Remembering Stavros Stavrou, former Deputy Director of Cedefop

February 26th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this month I received the sad news from Thessaloniki, Greece. Stavros Stavrou, the former Deputy Director of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) had passed away. Many years have passed since we worked together in Cedefop, but the memories are still there.

We learned to know each other during the difficult period 1994 – 95, when Cedefop was to be relocated from Berlin (where it was launched in 1976) to Thessaloniki, Greece. I had just started in Berlin as a national seconded expert sent by the Finnish government (during the period when Finland was still a candidate member of the EU). Shortly after my arrival the new management – Director Johan van Rens and Deputy Director Stavros Stavrou started their term of office. From the earlier management only the second Deputy Director Enrique Retuerto continued during the transitional period.

As I remember it, the last year in Berlin was in many respects a turbulent time. The decision to relocate Cedefop (taken by the European Council – the summit of the EU in 1993) was a complete surprise for the Centre. In addition, the change of management caused a lot of uncertainty and anxiety – a major part of experts and other staff members were looking for other employment prospects in other EU services. Moreover, the decision to relocate Cedefop to Greece was a complete surprise for the Greek authorities.

At this point of time it was not easy for Stavros to step in as a newly elected Deputy Director. To be sure, he was already known to Cedeofp as  a prominent Greek expert in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Moreover, having studied in Germany, he had completed his doctoral studies in Berlin with a thesis that compared VET in Greece and Germany. But, the uneasy process of moving Cedefop from Berlin was surely very stressful for him – representing the Cedefop interests vis-à-vis the Greek authorities and explaining the Greek circumstances to other Europeans.

Somehow the difficult preparatory processes were managed and a considerably reduced contingent of Cedefop experts and staff members made the move to the temporary building at the American Farm School campus outside Thessaloniki. Moving from the centre of Brelin to such a peripheral location was quite a challenge. But the nice late summer weather in 1995 and the youth hostel -like intimacy of the temporary building brought the new settlers closer to each other. During this period Stavros and other Greek colleagues in Cedefop did all their best to help us settle down and become familiar with our new environment. Some of us were lucky with the search for a new apartment, others were not so happy and opted for alternative employment prospects in other EU services (in Brussels or Luxembourg).

The new start in Thessaloniki was difficult in many respects. Cedefop got firstly a temporary  building that was not so well equipped. (In the meantime the planning of the permanent building was on its way, but very slowly – siga siga, as the Greeks put it. The number of VET experts and administrative staff that moved to Thessaloniki was very small and it took quite a lot of time to recruit new ones. Therefore, Stavros had to stretch himself to multi-tasking – both regarding the supervision of the VET projects and regarding the monitoring of the contracting processes. So, during this time he may have sometimes appeared moody – launisch as the Germans put it. But, then we had several occasions to witness his sense of humour.

As I see it, Stavros was at his best when representing Cedefop and our work at other European arenas – like EU presidency conferences and the Advisory Forum of the European Training Foundation (ETF). He could then draw on the richness of the projects of that time and make use of his own VET-related expertise.

I personally had the chance to experience the human side of the friendly Stavros during the Kosovo war 1999. I and my daughter were worried of what was happening to the relatives of my son-in-law. Stavros contacted personally the Greek authorities to get information and found a contact person to keep us updated. I still remember the shining face of Stavros when we got the good news that the family had been safely evacuated to a third country.

Finally, when my time in Cedefop was coming to an end, Stavros invited me to a private send-off dinner. We wished each other all the best. It so happened that that was the last time that we met each other on privat terms.

Rest in peace, Stavros!

 

Remembering Hans-Dieter Höpfner

November 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today we heard the sad news that our former colleague (and long-time Visiting fellow of our institute ITB) Hans-Dieter Höpfner has passed away. To me this is striking, since I have just blogged about the historical events of 1989 (when the political system of former DDR collapsed) and of 1990 (when the two German states were unified). To me, my first encounter with Hans-Dieter was very much linked to these events. I first time met Hand-Dieter at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung in October 1990 in Magdeburg and got immediately acquainted with him. Then, with several irregular intervals our paths crossed time and again – and we were always happy to meet again and to catch up since the last time. Now, it is my turn to summarise my memories and to pay my respects to the nice colleague whom we have lost.

Meeting during the turbulent times of the year 1990

My first encounter with Hans-Dieter was a chance meeting. We were both participating in the Cedefop-led workshop at the conference in Magdeburg 1990 (Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung). I ended up being a last-minute addition to the program – as a speaker coming from the Nordic Countries, recommended by my earlier acquaintances from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) of West Germany. Hans-Dieter attended as one of the comparative and international researchers of the East-German Central Institute for Vocational Training (ZIB).

I was taking my first steps towards a career as a European and international researcher (coming from the remote Finland that was not yet an EU Member State at that time). Hans-Dieter was experiencing a rupture period – knowing that the institute for which he had worked would be closed and that he would not be one of those to get transferred to BiBB. So, there we were – two people with such different life situations – sitting next to each other during the workshop and then getting acquainted with each other. Already at that time I knew that Hans-Dieter would overcome the hard period and get along with the transition. What he told me about his background – being a specialist in psychology of work and work-related learning (and coming from the well-known Dresden-based school led by Winfried Hacker), I knew that he has the kind of expertise that is needed during the societal transformation of East Germany. This all turned out to be very true.

Meetings during the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe

Our next encounters were no longer such chance meetings but rather something to be expected. I had made further steps on my career path and had been sent in 1994 as a national seconded expert to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – at that time located in Berlin. In the meantime I had had cooperation with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) and I had learned of their involvement in an experimental innovation project (Modellversuch – MV) with dually qualifying apprentice training at the brown coal site Schwarze Pumpe. With this background knowledge I was eager to participate in the annual Workshop of the MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995. And there I met once again Hans-Dieter, who was part of the accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team together with Gerald Heidegger and Rainer Bremer who were old acquaintances from ITB. This event was inspiring since the apprentices from two trades were invited to present their joint working and learning project – constructing a fully working miniature model of the bricket-producing machine. This was a clear demonstration of participative, collaborative and shaping-oriented learning of the apprentices.

At a later phase Cedefop had been relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had got a temporary contract as an EU-employed project manager. In this capacity I had taken the task to monitor (or accompany) parallel EU-funded R&D projects with similar educational ideas and working concepts. From this perspective I was happy to include the projects Post-16 strategies and Intequal (both dealing with dually oriented qualifications) into my list of projects to be accompanied. And indeed, ITB was a partner in both projects with the MV Schwarze Pumpe as a national case (to be examined from different perspectives. So, I had the chance to visit the site Schwarze Pumpe time and again. Once I visited an interim conference that assembled several German innovation projects with focus on dually oriented qualifications. And the then with the concluding conference I had brought a European delegation to attend the conference and to have an international workshop on the theme of the innovation project. Every time I was pleased to catch up with Hans-Dieter.

Meetings as researchers affiliated with the  ITB

Later on, our paths went to somewhat different directions. During my last years in Cedefop I had less field visits and in 2002 I returned to Finland. Then, after some time, in 2005, I got a new chance to engage myself in European and international projects – now as a contracted researcher of ITB. In the meantime Hans-Dieter had found his way to international development aid projects as an expert on vocational education and training (VET). He had a remarkable experience with the societal transformation in East Germany and in adjusting the VET provisions to market economy.  With this know-how he was considered as a prominent expert by the development aid agencies of German-speaking countries that had projects in former Soviet republics.  And strangely enough, we had both been acknowledged with the status of Visiting fellow of ITB. (For me, this was only an interim phase, since I got employed by ITB, whilst for Hans-Dieter this was a matter of maintaining the working relation with ITB.)

So, once again we had our chances to catch up with Hans-Dieter, mainly during the annual meetings of the advisory board (Beirat) of the ITB. On such occasions we had the chance to refresh our memories of earlier times and inform each other of our newer activities. Hans-Dieter had experienced all kinds of things in the faraway countries in which he had worked and we were keen to learn more of his experiences. Also, he was interested to find out what we were doing and how we were doing – in Germany, in our EU projects and in our international projects.

And most of all, Hans-Dieter was popular as a story-teller – whatever the subject matter. For me, as a Finn, it was interesting that one of his favourite authors was the Finnish humourist Arto Paasilinna. It was such a pleasure to share impressions of Paasilinna’s writings – be it the Year of the Rabbit or the Nine Buildings or whatever.

Now we have lost the fine colleague, but his memory lives with us.

More blogs to come (with newer topics, I hope) …

 

 

 

 

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part Two: Reflections on the TACCLE projects

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post is a continuation of my previous post in which I gave a picture of my long-term cooperation with Jenny Hughes who sadly passed away last Sunday. When discussing different themes I mentioned that I would get back to the TACCLE projects in a separate post. This was not only due to the fact that the TACCLE projects have been the flagship projects in Jenny’s career and their continuation proves that they have been a success story. However important this may be alone, another argument is that I have authentic video material in which Jenny reflects the experience earlier TACCLE projects and outlines her plans for forthcoming projects. This discussion was recorded for another European project (Co-op PBL in VET) in 2012 but it was reused and republished couple of times in the context of the Learning Layers project. The introductory text below is based on my earlier blog of April this year. Let us give the floor for Jenny with this adapted text and the videos!

The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

The series of TACCLE projects started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that worked in 2008 and 2009. It prepared an E-learning handbook to support the e-learning competences of  classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. The  project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The most recent project – Taccle5 – focuses primarily on the field of vocational education and training (VET). As the following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

And the story goes on …

As I have indicated above, the series of Taccle project was continued to a somewhat different direction than anticipated in the video interview above. The next theme (and target group) to be picked up after the subject teachers in Taccle2 pointed out to be teaching coding in primary schools (Taccle 3). This was a clear response to new educational priorities at European and national levels. The theme ‘continuing professional development of teachers’ (Taccle4) was an urgent need because the resources of Taccle partners were not sufficient to meet the demand for Taccle courses. And finally, the field of VET was taken up in the Taccle5 project.

As we sense it from the videos, Jenny had put her heart and soul into the work in these projects. She learned a lot, how to bring these new competences to teachers in such a way that they became owners of their own learning. She also learned. how to meet the demands of the time. In Taccle1 it was necessary to work with hard copy book to get the teachers on board. In Taccle2 it was necessary to move to an online platform in order to manage the multiple contexts. In Taccle3 it was necessary to bring the coding specialists into work with teachers. All this required learning and mutual adjustment.

As I have said it earlier, we have lost Jenny but we have learned a lot of her and we can work further in the same spirit.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part One: Personal memories on our cooperation

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Sunday we got from Graham Attwell the sad news: Jenny Hughes has passed away. As we know it, Graham is a long-time friend of Jenny over decades. In his blog Graham has already given us a picture what all Jenny has been up to during the years they have known each other (see Graham’s recent blog post). I have also known Jenny and Graham quite some time – our cooperation dates back to the year 1996 when I started monitoring EU-funded cooperation projects as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Little did we anticipate, what all we would experience together in the years to come and what kind of initiatives we could bring forward. Below I try to cover some of the main themes with which we have worked together in the field of vocational education end training (VET). In this context I will try to give a picture, how Jenny has contributed to European networking and community-development through all these years.

Jenny training the trainers in Bau-ABC

Professionalisation of teachers, trainers and VET professionals altogether

The first time I met Jenny (and also Graham) in Bremen in January 1996 in the kick-off meeting of the European cooperation project “Europrof”. The project was initiated by Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen, but they chose to employ Graham as the coordinator. Jenny was representing the UK (Welsh) partner organisation. I was representing Cedefop – as an additional accompanying researcher. The aim of the project was to shape a new integrative framework for VET professionals – to overcome the divide between teachers (in school-based education) and trainers (in workplace-based training). The conceptual starting point inspired many European colleagues to join in at a later stage – as affiliated expert partners. However, the project had difficulties in working its way forward from a critical ‘state of the art analysis’ to a realistic change agenda that could be adjusted to different VET cultures. Yet, the work in the Europrof workshops prepared the grounds for a Europe-wide ‘invisible college’ and community-building process that was continued in other projects. In the beginning phase I remember that Jenny was critical about the ‘European English’ terminology that we (non-native English speakers) were using. It took some time for us to understand that we were not disagreeing on the underlying ideas but instead we were not aware of the connotative meanings in British English – that made our message weaker or diluted it altogether. Once we understood this, we were happy to work with Jenny on our side.

The Europrof project had tried to outline an integrative change agenda for promoting education and training for new VET professionals (covering the school-based and workplace-based VET). The successor projects tried to develop a differentiated approach – addressing teachers and trainers in VET as different target groups. The TTplus project (2006 – 2008) was initiated by Graham (now representing Pontydysgu and bringing Jenny with him). I joined this project as a freshman in ITB, based in Bremen. In this project we looked at the instances of change and interests that we could trace in different countries – in order to draw common conclusions. In this project Jenny provided insights into the training practices in Welsh organisations and outlined a framework for continuing professional development (for countries that did not have strong established frameworks at place).

A third phase of such European cooperation took shape in the European Consultation seminars 2007 -2008. The European Commission had decided to launch a consultation process based on six ‘regional’ workshops involving EU Member States and EFTA cooperation partners. The workshops had the task to bring different stakeholders to joint discussion on the role of European policies in promoting the professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET. The project was led by ITB and supported by Pontydysgu. In the light of the difficulties that we had experienced in previous projects it was of vital importance that Jenny was able to shape a set of interactive workshops that kept the participants busy in common discussion instead of getting stuck with institutional and systemic differences.

Here some of the key points of this workshop concept:

  1. Mapping of concerns of teachers and trainers: What are the issues – what are common to both, what are different? The issue cards were written and set on the wall – illustrating the sense of commonality or relative distance between teachers and trainers.
  2. Witness sessions: Participants reported of recent reforms in their countries and of current European projects that they perceived as innovative.
  3. Problem and Solution cards: Participants wrote on one side of the card a pressing problem and on the other side a possible solution. These were then discussed in groups.
  4. Mapping policies: On a matrix the participant groups were asked to indicate, what European policies do more and what less and what national policies should do more and what less.
  5. Taking a message home: Participants were asked to formulate their own conclusions as messages to take home.
  6. Self-evaluation of the workshop: Participants indicated on flipchart, what had worked well and what was less well in the workshop process – and the process could be improved.

During the workshops the participants worked mostly in mixed groups and language support was provided on demand. Also, at different phases of the process that participants changed groups. In this way the workshop stimulated cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge sharing on key issues and emerging initiatives. The participants emphasised the value of such process and hoped that it would be continued. Unfortunately the Commission services were expecting the process to deliver a Common European framework that would make such exchanges gradually redundant.

From ‘distance learning’ and ‘e-learning’ to the TACCLE projects

Another key theme for Jenny has been the promotion of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in e-learning – remote learning, open distance learning, multimedia learning, e-learning, technology-enhanced learning – whatever it has been called at different times. The major flagship projects in this context have been the TACCLE projects (I will get back to this in my next blog) and the related TACCLE courses. In these projects and in the supporting courses Jenny had the chance to shape handbooks, web-based support materials and workshops that brought the e-learning competences ‘home’ to the work of different teachers and trainers. As a personal memory I can refer to the Multimedia Training workshops that Pontydysgu and ITB organised together for the full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in Germany. The lively approach that Jenny radiated throughout the training made the construction sector trainers do their best to get something useful for them in their own work. At a later phase of the Learning Layers project these pioneering trainers served us the champions in introducing the digital toolset Learning Toolbox to their training. And later on they have served as peer tutors in their own organisation and multipliers in a wider context.

Networks, communities and real life wisdom

One important aspect in Jenny’s career has been her role in European networks and community-building processes. She may not have pushed herself into the representative positions but yet her contribution has been vital. I still remember the start of the European “Forum” network that was launched in 1995 as a ‘learning community’ for European researcher. This network tried to avoid premature institutionalisation. Instead, it developed a culture of regular thematic workshops – and included specific workshops for emerging researchers. Gradually, it became necessary to apply for funding and to develop a formalised structure for thematic knowledge development – and in this way the project-specific goals for producing publications in each work package took over the process dynamic. During this development Jenny was trying to maintain the culture of ‘learning community’ and resist the atomisation of the network.

Throughout her career Jenny has been remembered as an advocate of ‘real life wisdom’. She took seriously the challenges of academic knowledge development but at the same time she always work together with practitioners and supported their development. We have lost Jenny but her legacy inspires us from now on.

More blogs to come …

 

Remebering Curtis Finch – the American scholar in the VETNET network

January 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Couple of days ago we received the sad news from Blacksburg, Virgina: Curtis Finch, the American scholar with whom we have worked in the European VETNET network, had passed away. To those, who new Curtis more closely, this was not a surprise. He had been suffering from a severe illness for quite a long time. Yet, when the final message came, then we felt the loss – Curtis was a unique personality and we will miss him.

When looking back, I remember that I first time met Curtis at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the year 1996 in Sevilla, Spain. That was the pioneering conference in which the scattered European researchers in the field of vocational education and training (VET) came together to set up a common research network under the umbrella of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Curtis, a prominent American professor from the Virginia Tech and State University, was also there with us. He had already created his European networks and was happy to come to Sevilla to contribute to a symposium on School-to-work transition in different countries. And Curtis was also there, when Martin Mulder invited an open meeting in which the researchers agreed to set up the VETNET network (as the Network 2 of the EERA).

Later on I heard that Curtis had shared his experiences on the regulations and working patterns of the special interest groups (SIGs) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) with his European colleagues. In this way he had already positioned himself as an active supporter of the newly created network. Consequently, he was invited to work in the first VETNET Board, which he gladly accepted. Parallel to this, Curtis was actively involved also in the global organisation International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA). So, it is no coincidence that the papers of the above mentioned ECER symposium were published as a special issue of the IVETA journal. This happened long before the VETNET network could reach the point of publishing its own proceedings or launching its own journal.

During the 1990s Curtis was actively there in our conferences and fulfilled his duties in a quiet and effective way. At that time I worked at Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) with an emphasis on supporting European cooperation projects and ‘networking the networks’. Therefore, I could not always follow that closely what Curtis was up to. But whenever I met him, it was a positive encounter – whether on our European grounds or far away in Hong Kong (the IVETA world congress 2000).

The latest European cooperation initiative in which I remember that Curtis played a central role was a comparative study on the upgrading of Polytechnics into Universities of Applied sciences. Curtis, who himself had a vocational and professional background, was interested to find out, whether these aspects are going hand in hand or getting separated. In this initiative in which he worked in 1999 – 2000 he was comparing the developments in the United States, in Scotland, in the Netherlands and in Finland. (Unfortunately the years 2001 and 2002 were gap years in my participation in ECER, so I am not aware, how the initiative worked further.)

After those years Curtis had gone to retirement and was no longer participating in ECER. But, as I see it now, he was a role model for the non-European scholars who were interested in knowledge sharing on research and development in the field of VET. And his example has been followed by many colleagues from different global regions. Today we see that this has borne fruit in the VETNET network and in the International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET). Although Curtis couldn’t witness these latest developments with us, I am sure that he would have enjoyed the progress we have made.

Farewell Curtis, your memory lives with us!

Remembering Juhani Kirjonen and our cooperation – Jussin muistolle

November 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday morning I got from Finland the sad news that my former boss, professor Juhani Kirjonen – Jussi, as we used call him – had passed away. It so happened that his life span came to end just one month before Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence. To me, there is another striking coincidence with the news of Jussi. At the end of October I had just written out my memories of the period that I had worked together with Jussi at the University of Tampere in the years 1986-1987.

At that time Jussi took the initiative to develop a post-graduate Master programme with focus on ‘Work Sciences’ (interdisciplinary consortium for research on working life). This was an interesting pilot initiative to engage researchers into cooperation with practitioners – HRD professionals, Health and Safety professionals, Training professionals. The aim was to get the participants shape developmental projects with conceptual and methodological support. Jussi, who had a long track record in interdisciplinary research on health and safety issues in working life, was convinced that the time was ripe for such a novelty – at that time there were hardly any postgraduate Master programmes in Finland (except the worldwide spread MBA programmes).

Jussi had got funding for a planning project from the Ministry of Education and the rector of the University of Tampere had set up an interdisciplinary planning committee consisting of researchers from different faculties and of external experts from the competent bodies for Health and Safety. In the year 1986, just after graduating as an MA from educational and social sciences, I started as the curriculum planner for this initiative. That period – one and a half year – was quite an adventure for both of us. We didn’t take this just as a ‘local’ curriculum initiative but as an intellectual mobilisation to get a better institutional backing for research on working life. From this point of view I was exploring also international models and made a lot of use of the German innovation programme “Humanisation of Work” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also I provided information on the German debates on integrative approaches to ‘work sciences’ (Fürstenberg: Konzeption integrativer Arbeitswissenschaft) and on the efforts to bring conflicting views from ergonomy vs. work psychology together. This work with literature was important for my further career development.

Alongside the planning work Jussi and I had several contacts with other interested researchers and with Social Partners. Also, after we had submitted the final report, we got involved in the discussion on launching a special research unit for research on working life. In that phase the initiative to set up a postgraduate Master programme got sidelined. Instead, the idea of a new interdisciplinary “Work Research Centre” got wide support and a this new centre was set up in record time bypassing all other earlier priorities of the university. However, in this final phase other researchers got the lead and Jussi retreated and took other duties. For me the new centre provided new opportunities to work in the research field “education and working life” and to create new international contacts – firstly in the joint initiatives of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and then with German research institutes – in particular with ITB. And this then brought me deeper to European cooperation in the field of vocational education end training (VET). And from 1994 on I worked several years in Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).

– – –

Looking back, I could not have dreamed of making such career steps without the pioneering work with the curriculum planning initiative with Jussi. Also, during that period I enjoyed his strong support. Surely – there were also periods when we were not quite on the same page. But, what was more important, we got over those periods and we were happy to conclude our work with a good spirit. And, although the launch of the Work Research Centre was not a direct follow-up of our initiative, something of the good spirit was taken over during the ‘golden’ pioneering years. Therefore, I feel the loss of my former supervisor, but at the same time I am thankful for having experienced that interesting period of work with him.

Jussin muistoa kunnioittaen

 

Remembering Emma and her life-work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we got the sad news that our former colleague and Bremen-based friend Emma had passed away. She was never a person for great publicity or to make a great show of herself. On the contrary – she wanted to stay at the backstage without making fuss of herself, but always ready to help the others. Therefore, I just call her by her first name – to respect her privacy also now after she is gone. (The ones who knew her, are aware of whom I am writing – others will get a picture of a respectable person, even if they didn’t learn to know her.)

I firstly learned to know Emma when she joined ITB to support the Europrof project in the mid-1990s. The project was an ambitious transnational project that sought to reform the training of VET professionals with emphasis on ‘social shaping’ of work, technology and work environment. In this context the partners sought points of intervention and supporting ideas, how to bring innovations into move. Then, after this project Emma worked for the Forum network to bring together different thematic sub-nets (on changing institutions, changing labour markets, changing organisations, changing vocational identities etc.) to common work processes. Later on, she was also supporting some other ITB projects of which I have less information.

Emma had a degree from her home country but having entered Germany as an expatriate she was very modest about it. So, she preferred to work as an administrative assistant rather than looking for a a more visible role. Yet, her presence as a colleague was sensed when she was involved – and missed when she was not there.

Later on Emma chose to take another perspective for her life and withdraw from the work in our projects. This was a very private matter and therefore I will not go further with this topic. All I need to say is that in the new role that Emma opted for herself she was 100% present and even more.

Every now and then we managed to meet with friends of old from the European projects and it was always a pleasure to me and to others. Sometimes we also had the chance to experience, what kind of great cook she was.

Recently, when great numbers of refugees came to Germany – and also to Bremen – Emma engaged herself in teaching German language to refugees. As an expatriate who had learned the language fluently, she was in a good position to assess what kind of difficulties the newcomers were facing.

Emma was still young and active when she was hit by the disease that took her life. We all feel sorry for the loss of such a person and express our condolences to her beloved ones. I hope that the musical greetings of the grande mama Mercedes Sosa and her fellow artists (see the links below) pass a message to them! (And I hope that the videos are not littered by inappropriate commercials.)

Mercedes Sosa – Razón De Vivir

Mercedes Sosa – O Que Será

Mercedes Sosa – Jamás Te Olvidaré

Remembering David Raffe and his life-work – a special issue of Journal of Education and Work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In February 2015 we received the sad news that professor David Raffe, a prominent educational sociologist and key actor in European vocational education and training (VET) research had passed away. At that time I wrote a blog in which I remembered his contribution to European projects and to the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Shortly afterwards David’s closest colleagues contacted my with the idea to prepare a special issue of a journal to highlight David’s work and the legacy he has left.

Now, after some time has passed since that communication, our work has been completed and the results have been published as

 Journal of Education and Work, 2017 VOL . 30, NO . 7

The special issue provides insights into David’s fields of work and into his contributions to the research communities as well as to dialogue between researchers and policy makers. And the very special way in which David engaged himself in these activities is reflected in the headings of the articles, such as the following:

Bridging divides – social science, educational policy and the improvement of education and training systems: an appreciation the contribution of David Raffe (1950–2015) by Cathy Howieson, Ken Spours and Michael Young

To know ourselves? Research, data and policy-making in the Scottish education system by Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

English exceptionalism re-visited: divergent skill strategies across England and Scotland by Ewart Keep

What does it mean to conduct research into qualifications frameworks? by Stephanie Allais

This was not a complete table of contents but a sample of articles with headings that remind me of David’s way to tackle issues and problems very deeply – not accepting simple interpretations and seemingly obvious solutions.

My contribution to this special issue had the following title

Learning from Europe and for Europe with David Raffe – insights into early years of European cooperation in vocational education and training research

I hope that this heading speaks for the content and for the memories of David as a fellow colleague and a fellow European in the exercise of learning from each other and contributing to knowledge development at the European level.

I am pleased to see that this piece of work is now available and that we have managed to give insights into David as a person, into his work and into the legacy he has left.

More blogs to come …

Rainer Bremer in Memoriam

March 6th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of January we received the sad news that our ITB and VETNET colleague Rainer Bremer had passed away after a difficult phase with severe illnesses. Three days ago he would have celebrated his 65th birthday, but now he is gone. It has taken some time to get my thoughts together on this fact. After all, I have known Rainer since 1993 when I was still working as a junior researcher in Finland and building contacts with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung, University of Bremen). Shortly afterwards I changed to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and in that contexts worked together with several EU-funded projects – and Rainer was involved in some of them. Then, from 2005 I have been working in ITB and Rainer has been one of veterans of ITB who continued all these years with national, European and international projects.

Below I try to bring together some memories of Rainer from different phases of our research careers. In particular I would like to focus on our encounters in project work and in the many ECER events (European Conference on Educational Research) in which Rainer was prominently present from the early years on.

Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and other similar pilot projects

I learned to know Rainer shortly after he had started in ITB and in the accompanying research team of the pilot project Schwarze Pumpe (wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe). This pilot project focused on promoting dually oriented qualifications – acquisition of regular vocational qualification and university entrance qualification (Fachhochschulreife) – without extension of education and training time. Rainer was responsible for accompanying the school part of the pilot, Hans-Dieter Höpfner for the workplace part, and Gerald Heidegger for the management of the accompanying research altogether.

During my first years at Cedefop I had the pleasure to attend some of the interim events of this pilot. In particular I was impressed by the integrated projects that some teams of vocational school teachers and in-company trainers had planned together – involving apprentices from different trades. And I was pleased with the way that the accompanying researchers brought these pedagogic achievements forward. In particular this was the case with nation-wide conference of similar German pilot projects, coordinated by MV Schwarze Pumpe. It struck me that Rainer (from West-Germany) and Hans-Dieter (from East-Germany) could bring together pilot projects that highlighted best practice from West and East (relatively shortly after the German unification).

European projects on parity of esteem and dually oriented qualifications

In the first phase of the EU action programme for vocational education – Leonardo da Vinci – the themes ‘parity of esteem between general and vocational education’ and ‘integrated qualifications’ were high on the priority lists. Therefore, it was no wonder that the MV Schwarze Pumpe was represented in two Leonardo projects:

  • The project “Post-16 strategies” compared different systemic/institutional strategies for promoting attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) and reducing the status gaps between VET and general education. The project came up with a mapping result that identifies four main strategies from institutional unification (intergerated upper secondary education) to enhancement of VET within existing institutional frameworks.
  • The project “Intequal” provided insights into different curricular models or schemes that promoted integration of general/academic and vocational learning. This project sought to give insights into the possibilities to integrate the parallel learning cultures at the level of practical pedagogic solutions.

During their work the two projects developed close cooperation with each other – and ITB (with MV Schwarze Pumpe as its exemplary case) was prominently present in this cooperation. Rainer and Gerald rotated with each in the meetings and were involved in the bilateral study visits of ‘Post-16 strategies’ (that involved practitioners from Germany and Norway to mutual visits on each others’ pilot venues). Also, I remember the discussions in which Rainer explained to other partners the meaning of the concept ‘Beruflichkeit’ (and the kind of vocational professionalism to which it refers in German education, training and working cultures). Somehow, all other colleagues had failed to go that deep into cultural core concepts. At the end of the day the concluding event of the MV Schwarze Pumpe incorporated also a Cedefop-hosted European seminar in which the European partners could familiarise themselves with the results of the German pilot project.

The classical ITB pilot projects (Modellversuche) GoLo, GAB and GaPa

Partly parallel to the above mentioned projects, partly after them ITB experienced a period of outstanding pilot projects (Modellversuche – MV) in the context of or parallel to national innovation programs:

  • The first one in the series was MV GoLo in the Wilhelmshaven region. It tried to turn the declining tendency in providing apprentice training by encouraging the companies and vocational schools to launch workplace learning partnerships. However, alongside the organisational innovations that made such cooperation attractive, the project supported joint domain-specific workshops to promote quality of vocational curricula and mutual adjustment. In this context the workshops highlighted the role of characteristic working and learning tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben). Rainer was not personally involved in the GoLo project but he was keenly involved in the further develoment work with the concept ‘working and learning tasks’.
  • The second one in the series was MV GAB that was implemented at different production sites of Volkswagenwerk. It had the task to develop a new integrative framework for occupational core qualifications and competences for the automotive industries. Rainer was in charge of the accompanying research team and took further steps in developing the concept of Expert-Worker-Workshops (Ex-Wo-Wos) and the curricular embedding of working and learning tasks.
  • The third one, the regional MV GaPa in Nordrhein-Westfalen can be seen as a transfer-project that was built upon the regional networking approach of GoLo and on the pedagogic work in the GAB project. Rainer was in charge of the first phase of the project before moving to other tasks.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the wording ‘outstanding’ does not necessarily mean that all these pilots were success stories – or that successful practice in the pilot contexts would have been easily transferable to other contexts. Yet, they represented a phase of intensive concept development work that had an impact on many successor activities. Moreover, I need to add that Rainer had also other research interests at that time. He was developing cooperation between ITB and our friends in Oldenburg on school-to work transition. And I still remember that he had a project on integration of disadvantaged learners in VET in the area of Braunschweig.

European cooperation with projects focusing on trans-national production of Airbus and Volkswagen

After the above mentioned pilot projects Rainer worked with a new generation of pilot projects that focused on the trans-national production process of Airbus and the role of vocational education and training. Firstly there was a conceptual study EVABCOM (a conceptually and methodologically oriented forerunner project cooperation between ITB, the French CEREQ and the University of Stirling). Then two trans-national projects – AEROnet and Aero-VET brought into picture trans-national partnerships that covered the countries in which Airbus had production (Germany, France, Spain, UK). The point of interest was the contradiction between the fact that Airbus had a mutually coordinated production process BUT the VET cultures in the participating countries remained different. As I have understood it, the consortium focused in the first project on analysing the working and learning tasks of apprentices in different countries. In the second project the consortium explored the usability of European credit transfer framework (ECVET) across the countries. (Here I am not going into details of the projects or into the results – I just want to give a picture of different milestones during Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher.)

Parallel to the start of the Airbus-project Rainer had also worked with the VW Group sites in Czech Republic and Slovakia (producing Skoda) – introducing Expert-Worker-Workshops to the new sites of the VW Group. So, Rainer was working on several international fronts. And alongside his project-related cooperation he was keen on developing the bilateral relations between ITB and CEREQ (the French national centre for research on VET and labour market).

Rainer, ECER and the VETNET community

As has been indicated above, Rainer was involved in several transnational projects and consortia. Therefore, it was natural that he was also prominently present in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). In particular I remember his project-related contributions to ECER 2004 in Crete (the VW-Group pilots and the development of Expert-Worker-Workshops) and the subsequent AEROnet and Aero-VET related symposia in the ECER conferences after Crete.

But Rainer was also engaged as a keynote speaker and/or as a keynote panelist in the opening colloquia of the VETNET network at some ECER conferences. In particular in 2004 (in Crete) Rainer was the keynote speaker to start discussion on the question: “Should the field of VET have an international PISA study of its own kind?” There, Rainer defended the ITB position that there should be an alternative to PISA that pays attention to vocational learning and to vocational progression routes. The other panelist, Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu presented a fundamental critique of the methodology used in PISA studies and of the PISA apparatus itself. Unfortunately the two positions couldn’t be matched with each other in the discussion – although they both represented an alternative approach vis-à-vis the official PISA. But the debate – moderated by the VETNET program chair Nikitas Patiniotis – was intensive and inspiring.

In ECER 2006, in Geneva, Rainer was also involved in the VETNET opening colloquium. This time the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder had invited the grand old man of Swiss VET research, professor Rolf Dubs to present a keynote lecture on recent developments in Swiss VET policies and research. And as discussants, responding to the keynote speech, Barbara had engaged Annie Boudér from CEREQ and Rainer Bremer from ITB. Without going into details of that session it is worthwhile to note that ITB (in general) and Rainer (in particular) were interested in learning more of the Swiss VET culture in which apprentice training was valued much higher than in several other European countries. Also, Rainer was keen to learn more about the French concept ‘Baccalaureate professionelle’ which was considered asa successful model in opening a vocational progression route after the initial VET.

Rainer, the uneasy intellectual and independent thinker

I guess that I have already covered the main milestones of Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher (at least the ones of which I have personal memories). However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t characterise Rainer as a special personality – more than just a colleague among others. Firstly, Rainer was an academic scholar with a manifold background in philosophy, social theory and educational sciences. Secondly, Rainer had seriously worked himself in into the field of research in VET and working life – and he valued this context greatly. Thirdly, he was a critical thinker through and through – or as the Germans express it: “mit Ecken und Kanten”. So, Rainer was always looking for deep insights – something solid to build upon. And he was never satisfied with halfway thought platitudes that had not gone through critical examination. Also, he was very clear about his priorities – and on what he didn’t include to them. Yet, he had always his intellectual curiosity and his intellectual humour with him – as fellow travellers. And many colleagues remember his manifold cultural interests – literature and poetry, music from classic to pop and jazz, photography – and not to forget: driving fast with his favourite Citroen car.

Finally, I have chosen a piece of music which could be related to his memory: George Dalaras singing the melody of Mikis Theodorakis “Old streets” in the open-air concert on Athens Acropolis to celebrate the 70th birthday of the composer. (Please note that I am not responsible for eventual advertisements popping up with the link.)

We miss Rainer but we will remember, what he stood for.

Farewell Rainer, we will carry on …

 

Remembering David Raffe

March 4th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago we received the sad news that David Raffe, professor of Sociology of Education at the University of Edinburgh had died unexpectedly. For us David was a colleague who had been very strongly present during the early years of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) and the early phase of the VETNET network (for research in Vocational Education and Training). Also, many of us had worked together with him in European projects and conferences. For us he was not just one of the colleagues but a person from whom we learned a lot in many respects. Therefore, it is appropriate stop for a moment to remember David.

We have already prepared a joint text in the name of the VETNET network and sent it to the University of Edinburgh to be included in their condolence book and we have sent it out via the VETNET mailing list. In this process the veterans of VETNET who had known David for years (like Sabine, Johanna, Martin, Graham and Karen) shared views with those who joined VETNET later and had less chances get acquainted with him. We all were hit by the news and we felt that we want to share our memories with the community. During this process several personal memories came to my mind. Here I would like to share some of them shortly.

My first encounter with David was at the pilot-ECER in Enschede, the Netherlands, in June 1992. I was participating as a relatively young researcher, just entering the European arenas. David was there as a well-known scholar and as one of the keynote speakers of the whole conference. He put into discussion the issue :”Is modularisation becoming a common currency in European education and training?” I still remember the way he started to explore different concepts of flexibility that were attached to modularisation as well as different prospects for progression and growth of knowledge. He also drew our attention to main effects and side effects of reforms and alerted us of one-sided views (affirmation vs. rejection). Altogether, he gave us a lesson, how to avoid easy answers and how to get deeper into the complexity of reform processes.

Later on I had the chance to observe the work of a European project (“Post-16 strategies”) in which England and Scotland were participating as different countries. This project avoided the pitfall of getting different systems into competition with each other. Instead, the partners tried to identify, what kind of strategies for promoting parity of esteem (between general and vocational learning) have success chances in their countries – and how they can learn from each other. To me it was striking that the ‘big names’ assembled in this project accepted the role of contributors instead of claiming the leadership for themselves. Here, David was a good contributor. As an annexed event I had the chance to witness a session of an Anglo-Scottish comparative project in which English and Scottish researchers were in genuine dialogue on recent developments in their respective countries.

A third memory is related to my former employer Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) shortly after it had moved from Berlin to Thessaloniki. Cedefop was in the process of new start and repositioning and was re-establishing its contacts to different stakeholders. The Management Board had a special session in which Commissioner Edith Cresson was attending. David was invited as a representative of the research community to discuss the development policies in vocational education and training (VET) and the role of Cedefop. To me it seemed that David’s speech was very helpful in creating an air of listening to and learning from research (rather than assigning researchers as sub-contractors to promote given policy priorities).

Later on we realised that David was putting priority on working in Scotland – or on comparisons between England & Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Here again, he could surprise us with findings on unexpected diversity – brought together with common language and seemingly common vocabulary.

Now that we have shared the news of David’s death we have received several reactions from colleagues of old from different parts of Europe – Alan from England, Eduardo from Portugal, Georg from Germany, Jose Luis from Spain, Sören from Denmark … We all have come together with our thoughts to remember David and to respect his life work.

Rest in peace, David

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