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Lessons from European States: Policy and Practice in Career and Technical Education

The changing nature of work raises many questions for the US education system about how to prepare skilled technicians. As work changes and the pace of innovation accelerates, technicians will need to acquire new skills. Because this phenomenon is global, there is value in looking at how other countries are responding to these realities. The EU, with its highly developed economies and various approaches to what they refer to as vocational education and training (VET), offers potential lessons for the US CTE system. This paper broadly discusses VET policies across six countries in Europe—Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and Spain—along with the lessons they offer the US CTE system and potential policy and practice implications. Appendices A through F provide short briefs on each of these systems. Across the countries studied, VET program adaptations included many practices that are already happening in the United States but may not be done to scale or may be approached differently. These include:

  • implementation of multiple entry and exit points;
  • creation of educational pathways between VET and more traditional academic study;
  • recognition of non-institutional learning;
  • granting local authorities the ability to adapt and shape curriculum to local industry needs;
  • modularization of curriculum;
  • development of structures for work-based learning;
  • training and professional development in industry for VET teachers; and
  • financing VET for workers (youth and adults) and employers.

The report below examines how these practices have been implemented in various European contexts.