Something is wrong in Spain, reflects the director of a Vocational Training (FP) center, when despite having an unemployment rate of 15.3% a “very important company” of elevators is unable to find maintenance technicians. “And we are one of the countries in the world with the most elevators” with almost 20 per thousand inhabitants, completes his bewilderment Luis García Domínguez, also president of the National Association of Vocational Training Centers FP Empresa.
What “fails” is that Spain hardly has medium and superior technicians. VET, the training itinerary that should solve this lack, has suffered for years the stigma of being considered the little sister of the academic path, of being the alternative for those who do not they were worth for study. Rafael Campanario, today president of the Association of Teachers of Secondary and Higher Vocational Training, recalls how when he was 14 years old and announced that he wanted to do a Vocational Training (FP) module, his tutor from what was then the EGB told him to his parents: “But if this boy is worth a lot, how is he going to go to FP? He has to do high school.” In the 90s this conversation, or in the opposite sense, was heard recurrently in the houses. “The one that is worth, to the University. The one that is not, to the FP”.
The result of these years of contempt for VET – although the perception has already changed, Education is like a large ocean liner that finds it difficult to turn – is a country in which 36% of the population that finished ESO chose VET Middle Grade compared to 64% who chose the academic path of the Baccalaureate, probably on the way to the University. The comparison with the most advanced European countries points to the deficit that Spain is carrying. In Europe, more than half of young people opt for Vocational Training on average, with peaks above 60% in countries such as Finland, Austria or the Netherlands.
The consequence is that 25% of the Spanish adult population currently has an intermediate qualification and 35% a low, figures that do not agree with what the labor market requires. Forecasts say that in four years Spain will need to have 49% of its jobs covered by employees with an intermediate qualification and only 16% with low qualifications. Looking up to 2050, the imbalance is even greater: the 2050 Plan that Moncloa presented last week aims to have –It is a prospective plan that indicates what its authors consider would be desirable– by the middle of the century, 17% of graduates in Higher Vocational Training and 30% who graduate at least in Baccalaureate or FP Media.
Thirty-some years have passed since his tutor suggested to Campanario that his choice be considered and Vocational Training has ceased to be the younger sister of academic education. But there is still a way to go. Although it is increasingly accepted, in some imaginary it is still seen as a worse solution than the University. The Government has proposed to give VET the impetus it needs to make it the same as what they have in other European countries. What it is, basically: a training-labor option with many exits and an employability rate of 80%, which is the same for starting work after two years as the first step on a path that can end in University. Europe is asking for it. The labor market, eager for middle and senior technicians, too.
It is equally true that this is not the first Executive to try to revalue the stage. There has been practically not one who has not tried it, with more or less enthusiasm. The last attempt, of the PP, went through the creation of the Dual FP, an idea well received by companies that, however, has not yet taken off. Barely 4.2% of face-to-face VET students are currently taking Dual VET, when the OECD average is 18%. When the Government approves the new VET law, the objective is for all students to take this modality, which includes more time for internships in companies (a minimum of 33% compared to the approximate 20% of the standard version).
The impulse that the Executive wants to give now is, perhaps, the most ambitious of how many there have beenAnd it has an advantage that other governments did not have: the injection of millions of euros of European recovery funds will allow the plan to be more than a declaration of intent. The Ministry of Education is going to allocate some 2,000 million euros, almost half of its extraordinary funds, to develop the new VET law that it is preparing and to try to correct one of the main deficits that the system has right now: the lack of places. The department of Celaá also has another element in its favor: the support of unions and employers, as was clear last Monday after the presentation of the Alliance for Vocational Training, which brings together administration, representatives of workers and employers in this attempt to promote Vocational Training.
That VET is growing, in numbers and in image, is a fact. So far this century, this training path has almost doubled its student body in all its stages. Just speaking of face-to-face training, Basic Vocational Training, created in the 2014-2015 academic year for students from 3rd year of ESO (exceptionally 2nd), has gone from 39,867 students the year it was implemented to 76,440 last year. The next stage, the Intermediate Degree FP, equivalent to the Baccalaureate, is on the way to doubling its student body: the 191,456 students in the 2000-01 academic year are today 336,374. Finally, the Higher Degree FP has already multiplied by two: from 185,051 students 20 years ago to 370,159 last year. To these 782,000 face-to-face students, it would be necessary to add just over 100,000 who are studying a distance module to reach the 891,505 enrolled in FP in Spain in 2019-2020.
This increase speaks of a stage that is gaining prestige, the professionals agree. “I think that the loss of prestige that I had has changed”, says Luis García Domínguez, president of the National Association of Vocational Training Centers FP Empresa, who points to the usually reviled Logse as responsible in part when establishing the stages (middle and upper) and training practices in companies. “It is a first-class teaching”, justifies this improvement in the image Professor Campanario.
And so the demand exceeds the supply. Every year several tens of thousands of young people are left out of Vocational Training throughout Spain. The past, 20,000 only in Madrid. And this is a problem, explains Ana Cobos, president of COPOE, the Spanish Confederation of Psychopedagogy and Guidance Organizations, which exceeds individual circumstances. “These students without a place in the Middle Grade, rather than staying at home, start to do the Baccalaureate. And if it is necessary to be aware to do the Baccalaureate in general, imagine the one who did not want to do it and does it because they did not have a place. It is going to go wrong for him, it is likely that he will end up dropping out, “explains this counselor.
For García this is one of the keys, and it is not in the public debate. “We need the educational and social system to improve the orientation of the professional career. How does a 9 or 10-year-old boy know what he wants to study? The family, the media and the networks influence a lot,” he argues, and raises questions that probably go beyond the educational or even political realm. “It is a very difficult fight. How do we change the image of what a happy or complete person is at work level? The roles that are presented in the media, cinema, in video games suggest that success is, for example, being a super lawyer. ” And remember the power of the media, also in the opposite direction: “When Masterchef started we had a rush of students [en los módulos de Cocina] brutal”.
The counselor Cobos agrees with García. “Orientation should start in Infant, not enter the life of a student at the moment in which he has to make the decision. It is a process that is related to the construction of a life project, and this must be started as soon as possible. Playing professions as a child, for example, and a vocational orientation “, he reflects. Because then what happens happens: some studies, somewhat outdated, say that dropout in the first year of middle grades is around 50%. Cobos also highlights the reverse situation: young people who go to high school to do something and end up leaving it. These cases speak, he reflects, of a choice that is at least questionable in both cases, probably because it was made with insufficient information.
Aware of the lack of places, the Government has been announcing for months that it is going to create 200,000 new places by 2023 (60,000 of them are already operational). Because FP, now, is having good press. Among the students, yes, with 93% of young people who consider it a good alternative to the University, according to a study by the Edlix Institute of the International University of La Rioja (UNIR). But, above all, among the business community, explains the director García. “Except for industrialists, employers who had no experience with VET also had this negative image, but they have already realized that it is better to hire an average VET graduate than someone else, for example a university graduate, who surely I had the highest expectations, that in the short term it will need a period of adaptation and in the long term it will probably be frustrated “, he reasons.
But, despite the fact that according to professionals it is on the right track, VET continues to present many shortcomings, a separate offer. The first of them, the usual one with Education in Spain. “We need to invest. That the FP is well equipped with the machinery and the necessary programs for the development of the activity that in the future the companies will ask us”, explains Professor Campanario. García adds: “VET covers all sectors, but in general most professions have a technical and technological component, which change at great speed. We have to be up to date.” In this statement, “being up to date”, also includes the training offer (specialties), which Education has been updating for months.
The other problem highlighted by the director of the FP Company Association is also common to Education in general: the famous ratios. “The future law should include a reduction, at least in the workshops,” asks Garcia. The pandemic also brought blendedness to this cycle, with all its negative elements, but it has also served so that teachers have seen what it is like to work with half the students. “Being able to guide, correct, monitor 15 students has nothing to do with being 30,” says García.
To all this (well, the ratios have not been discussed) he will try to remedy it with the new FP law that is currently being processed. Among the main novelties that the Executive intends to introduce is that the student who graduates in Basic Vocational Training (FPB) directly obtains the title of ESO (until now it has not done so), which will allow them to continue progressing through the system. The Executive also wants to change the structure of the training cycles. The idea, they explain from the ministry, is to move towards a “modular organization of teachings”, a bit in the style of the University, but also with a “variable duration” depending on the needs of each professional profile. The uniformity that all cycles are extended for two years with no exceptions is over.
This idea is also linked to the Government’s maneuver to unite under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education all VET: initial training and training for the employment of adults. “VET has to be open and react very quickly to the needs of the different sectors. If you have a certain qualification and you have become unemployed because your position was obsolete or because the company decides to do without you, and you have to re-qualify For an emerging sector, do you need to take a 2,000-hour course (what VET lasts currently)? Well, it is not bad, but if you are a parent, you cannot wait and, with previous work experience, with 500-700 hours you can give answers to the market “, closes García.