Preventing dropouts in VET

Preventing VET Dropouts: A Multidimensional Approach

VET programs offer valuable pathways to skilled careers, but unfortunately, many students don’t make it to the finish line. Dropping out of VET remain a concern throughout Europe, affecting the course of an individual’s life and impacting the workforce. Reducing the number of young people leaving the education system early has been agreed to be one of the headline targets by the European Union, as it is one of the major risk factors for unemployment and poverty (European commission 2011). Student dropouts cause increasing costs to societies and often dropouts are attached to social exclusion.

What about then (WAT) – preventing drop out – project’s goal has been to share good practices on methods for predicting and preventing dropping out of studies in VET. Ylä-Savo Vocational College (YSAO) from Finland has coordinated this project, other partners being Kauno technikos profesinio kikomo centras (Lithuania), Tallinna tehnikakorgkool (Estonia) and Ventspils tehnikums (Latvia). As we are nearing the end of our project it is obvious that even though the challenge is great, there are many ways to tackle the challenges. Our findings point to actionable strategies for predicting and preventing this issue. We are happy to share some of them with you in this article and all of them you can find on the project webpage. What about then Good practices and experiences from educational institutions and students were collected during the spring and autumn through a European wide survey, which received hundreds of answers – thank you all for them! In addition, we organised national workshops in the partner countries for both staff and students, where experiences from the everyday life of educational institutions were gathered. The workshops achieved great interest and we received good feedback from the participants. Students’ perspective on dropping out is extremely valuable, as it helps us target support correctly. We can now share with you, that based on our investigation risks related to families and motivation difficulties emerged as the most significant risk factors for dropout, underscoring the need for targeted interventions in these areas. Creating a positive learning environment and fostering a supportive microclimate within schools were identified as crucial factors in promoting student engagement and retention. Providing comprehensive vocational guidance and breaking down goals into smaller, achievable milestones were named as effective strategies for supporting student success and persistence. Increasing rates of mental health issues among young people, particularly young women, also emerged in the results. Respondents emphasized importance of psychological support services and intervention strategies. Motivation emerged as a critical factor in dropout prevention efforts, with strategies such as offering meaningful studies, providing better feedback, and fostering close relationships with future workplaces proving effective in sustaining student engagement and motivation. These findings underscore the multidimensional nature of dropout prevention and highlight the importance of holistic support systems, collaboration among stakeholders, and targeted interventions to ensure student success in vocational education. We cannot stress enough the significance of early recognition and intervention. Implementing screening tools to identify at-risk students early and providing tailored support systems is crucial. A special development target in the project has been to pilot the usability of the artificial intelligence-based system that predicts the risk of dropping out. This AI tool has been in use at Ylä-Savo vocational college where it has been further developed with the company providing it. At the time of the publication of this article we are testing the use of this AI tool in such a way that it helps recognising the risk of dropping out with students completing partial degrees (microcredentials) in addition to qualification students. Project partners experiences, perspectives and recommendations have been compiled in a report for the use of artificial intelligence in predicting dropping out of studies. We will present these recommendations and the best practices for preventing dropouts in conference hosted by Tallinna tehnikakorgkool in Estonia, Tallinn, 7-8 May 2024. You are all warmly welcome there! It is important to remember that dropout prevention is not a one-size-fits-all solution. By understanding the multidimensional nature of this issue and implementing tailored interventions, we can ensure that more students successfully complete their VET programs and embark on fulfilling careers.


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