Vocational education and training (VET) responds to the needs of the economy, providing people with skills useful for their personal development and active citizenship. It also plays a crucial role in development and employability, as VET allows students to gain practical experience and to avoid the struggle of losing confidence or feeling unsure about finding a job. Among key positives for both youth and employers of vocational education training are practical skills obtained during this type of career-preparation path. It allows young people to spend a lot of time in the practical workshops related to their chosen path, which helps them prepare for their future jobs. When it comes to employers, hiring a person with skills to do the job and being able to adapt to the working environment quickly helps them to feel confident that their new workers are well prepared. They can also see how many resources they should dedicate to train a new hire for the job. Vocational education and training is also decreasing the gap in the transition from school to working environment During their education the students have the possibility to gain knowledge, skills and experience through internships and practical learning opportunities (1), which they can later list in their resume.
Let’s take a closer look at the VETs in Poland. Vocational education and training is maintained at three governance levels: national (ministries), regional (school superintendents) and county (governing schools). Youth has the opportunity to acquire vocational qualifications in three-year first stage (branżowa szkoła I stopnia, for students aged 15–18) and two-year second stage sectoral programmes (branżowa szkoła II stopnia, 19-20 year olds). The former is giving the vocational qualification diploma for single-qualification occupation, the latter is a further development of skills obtained at the first stage, can be provided in full-time day/evening classes or extramurally and allows to acquire a matura (upper secondary school diploma), which gives access to tertiary education. Technika (5-year vocational programmes for youth aged 15-20) also give the opportunity to hold a matura certificate, but their vocational qualification diploma consists of two qualifications after passing State vocational examinations. There are also three-year special job training programmes (szkoły specjalne przysposabiające do pracy) aimed at SEN (special education needs learners), accompanied by job training certificate, and work preparation classes for SEN learners above 15 years of age already in primary school (oddziały przysposabiające do pracy). Work based learning which is necessary in VET-oriented programmes, takes place in school workshops or can be organised partially or fully by an employer (2).
The education system in Poland is currently undergoing structural changes which will be continued until 2022/2023. The main problems (3) of the vocational education system in Poland that are being noticed in the last few years include: too frequent variability of the system, lack of close cooperation with the labor market, a constant decrease of the number of students and vocational schools in the educational system and also lack of a coherent system of education and training for teachers of vocational subjects. Vocational education and training in Poland is facing some challenges nowaday, as the ways need to be found to increase interest in vocational education, adjust the core curricula to the current needs and challenges of the labor market, increase the involvement of employers in organizing practical apprenticeship, improve VET teachers’ competences and also provide high-quality career guidance and counseling as well as high-quality infrastructure in vocational schools. Polish VET system reforms that were implemented in 2019 included aimed at strengthening cooperation between schools (4) and employers, which included creating a forecast of the demand of employees and also introducing compulsory training in companies for VET teachers.
Vocational education is very important in development and increasing employability, though when it comes to Poland, a lot remains to be done in Polish VET system. The importance of skills-based education should not be underestimated.
Article written by Fundacja Rozwoju Demokracji Lokalnej
- https://hospitalityinsights.ehl.edu/vocational-training-career-development, access date 21.06.21
- https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/4189_en.pdf, p.58
- Szlosek, Współczesne problemy kształcenia zawodowego w Polsce, Mazowiecki Kwartalnik Edukacyjny, Meritum 2017, p.7