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Report - EQAVET Annual Meeting - Haarlem - The Netherlands


This EQAVET Annual Network Meeting was hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and CINOP (the EQAVET national reference point in The Netherlands). The EQAVET Annual Network Meeting is the policy and decision-making body of the Network which meets once a year. The meeting provides the strategic direction for the work of the EQAVET Network and responds to the needs of Member States in relation to the implementation of QA policies for VET and the EQAVET Recommendation. It provides the opportunity for discussion, allowing for different perspectives while striving to reach common solutions which will benefit all Network members.

 

 

Introduction

This EQAVET Annual Network Meeting was hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and CINOP (the EQAVET national reference point in The Netherlands). The EQAVET Annual Network Meeting is the policy and decision-making body of the Network which meets once a year. The meeting provides the strategic direction for the work of the EQAVET Network and responds to the needs of Member States in relation to the implementation of QA policies for VET and the EQAVET Recommendation. It provides the opportunity for discussion, allowing for different perspectives while striving to reach common solutions which will benefit all Network members.

Twenty six EU countries were represented at the Annual Network Meeting. Apologies were received from EU Member States: Bulgaria and France; as well as from partner countries: Liechtenstein, Montenegro and Turkey. The Social Partners were represented by the European Trade Union confederation (ETUC) and the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises (CEEP). Observers from the European Credit system for VET (ECVET) network, European Providers of Vocational Education and Training (EUproVET) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) were also present. The European Training Foundation (ETF) and the European Development Centre for Vocational Education and Training (CEDEFOP) were also represented.

The Annual Network Meeting was chaired by the European Commission by Mr Joao Santos, Deputy Head of Unit Vocational Training, Apprenticeships and Adult Learning - DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission.

A full list of participants can be found on the EQAVET website.


Opening speeches and Introduction to the Annual Network Meeting 2016

The meeting was officially opened and welcomed by Joao Santos who thanked the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and CINOP (the EQAVET national reference point) for hosting the meeting. He also welcomed representatives of Member States, the Social Partners’ and colleagues from agencies representing VET providers and other observers.

He underlined that the meeting was taking place in an important moment as the adoption of the New Skills Agenda was imminent; and the meeting provided an opportunity for the Network to reflect on the priorities of the Skills Agenda initiative from an EQAVET perspective.

He noted that the programme of the meeting was built around two focus points: 1) the EU policy context in which quality assurance (QA) in VET and the work of the Network are framed; and 2) the work developed at national level in relation to QA and the work of NRPs, with a particular focus on the new funding within the Erasmus+ programme.

He also announced the ‘European Vocational Skills Week’ which will be take place on 5 – 9 December 2016, in Brussels, mentioning that the EQAVET Forum, to be organised on December 7, will be part of this initiative.

Bas Derks, Deputy Director of VET directorate, Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, welcomed participants to Haarlem. His presentation outlined the focus of education and training in the national context and the EQAVET Framework as an instrument that has stimulated and provided a basis for monitoring the improvements of VET in the Netherlands. He observed that the Dutch QA system is in line with the EQAVET Framework and its indicators; and that the national priorities in VET are aligned with the EQAVET work programme and supported by the work of the NRP. He referred to the importance of the close cooperation between VET schools and the labour market as well as the dual system which contribute to the high quality of VET within the Dutch education system.


Update on the implementation of the EQAVET work programme 2016

Sean Feerick, Director of the Secretariat, presented the progress made in implementing the EQAVET Network Strategic Plan 2016-2017. The Strategic Plan was designed to support Member States in developing their strategies for the implementation of the Recommendation by focusing on deepening the culture of QA, the transversal role of EQAVET in the EU E&T policies and on dissemination of good practices and increasing cooperation. He also referred to the successful bid to host the EQAVET secretariat for the period 2016-2017 submitted by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) in response to the open call for tenders launched by the Commission.

He noted that the underlining principles for actions for the work of the Secretariat in 2016 were: communication and dissemination; increasing transparency of information; and the role of QA in the broader policy context. These principles have informed the methodologies and activities developed within the Strategic Plan, with a focus on:

1. working groups that ensure relevance to the needs of the EU policy context and Member States and consolidate the work developed over the last years by complementing the current Framework further by adding areas that address important policy priorities;

2. Peer learning activities on topics identified by NRPs in 2015:

-     'QA process for defining qualifications based on the LOs approach' Warsaw 14-15/4 /2016 -      Indicator number 5 ‘Placement rates’ Cardiff 29-30/ 9/ 2016

-     ‘Procedures for supporting training providers to identify areas for improvements to QA and to implement QA systems in line with the EQAVET’ Portugal Spring 2017

-     ‘Assessment criteria in accreditation and the use of EQAVET indicators’ Estonia Autumn 2017

He also emphasised the importance of the work of NRPs developed within the restricted call of ERASMUS+. He noted that a key priority for the work of the Secretariat was to ensure a two-way process by which the NRPs work programme feeds into the work of the Network as well as being informed by the work achieved at Network level.

He pointed out the main dissemination elements for 2016-2017: policy briefs as a result of the PLAs; the EQAVET+ indicative descriptors - the Network paper on complementing; EQAVET, newsletters; and the results of the Secretariat survey 2016. Also the upcoming events: the launch of call for nominations for PLAs on EQAVET indicator 5 – placement rates in VET programmes; a new working group on development of guidance based on work developed in EQAVET+; and EQAVET Forum December 2016. He commented on the importance of the input at the Annual Network Meeting for preparing the ongoing work of the Network.

Working Group 2016 - on Complementing EQAVET

The chair of the working group, Wolfgang Kreher and the supporting expert Keith Brumfitt, presented the main deliverable of the group, i.e.: EQAVET + indicative descriptors - the Network’s paper on complementing EQAVET.

The working group was established in 2016 in order to develop indicators and/or descriptors which complement the EQAVET Recommendation and respond to QA issues relating to 7 areas in order to supporting NRPs, Member States and other users of EQAVET, which were identified by the Network in its annual meeting in Jurmala June 2015. The group met on three occasions producing a EQAVET+ paper which in draft format was sent to the EQAVET Network for comments after each meeting of the working group. All the comments from the EQAVET Network were discussed by the working group. This process resulted in the EQAVET+ paper which is a Network publication and does not change the Recommendation. It complements Annex I only. The aim of the paper is to support NRPs, Member States and other users of EQAVET relating priority areas not sufficiently addressed by the Recommendation.

The presentations are available here.


The New Skills Agenda and the role of QA in VET

Carlo Scatoli and Koen Bois d’Enghien, European Commission, Unit Vocational Training, Apprenticeships and Adult Learning - DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, presented the New Skills Agenda (NSA), as outlined in the Communication of the European Commission adopted on 10/6/2016.

Carlo Scatoli noted that the NSA, proposes the guidelines for the work in the coming years specifically aiming at strengthening human capital, employability and competitiveness. He explained that the NSA builds on three elements: 1. Proposal for a Council Recommendation on a skills guarantee; 2. Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the revision of EQF; 3. a Staff Working Document with technical annexes supporting the legal proposals. He presented the skills challenge faced by the EU (including low literacy, numeracy and digital skills particularly among adults and the need to provide high and relevant skills) and the role of qualifications. The agenda is organised around three priority areas:

1. Improving the quality and relevance of skills formation (focusing on the skills supply)

2. Making skills and qualifications more visible and comparable (focusing on transparency and recognition)

3. Improving skills intelligence and information for better career choices (focusing on the skills demand and intelligence)

As part of priority area 1, the NSA includes: a proposal, released on 10 June, for a Skills Guarantee, calling for opportunities for the low-qualified to achieve higher levels of at least basic skills (literacy, numeracy, digital skills); the revision in 2017 of the 2006 Key Competences Framework; and initiatives to make VET a pathway to excellence including the Vocational Skills week; and an initiative New Digital Skills for Europe, possibly within 2016.

As part of priority area 2, the NSA includes: a proposal, released on 10 June, for a revision of the EQF; and later in 2016 a new Skills Tool Kit for Third Countries migrants.

As part of priority area 3, the NSA includes: the revision of Europass (later in 2016); initiatives that facilitate sharing of best practices on addressing brain drain; (New) Blueprint for Sectorial Cooperation on Skills and an initiative on graduate tracking in 2017.

He explained that the work in EQAVET was particularly relevant to addressing priority area 1 of the NSA in terms of contributing to the objective of making VET a first choice, which also includes the possible revision of ECVET as a framework to support open and flexible pathways for vocational skills development; the promotion of work based learning and the benefits of attaining higher levels of VET; and the coordination of EU policy tools and developments in VET. He provided an overview of the events that will be organised as part of the Vocational Skills Week 5 – 9 Dec. 2016, including the EQAVET Forum and events organised at national level. The Commission is planning to organise the VET week on a yearly basis Member States were invited to inform it about potential national events which could be coordinated within the VET week.

Koen Bois d’Enghien presented the role of EQAVET in the NSA and asked participants whether or not the revision of the legal text envisaged in the context of the NSA was needed in order to reinforce the impact and effectiveness of EQAVET. This was of particular relevance in terms of increasing transparency of QA systems; improving the information on the labour market outcomes of VET; and enhancing the role of QA as a contributor to mobility.

He also presented other EU initiatives linked to the NSA:

-     Possible Quality Framework for Apprenticeships which is a joint project of the social partners and proposed by ETUC that looks into setting standards when organising apprenticeships.

-     DG EAC Commission proposal on graduate tracking in order to improve the information on labour market outcomes of higher education graduates. The proposal includes the set-up of a network of national data providers.

The presentation is available here.

Participants welcomed the NSA initiative. However they commented that it is important that VET is seen not only as an instrument to improve the labour market but also as an educational tool that allows individuals to achieve their full potential. They also commented that the revision of the EU transparency tools envisaged within the context of the NSA should consider the potential difficulties of initiating a process of revision when not all users are fully aware of the original form of these tools. They also asked for more clarification in relation to the concept ‘high skills’ used in the NSA.

Joao Santos, chair of the meeting, noted that the ET2020 strategic framework, the Copenhagen process on enhancing EU cooperation in VET, and the medium-term deliverables of the Riga Conclusions were still the overarching principles for actions in VET; and that the current revision of EQF took stock of the implementation experiences over the years aiming at improving the tool without questioning the main principles of EQF. The possible revision of EQAVET and ECVET should be viewed in this perspective and Joao commented that the Commission will engage in a consultation process that gathers feedback from the relevant parties before proposing the revision of EQAVET or ECVET. He noted that the discussion on this issue at the Annual Network Meeting was part of this process.

In relation to question on the term used in the NSA ‘high skills’, Joao explained that the concept refers to the need to improve the delivery and development of tertiary VET.


Workshop I – EQAVET in the context of the Skill Agenda

In order to set the context for the discussion, a background paper was distributed in advance and presented by Koen Bois d’Enghien. He asked participants to reflect whether or not the revision of EQAVET was necessary in order to advance the priority areas of the New Skills Agenda (NSA) or in order to increase the impact of the EQAVET instrument.

Participants worked in four parallel groups with a chair, moderator and expert. The comments from the four groups are as following:

-     EQAVET is a system level tool, an overarching framework sufficiently general to address current and future policy priorities. However the NSA appears to be more individualised and based on breaking things up (different approaches for CVET/IVET/apprentices);

-     Member States choose which provisions to use from the toolbox, so it is not clear why things should be removed at the European level;

-     It is important to reflect if a revision to the Recommendation could undermine the EQAVET+ document;

-     If the revision considers the development of additional guidance, this should be mainly considered for the areas of WBL, learning outcomes and designing qualifications and the evaluation and review phases particular at VET provider level. In any event, the focus should be on collaborative and practical work;

-     if the NSA leads to changes in how qualifications are designed (e.g. ECVET, EQF), the impact on quality and quality assurance should be addressed

-     it is not clear why the governance system has to change and be included in a possible revised Recommendation

Participants agreed that the EQAVET Recommendation and EQAVET+ can be used to support the NSA, especially Priority 1; and that there was no need to revise the Recommendation in order to increase its effectiveness. However, participants agreed that if EQAVET is to be revised, the changes should aim at greater coherency and compatibility across the European tools.

Reports of the discussion at the workshop are available at the EQAVET online restricted Members’ Area


Workshop II – the work on Complementing EQAVET

In order to set the context for the discussion, a background paper was distributed in advance and presented by Keith Brumfitt. He asked participants to reflect on a mandate for a 2nd working group on EQAVET+ which will provide an opportunity to address the ideas in the Network’s document on EQAVET+ and develop guidelines. The second working group will support Member States and NRPs by illustrating how the new document could be implemented and used.

Participants worked in four parallel groups with a chair, moderator and expert. The comments from the four groups are as follows:

-     The new working group could focus on: the quality assurance of the design, assessment, certification and review of qualifications based on learning outcomes (LOs); and related pedagogical processes.

  • It should provide support to the work of NRPs
  • It should reflect on how to cooperate with relevant stakeholders
  • Work based learning (including companies which are VET providers) is an important focus but it was noted that this theme has been addressed by the E&T2020 working group and the EQAVET Network which produced building blocks for WBL in 2015.

-     The approach considered most useful is: developing guidelines that include case studies presenting challenges or barriers encountered, key implementation issues and lessons learnt

  • It is important that what is to be produced sets out the current position to avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’
  • work should commence with a discussion on what is already happening (using two or three case studies) and questions for Member States to identify how to create case solutions
  • work should build on what has been already produced (i.e. the outcome of joint working group of EQAVET and ECVET, EQAVET peer learning activities, CEDEFOP study on quality assurance of Certification, etc)

-     Scope and content should consider all four stages of the quality assurance cycle and include information relevant for VET providers (including schools, companies etc) and those involved in the assessment and certification processes

  • the materials should be easily understood by providers and other stakeholders
  • the outcomes should be seem in a Iifelong learning perspective; and include IVET, CVET, higher VET and AL.

-     Other issues:

  • include as many Member States as possible
  • it will help to have some continuity of membership from the 1st working group
  • the working group members should be expected to disseminate work as it progresses

Next steps: the Secretariat will launch a call for nominations at the end of June.

Reports of the discussion at the workshop are available at the EQAVET online restricted Members’ Area


Plenary discussion – on EQAVET Forum 2016

Participants were asked to reflect on how best to organise the EQAVET Forum (on 7 Dec. 2016) which will be part of the EU Vocational skills Week. The latter initiate is a combination of events taking place all over Europe, at local, regional and national levels to raise the attractiveness of Vocational Education and to promote quality skills for quality jobs. During this week, all stakeholders involved will share examples of excellence in vocational training, in innovative teaching practices or within companies that excel and prosper through engagement in apprenticeships, traineeships and business-education partnerships.

The EQAVET Forum is part of the Network work plan 2016-2017. It is one-day event that aims to bring together the NRPs and a wider audience of VET providers targeting particularly national associations of VET providers. The focus of the event is to present EQAVET+ and new indicative descriptors and to examine some good practices at national level that can illustrate how these descriptors are implemented at national level. The Secretariat will work closely with the Member States in order to identify appropriate cases studies.

The Secretariat will cover the cost of the venue and the reimbursement of one representative of the NRPs from each Member State. Social partners and EuproVET will be also reimbursed. A call for nominations will be launched by the Secretariat in due course asking Member States to identify 3 or 4 representatives of national associations of VET providers who will be invited (the Secretariat will not cover their cost). It is envisaged that the event will attract the participation of 100-120 people.

Participants welcomed the idea of the event as a way of disseminating the work in EQAVET to a wider audience. They also welcomed the fact that the EQAVET Forum will be part of the EU VET week. Participants also commented that:

-     national qualifications bodies should also be invited

-     a prominent figure, not directly involved in the EQAVET Network, should made the opening speech emphasising the importance of QA and what VET can offer

-     the case studies should present not only good practices but challenges encountered and lessons learnt; and present the experiences of different actors perspective

-     the event should provide opportunities for NRPs networking and preparing the next call focusing on discussing how to increase cooperation

Reports of the discussion at the workshop are available at the EQAVET online restricted Members’ Area


Update on relevant work in QA of VET from ETF and CEDEFOP

Elizabeth Watters, European Training Foundation (ETF), provided an overview about ETF and the work it undertakes in relation to enhancing quality assurance of VET in partner countries -Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine Syria, Tunisia, Israel, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. She pointed out the international dimension of EQAVET which is playing a catalyst role for increasing cooperation in these countries despite the wide diversity in the QA approaches and policy development. She noted the importance and value of the work developed by EQAVET, which can be easily reached through the website. She presented the events organised with partner countries in order to promote quality assurance in VET and appreciated the support provided by the EQAVET Secretariat in these events.

The presentation is available here.

George Kostakis from the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) presented the plan for an ongoing study ‘The impact of globalisation on VET’ to be published in February 2018. The study will look into the changing skills and qualifications due to increasing globalisation focusing on four dimensions: skills demand changes (updated – transversal – intercultural); global citizenship and social inclusion; international sectoral standards; and recognition of qualifications. The study will include case studies from 15 countries, focusing on 5 sectors and conduct over 250 interviews. It will provide information in relation to quality assurance processes of renewal of VET content in order to address global trends, stakeholders’ cooperation, recognition of qualifications, certification and role of national authorities in an evolving global context.

The presentation is available here.


Election of EQAVET steering committee

Five nominations accompanied by letters of support for their nomination to the steering committee were received by the deadline on 29 April 2016. As the number of nominations received did not exceed the number of places available for elected members in the steering committee, the Secretariat proposed to accept all five candidates. These are: Magdalena Dybaś (Poland), Leena Koski (Finland), Wolfgang Kreher (Germany), Katalin Molnar-Stadler (Hungary), Dana Stroie (Romania). The Network agreed with this procedure and welcomed the newly appointed steering committee.

Therefore, the composition of the steering committee for the period 2016-2018 will be as follows: elected members: M. Dybaś, L. Koski, W. Kreher, K Molnarné-Stadler, D. Stroie; presidency trio: LU, NL, SK - from April to June 2016; NL, SK, MT- from July to December 2016; SK, MT, UK – from January to June 2017; MT, UK, EE – from July to December 2017; UK, EE, BG – from January to June 2018; social partners (ETUC, UEAPME); scientific advisors (CEDEFOP, ETF); and the European Commission.

The 1st meeting of the steering committee has been agreed and will take place on October 18, 2016.


Common priorities – presentations of experiences from Member States

Participants from the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Hungary presented their experiences in relation to the following priority areas:

-     Work based learning - cooperation between the key stakeholders presented by Alie Kamphuis, National Reference Point for EQAVET (CINOP) and Henrik Stevens, Director SCALDA (Maritime & Logistics College De Ruyter), the Netherlands.

-     Outcomes based provision in VET presented by Christophe Struck, Ministry of National Education and Vocational Education and Training, Luxemburg.

-     Feedback loops and the review phase presented by Katalin Molnárné Stadler, National Office of Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning, Hungary

The three presentations highlighted the importance of establishing systematic and sound processes for cooperation with schools and labour market actors by the authorities responsible for setting QA procedures. Also, the importance of feedback information from learners and how this should be included in external and internal evaluation processes that aim at further improving VET provision.

Click the links above to view the presentations.


NRPs work programmes part of the restricted call 2016 of ERASMUS+ programme and presentation of Compendium

Michele Grombeer (EACEA) presented the compendium on information on NRPs work programmes of the restricted call ERASMUS+ programme 2015. An allocation of €1.5 million of the ERASMUS+ programme was made to support NRPs in 2016 (allocating €30.000 to small countries and €65.000 to larger countries). There was a requirement for 25% co-funding of the total budget amount for each country’s national sources. To be considered eligible for funding NRPs needed to propose and carry out activities that addressed any or all of the three objectives of the EQAVET ‘Strategic Plan 2016-2017’. 19 proposals were received in response to the call. This means that the full budget was not spent as some countries decided not to apply.

Most of the applicants focused on strengthening mutual cooperation among NRPs and deepening the culture of QA of VET, organising activities that address the following issues:

-     closing the gap between VET and labour market needs and establishing more effective mechanism for skills identification and definition (through carrying out studies)

-     strengthening the use of the learning outcomes approach

-     improving QA and development of work based learning/non-formal apprenticeship in the VET system

-     the evaluation and review phases of the QA cycle, with a focus on VET providers' self-assessment towards improvement

It is envisaged that a new call in October or November 2016 will be launched in order to support the work of NRPs over a two years period (2017-2018). In this new call, it is envisaged that only 15% co-funding will be required but it is unlikely that the approach of earmarked amounts per country will be retained (given the low submission rate in the 2015 call).

The presentation is available here.


Workshop II – support to NRPs to increase cooperation

In the context of the new funding for NRPs within the ERASMUS+ programme, participants were asked to reflect on the lessons learned from the experience of the first call and to identify what could be improved in order to increase submission rate and cooperation between NRPs.

Participants welcomed the availability of the funds and thanked EACEA for the help provided in addressing questions and requests. They also commented the following:

Why didn’t some NRPs bid?

-     It is not easy to discover whether the NRPs can apply as in some cases there is uncertainty about the possibility of double funding

-     Preparing bids and co-funding is a problem if the Ministry is not committed to making a bid. In this regard, it would be important that the future call could also be sent to the Ministry for information only

-     In some instances the national developments, restructuring and reform are ‘bigger’ priorities than EQAVET and engage resources at national level

-    NRPs often employ a small number of people which makes it hard to prepare bids and reports

-      Some NRPs lack of experience in preparing bids

-     For some countries the funds offered are not enough against the likelihood of the demanding work involved in organising activities and related administrative burdens, particularly relating to reporting and invoicing

What can be done in future calls?

-     It is important that it is kept simple and that NRPS understand that projects do not have to be large scale

-     January is a very busy period and some NRPs think that there should be flexibility in the timeline for making the bid

-     The support of the Secretariat to help the NRPs in the next call is important and it should be involved in the process

-     The EQAVET Forum in December should include a session for NRPs in order to enable mutual support in preparing bids and inform on ‘work-in-progress’ of current projects. This should include the participation of EACEA in order to provide "tips and tricks" to fulfil requirements

-     There should be clear criteria for application, prioritising projects that are based on collaboration and cooperation with other NRPs. In turn, these experiences need to be used to convince other NRPs that there are advantages in collaboration

-     In order to fulfil the above, it is important to acknowledge that some of the funding will need to be used for translation/interpreters

-     Involving associated/partner countries in activities should also be considered

How can we use the results of the current projects to support the NRPs and the work of the Network?

-     It is very important to disseminate information and results of the projects. In order to facilitate this, the utilisation of EQAVET online platform and the support of the Secretariat is of crucial importance.

-     In this regard, there is a need for a budget to support the publication –and translation- of the results and outcomes of all NRPs’ projects

-     The NRPs need to select the examples which are described as effective practice

Reports of the discussion at the workshop are available at the EQAVET online restricted Members’ Area


Closing remarks

The Chairperson, Joao Santos, closed the meeting. He acknowledged that the work on QA developed by the Network is of key relevance and responded to the priorities of the NSA. He noted that any discussion on the possibility of revising EQAVET should not interrupt the implementation of the EQAVET Strategic Plan 2016-2017.

He thanked the hosts, network members, the experts, the representatives of the social partners and other observers and groups for their attendance, active cooperation and commitment to the Network. He thanked the Secretariat for its work.

All the presentations at the Annual Forum are on the EQAVET website.


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EOPPEP is the National Organisation for the Certification of Qualifications and Vocational Guidance, an all-encompassing statutory body investing on better quality and more efficient & reliable lifelong learning services in Greece.

EOPPEP operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Education & Religious Affairs, Culture & Sports and is seated in Athens. It has derived from the merger of three national bodies, all under the supervision of the same Ministry: the National Centre for the Accreditation of Lifelong Learning Providers (EKEPIS), the National Organisation for the Certification of Qualifications (EOPP) & the National Centre for Vocational Guidance (EKEP).

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