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Presentation of the project research findings at the European Conference of Educational Research ECER 2023, 22-25 August 2023, Glasgow, UK.

Title of the presentation: VET Teachers’ and Schools’ Capacities to Tackle the Challenges of Integration of At-risk Youth: An International Comparison 

Tarja Tikkanen and Meril Ümarik presented the findings of the quantitative study on the role and capacities of the VET teachers in empowering vulnerable students in the Baltic countries and Norway, executed in the second work package.  

The purpose of this study is to explore and compare the training and employment settings, opportunities, and scenarios of at-risk VET students in four countries from the perspective of the support provided to them by VET teachers individually and by VET schools institutionally, to meet their learning and training needs and to promote their employability/employment. The study is part of the large EEA research project Vocational education and workplace training enhancing social inclusion of at-risk young people (EmpowerVET), in collaboration between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Norway. The study builds on two research questions. First, what characterizes VET teachers’ possibilities to support at-risk students (national perspective)? To this end we will explore four factors: (i) availability of VET teachers, support staff, and trends; (ii) policies in VET teacher training; (iii) changing roles of VET teachers along with more diverse student populations, and; (iv) support available to VET teachers to deal with at risk students. Second, what characterizes the similarities and differences between the four countries, in the above regards, in the light of their different political-economic models of skills formation? 

The study is based on expert methodology, a qualitative approach to identify VET practices and policies in the four countries, through research and evaluations carried out in them, and to assess thru them VET teachers’ and schools’ capacities to tackle the challenges of integration of at-risk youth and their vocational and labor market integration. 

The methodology comprises of three separate phases. First, VET specialists from the four countries in the EmpowerVET project prepared a joint framework to systematically explore VET teachers’ and schools’ capacities to tackle the challenges of integration of at-risk youth and their vocational and labor market integration in each country. Our initial exploration of existing research and statistics showed that accurate statistics, and especially cross nationally valid, comparative statistics on the topic and the target group of at-risk youth is not available. Research and evaluation reports in regards the target group of at-risk youth, mostly are available only on the native languages. Followingly, and second, country reports following the joint framework were produced in the English language by each national team of specialists. Third, the national accounts were analyzed and compared, and finally, the knowledge provided in them systematized to allow to answer to our research questions. The analysis is still ongoing. 

Preliminary findings show wide differences in availability of VET teachers and support staff, policies, changing roles, and both in the availability of and approach to organizing support within VET systems across the countries, also across the Baltics. The support here refers to both that to teachers in their work with at-risk students and the support to at-risk students themselves. Yet, the countries display similar trends in the increasing volume of at-risk students and their diversity, and the complexity of their need for academic and social support. 

The presentation slides: Download presentation