All vocational education and training (vet), including hpe, must have systematic relations with the labour market. If not, vet and hpe will lose their raison d’être. In this paragraph some aspects of this relation will be presented. Regardless of the level at which the interference of the labour market is realized all linkages have only one objective: to enhance the quality and relevance of the education. In that respect the entire vet-system should be a system open to the labour market.[1]

This will affect the development of vet [2] as follows:

·         Strategy and policy: In many countries the national vet-strategy and vet-policy are prepared in close cooperation with social partners. For that purpose governments in EU and in CEEC established a national advisory body or national consultative committee or council in which the social partners are represented. These councils have a substantial influence in the strategy development and policymaking. The macro-planning of state funded vet-provisions also is based on recommendations from these national bodies.

·         Qualification: In EU-countries the labour market has organized itself in such a way that the vet-system can systematically gain access to relevant data in every economic sector. Labour market furthermore will set up national occupational profiles from which the vet-system will derive its objectives. These objectives are validated by the labour market. Moreover the labour market is represented in the qualification exams. For these purposes social partners in many countries have set up in every economic sector branch committees or associations which play an intermediate role between labour market and the vet-system by articulating the interests of the particular economic sectors and by monitoring the response from the vet-system.

·         Quality:  In order to develop the quality of vet quality assurance systems have been implemented in many countries (cf. § 7). These systems encompass external quality assessment and internal self-assessment. External quality assessment is carried out by independent review committees, in which the occupational area concerned is represented. Representatives from the occupational area concerned play a role in the internal self-assessment as well.

·         Management: VET-establishments are governed by governing councils the composition of which reflects the interests of the occupational areas concerned. These councils judge the appropriateness of the establishment’s policy measured from -among others- the developments in the labour market.

·         Education: (1) At operational course-level vet-establishments set up curriculum development/updating teams. Partners from the area concerned are invited to provide teachers with the necessary input. (2) Labour market provides for trainee posts which not only will enable students to gain practical experience but which also can be used by the establishment as a mechanism to get concrete and up-to-date feed back. (3) By making available visiting lecturers labour market will have direct access to the education process.

·         Continuing education: one of the best ways for hpe to keep in touch with labour market changes is to be involved in continuing education. This can have important spill-over effects on initial vet in terms of curricular innovations.

 ·         Contract-based services: HPE-institutes can develop partnerships with regional and local actors, both public or private by providing them with services such as specific applied research, management consultancy, training of employees, et cetera.  In such a way both partners acquire a win-win relationship.

·         Alumni: By following its alumni an establishment will get useful feed back concerning the employment of its graduates and (related to that) concerning the appropriateness of its education.

·         Financing: The labour market often is not willing to contribute in cash to the funding of vet. A contribution in kind (equipment, visiting lecturers, provision of trainee posts and the like) is a quite common approach. When the labour market is an immediate customer by ‘buying’ particular courses for employees an establishment is paid in cash. In that respect a modularized curriculum is an attractive selling point, since employers, then, can buy just the course-components (modules) they need.[3]

 [1]  Obviously there is another aspect of openness: accessibility to youngsters and adults, but in this section openness to the labour market is the topic.

[2]  In this section the acronym ‘vet’ refers to all levels of vocational education.

[3]  See also under “Contract based services” and “Continuing education”