The Challenges of Work-Based Learning via Systemic Modelling in the European Union: The Potential Failure of Dual Education Due to Social Expectations in Greece

The Challenges of Work-Based Learning via Systemic Modelling in the European Union: The Potential Failure of Dual Education Due to Social Expectations in Greece

Evangelos C. Papakitsos, Evangelos Theologis, Panagiotis S. Makrygiannis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4145-5.ch008
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While the skills mismatch is well documented in EU labour market, it renders work-based learning a plausible part of the answer to this problem. Yet, a number of issues demand handling before work-based learning is effectively utilized. Systems inquiry, through systemic modelling, constitutes a proper framework to facilitate a holistic study of such complex social phenomena. From a systemic perception, the complexity of social systems has prevented a holistic study. The descriptive power of systemic modelling allows for such a study that relates labour-market to dual education via apprenticeship. Thus, the respective systems are studied as a whole; the challenges arising are specified and the limitations of the solution are clarified. The application of apprenticeship in heavily industrialized countries can yield results, but it may fail in countries like Greece with a very different socio-economic environment. Still, some recommendations can be formed for a variant of apprenticeship more attuned to such cases.
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The labour market has never been static but moved by economy and technology. The labour force has continually adapted to changing demands. Nowadays, the challenge is the speed of change: the mobile phone has 2 billion users after 20 years when the telephone had just 50 million after 75 years of usage (Cedefop, 2017, p. 1). According to the World Economic Forum (henceforth WEF), two thirds of children that enter primary education today will work in jobs that do not exist yet. Both people and enterprises are in danger of being left behind without updated skills. The European policies for vocational education and training (VET) have adapted to provide the required by the stakeholders skills. Fewer people leave school early, since educational attainment is rising. The European Union (EU) Member States aim at reaching two relevant targets by 2020:

  • 40% of 30 to 40 year-old adults to have completed tertiary level education;

  • school dropout rates to be reduced below 10%.

Yet, regarding lifelong learning, EU remains some way off reaching its target of 15% of participating adults. Moreover, there are not enough graduates from upper secondary and tertiary education in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Youth unemployment remains high in many Member States, while skill mismatch has also increased (WEF, 2014), thus determining the crucial subjects to meet demand.

Besides the previous figures, in some occasions the overall participation of EU in global economic and demographic factors is decreasing (EC, 2017a):

  • the position of Euro, as a global reserve currency, is 30% (2017) compared to 33% in 2015;

  • the share of EU in the global GNP has decreased to 22% in 2015 from 26% in 2004;

  • the share of Europe in the global population is also decreasing, from 25% in 1900 to 6% in 2015, estimated to become 4% in 2060;

  • by 2030, the Europeans will have become the “oldest” people in the World, with a median value of age equal to 45 years old, compared to the global value of 33.

On the other hand, the expected average lifetime in EU is 79.6 years, compared to 71.4 globally. Since 1984, the EU Member States have invested 200 billion Euros in research and technology, while their total exports sum up to 5.8 trillion Euros, which is more than 1/3 of the global exports (EPSC, 2017).

Since the beginning of the economic crisis, EU suffers from low levels of investments. The European Commission initially launched a successful investment plan of 163 billion Euros for 2016, while the final goal until 2022 is to reach 630 billion Euros. The priorities of the investment plan are to increase the employment rates, to improve the common digital market, to strengthen the energy union of the Member States and to reinforce the industrial basis, among other actions (EC, 2017b). These priorities have an obvious impact in labour-market and consequently in VET. In addition, between 2006 and 2020, more than 20 million new jobs are expected to be created, while 85 million jobs will be offered as a result of retirement or other reasons. Despite the high level of education in EU, employers indicate that employees often lack a number of qualifications and skills needed in the workplace. Therefore, EU deals with the major problem of skills gap, which may lead to a rapid increase of the levels of unemploymentin the near future. Thus, a closer cooperation between educational institutions and labour-market is becoming more necessary, in order to reduce skills mismatch that emerges (IKY, 2016).

For adapting accordingly the EU VET policies, the European Commission launched in June 2016 a New Skills Agenda to help the 70 million Europeans that lack adequate reading, writing, numeracy and digital skills, being so the most vulnerable to change, by improving the quality and relevance of skill formation and intelligence, thus making skills and qualifications more visible and comparable (Cedefop, 2017, pp.1-2). These conditions define the overall context of challenges that VET in EU is called to deal with.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cognitive Map: A conceptual tool that provides a representation of particular natural or social environments in the form of a model.

Systems Methodology: The domain of systems inquiry that considers the methods of generating knowledge about systems in general and the discovery of strategies, methods, models and tools for the study of complex systems.

Work-based learning: A training method that enables graduates of all educational levels to gain skills and qualifications that cannot be attained by the formal educational system.

Systems Theory: The domain of systems inquiry that explores the principles and the description models of the abstract organization of phenomena, in an interdisciplinary manner and independently of their nature (natural or social systems) or scale of existence.

System: A complex entity that comprises a set of components, along with their properties, relationships and processes, which is described by an equivalent mathematical model.

Apprenticeship: A system of on-the-job training that enables practitioners to learn their profession while working for an employer.

Systemic Modelling: The formulation of a description of a system through a mathematical model that contains cognitive maps and diagrammatic depictions.

Dual Education: A method of learning that combines a part of learning in classroom (formal educational system) with a part of on-the-job training (apprenticeship).

Systems Philosophy: The domain of systems inquiry that considers the general issues of applying Systems Science in the study of theoretical and practical problems alike.

Systems Inquiry: A comprehensive conceptual framework for the study of systems.

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