zum Inhalt springen

Informal Learning in Vocational Education and Training

A Review of the Fourth International Conference of the German Research Center for Comparative Vocational Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) 


From 28th-30th September 2022, the 4th International G.R.E.A.T. Conference was held at the University of Cologne, hosted by the Chair of Economics and Business Education. More than eighty researchers and practitioners from the field of vocational education and training met to engage in mutual exchange of research activities, results and expertise under this year’s conference theme:  "Informal Learning in Vocational Education and Training". 

As in past years, the conferences presentations included researchers from a broad range of different countries in Europe, Asia, US and Australia as well as various research contexts of Global North and Global South. Key Notes were given by renowned researchers from different areas of comparative (vocational) education research: Prof. Dr. Alison Fuller (University College London, UK) spoke on context, characteristics, capacity and the understanding and improving of workplace learning. Dr. Simon Beausaert (Maastricht University, Netherlands) thematized the role of learning climate and culture. Prof. Dr. Kenneth King (Edinburgh University, UK) focused on unresearched dimensions of informal learning and serendipity in vocational education and training, and Prof. Dr. Manuel Souto-Otero (Cardiff University, UK) discussed ways and meaning to bring formal and non-formal learning closer together.  Although informal learning in VET is given considerable importance in many countries, and has been discussed from research perspectives for years, it is still an elusive concept. There are still quite few empirical studies that, for example, examine informal learning at the micro level, analyse the involvement of different VET stakeholders, or examine the impact on the skills ecosystem, including the labor markets. More than 30 presentations in paper sessions and working groups explicitly addressed current issues in the context of informal learning in the (informal) VET sector and its link to (informal) labor markets.

The conferences´ different contributions revealed that vocational education and training systems of various countries often face similar challenges in the face of the global flow of refugees and the results of the Covid-19 Pandemic. For example, Prof. Dr. Marianne Teräs and Dr. Ali Osman (Stockholm University, Sweden) highlighted informal learning and inclusion of migrants into the labor market. Furthermore, Fernando Marhuenda emphasized the issues of informal learning in the vocational education and training of vulnerable populations. Rolf Rehbold (University of Cologne, Germany) presented the “ValiKom”, a procedure for validating informally acquired competences in relation to a reference occupation whereas Prof. Dr. Silvia Annen (University of Bamberg, Germany) illustrated the importance of employers in the process of getting informal learning results recognised in a foreign labor market.

In his closing speech, Prof. Dr. Matthias Pilz resumed that informal learning holds enormous potential for vocational education and training, with a valuable possibility for facilitating the long-term integration of disadvantaged populations into the labor markets. It can also enable validation and valuation of prior knowledge and, in the long term, have a positive impact on the shortage of skilled workers and the coexistence of societies.
The selected papers will appear in an edited volume (published by Springer-Verlag) or in a special issue of the International Journal of Training and Development (published by Wiley-Verlag) in the coming year.