The FPEmpresa VET Schools Association has been the organisation in charge of hosting the celebration of the second PLA (Peer Learning Activity) of the European project PRALINE (Promoting Adult Learning in Networks), which took place at the beginning of October in the city of Valencia.

The FPEmpresa’s Project Manager, Elena Argudo, highlights: “In this project, we strengthen collaboration between organisations similar to FPEmpresa from 9 different countries.” “It has been a very fruitful gathering to see first-hand how lifelong learning is being developed in other countries,” she adds. Argudo also points out that this activity will be very useful for the creation of a solid network of contacts that will allow the development of new projects.

“This has been the first face-to-face activity carried out since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it has been very special for all the participants”, she concludes.

This second learning session counted on the participation of the different European partners of the project, as well as some other guests who shared different good practices that are being developed in the field of Vocational Education and Training. Among other guests, the training technician of the VET Department of the Valencian Community, Robert Crespo; the professor of the CIFP Mislata of Valencia, Santiago Rodrigo; the professor of the Colegio Santiago Apóstol, Sandro De Gregorio; or the associate professor at the University of Zagreb, Tihomir Žiljak.

In addition, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy different activities in the city that allowed them to experience the Spanish culture.

The ultimate objective of the PRALINE project is to strengthen the international networks of adult education providers that are already in operation, through peer learning, counselling and capacity building.

The FPEmpresa VET Schools Association together with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Spain complete these days in Florence the first edition of the SCoopConSS contest (Social Cooperative Contest for Secondary Schools) with the participation of the Spanish delegation in the international final. This final has been part of the extensive program of the National Festival of Civil Economy, a wide-ranging festival in Italy, attended by personalities from all fields related to social economy, that took place in the emblematic Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

“At FPEmpresa, we work daily to promote projects that provide added value to our associated centers”, the FPEmpresa’s Project Manager, Elena Argudo, highlights. “In this case, SCoopConSS responds to the commitment that VET has towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” she adds.

Argudo also highlights that it has been an innovative project that has given all the students the opportunity to approach a model of entrepreneurship such as cooperativism. Regarding the final objective of this project, she underlines: “The final phase of the project has been very enriching for everyone; participating in the National Festival of Civil Economy in Florence is an experience that surely none of the students who have reached the final will forget”. “We hope to be able to repeat future editions of this contest and to expand the number of countries that compete in it,” Argudo concludes.

The final phase of this project counted on the participation of teams from schools from 5 different countries. These teams had previously won their respective finals in the national competitions. In the end, the first prize of SCoopConSS has been awarded to the Greek team, from the Fryganiotis Secondary School, with its ergaZWmai Cooperative project; a proposal focused on responding to the social needs of the local community.

More info on SCoopConSS:

The Spanish delegation leaves for the SCoopConSS final in Florence

The winners of SCoopConSS national phase: “After having carried out this project, we are certain that we would like to be entrepreneurs”

The EFA La Malvesía will represent Spain in the SCoopConSS final in Florence

SCoopConSS: students design their proposals for cooperatives in the final stage of the project

The EFA La Malvesía team, winner of the national phase of SCoopConSS (Social Cooperative Contest for Secondary Schools), leaves today for Florence to present their proposal for a social cooperative at the international final of this contest, which will take place tomorrow, Friday September 24, and September 25 at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

The Spanish students will present their business idea to those attending the Civil Economy Festival, one of the most important entrepreneurship and social economy events held in Italy. The event will be attended by great personalities and experts, among which are the Minister of Equal Opportunities and Family, Elena Bonetti, the Minister of Youth Policies, Fabiana Dodane and the Minister of Justice and Social Policy, Andrea Orlando, among others.

The Project Manager of FPEmpresa VET Schools Association, Elena Argudo, highlights: “Participating in the Civil Economy Festival in Florence presenting the winning idea in the Spanish phase of SCoopConSS competition is a unique opportunity for these VET students”. “It is the reward for the great work they have done throughout the academic year”, she emphasises.

Over the last few months, the boys and girls of the EFA La Malvesía have worked with great effort to prepare their presentation, which they will have to present to the members of the jury and to the rest of the participating countries.

The programme of their trip to Florence, which will last until next Sunday, will be full of complementary activities, allowing the members of the EFA La Malvesía team to learn about the good practices that are already being developed in the field of Civil Economy, as well as to enjoy cultural events in this Italian city.

The SCoopConSS project, in which seven organisations from five southern European countries have participated, aims at creating a pool of resources for teachers in the field of social entrepreneurship. It is co-funded by the European Union within the framework of the Horizon2020 funds and has been organised in Spain by FPEmpresa and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Spain.

The FPEmpresa VET Schools Association and the Embassy of Spain in Brazil, more specifically its Education Office, give Spanish and Brazilian VET centres the opportunity to collaborate in different educational projects. This initiative is part of the objective set by FPEmpresa of promoting international cooperation between associated centres and other centres in other parts of the world.

Elena Argudo, FPEmpresa’s Project Manager, highlights: “Stimulating the international relations of Spanish centres is one of the objectives of FPEmpresa. Facilitating this networking seems essential to us, so that the centres can see what is being done in the field of VET in other countries. Furthermore, in this case, Brazil is a strategic country, as it has a very powerful Vocational Education and Training system. It is significant to see that in the Worldskills contest, Brazilian VET students often reach the top positions”.

Brazil, a benchmark in the world in terms of Vocational Education and Training, will be the first country with which cooperative relations between centres are established, but there will be more. “This first collaborative action opens a potential line of work with the Education Offices of the Spanish Embassies in the world, through which to foster this type of initiatives” Argudo adds.

After the agreement reached by FPEmpresa and the Embassy of Spain in Brazil, work began last year to put the participating centres in contact. Thus, there are three Spanish VET centres that are already assigned to their Brazilian project partners, all belonging to the Federal Institute of Paraná (IFPR): the CIFP Ciudad de Béjar with the Telêmaco Borba campus; the CIPFP La Costera with that of Jacarezinho; and the Goierri Eskola with Campo Largo.

At the moment, these are all eTwinning projects, although it is expected that other real mobility projects may be developed in the future.

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.

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