3b - Content, requirements and structure

 Competency goals and learning outcomes
VET institutions in the various EU countries make use of different approaches to identify competencies and learning outcomes. They are generally based on the same principles: determining the major key functions of a specific trade and breaking them down into sub-functions.

If you want to learn more about these methods, you can find them on the Internet. Two of them are shortly presented below:

The DACUM method is an occupational analysis aimed at the achievement of results that may be immediately applied to the development of training programmes. www.ilo.org

Functional mapping gives an overview of the types of major work activities that are carried out within an industry or branch.   www.lantra.co.uk

In general terms, the apprentice should move from being able to do simple tasks (possibly with other’s help) to independent planning and doing larger, more complicated tasks.

One thing is becoming more and more common: the requirement that industry defines the competencies needed to perform professionally within a specific trade.

The competencies are systematised and made clear in competency goals outlined by the designated authorities. These can be national VET authorities or trade committees/councils.

The competency goals are the fundament for establishing learning outcomes for a specific trade or a unit/part of this trade. In simple words; learning outcomes defines what the apprentice should be able to do at the end of a session or training period.

Regarding workplace training, there are a series of competency goals for the apprentice in different areas of work and job functions .

Most of the competency goals are required, while a few of them are optional.
 Professions and specialisation

EU countries have different VET systems. Some countries base their system on the dual training principle; i.e. periods in schools, alternating with periods of training in an enterprise. Most countries use systems based on training in VET schools.

Whichever system is used, it should describe professions that correspond to the established trades in the economy/labour market.

One way of setting up a VET programme is to move from the general to the specific level. Thus, a national VET system can include a number of general or broad VET programmes.

Each VET programme includes one or more areas of specialisation. Specialisation is the highest professional level in vocational education.

A specialisation is an area in which the apprentice achieves the competence of a skilled worker.
Example from Danish gastronomy training
Gastronomy training includes three specialisations:  1) Caterer, 2) Sandwich maid, 3) Chef. 
 Workplace training objectives
Training in a company can be more or less integrated in a country’s VET system. In countries with the dual system, workplace training can make up about 2/3 of the total education/training period.

Whichever system is used, the in-company training should contain a number of training objectives. The training objectives are usually, as outlined above, expressed in competencies and learning outcomes.

Example from Scotland – Veterinary nursing (part of the functional description)
The apprentice shall, after training in the company, be able to perform the following veterinary nursing activities:
  • Veterinary reception duties
  • Manage clinical environments for procedures and investigations
  • Provide nursing care to animals
  • Monitor and care for in-patients in veterinary practices
 Final test

VET programmes dealing with practical training normally test the achievement of the learner. The test is meant to give the learner the possibility to demonstrate what he/she has learned in the practical part of the VET education.

The test can also be labelled a skills demonstration test. This is the case in Finland.

The content and scope of the skills demonstration tests vary from country to country.

Although the content and form of these tests vary, they have a lot in common.

For one thing, the skills demonstrations reflect the actual requirements for skilled artisans in the specific trade.

Countries using this kind of skills assessment often make guidelines.

The test is set up according to the specific learning outcomes for the particular specialisation of trade. The test should enable learning to be assessed or checked.

The learner demonstrates his/her learning according to what is relevant, in relation to requirements of the various trades/specialisations.

The demonstration is normally carried out as a combination of problem solving tasks and learner presentations.

Countries with dual systems arrange a so- called journeyman's test. In Denmark, the trade committee is responsible for the journeyman’s test.

It is held at the VET school with external examiners appointed by the trade committee.

When the apprentice has passed the journeyman's test, he/she receives a journeyman's certificate. 

 Example: The Danish dual system

In Denmark, a vocational education programme takes 3-4 years and is made up of two parts: The school-based part and workplace training. The apprentice spends more than 2/3 of the time in the company. The training programme ends with a final test (journeyman's test).

Click here for download of a description of the Danish dual system.

Vocational education is built up according to the dual training principle. This means that the apprentice alternates between being in school and in the workplace.

The dual training principle makes it possible for the school-based and workplace training to "play well together". But it also requires that the school and the workplace cooperate in regards to the apprentice's training.


3 - Vocational education