those media the network introduces and pilots an innovative tool of exchange, communication and dissemination to an audience and target group typically not familiar with that kind of media. Thus, it involves an element of continuing e-learning for the beneficiaries, who are being challenged to broaden and advance their e-competences. The network’s approach also supports self-initiated and self-directed learning.
There is particular need to address the work of people who have responsibility for coaching, mentoring and as peer group experts, both face to face in the workplace and as part of more distributed communities of practice. The Leonardo ICT and SME project has shown the growth of the use of ICT for just-in-time, peer group learning through distributed communities of practice on the Internet. This work would indicate a need for both initial and continuing training for trainers, linked to practice. As a key objective the network seeks to address this need.
The network also aims at a systematic documentation of tools and materials on non-formal training and learning with emphasising work-based learning and seeks to create linkages to other European projects and initiatives in the area. The TTPlus project on the Framework for the Continuing Professional Development of trainers, for example, is linking the training of trainers with vocational and occupational learning within the wider field of vocational educational and training in Europe. However, rather than limiting the approach to the issue of the training of trainers as an issue for national systemic reform and provision, our approach is based on the idea of a community of practice of trainers and the development of a framework to facilitate integration within that community.
The network addresses three main target groups. Firstly, VET trainers and practitioners in companies and (private and public) institutions, which the network seeks to involve in the first place through the creation of national networks. Secondly, those responsible for training and training policies, i.e. individuals who design and implement training activities and/or are involved in the training of trainers, and decision makers who decide upon training programmes and policies. Third, all those who have an interest in the training of trainers and the broader VET community. Thus, the direct target group for the network are a range of actors including practitioners, managers and administrators, SME managers, curriculum developers and trainers of trainers, who cover a wide range of contexts and settings for both initial and continuing vocational education and training including vocational schools, apprenticeships, training centres, continuing vocational training, distance learning, work-based learning and informal learning. Further is the network also accessible to individuals who provide training such as trainers, tutors, coaches, mentors and ‘peer group experts’ in enterprises, workplaces and institutions. It directly addresses this group by providing tools for the implementation of training, other support measures and valuable resources and contact information at a national level.