Another recent paper by CEDEFOP has looked at issues related to VET provision in Sweden. Their VET system, like many in northern Europe, is widely admired for its quality. This short description talks what they are concerned about.

The vocational education and training (VET) system in Sweden includes programs at upper secondary, post-secondary and higher levels. Three-year upper secondary VET programs can be followed through two pathways: school-based and apprenticeships. Participation in lifelong learning is also a high priority.

As the report notes:

“Adult education is provided in many forms and has a long tradition. Learners aged over 20 can access modularised pathways for adults, in line with their individual needs, to gain a qualification in a new field or access to higher vocational or higher general education. Non-formal adult education focuses mainly on specialised skills-oriented courses, especially aiming to integrate unemployed or recently arrived migrants into the labour market.”


“The VET system faces a high risk of skills mismatch between labour market needs and graduates’ qualifications. Decentralised provision through many but small VET schools, public funding and learners’ choice are influencing the offer of VET programs, increasing the risk of skill mismatch.”

Indeed, “Upper secondary initial VET programs last 3 years, are free of charge and lead to an upper secondary vocational diploma at EQF level 4 which qualifies graduates to enter the labour market directly.”

The paper provides an overview of factors affecting VET provision, and that’s worth a look. However, the paper maintains that “each learner should be accompanied by a mentor who will follow the learner’s knowledge development. The mentor pays particular attention to signs that the learner may need support and, if so, promptly informs the relevant school staff.” But there are also options for bridging programs and others for adults. Providers also have a fair bit of freedom in drawing up programs and deciding on the content. That’s probably a good thing because local solutions can be a real positive.

In addition, “work-based learning is not compulsory, but there are incentives in place in the form of State grants, available to the training provider where 70% of the education is provided though work-based learning in IVET [initial VET] for adult apprentices.” “Sweden [also] has a strong history of non-formal adult education, called ‘folkbildning’, which could be translated as liberal or popular adult education. Nowadays, nonformal adult education is centred around specialised skills-oriented courses, which aim to support people to return to the labour market after health problems or an unemployment spell, or to facilitate integration of refugees.”

But there are challenges!

The first is skills mismatches between labour market needs and graduate qualifications. A second is “that the Swedish education system has suffered from a lack of teachers, especially VET teachers.” This shortage is worst in rural areas and may also be salary related. There is also a need or better digital and artificial intelligence skills. Sound familiar?