Interview with Kristiina Volmari
HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Finland
Dear Mrs. Volmari, on the 7th Training & Innovation you presented Cedefop and the project Defining VET professions. What was the reason why you and your university started to work upon such a difficult topic?

As you say, the topic is very challenging. However, it is closely linked to the activities of our institution, which is vocational teacher education. To be able to offer education and build a programme that corresponds to the real needs of teachers, we need to put our ear to the ground and listen. The changes in the work of educators has changed immensely in the last ten years and goes on changing and thus we need to understand their new work roles and the pressures they are under. The project offered us the opportunity to do this and at the same time look at teachers’, trainers’ and principals’ job profiles and competences from an international perspective. Vocational education and training (VET) is after all, becoming more and more international.

What is your opinion, why is a common framework for teachers and trainers necessary?

A common European competence framework is necessary because the training and qualification requirements in VET vary greatly in Europe; we have countries where the requirement for becoming a VET teacher is a Master’s degree and countries where there are no qualification requirements. Furthermore, the trainers in enterprises are doing more and more of the training today, but in most countries there is no initial training available for them. Consequently the competence level of trainers varies not only from country to country, but from enterprise to enterprise. A competence framework can steer developments and decision-making in a direction of better and relevant education for educators.

The present situation is unbearable from a human point of view. Every European must have equal opportunities to high-quality education and training. Further, we cannot go on like this if we want to increase the mobility among students and professionals. In the EU there is an urge to increase the transparency of qualifications to allow for mutual recognition and increased mobility.

In addition to these ideological issues, a competence framework has use on a more everyday level. Educators can use it to reflect on their professional effectiveness and to determine where they need more training. Principals and other management can utilise it in recruitment and in assessing and developing institutional competence.

It should not be forgotten that a competence framework is not necessarily a description of the competences required by all individual practitioners. It is more likely today to be the case that this range of activities will be carried out by a team of people.
A hot topic today is the recognition and validation of prior learning. A competence framework is a must if we want to carry out the recognition and validation in a just and fair way.

Finally, in addition to raising the professionalism of the VET professions, a European competence framework can, with its analysis of the roles and responsibilities, be a valuable tool for increasing the esteem for both vocational education and training and its professionals.

Are there any disadvantages linked to such a framework?

I think that we should be careful when we build competence frameworks. A lot can be gained from common competence frameworks, provided that they are relevant and focus on critical contents. A framework that is up-to-date and innovative will most likely contribute to teacher and trainer education in a positive way.

But competence frameworks or standards are not always necessarily beneficial. Too stringent frameworks can have a stagnating effect, preventing innovation and experiments. At their worst they can also be a hindrance to authentic and relevant curricula. Furthermore, they can complicate the individualisation of studies, where the students’ individual capabilities, prior learning and experience as well as learning styles are taken into account.

What is your estimation, do you think how easy or difficult will it be to implement the framework. Will there be a lot of opponents coming from the row of teachers and trainers?

It all depends on how the framework is built. If it is flexible allowing for personal, local and national implementations there will most likely be less opposition. Basically, in those countries in which the training of VET professionals is on a high level the framework will probably be welcomed as a useful tool both by policy makers, teacher educators as well as local authorities. But, those countries which are at the “other end of the stick”, will probably be alarmed of the consequences on their educational structures and naturally of the costs.

I am convinced that the teachers’ and trainers’ attitudes will very much depend on how the competence framework is structured and presented. It should be seen as a tool, not as a stringent standard. A stringent and detailed list of competences will be like a straitjacket hindering motivation for institutional development and progress arising from the individuals themselves. Instead, it should be a means to increase the professionalism of educators in VET, to raise the quality and attractiveness of vocational education and training in Europe and to provide equal opportunities for every European.

Thank you very much for this interview, Mrs. Volmari.

| Bild: | Kristiina Volmari is development manager at HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Vocational Teacher Education Unit in Finland. Her responsibilities range from international research and development activities to student and staff mobility. Before this position, Kristiina worked in the national education administration after a twenty-year teaching career, having the opportunity to focus on issues and research on vocational teachers and trainers. Work at European level has included working groups of the European Commission as well as a multitude of projects for Cedefop and the EU Commission. She has also been the national coordinator for Cedefop’s Teacher Trainers’ network (TTnet) since 2002.

Background Information:
HAMK University of Applied Sciences, Vocational Teacher Education Unit

HAMK Vocational teacher education unit is part of HAMK University of Applied Sciences. HAMK has 7 000 students and eight education and research centres.

The vocational teacher education unit trains teachers for vocational institutions, adult education centres and universities. In addition to initial teacher training, the Vocational Teacher Education Unit trains special needs teachers, guidance counsellors and driving instructors. The Unit also provides continuing training.

The Teacher Education Unit is also actively involved in research and development projects. In the last few years these activities have focused on developing eLearning, the link between vocational education and training and world of work and the individualisation of studies. The
Unit is also strongly involved in regional development activities.