A STUDY in 2009 sponsored by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) identified a range of emerging challenges to the vocational education training (VET) sector including an increase in administrative tasks and responsibilities, the individualisation of learning, supporting learner autonomy, the significance of networking, and the expansion of responsibilities relating to quality assurance. The study particularly noted an increased administrative burden, which is taking time away from training development and innovation and also the growing importance of networking with outside organisations.
The lack of international cooperation was of particular concern to Cedefop, and one of its recommendations is the need to devote efforts to internationalise VET institutions and other training organisations.
The International Union of Railways (UIC) has also been championing international training and research projects through its Expertise Development Platform (EDP). This includes international development programmes such as Siafi, which provides structured development in international railway business, training sessions on ERTMS and high-speed rail systems, and the UIC's network for talented youth.
In addition, UIC is organising through EDP its third World Congress on Rail Training in Lisbon in April. This will be attended by over 170 of the world's leading railway training and development executives and will promote sharing of best practice, as well as highlight research findings and identify emerging training technologies.
EDP has an active research stream and has experienced considerable success in piloting a process to develop railway trainers by sharing best practice and expertise. Two recent workshops have been held in Amersfoort, Netherlands, and at Network Rail's newest training centre in York for signalling trainers. The workshops were received positively by both trainers and their management and there are early signs of delivering both commercial and quality-of-product benefits through this process. EDP now intends to roll out this industry approach to international collaboration to other railway industry disciplines later this year.
EDP is also facilitating the exchange of best practice in training and development through specialist workshops. A recent workshop on train driver simulation held in Moscow by the UIC Asia-Pacific section was attended by representatives from railways in 15 countries. Again, the workshop provided a forum to exchange best practice and discuss the impact of emerging technologies and training themes such as non-technical skills (NTS). The UIC also addresses specific regional training needs through its network of regional Rail Training Centres.
Britain has an advantage in that its railway is currently the safest in Europe as measured by fatalities and weighted serious injuries according to the European Railway Agency's 2014 safety report. There are several reasons for this, including investment in advanced safety systems and technology. However, some credit must also go to the culture in Britain regarding safety, competence management and training. Britain also has well-regarded models for managing staff competence. Railway training companies from English-speaking countries have an advantage internationally as there is high demand worldwide for an English-language training resource.
However, the approach to working internationally is changing with a growing emphasis on the formation of international collaborations and networks with training companies or universities from other parts of the world. We appear to be witnessing a rapid shift towards the internationalisation of railway vocational training, as envisioned in the Cedefop vocational education training report, so that railway training is now following the growing trend towards the internationalisation of vocational education training institutions.
Organisations such as the UIC have a leading role to play creating structures internationally which exchange best practice for the benefit of the industry worldwide. The appetite for such collaboration appears to be there, as evidenced by the success of the World Congress of Rail Training and participation in EDP working groups.