Objective of the report
Society and the world of work are changing at a fast pace. Digitalisation, transition to a carbon free economy, population ageing, and globalisation have a deep impact on the way we live, learn and work and on the skills we need to do so.
Against the background of stagnating participation rates in adult learning, the aim of this report is to analyse and explore policy options for fit-for-purpose adult learning systems and their governance that support all individuals in their continuing upskilling and reskilling. While policy measures can target various actors in a skills ecosystem (employers, education and training providers, individuals themselves), the focus in this report is on policies for empowering individuals to undertake up-/re-skilling in a broad sense (basic skills/key competences, vocational skills and active citizenship development). This is also consistent with the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning set under the European Pillar of Social Rights.
For the purpose of this report, adult learning is defined, in accordance with the European Agenda for Adult Learning, as ‘all forms of learning undertaken by adults after having left initial education and training’, however far this process may have gone (e.g. including tertiary education). Thus it can include learning activities as varied as undertaking a new professional qualification with a view to radically changing career direction, joining an evening language or art course, training to gain a first qualification or developing digital skills in a local library.
This report is drafted by the ET2020 Working Group on Adult Learning (WGAL), which has representatives from Member States, Candidate Countries, social partners and European Agencies (Cedefop, European Training Foundation (ETF), Eurydice). The Working Group is supported by the European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
This report is drafted on the basis of information gathered from the countries during the period of 2018-2019; publications presented and discussed within the WGAL; policies analysed during a Peer Learning Activity (PLA) and input of the WGAL members.
Empowerment and adult learning
While employers and education and training providers can be incentivised to create the right conditions for accessing various learning trajectories, it is equally vital that individuals themselves have the motivation and the means to engage in learning. This is why empowerment can play an important role in shaping successful adult learning policies. In line with Oscar Freire, empowerment can be an objective of learning, and the result of adult learning activities and policies should be a more empowered individual and society; whereas according to Malcolm Knowles, empowering is a key characteristic of the learner.
Either way, empowerment is intrinsically connected to adult learning, both as a means (condition) and as the aim (objective) of learning. Therefore, adult learning policies will have to be able to both support the development of empowerment, as well as build upon it to solve dispositional, situational and institutional barriers for learning. Thus, empowerment plays a role in all adult learning related activities, or, in other words, in the entire adult learning pathway – from first (re-) encounter with learning, to becoming a lifelong learner.
Policy pointers for systems and governance that empower adults to up-/re-skill
A holistic and fit-for-purpose adult learning system that empowers adults to reskill and upskill includes the following:
Policy pointer 1. Individualised approaches and outreach to specific groups: A strong adult learning system reaches out to specific target groups by going to where these adults are and works with community ambassadors and/or different institutions and organisations active at local level.
Furthermore, such individualised approaches and outreach make information on guidance services, training and (job) opportunities easily accessible to all; they are tailored to the needs and potential of the adult as a whole person (combining employability and wider personal development goals as well as addressing possible social and health issues) and enables the adult to take ownership of the individualised guidance and training pathway.
Policy pointer 2. Partnership approaches in which roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and monitored: A strong adult learning system that supports adults to be empowered for reskilling and upskilling includes is based on an operational partnership between all relevant stakeholders (education and training sector, labour market sector, cultural sector and other relevant institutions and organizations, in areas such as leisure, civil society, family and social welfare, health, government, including local government), at the most appropriate level. In the partnerships roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and agreed upon. Finally, the partnerships need to be monitored and evaluated.
Policy pointer 3. Policy frameworks that cover different policy areas; include coordination and a stimulating financial mechanism: A strong adult learning system that supports adults to be empowered for reskilling and upskilling includes a policy framework that is based on a coherent and overarching approach in which different policy fields (education, adult learning, culture, civic engagement, family and social welfare, entrepreneurship and employment, life wide guidance) are effectively included; that is based on a strong coordination mechanism (or coordinator); that is sufficiently resourced; and includes the right (financial) incentives targeted both at adults and institutions.
Policy pointer 4. Quality assurance mechanism of learning provision, guidance services and outreach activities: A strong adult learning system that supports adults to be empowered for reskilling and upskilling includes an approach that is based on a quality assurance approach that ensures a high quality level of guidance and training services (that includes external audits); use of monitoring and evaluation information to improve services; and finally research on effective guidance approaches and (regional/future) skills needs.
Policy pointer 5. Guidance staff development and their training approaches: A strong adult learning system that supports adults to be empowered for reskilling and upskilling includes an approach to guidance staff development that ensures that the staff has the right competences, skills and qualifications and is able to continuously development in the profession through upskilling courses, mentoring, supervision and learning while working.
Full version of the report (*.pdf)