Cristina Sanz Godos, Nathassa Gil Podgórska, Pau Cerveró Campos and Pedro Mas Campos, under the coordination of their teacher Efraim Vendrell Galdon, are the members of the winning team of the national phase of the European competition SCoopConSS (Social Cooperative Contest for Secondary Schools), organised in Spain by the FPEmpresa VET Schools Association and the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Spain (CCIS).

With their EDUNATURE project, they have won the first prize in the national competition and have been given the opportunity to travel to Florence next September to represent Spain before the other participating countries: Croatia, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

“At the beginning, we decided to participate out of curiosity, because the teacher suggested this project to us and we said, well, let’s see how it goes; later, we did some research and we liked it more and more, because we realised that we were learning a lot ”, Nathassa highlights; an opinion shared by her teammates.

When they were asked what they liked the most about carrying out this project, Nathassa emphasized that she really liked the researching and self-learning part; Cristina points out that she has been very surprised and has found the social media and the website development very interesting; Pau, on his part, highlights that he did not expect that in such small, unpopulated towns, so many things could be done, so many different activities; lastly, Pedro is very satisfied with the teamwork and with the fact that, despite the difficulties encountered, the project has finally got off the ground.

The teacher, Efraim, also wants to emphasize that what he was most surprised about the development of this project was the great involvement of all the students. “It is very difficult to carry out a project with 100% remote work, going online at late hours because they were carrying out their respective work placement modules. I am very proud of how they have performed and that they have overcome every obstacle with great effort. The teamwork has been spectacular and I am very happy that they have received this reward ”, he highlights.

SCoopConSS is a project aimed at promoting social entrepreneurship among young people and when they were asked if they would like or if they would consider starting a business in the future, they expressed their unanimous opinion: “We do not know when, but, after having carried out this project from scratch, we are certain that we would like to be entrepreneurs”.

“We are quite nervous”, the team members let out a soft giggle when asked about their next trip to Florence to present their proposal to the international jury. “The use of the English language will be a challenge, but we have several surprises in store for the presentation,” Efraim concludes.

In line with the objective of improving the quality of internships in the educational field of Vocational Training, the FPEmpresa VET Schools Association becomes one of the active members of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships («EAfA »), after the commitment application form sent to the organization has been approved.

The European Alliance for Apprenticeships brings together government institutions and key actors in society with the aim of strengthening the quality, provision and overall image of apprenticeships across Europe, while promoting apprentices’ mobility. The achievement of these two objectives is promoted through national commitments and voluntary commitments.

In July 2020, the European Commission launched the renewed EAfA as a key element of the youth employment support package. This strengthened alliance requires, and will require, new commitments for digital and green apprenticeships, by targeting economic sectors that will be at the forefront of the transition to a greener Europe.

Spain presented its national commitment to the Alliance in 2019 and currently, the EAfA has a total of 38 voluntary commitments from Spain.

The profile of FPEmpresa as a member of this Alliance can be found at the following link.

#ApprenEU

The FPEmpresa VET Schools Association, through the appearance of its president, Luis García Domínguez, participated in the month of July in the extraordinary session of the Education and Vocational Education and Training Commission, held in the Spanish Congress of Deputies, to provide the vision of VET centres on the next Draft Organic Law for the Organisation and Integration of Vocational Education and Training.

García transferred the content of FPEmpresa’s assessment on the draft law, a document that includes recommendations on all the points dealt within the text of the future VET law.

García began his appearance by highlighting the importance of the point of view of VET centres on this piece of legislation. “The schools are one of the places where this task of teaching/learning Vocational Education and Training is developed, along with the companies”, he pointed out.

Likewise, he also highlighted the relevance of the state registry of Vocational Education and Training, through which all citizens are given immediate access to information on different professional careers. Regarding the joint organisation of the different types of provision, García underlines: “It seems very important to us that all the information is located in the same place, in the schools, so that citizens can have a clear reference of where to go in order to decide about their professional path in VET”. “What we want is for the whole process to be easy, for the new law to facilitate access to VET studies to any citizen, anywhere.”

Regarding the teacher/student ratio, García stressed that “in Vocational Education and Training, we work in real workshops with real tools, each student with their own, and a teacher with 30 students in a workshop, the only thing that situation achieves is to jeopardise teaching quality. For this reason, we would like to create some type of guarantee so that lower ratios are established in the VET training cycles”.

After twenty minutes approximately, García concluded: “We will work hard to have the VET Law that Spain deserves and that our young people, schools and companies deserve.”

In subsequent statements, García highlighted: “Let’s hope that together we can make a consensus law, so that Vocational Education and Training can make a qualitative leap, in economic, social and productive terms. FPEmpresa is honoured to make its contribution to work towards the improvement of Vocational Education and Training”.

Since November 2019, EFAS Castilla La Mancha – and in its representation EFA EL LLANO, associated centre of FPEmpresa VET Schools Association – is part of the Erasmus+ “ENVOL” project.

The project was launched in December 2019 in Italy (Bologna) and its main objective is to strengthen the existing mechanisms of recognising and validating non-formal and informal knowledge and skills corresponding to levels 1 and 2 of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The project goal is to obtain four intellectual outputs:

1 – Procedure and proceeding.

2 – Positioning model.

3 – User guide.

4 – Policy recommendations.

EFA EL LLANO, will be responsable for the third part of the project:  “User guide”.

The project can be better understood by looking at the comparison of educational levels: Spanish National Qualifications Framework (NQF-CNCP) and the European Framework (EQF).

Among all the countries associated to this project (Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Spain) only Portugal and Spain have a process of recognition, validation and certification of professional competences at national level, with a National Qualifications Framework.  In the first phase of the project, after defining the national levels and their equivalence in the European framework, the collaboration of experts from inside or outside the organisations are thought to validate and add value to the first intellectual output (Processes and procedures for the recognition and positioning of learning in levels 1 and 2 of the European Framework-EQF).  For this purpose, the so-called “workshops” have been created so as the expert advisors give their opinion.

The project relies on the following asumptions:

– The Level 1 of the Spanish Qualifications Framework (NQF-CNCP) corresponds to Compulsory Secondary Education and Basic Vocational Training (Ministry of Education and Vocational Training) and some Certificated of Professional Standards (Ministry of Labour).

– The Level 1 of the Spanish Qualifications Framework (NQF-CNCP) is equivalent to level 1 and 2 of the European Framework, and therefore they are to be considered the lowest levels of qualification that are contemplated in Spain in order to be able to make an equivalence with the European level 1.

– The Spanish Framework (NQF-CNCP) has no benchmarks and recognition for professional level 1 European Framework, except for lifelong learning.

– Many adults (young people) do not go on to higher education and enter the labour market into various functions without having a specific qualification.

– Currently, there is a process of legislative change in education, which affects the levels contemplated in the Envol project.

Under the direction of the Portuguese partner (Santa Casa de la Misericordia) a common reference model is being developed to establish the positioning of the candidate competences at the levels under study.

In the next phase, the third, EFA EL LLANO will lead the development of the user guide, whose objective will be to shed light on the process of recognition and validation at the European level.

Spain is widely recognised as one of the most significant tourist destinations globally. According to the latest official data published by the WTO, Spain is the second most visited country in the world, receiving nearly 84 million tourists in 2019. The impact of tourism on the Spanish economy is an undeniable fact. Therefore, it is imperative for education authorities to provide their future professionals with an appropriate, up-to-date and high-quality tourism education. Vocational Education and Training is no exception.

However, it is no longer a matter of quantitative growth, but a matter of a qualitative one. Innovation, solidarity and sustainability become a must. The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst for some changes that were already taking place in the industry, even before the pandemic.

On the other hand, tourism education in Spain cannot be understood without the hospitality sector, hence the sector branch in the Spanish VET system is known as Hospitality and Tourism. Having this in mind, some of our associated VET centres have implemented a few good practices that help redefine our tourism industry. In a nutshell, in order for this industry to thrive, we need it to be:

INNOVATIVE

Innovation is precisely what the students and teachers in the VET centre CIFP La Merced do not lack of. Due to the pandemic, tourist guide training could not be carried out normally. So, they decided to make use of the latest technology in order to overcome this learning obstacle. Students received training in QR codes, Google Business and VR editing programmes. This way, they were able to create their own contents and continue their practice. The teacher of this module, Ana Hernando, highlighted: “This new working method was such an inspiration that three students decided to present an innovation project on VR tourism for the elderly, receiving an award by the regional authorities in the VET category”. She adds: “The students have recorded, edited and collected all the virtual visits of this project in a blog”. Ana Hernando considers that, thanks to this, the students are now guides of the 21st century and are much more multidisciplinary professionals, who have made a difficulty a new opportunity, reinventing themselves.

Technology was also put to good use by the Hospitality and Tourism Department in the VET centre CIFP Simone Ortega. Due to the particular circumstances caused by the pandemic, they decided to design a complete take-away service for their teaching community, basing it upon the principle of responsible consumption. In order to manage surplus of food, they launched an app, called Nice to eat you, to connect external customers with the school and facilitate purchase. The resulting funds are donated to non-profit organisations within the same municipality. According to the participating teachers: “this activity helps to consolidate the correct use of the raw material, making the students participate through the entire process”.

CARING

Solidarity is another element that cannot miss when reshaping the future of our industry. If an excellent service to tourists is to be provided, future professionals need to be trained within the frame of human values, such as empathy and solidarity. This is exactly what the VET centres CIPFP Canastell and INS Escola de Hoteleria i Turisme de Barcelona are promoting.

Given the difficult times that we have had to endure in the past year, the CIPFP Canastell decided to start a partnership with Alicante Gastronómica Solidaria, a non-profit local project whose main goal has been to help those in need by fulfilling their basic need for food. The school director, Carlos Navas, explains that “by taking part in this initiative, giving out thousands of menus to thousands of people, some students have had the opportunity to continue their cooking and services training face-to-face and, most importantly, to actively participate in the social development of their area”.

For its part, the INS Escola de Hoteleria i Turisme de Barcelona has established an alliance with the Mahou San Miguel Foundation to give a full scholarship to 30 young people, who come from difficult backgrounds, to study an Intermediate Dual VET Cycle on Hospitality Services. This successful initiative aims at training professionals who excel for the quality of their service. Students receive counselling and support from the moment their training begins until they find a suitable job. Nacho Marín, tutor of one of the groups of this initiative, highlights: “It is a sometimes very tortuous and winding path, which we travel along with the students. Sharing that journey, whatever it may be, is very enriching for all of us who share it”.

SUSTAINABLE

And of course, the key factor that brings everything together: sustainability. VET centres with Hospitality and tourism provision are well aware that in order for the industry to grow healthy, it needs to be strongly committed to sustainable practices.

This is the case of the VET centre CIFP Hostelería y Turismo de Gijón, where its students of tourism, with the motto “Open your eyes, take care of your paradise!” and in collaboration with Ocean Initiatives, have volunteered to clean the beaches of their region, Asturias. They ingredients of this project, solidarity and sustainability, have made this VET centre win an award at the school contest “React, recycle!” organised by the regional company of waste management COGERSA. They have also designed a charity calendar and used the funds raised to adopt two WWF endangered animals. Isabel Méndez, head of the school’s Recycling Coordination Unit, underlines: “The CIFP Hostelería y Turismo de Gijón is much more than a training centre, it is a school committed to good practices and respect for the environment”.

The VET centre Altaviana counts on its project FOSTER, co-funded by the EU Commission LIFE Programme. With its claim, Love Food, Reduce Waste, they aim at raising awareness on food waste and how to prevent it. The idea is that future professionals implement these practices at their workplaces and this way, multiply the communication effect of the project. Gema Trillo, from the school’s management team, points out: “Participation in this project has been an excellent opportunity to make our students aware of the importance of reducing waste. At the same time, it has made them carriers of this message, transferring the sustainability training received to the companies where their internship is carried out”.

In line with this action of raising awareness, the VET centre Escuela de Hostelería de Egibide Mendizorrotza, with its accredited Km0 Restaurant, promotes the consumption of locally grown produce. This way, they contribute to the sustainable development of small business and farms nearby and support the local economy. A win-win project. Xabier López, school principal, highlights: “For the Escuela de Hostelería de Egibide Mendizorrotza, the transmission of these values to the students is important due to the support it represents for the local economy, agriculture, livestock and gastronomy, for the caring of the environment and sustainability; for a healthier diet through the consumption of food collected at its optimum moment, which maintains its nutritional qualities and makes it tastier”.

The entire Hospitality and Tourism Department of the VET centre CIPFP Valle de Elda is strongly promoting sustainable practices among its students. They believe that well-trained students in the field of sustainability will become better professionals for the industry. Professionals who will, in turn, defend and implement sustainable measures in their respective jobs. Juan Carlos Martínez, Head of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism, considers that “we are facing a generation of students who are very aware of the environment and through the dynamics of this type of activities we favour the introduction of actions that reinforce the responsible and sustainable use of resources”.

All these good practices show one thing: by providing students with practical knowledge and useful expertise, VET providers play a major role in shaping a brighter future for our tourism and hospitality industry and, most importantly, in shaping the future of a more innovative, more caring and more sustainable world.

On the 28th of June, the final event of the national phase of the SCoopConSS project (Social Cooperative Contest for Secondary Schools) took place virtually, given the current circumstances. During the ceremony, the winning project and the two honourable mentions were announced. The EFA La Malvesía, with its EDUNATURE project, won the first prize (a prize that is worth a ticket to the international final in Florence). The IES Ángel Corella, with ECOOP GRANJA, and the IES Francisco Tomás y Valiente, with Aires de Huerta, obtained the first and second honourable mention, respectively.

The announcement of the awards was preceded by an informative session on mobility opportunities in the European Union to work and apply for internships, carried out by Elena Argudo, the director of projects and the member’s office of the FPEmpresa VET Schools Association.

The winning project, EDUNATURE by EFA La Malvesía, proposes a social cooperative dedicated to programming Environmental Education and caring for the environment, thus helping to know, value and, therefore, respect the environment. “Although the implementation of the project was a bit complicated, because we had to develop a large part of it outside the school because the students were taking their end-of-cycle internships, it has been a very rewarding experience for all”, the teacher responsible for this team, Efra Vendrell, highlights. “With the completion of this project,” Vendrell adds, “the students have been able to see first-hand all the procedures and problems that can be encountered when setting up a company, more specifically, a cooperative. I am delighted that there are students who are involved in projects like this and that they are learning what cooperativism is like”. He points out that the biggest challenge for his team was to carry out everything remotely, but, as the members of the team have pointed out, “the great effort and the hours invested have paid off”.

As for the honourable mentions, the first was for the IES Ángel Corella for its ECOOP GRANJA proposal, whose main objective is that the community, and children in particular, relate to the environment and receive training in accordance with the basic pillars of agriculture, sustainability and development of the primary sector. According to the teacher who has coordinated this team, Sonia Cardenal, “it has been very gratifying to see how the projects were emerging.” “I decided not to ‘correct’ anything as such, rather to advise and the issues that had to be modified were discussed in common and agreed among all the members of the team,” she adds. “I was very surprised that, despite the fact that the students were not very familiar with the basic concepts that were requested in the project, the quality of what was emerging has been very good and this is reflected in this honourable mention; this has definitely empowered them”, she concludes.

The second honourable mention was awarded to the Aires de Huerta proposal from IES Francisco Tomás y Valiente, whose objective is the production of organic vegetables in urbanized environments (on roofs) with hydroponic cultivation techniques and their distribution to small local markets. “The realization of this project by the students of the Electric and Automatic Installations cycle had the added complication of being done within the dual modality; the allocation of hours to entrepreneurship was very tight and we had to run against the clock”, Jesús Fernández, coordinating teacher of this team, highlights.

The jury in charge of evaluating the proposals submitted, made up of four expert voices, is unanimous in noting the great work that all the participating centres have carried out. “It was a very complicated final, it was hard for us to decide because the ideas presented were very good indeed” Patricia Santos, coordinator of educational innovation projects and member of the jury, says.

Another member of the jury, Pablo Ascasibar, partner of Agresta S.Coop, highlighted “the quality of the proposals and the wide variety of topics”. For Ascasibar, these types of competitions are “very important”, because “they teach the Vocational Education and Training students formulas of social economy as interesting as collective self-employment; formulas that are often unknown”.

For her part, Marta Lozano, also a member of the jury and CEO of Wazo Coop., points out that “although only one team was the winner, the greatest prize they can receive is that their cooperative is feasible, that it helps them fulfil their dreams and that it has a positive impact on society”.

Finally, Mar Alonso, Training and career counselling teacher and head of studies at the Escola del Treball de Barcelona, underlines that this type of project “makes students feel that they are the centre; it makes them responsible for their own teaching and learning process and reflects fundamental values such as effort and perseverance”.

The winning team of the EFA La Malvesía will represent Spain in the international final, which will take place in Florence next September. The members of the jury have committed to guide them and help them improve their proposal for the presentation in the final.

FPEmpresa VET Schools Association held its 2021 General Assembly on the last 17th of June. The Assembly, which, due to the current situation, took place in a virtual environment for the second consecutive year, was attended by almost a hundred of representatives of associated centres.

At the beginning of the session, the president of FPEmpresa, Luis García, welcomed all the centres and thanked them for their attendance and their commitment to continue working to improve Vocational Education and Training in Spain. Next, the vice president, José Luis Durán, explained the 2020-2021 activities report and detailed the different milestones and achievements that had been achieved since the last Assembly. For his part, the vice-president-treasurer, Tomás Alonso, detailed FPEmpresa’s treasury issues and financial situation. Finally, before voting, the president assessed the objectives that should be met in the near future in order to ensure sustained and sustainable growth of the Association.

All the documents prepared for the GA were put to vote. To carry out this procedure, an electronic voting system – like the last GA – was used, which is fully valid as certified by identity verification methods.

To end the 2021 General Assembly, the president presented and shared with the attendees the preliminary thoughts of FPEmpresa with regard to the preliminary draft of the Organic Law of Organization and Integration of Vocational Education and Training, which was analysed in first reading by the Spanish Council of Ministers on the 15th of June.

After several months of hard work and learning, the project SCoopConSS (Social Cooperative Contest for Secondary Schools) reaches its final stage. The more than 150 students from the different participating centres will have to design the proposals for the social cooperatives to be presented at the Spanish national contest. A total of nine Spanish schools take part: the IES Puertas del Campo in Ceuta, the EFA La Malvesía in Valencia, the C.D.P Atlántida CIDEP in Granada, the IES Simón Pérez in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the IES Ángel Corella, the IES Francisco Tomás y Valiente, the Cooperativa de Enseñanza José Ramón Otero, the IES Pedro de Tolosa and the Colegio Santa María del Carmen in Madrid.

The project, co-financed by the European Union under the frame of the Horizon2020 funds, counts on the participation of seven organisations from five southern European countries: the FPEmpresa VET Schools Association and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Spain, aCapo Società Cooperativa Sociale Integrata and EGInA Srl. in Italy, AKETH-DCT (Tesalia Development Centre) in Greece, the Portuguese Association of Startups (APSU) in Portugal and the Rijeka Technical Culture Centre in Croatia.

SCoopConSS is aimed at facilitating teachers a source of high-quality materials regarding social entrepreneurship. This way, teachers can access the necessary tools to help students explore a business model such as the cooperatives and, parallelly, the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.

The Projects Director and Associated Centre Office of FPEmpresa, Elena Argudo, highlighted that “SCoopConSS is a project intended to bring students closer to an entrepreneurship model that has a lot of advantages and that it is directly related to the Sustainable Development Goals”. “It is a project that leads to the reflection on the importance of companies being committed to these goals because the companies of the future will be those that know how to link their business model to a sustainable project”, she added.

During the execution of the SCoopConSS project, each school has participated in six workshops, that have tackled the following topics: characteristics of cooperatives, Sustainable Development Goals, Canvas Next as a tool to analyse a business model, market research, business planning, communication and marketing. Apart from these six workshops, some special sessions have also been organised. In these, students have had the opportunity to know the experience of real cooperatives first-hand. Some of these cooperatives were: Agresta, Wazo, La Corriente, La Osa Coop, Cooperativa Redes, Por Siete, Aplica and Kinema.

From now and until the next 18th of June, the different teams will be working on the development of their idea for social cooperative, which they will present at the Spanish national contest. The winning team will be awarded a trip to Florence next September to present their proposal at the international contest, where they will have to compete against the rest of the participating countries, which are also in the final stage of the project. Argudo concludes: “A challenge is given to students with the motivation of participating in a national contest that, if won, gives them the opportunity to present the result of their work at an international level, in an incomparable scenario such as the city of Florence”.

FPEmpresa VET Schools Association has participated in the second PLA (Peer Learning Activity) of PRALINE project (Promoting Adult Learning in Networks), which has been focused on sustainability in the field of lifelong learning.

PRALINE project is aimed at boosting and consolidating international networks of adult education providers, through peer learning, mutual counselling and capacity building.

In this second PLA, all the organisations that make up the project have taken part, as well as a representative from the European Commission, Martina Ni-Cheallaigh, who shared a presentation on the European Union’s challenges on sustainability, greening and circular economy.

“We want a strong social Europe; a Europe that abides by the values of the Treaty; a Europe that is just for everybody and leaves nobody behind”, she highlighted. She also stated: “With this purpose in mind, we have the European Green Deal, the program for digitalization and digital transformation and the Green Paper on aging”. “The idea is to have an economy that works for everybody”, she added.

The session was hosted by the French organisation Union Nationale des Maisons Familiales Rurales d’Education et d’ Orientation, that presented the Maisons Familiales Rurales (MFR) and the overall structure of VET in France. In addition to this, three best practices were shared, two from France on the different learning environments and inclusion, respectively, and one from Slovenia, on the education for the EU Green Deal through VET providers.

The next PRALINE session is expected to take place by the end of September this year. If circumstances allow it, it will be held face-to-face for the first time since the project started.

FPEmpresa VET Schools Association, Dualiza (Bankia Foundation’s brand for VET promotion) and FP Innovación (an educational project) have successfully organised the Innovaprofes Hackathon, whose objective is for VET teachers to design and create a Classroom for Entrepreneurship in 48 hours.

This initiative, originated from the Plan to Modernise Vocational Training announced by the Spanish government in July 2020, has received a great support from the Spanish teaching community in general, with 367 applications, and from FPEmpresa in particular, with 46 associated centres, from 14 (out of 17) Spanish autonomous regions.

In the opening session, the coordinator of FPEmpresa for Andalusia and member of FP Innovación, Juan Antonio Aguilar, has highlighted that “this 21st century has stomped its way in and this calls for a different type of teachers, a type of teachers who can face challenges and overcome difficult situations”. Furthermore, he states that “it’s time to embrace new methodologies, new organisational structures and new work spaces, hence the significance of these Classrooms for Entrepreneurship”.

VET teachers have had the opportunity to enjoy a series of training actions in those 48 hours, all aimed at planning and designing a Classroom for Entrepreneurship for their schools. Some of these actions were: case studies, learning pills, mentoring, brainstorming sessions, etc.

In the end, 43 teams presented their projects, which represents a total amount of 239 participants. Once all the proposals have been assessed, the first, second and third winning projects will be awarded with 1,000€, 750€ and 500€, respectively.

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