HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE VSPORT+ CONFERENCE
On 24th and 25th of February 2014, 64 participants from 20 countries gathered in Wembley Stadium for the VSPORT+conference.
Entitled « Developing skills and mobility pathways: a key for sport to contribute to Europe’s growth and development” this International conference was organised by the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) and co-hosted by SkillsActive UK
The aim of the organisers was not only to gather a mix of stakeholders with different background, but also to create the conditions for exchanges and networking, to ensure a wider awareness raising of the VSPORT+ project – which stands for “A cross-sectoral Valorisation Framework for the Lifelong Learning Strategy in Sport”- a 29 months (Nov 2011 / March 2014) project funded by the European Commission.
The international conference organised in Wembley was considered as the final closing event of this project and built upon one simple pillar: the valorisation of the innovative 7 Step Model (or Lifelong Learning Strategy for the Sport and Active Leisure sector). Through a mix of plenary sessions and round table discussions, participants were given the opportunity to explore together different pathways to build bridges between the worlds of education and employment in sport. The event was indeed an opportunity to present some information about the opportunities of funding provided through the new Erasmus+ programme as well as the latest activities and EU policy developments, some concrete national case studies, and to exchange views on the main education and training challenges the sector is currently facing as well as concrete opportunities and suggestions for the development of its workforce.
After having presented the sector, its potential and main challenges in education and training, a special attention was given to the so called innovative “7 step model” which has been at the heart of the VSPORT+ project. The project and its expected outcomes were then presented. National Ambassadors confirmed that the first crucial step of the process was to raise awareness on the 7 step approach to a maximum number of key stakeholders to make them aware of the methodology and convince them of the importance to use the model to modernise the existing education systems. Dissemination activities carried out through European Sport Federations and at the International level in Australia and New-Zealand were also underlined and presented to the audience.
It was also pointed out that if the sport and active leisure sector is to deliver its full potential, addressing the significant schism between higher education, VET and the labour market should be at the heart of our strategy for the sector. Indeed keynote speakers, including Olympic Games medallist Claudia Bokel and senior officials from the European Union institutions, Cedefop Director James Calleja and Bart Ooijen from the European Commission Sport Unit, put a strong emphasis on the potential of sport in increasing people’s employability. They however also pointed out the weakness of the sector so far when dealing with the recognition of learning outcomes. Fact is by now it is still rather difficult to emphasise the skills and competences acquired through sport and to have a clear career pathway through the sector not even mentioning mobility between European countries. This can mainly be explained by the absence of a comprehensive transfer of learning as well as the lack of dialogue between the world of education and employment. That’s the reason why participants were invited to rethink education, develop work-based learning and world-class VET.
The round table discussion and the networking breaks provided some concrete opportunities for participants to exchange with the wide diversity of stakeholders and to apprehend the various education and sport national systems, the different national cultural and historical backgrounds of the sector.
The 7 step model was praised for what it really is: a flexible approach/framework/roadmap for action rather than a one size fit all model and in that sense was approved by all participants. Transcending the cultural barriers, the conference concluded with a pragmatic call for action endorsed by all the participants who agreed the crucial need to seek for a new level of cooperation between the worlds of education and work in and for the sport and active leisure sector in Europe.
Many pathways and concrete opportunities were examined to further contribute to the development of the sector’s workforce and provide a follow-up of the VSPORT+ project. It is now in our hands, all of us, to explore these opportunities, create the conditions for collaboration and ensure a long lasting legacy through and for the sector.
Employability, mobility, recognition, quality insurance, learning outcomes, innovation, transfer of knowledge, mismatch… these are undoubtedly some of the conference key words.
Trying to encompass the richness of the debates and the 2 day conference in a single article is not an easy task and these few words are far from giving the tour given and the level of cooperation and involvement that was to be felt in the Wembley pitch-view room.
The 64 participants were not spectators but truly actors of the game. Yet the stadium was far for being full… there is enough room for all stakeholders to take a sit and you are all invited to join us in this effort to ensure the sport and active leisure can deliver its full potential. We believe in a collaborative win-win approach for the sector and are looking forward to hear from you.