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Skills and Smart Specialisation - The role of Vocational Education and Training in Smart Specialisation Strategies

Vocational Education and Training (VET) can play a much bigger role in Smart Specialisation Strategies than has so far been considered. This is because VET encompasses skill development as well as innovation diffusion and applied research – which together can have a more direct impact on sustainable economic growth, especially of less developed regions. VET also contributes to addressing the demographic challenges which Europe faces, responding to the needs for re-skilling and up-skilling through nonformal training and at different levels of formal VET. Indeed, VET is now offered by institutions across the post-secondary and short-cycle tertiary education landscape, corresponding to forecasts that predict a growing number of jobs in occupations requiring higher level of skills. Taking into account the existing differences across the EU, these ongoing demographic, labour market and technological changes present considerable challenges and opportunities for VET in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse cohort of learners of all ages and backgrounds, and the regions in which they are located.
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Abstract

The Smart Specialisation approach has been part of EU regional innovation policy since 2010 and yet the role of skills and vocational education and training in implementing Smart Specialisation Strategies has only recently attracted attention. Despite being raised in earlier policy documents, it was the 2017 Communication on Strengthening Innovation in Europe's Regions, drawing on experience of implementing Smart Specialisation in practice, which illustrated its significance for regional innovation policy. In the proposals for Cohesion Policy post 2020, education and skills for innovation are important priorities. Therefore, this technical report is timely since it explores trends in Vocational Education and Training (VET), looks at where it has contributed to Smart Specialisation in specific cases, and highlights elements to consider in regional strategies.