Cedefop’s 40th anniversary theme is ‘Old roots for new routes’. It celebrates not only Cedefop as an organisation, but also the development of European cooperation and its contribution to improving vocational education and training. Progress has been due to people who had a vision of how VET should respond to the challenges of the future. Cedefop came into being because of the vision of Maria Weber and her colleagues on the European Economic and Social Committee in the 1970s, who understood the importance of VET and how European cooperation could improve it.

Over the past 40 years, that vision has been adapted and strengthened through political commitments, action programmes and voluntary cooperation between the European Commission, Member States and social partners, supported by Cedefop’s expertise. That vision has nurtured many achievements, including the development of lifelong learning, common European tools in VET and the first pan-European skill supply and demand forecasts.

Cedefop began its work in 1975, in what was then West Berlin. In some ways the world was very different. In 1975, no one believed that in less than 20 years the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union and the Cold War would be gone; and no one expected a European Economic Community of nine Member States to become a European Union of 28. No one predicted Cedefop moving to Thessaloniki in 1995, a city that has become its established home. But some things do not change. Economic uncertainty and high unemployment, particularly among young people, have been constant concerns over the past 40 years. The knowledge that Europe’s prosperity depends on the skills and ingenuity of its people is as true now as it was in 1975; perhaps today we understand that better. ‘Old roots for new routes’ is a story about events and people. European VET policy and Cedefop’s contribution to it, is the product of the work
of representatives of the European Commission, Member States, social partners, the staff and Governing Board members of Cedefop, and colleagues from other European institutions and agencies, researchers and practitioners over the past 40 years.

The challenges of the 21st century require a new vision and new approaches to learning for work. It falls to the current generation to debate, agree and implement its vision for European VET. This is a task made more important
as, following a grave economic crisis, Europe searches for a clear road to sustainable economic recovery. In this they can draw inspiration from the past and should regard the considerable achievements of European cooperation
in VET to date as just the beginning.

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