It has been a growing concern among the social partners and the prior and current government that too few young people choose a vocational pathway after completion of compulsory education. For that reason the upper secondary education system has been reformed, and regardless of choice of pathway minimum grades have been introduced. One of the rationales of introducing grade entry requirements is that studies have shown that there is a high correlation between poor performance in compulsory education, and the risk of drop out. A previous study has shown that the drop-outs may have lasting effects, which will impact life opportunities.
Guidance and assessment of educational readiness and different forms of tailored support in compulsory education combined with differentiated pathways are key means to improve educational outcomes for all. A central element is a EUD 10, which is a vocationally toned 10th form. The aim of this offer is to improve the individual’s student’s educational readiness, and in particular Danish and math, which are important foundation skills also in VET. In addition, students are introduced to the four broad occupational areas in initial VET. At least 30% of the EUD10 must be organised with a VET college to ensure vocational toning.
The overall aims of the reform of the upper secondary education system has been to stimulate a more balanced choice of youth education pathways mirroring the diversity of youth as well as projected developments in the labour market.
The latest VET reform was implemented in 2015. Four objectives have governed the design and implementation of the reform. These are:
• More students must choose to start VET immediately following form level 9 or 10.
• More students must complete a VET programme.
• The VET programmes should challenge all students so they may reach their fullest potential.
• The trust and well-being in the VET system must be strengthened.
For each of those objectives, measurable indicators have been developed. Two of the targets will be monitored through compulsory surveys. One survey will monitor student well-being. It will target all students in upper secondary VET.
The other survey will target all apprenticeship companies. It will monitor company satisfaction regarding the cooperation with VET schools. The first national survey of students well-being shows that students general on the seven parameters measured have a high degree of well-being.
With the broad extended basic programme, the aim is that younger students will have a better chance of making an informed choice regarding the main programme and specialisation opportunities. The reform also improves opportunities for VET graduates to continue in tertiary education.
Data from spring 2016 show that the so-called eux-pathway, leading to a double qualification, has become a popular choice among applicants to VET. VET programmes with duration of minimum three years will in the future give access to all short cycle tertiary programmes- the academy profession programmes. A study on the future demands for professionals linked to Industry 4.0 developments show that the combination of a VET qualification and a short cycle professional degree from an academy is a highly attractive profile for many manufacturing.
In 2018 the Danish parliament has agreed on several new initiatives aimed at making VET an attractive choice and supporting completion. The initiatives focus on content and quality of VET provision, and on easing progression from primary schools into vocational education for young people.
The agreement includes initiatives totalling DKR 2.3 billion (EUR 0.308 billion) and makes VET exempted from the overall two percent annual cut on education expenses.
The initiatives foresee an increased role for municipalities in young people’s education. Teachers should offer more practical training. Learning environments should be improved through dissemination of good practice, and VET colleges are generally expected to develop stronger and more inclusive cultures.
The main points are:
- establishing a national programme of activities related to young people’s choice of education;
- establishing an expert council to make recommendations on how to strengthen the introductory education of young people and on a new model for assessing their readiness for education;
- municipalities should set local goals for the number of young people in education;
- nationwide efforts to develop and disseminate good practices for educational environments;
- increasing use of boarding facilities in vocational schools in sparsely populated areas;
- introducing the option for future vocational apprentices to make agreements with business while still in lower secondary education;
- increasing emphasis on the practical element of teaching for VET teachers;
- increasing emphasis on practical and vocational elements in primary school.
During 2016 and 2017 there has been negotiated three agreement which involved the VET-sector in Denmark.
The first round of tri-partite agreement was in place in March 2016. The focus was integration of refugees through the labour marked with the introduction of a new basic integration programme. The Ny Integrations GrundUddannelse (new basic integration programme, IGU) provides refugees with an upskilling programme for up to 24 months, with 20 weeks of educational programme and the rest in on-the-job training in a company. The agreement provides a minimum salary during training: finishing the whole programme grants access to the Danish unemployment benefit system. The programme will operate in parallel to the existing job-training programmes in Denmark. The agreement also provide a financial incentive to companies, which employ and train refugees and the IGU-programme has been in operation since July 2016.
The second round of the tri-partite agreement was in place August 2017. The focus in the second agreement was to secure a sufficient and qualified workforce. The agreement contains a common goal that employers annually create more internships - increasing at least 8,000-10,000 more internships annually than today - so more young people choose and complete a VET-programme. The additional internships must be realized through a number of initiatives, including strengthened financial incentives to create internships, dimensioning of education programmes, creation of subsidy programs, where students have greater security for an internship.
The third round of the tri-partite agreement was in place in October 2017. The key elements in the agreement are enhanced upskilling, quality and flexibility in the Adult Education System and Adult Vocational Training (AMU). The agreement will strengthen both a more flexible adult education and the continuing adult training education. This applies both to people who wish to qualify for their current trade, and those who wish to change trade or industry. At the same time, the agreement supports the quality of the AMU rates, and the companies will experience greater flexibility in supply. With the agreement, public and private companies get better access to skilled workers and create a better framework so the workforce can obtain the right competencies that is needed in the labour market.
The key elements in the third round of the tri-partite agreements are as follows:
• Over 400 million DKK for a better transition to the labour market
• 100 million DKK to an outreach pool
• 60 million DKK to strengthening of basic skills and increase the use of screenings
• 420 million DKK to strengthen the quality of Adult Vocational Training (AMU)
• Higher compensation for all at AMU courses. Raise VEU compensation for a period of four years from 80 to 100 per cent of highest unemployment benefit. The State Adult Education Support (SVU) is raised from 80 to 100 percent for participants in basic reading and mathematics.
• Development of Higher Adult education and enhance the use of prior learning assessments
• A more professional AMU with increased flexibility, testing of learning through tests and more free access to AMU
• One entry to the whole Adult Education system
• Flexible Adult Education contribution and repayment of 680 million. DKK to the companies
Reform of the preparatory education system in Denmark
A majority of the Parliamentary parties in Denmark have concluded a reform on the preparatory educational field to strengthen the effort for young people who are not ready for upper secondary education directly from compulsory school. The agreement implies a new Preparatory Basic Education that must equip this group of young people to a youth education or a job.
The agreement implies that the number of the current preparatory options will be merged into a new Preparatory Basic Education (Forberedende GrundUddannelse (FGU)), which will last up to two years. The new Preparatory Basic Education program is intended to prepare young people under the age of 25 to carry out either vocational education or other youth education professionally, personally and socially, or to keep a permanent footing in the labour market. Today, only one out of four starting in a preparatory offer, has a youth education at the age of 24. The FGU is anchored in state-owned institutions where the municipalities contribute to the financing.
Tenknowledge centers of vocational education and training are now being established in Denmark
The knowledge centers are appointed to help educate students in vocational education and training to handle technological development and match the competencies that companies demand in a digital labor market. At the same time, the centers will support other vocational schools in their work on digitalization of the education, resulting from new technologies, and in developing and testing new teaching and training methods that all vocational schools can use in their work with talents and educational development.
The goal of the knowledge centers is that they become professional lighthouses that can ensure vocational education and training can keep up with developments in the labour market.
A total of 133 million Danish Kroner (18 million euro) has been earmarked for the establishment and development of 10 knowledge centers in the period 2017 – 2020. In addition to that, another 80 million Danish Kroner (4 million euro) has been allocated for special equipment lifts.
The ten knowledge centers are established around following subject areas:
- Automation and Robotics (two centers)
- Welfare Technology (two centers)
- Process technology
- Crafts – Design and Architecture
- Crafts – Sustainability, climate renovation and construction
- Digital Trade
- Database service and business development
The knowledge centers are based on Vocational schools and they are distributed geographically across the country.