The term “green economy” is on everyone’s lips. What demands does the transformation to this form of economic activity place on vocational training in the skilled crafts sector? This question is being addressed by 22 chambers, vocational schools and universities from seven European countries in the project “3LoE – Three-level Competence Centres: Qualification, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Green Economy”. In this interview, Annegret Umlauft from the Dresden Chamber of Skilled Crafts and Melanie Henke from the Hanseatic Parliament in Hamburg report on this project.
3LoE – with European partnerns on the way to the Green Economy
How did the “3LoE” project come about and what are its goals? What does this abbreviation stand for?
The 3LoE project emerged from the current transformation to the green economy and the accompanying opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and vocational training. The lead partner, Hanseatic Parliament, has been working for 28 years on the strong promotion of SMEs, mainly in the Baltic Sea countries, through EU projects.
The lack of skilled workers and qualification deficits in the green economy are currently among the greatest challenges in Europe and especially in Germany.
To address these challenges, 22 partners from 7 countries are working in the 3LoE project to establish and make permanent centres of vocational excellence, which on the one hand make vocational education and training more attractive for young workers and on the other hand provide further training for skilled workers and SME owners and additional skilled labour.
The centres of excellence are developed through cooperation between local, regional and national actors, including e.g. initial and continuing VET providers, colleges and universities, chambers, enterprises and education authorities. In the project, a variety of educational measures that meet the requirements of climate protection, sustainability, resource efficiency and green economy are developed, tested and evaluated at three different levels: Initial Education, Continuing Education and Higher Education. The name 3LoE ties in with these three levels – “Three levels of excellence”. The focus is always on the dual education approach, with practical work through concrete innovation projects in SMEs.
The project results are made available to 60 associated partners of the Hanseatic Parliament and to the public at www.3-loe.eu.
Vocational education and training is very diverse internationally: dual vocational training like in Germany exists in only a few countries. What roles do the differences in the vocational training systems of the seven participating countries play in the project work? For example, do the train-the-trainer courses developed in the international project have to be adapted to the individual countries?
The VET systems but also the economy, demographics and labour market differ considerably in the participating project countries Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland and Spain – not only nationally but also regionally. This is taken into account in all educational measures developed in the project. The educational measures developed and to be tested in the project are always adapted to the respective national conditions of the partner countries. At the beginning of the project, comprehensive analyses of all participating project countries were carried out on vocational training systems, the economy, demographics and the labour market. Based on this, concepts and cooperation agreements were developed for all seven regional centres of excellence.
The German dual training system is internationally regarded as a proven model of success which the project countries take as a point of orientation. Especially for Italy and Spain, the transition from the school-based to the dual vocational training model is highly relevant against the background of the persistently high youth unemployment rate. According to Eurostat data, the rate of 15-24 year olds no longer in school and neither working nor in education or training in 2021 was 18.1% in Italy, 12.1% in Spain, 10.1% in the EU, 8.6% in Lithuania, 7.9% in Latvia, 7.1% in Austria and 5.7% in Germany. In the Baltic Sea region in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, the apprenticeship system is also changing towards the dual model with a higher share in the company. In Poland, for example, dual vocational training was introduced with great success in 2017. In Germany and Austria, the issue of permeability and recognition of vocational knowledge at the different levels of education is a particularly relevant topic.
International cooperation has the great advantage of combining very different national and regional experiences as well as competences from different countries, learning from each other and jointly developing and implementing new effective educational measures in the 3LoE project that are adapted to the respective national and regional conditions. Four train-the-trainer programmes will be developed and implemented in the project so that the partners can use the educational programmes, advisory tools, innovation promotion measures, etc. appropriately. These will continue to be offered by colleges and universities in the individual regions even after the end of the project period, so that a sufficient number of teachers and advisors will always be available.
Project meeting in Hamburg in autumn 2021. Picture: Hanseatic Parliament
Sustainability is in the blood of craftspeople. What craft topics and competences do you focus on in the project when courses are developed and what offers have you already created in Dresden?
We are not interested in the implementation of projects per se. We are interested in what specifically reaches the craft enterprises and what effective support they receive. And that is exactly the philosophy of the Hanseatic Parliament.
In the project, the partners will jointly develop more than thirty comprehensive programmes of vocational training, further education and higher education in the Green Economy. They will all be tested in real operation under different national conditions during the project period and examined to see to what extent they meet the needs of SMEs, their employees, the next generation of craftspeople and all those interested in taking up future-oriented career prospects in the crafts sector. On the basis of these investigations, the programmes are finalised, adapted to the various national conditions and permanently implemented by the 22 project and 74 associated partners.
The Dresden Chamber of Skilled Crafts has founded an Energy Efficiency Centre, which will be strengthened and expanded within the 3LoE project.
The energy efficiency centre has already developed some courses for the implementation of energy efficiency measures in the building sector. In addition to topics such as heating optimisation, hydraulic balancing, ventilation concepts, thermography, building diagnostics and summer thermal insulation, a course has currently been designed that enables craftsmen to qualify as energy consultants. Likewise, with the qualification “Energy efficiency craftsman for the sanitary heating and climate sector”, craftsmen are well prepared for the tasks currently ahead.
The Energy Advisor Expert Meeting is held twice a year at the Dresden Energy Efficiency Centre. The focus of the event is the presentation of current technologies, developments or regulations. This meeting enables the energy advisors and also other interested parties from the trade to keep up to date with the latest knowledge and developments.
Already during the project period, we will test and permanently implement a whole series of educational programmes developed in the project. Above all, the development and regional adaptation of courses for Green Economy in the skilled crafts sector will be established in the Energy Efficiency Centre. Furthermore, qualifications modelled on the energy efficiency trade will be developed for other occupational groups. For example, in vocational training, the provision of additional qualifications to young people who are strong learners. But we are also examining whether we can already implement dual Bachelor’s degree courses in the Green Economy during the project period together with a Saxon university, which were developed in the project and combine a craft training with a recognised degree course, for example Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Green Economy, Service Technician or Sustainable management Climate neutrality for companies. In this way, we gain outstandingly qualified entrepreneurs, managers and specialists who also have several years of professional experience.
But it is not only about education. Through cooperation with colleges and universities, individual continuing education programmes and the study courses are linked to the implementation of development projects and research and development tasks for and with SMEs. Or – to mention another example – we are currently testing an assessment procedure for vocational and qualification counselling in the Green Economy for young people and skilled workers.
In summary, with the help of the 3LoE project, we can offer outstanding educational programmes to the skilled crafts in our chamber district through our Energy Competence Centre, provide advisory services and promote innovation.
What are the most important results of the project so far?
The 3LoE project is now at the halfway point. The first two years were mainly dedicated to the conception of the centres of excellence, the elaboration and development of educational measures as well as regional, national and international cooperation. Now the practical tests and evaluations of the educational programmes in initial education, further education and higher education are starting.
What hurdles have you already overcome in the course of the project work and what challenges do you still face?
The 3LoE project started in autumn 2020, in the middle of the Corona pandemic, so all project meetings initially had to take place online. The first face-to-face meeting of all project partners was only possible one year later in autumn 2021 in Hamburg. Even if it is advantageous nowadays to have a short online video call, getting to know each other in person and the direct exchange of experiences are indispensable for project cooperation and mutual trust.
Of course, the tense situation caused by the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine and the rising energy prices and high inflation rate also influence the project work, especially in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Online project meeting summer 2021. Picture: Hanseatic Parliament
Who are your key supporters in the project?
The 3LoE project is 80% funded by the Erasmus+ Education Programme under Key Action 2 “Centres of Professional Excellence” and managed by the European Executive Agency for Education and Culture (EACEA). The remaining funding has to come from our own contributions. We are grateful that we are able to carry out these extensive, innovative tasks through EU funding.
With the exception of Italy and Spain, higher education institutions or universities are already involved as project partners in all the project countries. In addition, the project receives ongoing support in all countries from other colleges or universities that are involved as associated partners. The involvement and cooperation with colleges and universities is important in order to
- involve scientific expertise in the development of the education programmes,
- be able to carry out innovation promotion and research and development tasks,
- achieve a very high degree of permeability between VET and higher education and thus also to promote the attractiveness of VET, and
- be able to develop and implement dual courses of study, thus attracting outstanding entrepreneurs, managers and skilled workers who are a perfect fit for the needs and conditions of SMEs.
The project is also supported by regional and national public education administrations. In Latvia and Spain, education administrations are even involved as project partners.
Finally, the members of the Hanseatic Parliament, 50 chambers, SME associations, vocational schools and further education institutions from 13 countries and 24 colleges and universities from 7 countries are supporters of the project . They are firmly integrated as associated partners and accompany the entire project implementation with consultations, supplies and additional work. These institutions are at the same time transfer recipients and implementation partners who receive all project results and individual implementation consultations. In this way, we achieve dissemination and utilisation of the project results on a very large regional basis.
The expansion of renewable energies has gained political importance in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Does this have an impact on the project work?
The extreme shortage and exploding price of energy due to the terrible war in Ukraine has made it even clearer how important and urgent energy saving, efficiency increases, renewable energies and other innovations in the energy and environmental sector are. This has made the project even more important and spurred ambition among all partners for a particularly successful project implementation.
Incidentally, the Kiev Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Crafts of Ukraine are involved in the project implementation as associated partners. They participate in the international consultations, contribute their experience and needs to the project work and also receive all project results and implementation advice. Thus, Ukraine’s economy and society will also benefit directly from the 3LoE project.
How could the current project develop further and how could cooperation be shaped in the future?
The aim of the 3LoE project is for the seven centres of excellence that have emerged to continue beyond the four-year EU project funding and to each develop an individual funding model. The project results are to be used in the long term by both the project partners and other stakeholders. In addition, the European network of centres of excellence that has been created will continue to exist between the partners. It will continue to be coordinated by the Hanseatic Parliament after the end of the project, support the work of the individual partners, carry out further developments and develop and realise new educational programmes and innovation funding in further projects.
Crafts people are needed to realize the Green Economy. Picture: amh-online
What interests does the Dresden Chamber of Skilled Crafts have in this cooperation? What benefits do you derive from it?
The skilled crafts sector is particularly predestined to make decisive contributions to overcoming the very great, urgent challenges in energy, climate and environmental protection. At the same time, today’s serious bottlenecks are tomorrow’s growth areas for the skilled crafts sector. However, in order to be able to contribute to these solutions and take advantage of the growth opportunities, the glaring shortage of young entrepreneurs and skilled workers, which will continue to grow in the future, must be overcome and the existing significant qualification deficits must be eliminated. And this is precisely where the most important tasks of the chambers lie, namely to provide young entrepreneurs and skilled workers, to improve qualifications in a targeted and tailored manner and to promote innovation. Through the 3LoE project, the Dresden Chamber of Skilled Crafts in general and its Energy Efficiency Centre in particular are sustainably strengthened and supported in being able to provide these central promotions for the skilled crafts in our chamber district. This is because we will receive more than 30 educational programmes as well as advisory tools and innovation support measures that have already proven their great positive effects for the skilled crafts sector in real operation and that we will be able to use free of charge for the benefit of the skilled crafts sector in the future. And for the proper use of these, we receive advice and a qualification for our teachers and advisors.
Cooperation across national borders ensures the exchange of experience on an international level in subject areas that are of interest to all partners and that need to be worked on. Furthermore, it offers the chance to expand the cooperation and to involve even more partners from different countries and other federal states of Germany in the transfer of knowledge and to expand these partnerships to other topics and future projects.
However, it is also important to us that this support for the craft sector is fully in the interest of the common good. Addressing the energy, climate and environmental bottlenecks is in everyone’s interest. And with the ongoing implementation of the 3LoE Project’s education and guidance programmes, we are opening up outstanding career prospects for young people and offering interesting, secure and rewarding work in the skilled crafts sector to all who want it. The 3LoE project helps us significantly to unite and effectively promote the interests of the skilled crafts sector and the common good.
The topics of energy, climate and environmental protection are relevant far beyond the circle of actors involved in the project. How will the project results also be made available to craft organisations that were not directly involved?
The educational measures developed and tested in the 3LoE project serve not only the project partners, but all stakeholders. All project results are available free of charge and include guidance on implementations. All craft organisations are invited to use them. In order to achieve this dissemination and use on as broad a regional basis as possible, the 3 LoE project will carry out a wide range of transfer activities, such as written and electronic publications, holding consultation and transfer conferences with free and free participation, producing and publishing results videos and much more.
All project results are published on the project website: www.3-loe.eu.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Dresden Centre of Excellence or the Hanseatic Parlament directly.
Annegret Umlauft, Head of the Project Department, Dresden Chamber of Skilled Crafts. Picture: Kirsten Mann
Melanie Henke from the Hanseatic Parliament. Picture: Hanseatic Parliament