School-Job Integration. The School in the XXI Century


“Skills are a pathway to employability and prosperity. With the right skills, people are equipped for good-quality jobs and can fulfil their potential as confident, active citizens. In a fast-changing global economy, skills will to a great extent determine competitiveness and the capacity to drive innovation. They are a pull factor for investment and a catalyst in the virtuous circle of job creation and growth. They are key to social cohesion” (EU New Skills Agenda 2016).

3ˆ Cometa Social Innovation Conference

May 8th 2017 h. 15.00-19.00

Cometa, via Madruzza 36 – Como

In the daily global challenges of educational and training activities, the importance to help students, mainly young kids, to develop a personal resilience is paramount. New skills for the future jobs are required. This educational paradigm shift implies to change methods, to update competence, to innovate learning processes. Cooperation and co-creation among actors (policy-makers, schools, enterprise, research) become crucial. The Third Cometa Social Innovation Conference aims at concretely address the challenges related to this paradigm shift in the vocational education and training sector, including the new model of School-Job integration implemented by Cometa Formazione.
Guest speakers of this conference edition include Prof. Martin Mulder (University of Wageningen), 2016 award by the European Commission for his research on VET, who will focus on the process of innovation of competence in the context of the work-based learning. Prof. Mario Calderini (Politecnico di Milano) will outline the outcomes and impacts as emerged in a recent assessment of the Cometa school-job integration model. Hans Van Der Loo, expert in STEM approach, will conclude with an overview on the future trends of education in this Exponential Era.
(here a concept note. A wider article, in Italian, is available here, coauthored by Laureen De Palma, Paolo Nardi, Marianna Nicotra and Barbara Robbiani)
Registration at: eventi@puntocometa.org

Concept note

In the daily global challenges of educational and training activities, the importance to help students, mainly young kids, to develop a personal resilience is paramount. The paradigm shift faced in the society implies for the educational sector a dramatic change of methods, competences, learning processes, where co-creation among actors (policy-makers, schools, enterprise, research) becomes crucial.

Cometa Formazione and its Oliver Twist school have implemented the “school-enterprise” approach aiming at youth employability and entrepreneurship, as it develops students’ skills involving them in producing real products for the market in workshops open to the public. School and Job are nomore two separated moments of training, on the contrary their integration boosts both the quality of numeracy and literacy kids learn, and the professional skills they need to acquire. A real experience of job, with the support of tutors in the school environment, has a significant effect on students in consolidating their soft skills and developing a growth mindset.

The model, with the essential support of Fondazione Vodafone, has been recently awarded by the European Agency ETF as one of the ten best European program for entrepreneurship. The success of the model, as pointed out by a research conducted by Tiresia Group (Politecnico di Milano), and the emerging policies at European level, make this approach ready for a scale-up at European level.

1. A paradigm shift in vocational and educational training

In the daily global challenges of educational and training activities, the importance to help students, mainly young kids, to develop a personal resilience is paramount. Entrepreneurial and digital skills, and creative thinking are only some of the main key elements pointed out in the recently approved EU Skills Agenda (EC, 2016). Cometa Formazione, operating in Como (Italy), is strongly active to create and preserve those conditions to help the kids to recognize and deepen the knowledge of their own attitudes.

Based on the concept of “Reality-based Learning” (Campiotti et al., 2017), Cometa Formazione and its Oliver Twist school have implemented the “school-enterprise” approach aiming at developing resilience, involving students in creating real products for real customers in school’s workshops: a carpentry, a fashion studio, two coffee shops and a restaurant. This challenge is more and more critical if compared with the main goals of the international and European education policies.

2. The European Context: EU Skills Agenda and the road map towards future VET

Many challenges have to be faced in next decades: demographic, socio-economic and technological drivers are leading towards a disruptive change of the world as known so far (World Economic Forum, 2016). As pointed out in the Skills Agenda, ageing population will affect the European economic growth, increasing the need for higher productivity and higher skills (also in CEDEFOP, 2016). Global competition is dramatically affecting the local markets and the sustainability of many enterprises; besides, technology is changing habits, consumptions, production, ways of working (industry 4.0, internet of things just to mention few examples): the job of 65% of children starting their primary school today do not yet exist, and will provide goods or services which are not yet requested (WEF, 2016). Innovation has become one of the key drivers for future sustainability of both the society as a whole and people daily life (Chatzichristou, 2017).

Skills seem to be the keystone for the future. As pointed out in the EU Skills Agenda, “Skills are a pathway to employability and prosperity. With the right skills, people are equipped for good-quality jobs and can fulfil their potential as confident, active citizens. In a fast-changing global economy, skills will to a great extent determine competitiveness and the capacity to drive innovation. They are a pull factor for investment and a catalyst in the virtuous circle of job creation and growth. They are key to social cohesion”. And: “Skilled workers are more likely to be employed and are more productive than unskilled ones. Besides the direct impact that knowledge (know what) and competences (know how) has on the work output: skills can affect productivity growth also by promoting the transfer of knowledge and the mobility between universities, research institutes, firms, industries and countries; by developing absorptive capacity so that firms can better innovate or adopt best practices; and by promoting mobility of skilled workers to disseminate innovative ideas and knowledge of processes. In addition to its direct contribution to growth, human capital has indirect effects as well, by stimulating the accumulation of other productive inputs (e.g. physical capital, technology or health) which in turn foster growth”.

3. From Dual-System to School-Job Integration: an innovative model for VET

The School-Enterprise model adopted by Oliver Twist school at Cometa Formazione focuses on experiential learning and job-school rotation (work-related learning), which implies bringing the outside world into a classroom/office and vice versa. Pupils attending school are from the age of 14 to 18 years.

In Cometa, teaching activities take place in actual apprenticeship studios (Bottega) where, just like in the Renaissance, the pupil learns by following his/her master in the process of making a product for the public. There are four apprenticeship studios in Cometa, namely: Bottega del gusto (Taste), including a bar, a restaurant and a pastry shop open to the public; Bottega del legno (Wood), including a planning and design dept. plus a carpenter’s workshop; Bottega del tessile (Textiles), including a design dept. and a textile and tailoring shop; Bottega della natura (Nature), including gardens, orchards, forests. In these real work contexts, students offer their products/services to paying consumers. As this is not a mere simulation, the urge for professional competency emerges more sharply and, consequently, drags along the urge for learners to acquire all those cultural and human skills that are also mandatory by educational curricula.

There is an evident effort to overcome the division into subject-matters and disciplines in the same course of studies as well as the historical dichotomy between doing and knowing, theory and practice, vocational-technical subject matters and “basic” ones. Starting from 2011 a new teaching methodology is being developed in Cometa whereby experiential learning is the pivot for learning and developing different skills, including non-technical ones that activated in the making or rendering of a product/service. In addition to “soft skills”, also competency in mathematics and languages are required to deliver a final product of excellence.

Such teaching structure, which revolves around a complex and remarkable organization, is underpinning the so-called Reality-Based Learning, whereby an order received by the students represents the point of engagement and the source of endless learning opportunities for new skills and not just new knowledge. In this way, the entire teaching methodology is not only an interdisciplinary one but actually pervades multiple disciplines: a student in action is demanded to put in practice skills of different nature, which ultimately leads him/her to overcome division of knowledge in the making of his/her masterpiece and to favor a holistic approach. To such end, it is necessary to establish a more solid relationship between places and moments for learning and places and moments for application of the learnings. Working actions and typically educational measures can be taken also in workplaces. In fact, the workplace is to be intended as a cultural resource field that the school can utilize as an educational means, thus adequately combining training actions performed at school and in the selected workplaces. To this purpose, criteria and operational methods are needed to analyze working processes and to locate knowledge and skills required by national regulations for secondary school programs and vocational training programs.

4. School-Job Integration: a social impact analysis 

Skills developed in the working environment are first of all those required by the regional professional profile (eg. planning operations to accommodate the request of a customer, setting up working spaces, serving meals and drinks, filling orders). However, direct exposure to customers also prompts to enhance soft and business skills such as empathy, communication according to ranks hierarchical roles and the public, business flair and product promotion. The school-enterprise model has been recently awarded by the EU Agency ETF as one of the ten good practises in Europe in enterpreneurial training programs.

The described model led to very encouraging results, as pointed out by the recent analysis on social impact realised by Politecnico di Milano on the 2014-2015 school-year, mainly on Bottega del Gusto, one of the most important workshops, promoted with the fundamental support of Fondazione Vodafone. Some of the outcomes include:

  • 95% of students recognize their soft skills increased;
  • 94% of dropout students completed their new career at Cometa;
  • Since 2012, more than 60% of former students got a stable employment and no longer dependent completely on their families (average wage 900€ per month);
  • The employment rate of former students is 8% higher than at other VET schools in Italy.

Besides the main VET courses, Cometa Formazione promotes several activities for special targets including dropouts, NEETs and people with disabilities:

  • Liceo del lavoro: this course for NEETs provides not only basic knowledge but also specific activities of career guidance, focus groups and internships in local companies.
  • Minimaster for NEETs: it includes specific training in the school-workshops and internships in one among the major hotel chains in the area of Lake Como.
  • Special training, mentoring and internships for Foreign Unaccompanied Minors in the area of Como.

5. Scalability at European level: conditions and next steps

Cometa already shows some elements interesting to innovate European education models in line with recent policies, as well as to “make VET a first choice”:

  • Going beyond formal training, introducing innovative solutions aware not only of the professional skills but above all of soft skills. The importance of tutoring, counselling and mentoring is essential for the development of non-cognitive skills and a “learn-to-learn” attitude and a growth mindset.
  • Cooperation among institutions is already a key driver for innovation and success in VET: private, public, social initiatives. Most of the training activities in Cometa VET School (including training needs assessment), and their effectiveness in terms of students’ upskilling, is radically based in the cooperation among actors, trans-sectoral, intersectoral, and trans-institutional.
  • Excellence in VET cannot be only for someone. It is worth-noting that Cometa, since its beginning, has been dealing with special categories of young people including dropouts, potentially dropouts, youngsters of underprivileged groups. The real excellence concerns the discover of the human and professional value of people, notwithstanding their problems and disabilities. This appears to be the road to a future social inclusion, for everybody.

References

Campiotti, F., Gomaraschi, M., Nicotra, M. (2017). The School-Enterprise for the Reality-based learning approach. Available at: http://cometaresearch.org/uncategorized/the-school-enterprise-for-the-reality-based-learning-approach/

Cedefop (2016). European sectoral trends: the next decade. Available at http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/8093

Chatzichristou, S. (2017). What will you be when you grow up?. Skills Panorama. Available at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/blog/what-will-you-be-when-you-grow?utm_source=Source_GROW&utm_campaign=Campaign_GROW&utm_medium=Medium_GROW_EMAIL&utm_term=Term_GROW&utm_content=Content_GROW

European Commission (2016). Communication: A New Skills Agenda for Europe – Working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness. Available at http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=15621&langId=en

World Economic Forum (2016). Future of Jobs. Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the IV Industrial Revolution. Available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf

Published by Paolo Nardi

Paolo Nardi

International Affairs Officer and Responsible for Research at Cometa. Fellow at PlusValue. Assistant editor of the journal Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment. I got my degree in Public Administration and International Institutions and my PhD in International Law and Economics at Università Bocconi; I also got a MA in Public Policy at Brunel University London. My research interests shifted from human geography (namely: non profit, social innovation and community development) to education and training.

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