Harnessing the Full Potential of the European Union
Director of the European Training Foundation (ETF) since July 2009, Dr. Madlen Serban started her career as a design engineer working with the French-Romanian car manufacturer Oltcit in Romania. Early on, she discovered she was well suited for teaching and especially vocational education and training.
Dr. Serban says, "It has always given me great satisfaction to contribute to the empowerment of people through education and training." To that end, she earned a Ph.D. in social partnership in education and training from the University of Bucharest. In addition, Dr. Serban's experience includes work as a vocational education expert and evaluator for UNESCO, the European Commission, the World Bank, and several other international organizations.
According to Dr. Serban, Europe's future growth depends on vocational education: "Across Europe, and not only within EU [European Union] member states, the major focus and status are with academic education, but without a well-skilled and well-trained workforce there will be no growth in the future."
Engaging Tech-Savvy Students
A whole generation of students is mastering new technology and social media. They have developed a set of social and professional skills, which are tailor-made for the future global job market. "The challenge," Dr. Serban says, "is to include these developments in the classroom in order to motivate the students. Young people are interested, and the business world is demanding new skills, so schools have to adapt quickly to the new reality."
To promote training to meet the needs of the new work environment and engage students, Dr. Serban encouraged the introduction of Cisco Networking Academy in 2005 when she was working in Romania. "From my experience as a teacher, I know that when young people are attracted by something, they are more motivated." She also ensured that the program became compulsory at 91 vocational education and training schools throughout Romania.
Developing Technology and Language Skills
Networking Academy also provides an opportunity for learning skills in new ways. Dr. Serban states, "The results of the students' training are certified, which makes the program very attractive. The program is based on an open-minded approach to networking and offering solutions for learning with the help of computers." And Networking Academy not only provides technical training, but also English language training. Dr. Serban says, "The IT Essentials course helps many teachers, who are not able to teach in English, to provide language training, particularly in the rural areas because the courses are online, practical, and hands-on."
Education and Training Geared for Labor and Lifelong Learning
Vocational education and training need to be not only held in higher regard, but must also be better coordinated with the needs of the labor market. Dr. Serban emphasizes that education and training are critical for all development: "My hope is to make vocational education and training a driver for lifelong learning and sustainable development, helping countries to harness the full potential of their people."
Dr. Serban feels strongly that "The schools should not live in isolation from the community they serve, and business and schools have a mutual and common interest in shared action." Enterprises and education need to talk to each other, sharing ideas, mapping good practice, and competencies. Dr. Serban adds, "Developing entrepreneur programs is essential, particularly because entrepreneurs often create jobs."
Positive Effects of Networking Academy and Lifelong Learning
In addition to making vocational education and training more attractive to students, the relevancy of the Networking Academy has had its own positive results. Dr. Serban says, "The training has fostered better relations between the students and teachers. Learning in new ways has increased motivation and engagement on both sides, and for thousands of students it became very popular to get involved and have a certified result."
Dr. Serban offers advice to other educational leaders around the world: "Make sure that lifelong learning is part of your strategy. Investment in education and training is an investment in future growth."