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Summer Logistics School / Simultra project: Facing weaknesses of Vocational Education and Training (VET)

A relevant evolution and in certain ways and certain places even a revolution of Vocational Education and Training is ongoing in Europe. This has been generated by very different factors and trends of the European and Global economic, political and industrial system.

In a number of countries an updating and renewing of the VET system was urgent because of the bad conditions of the labour market, e. g. in Italy and Spain. Here, the Dual System of German inspiration was largely introduced but has led to difficulties in the acceptance and launch of a similar methodology. In countries where this system is new, schools are not ready to organize large internship periods, while learners do not own the necessary social and technical skills and companies are not always willing to welcome students for short internship periods where the benefits are lower than the effort.

At the same time, the increasing deploying of a European Labour Market led to the need and the will of the countries and the Union to enhance the mobility of workers, as well as of learners, in order to promote the exchange of competences and best practices, and as a consequence, increasing the competitiveness of the overall European industrial and training system. Moreover, the social and cultural value of such process must be mentioned: It does not only consist in an exchange of skills, but also of culture and lifestyles, a basic aspect for creating one single Europe.

Another aspect to be taken into account, and that has partially already mentioned with reference to the Dual System’s introduction, is the global economic crisis. Indeed, the crisis and the subsequent reduction of job opportunities, especially in some countries and sectors, caused an impressive growth of the youth unemployment rate, and therefore the need of facilitating their employability.

The EC strategies and projects, as well as national ones, are facing such trends and dynamics, developing solution for increasing quality, innovation and attractivity of training, such as solutions for Work-Based Learning. Other than that, facilitating employability, a job-oriented training methodology assures efficiency during work placement and internship, allowing the companies to benefit of such initiatives thanks to the contribution provided by the trainees, as well as allowing the learner to fully adopt the role of a worker and to be part of the operational processes.

The “Erasmus+” project “Summer Logistics School” aims at organizing an innovative and attractive training course in Portorose (Slovenia), at the Maritime Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. Within the project, both a training needs analysis among companies and an analysis of the current strengths and weaknesses of the Italian, Slovenian, Croatian and French 4th EQF level curricula addressed to the Transport and Logistics sector were performed.

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On one hand, what emerges from the training needs analysis is a lack of skills by the learners getting the technical and vocational diploma, especially with reference to carrying out practical daily tasks. Indeed, while knowledge as well as logics are well known, the weaknesses are related to the concrete execution of the operational processes linked to the job. In particular, this is valid for the planning and organization of transport missions and the management of transport contracts and regulations, as well as the use of management systems for ware-houses.
However, another aspect highlighted by the companies is probably even more relevant, as it is common to many or all the European countries, also those (such as Germany) in which VET is highly innova-tive and developed: the lack of social skills, or, at the least, the need to be trained on social skills, as emerging from a Seminar held by the German National Agency for Erasmus+. Importance of the job place, the way of presenting themselves, commitment in the job, resistance to stress, time pressure in some sectors such as logistics, care of the brand, tone of the voice, as well as the way of dressing, speaking and behaving, plus punctuality and respect for workers are all values that seem not to be common among the young learners and workers. Moreover, such social skills are of increasing importance in a context in which Mobility is growing and therefore learners and workers need to be ready to face other social and cultural contexts and values, in the private life as well as on the job.
On the other hand, schools complain about a lack of tools and solu-tions for carrying out concrete and practical exercises and case stud-ies, which would reduce the gap between knowledge, theory and dai-ly tasks on the job place. In some cases, another issue is lack of con-tinuous training of teachers, who must be updated on new trends, innovations and processes within the companies. For all the above-mentioned reasons, the first edition of the Summer Logistics Schools will offer six short but specific, intensive and innovative training modules: Maritime and Intermodal Process Simulation, Warehousing and Data Processing, Transport Organization, Transport Regulation, Applying Soft Skills, “Fresh Products” Supply Chain.
Other than the University of Ljubljana, project partners are ITL – Insti-tute for Transport and Logistics (IT), AFT – Association for the devel-opment of training in Transport (FR), the University of Zagreb (CR) and 7 secondary schools.
The training modules will be inspired by the need to enhance Work-Based Learning, one of the main objectives of the European Commis-sion throughout the Erasmus+ programme. Indeed the methodology will lay on the practical experiences, companies’ software, real case studies and visits, plus simulations. The latter will be available thanks both to the University of Ljubljana, and to another EU project in which ITL and AFT, together with the University of Antwerp, the Cen-tre for VET of the Aragon Region (CIFPA), the Freight Village of Parma (CePIM) and two software houses are involved (POLIEDRA, GRUB SO-LUTIONS): the SIMULTRA project (Simulation of Logistics and Transport processes). Six simulators are under realization, referring to six opera-tional processes: planning a Supply Chain and calculating the related costs, planning port equipment and resources, managing a rail-road terminal, using a Warehouse Management Software, planning a transport mission, carrying out customs procedures.