Partnership for Excellence – Centres of Vocational Excellence (ERASMUS-EDU-2023-PEX-COVE)

  • Action type: ERASMUS-LS ERASMUS Lump Sum Grants
  • Opening date: 29 November 2022
  • Closing time: 8 June 2023 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 4 000 000 of total € 52 000 000
  • Project duration: 48 months
  • Official website


Implementing vocational excellence approaches features prominently in the overall EU policy agenda for skills and for Vocational Education and Training (VET). The European Skills Agenda, the European Education Area, the 2020 Council Recommendation on VET, as well as the Osnabrück Declaration, all include very clear references to Vocational Excellence as a driving force for reforms in the VET sector.

The initiative on Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) aims to respond to this policy priority supporting reforms in the VET sector, ensuring high quality skills and competences that lead to quality employment and career-long opportunities, meeting the needs of an innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy. The CoVE initiative also supports the implementation of the European Green Deal, the new Digital Strategy, and the new Industrial and SME Strategies, as skills are key to their success.

CoVEs operate in a given local context, creating skills ecosystems for innovation, regional development, and social inclusion, while working with CoVEs in other countries through international collaborative networks. They establish a bottom-up approach to vocational excellence involving a wide range of local stakeholders enabling VET institutions to rapidly adapt skills provision to evolving economic and social needs.

They provide opportunities for initial training of young people as well as the continuing up-skilling and re-skilling of adults, through flexible and timely offer of training that meets the needs of a dynamic labour market, in the context of the green and digital transitions. They act as catalysts for local business development and innovation, by working closely with companies (in particular SMEs) on applied research projects, creating knowledge and innovation hubs, as well as supporting entrepreneurial initiatives of their learners.

The networks aim for “upward convergence” of VET excellence. They will be open for the involvement of countries with well-developed vocational excellence systems, as well as those in the process of developing similar approaches, aimed at exploring the full potential of VET institutions to play a proactive role in support of growth and innovation.

This initiative introduces a “European dimension” to Vocational Excellence by supporting the implementation of EU VET policy and actions agreed with member states, social partners and VET providers.

The concept of Vocational Excellence proposed here is characterised by a holistic learner centred approach in which VET:

  • Is an integrated part of skills ecosystems, contributing to regional development, innovation, smart specialisation and clusters strategies , as well as to specific value chains and industrial ecosystems;
  • Is part of knowledge triangles, working closely with other education and training sectors, the scientific community, and business;
  • Enables learners to acquire both vocational (job specific) as well as key competences through high-quality provision that is underpinned by quality assurance;
  • builds innovative forms of partnerships with the world of work, and is supported by the continuous professional development of teaching and training staff, innovative pedagogies, learner and staff mobility and VET internationalisation strategies

Objectives of the Action

This action supports the gradual establishment and development of international collaborative networks of Centres of Vocational Excellence.

Centres of Vocational Excellence will operate at two levels:

  1. At national level involving a wide range of local stakeholders creating skills ecosystems for local innovation, regional development, and social inclusion, while working with CoVEs in other countries through international collaborative networks;
  2. At international level bringing together CoVEs that share a common interest in:
    • a common interest in specific sectors
    • innovative approaches to tackle economic and societal challenges (e.g. climate change, digitalisation, artificial intelligence, sustainable development goals , integration of migrants and disadvantaged groups, upskilling people with low qualification levels, etc.), or
    • innovative approaches to increase the outreach, quality and effectiveness of existing CoVEs.

The networks will bring together existing CoVEs, or develop the Vocational Excellence model by linking partners from various countries, that intend to develop Vocational Excellence in their local context through international cooperation. They could contribute e.g. to the delivery phase of the New European Bauhaus initiative by collaborating with the communities involved in the local transformations fostered by the initiative.

CoVEs are not intended to build new VET institutions and infrastructure from scratch (although they may also do so). They can be existing vocational schools/providers that strive to achieve excellence by engaging in the set of activities proposed by this European initiative. CoVEs can also be newly set-up centres established with the purpose of providing excellent training offers and services that are responsive to labour market needs.

CoVEs achieve their objectives by bringing together and working closely with a set of local/regional partners such initial and continuing VET providers, higher education institutions including universities of applied sciences and polytechnics, research institutions, science parks, innovation agencies, companies, chambers and their associations, social partners, social enterprises, sectoral skills councils, professional/sector associations, national and regional authorities and development agencies, employment services, qualifications authorities, social inclusion and reintegration organisations, etc.

Who can apply?

The applicants (coordinator and full partners) must be:

  • Legal entities (public or private bodies) active in the field of vocational education and training or in the world of work;
  • Established in an EU Member State or third country associated to the Programme (Countries which are in ongoing negotiations for an association agreement and where the agreement enters into force before grant signature are eligible).

Organisations from third countries not associated to the Programme may also participate but not as coordinator. They must be public or private organisations active in the field of vocational education and training or in the world of work.

Exception: organisations from Belarus (Region 2) and the Russian Federation (Region 4) are not eligible to participate in this action.

Which type of organisations can participate in this project?

Participating organisations can be, for example (non-exhaustive list):

  • VET providers
  • VET providers representative organisations
  • Companies, industry or sector representative organisations
  • National/regional qualification authorities
  • Research institutes
  • Innovation agencies
  • Regional development authorities

Number and profile of participating organisations

The partnership must include at least 8 applicants (coordinator and full partners) from a minimum of 4 EU Member States or third countries associated to the Programme.

Each EU Member State or third country associated to the Programme must include at least 1 enterprise, industry or sector representative organisation, and at least 1 vocational education and training provider (at secondary and/or tertiary level). Further composition of the partnership should reflect the specific nature of the proposal.

Organisations from third countries not associated to the Programme can also participate as full partners, affiliated entities or associated partners (not as coordinators), to the extent it is demonstrated that their participation brings an essential added value to the project.

Venue of the activities

Activities can take place in any eligible country, if duly justified in relation to the objectives or implementation of the project.


The project must choose relevant activities (providing details on the concrete actions and deliverables indicated under the following three clusters:

  1. at least 4 of the activities listed in the Application Form under Cluster 1 – Teaching and learning
  2. least 3 of the activities listed in the Application Form under Cluster 2 – Cooperation and partnership, and
  3. at least 2 of the activities listed in the Application Form under Cluster 3 – Governance and funding

Cluster 1 – Teaching and learning

i. Providing people with labour market relevant skills

  • by anticipating future skill needs using effective means to rapidly identify changing labour market needs, and matching skill provision with job opportunities
  • by focusing on both technical skills and key competencies
  • by including the skills necessary for the green and digital transitions,

ii. Pursuing a lifelong learning and inclusive approach in VET

  • by ensuring learning opportunities to people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds
  • by combining offers of initial VET qualifications and of continuing training for upskilling and reskilling, that are informed by skills intelligence.
  • providing higher-level VET programmes, developing flexible pathways, and cooperation mechanisms between VET and higher education institutions

iii. Developing innovative curricula, allowing flexibility and individualisation of delivery

  • by developing individual learning plans or pathways for each learner, including for adults
  • Integrating international learner mobility in the curricula, ensuring the validation and recognition of the learning outcomes acquired abroad
  • Designing qualifications that integrate both school-based as well as work-based learning components
  • Developing European Vocational Core profiles, that contributes to the mobility of learners and workers, while ensuring its recognition, as well as the transparency, understanding and portability of learning outcomes
  • Developing and/or using micro-credentials to recognise the outcome of short learning opportunities adapted to a fast-changing society and labour market
  • Making use of the European Digital Credentials for Learning, allowing to easily authenticate, validate and recognise credentials of any size, shape or form

iv. Developing innovative learner-centred teaching and learning materials and methodologies

  • including interdisciplinary, project-based, competence-based learning, “Learning factories”, makerspaces and positive education
  • making use of European competence frameworks and derivative tools such as DigComp, EntreComp, FreenComp, LifeComp, GreenComp, SELFIE WBL, Test your digital skills, and the European Digital Skill Certificate
  • exploiting innovative teaching equipment and digital technologies such as MOOC’s, simulators, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, for both school-based as well as work-based learning
  • fostering learner excellence through actions that incentive VET learners to explore their innovation and creative potential, leading to a virtuous cycle of benefits for the learners, teachers/trainers and the VET institution that can integrate best practices into regular programmes.

v. Investing in the initial and continuing professional development of teachers and trainers

  • for pedagogical, technical, green, and digital skills including those needed for online and distance learning
  • embedding teachers’ and trainers’ mobility in learning, development and internationalisation strategies
  • supporting the implementation of a quality culture based on defined management systems

vi. Establishing strong quality assurance mechanisms

  • based on European tools and instruments such as EQAVET
  • working towards the certification of education and training providers based on standards developed by relevant national and/or international standards organisations – e.g. ISO 21001 or EFQM (see also EVTA label for VET Excellence)

vii. Establishing effective feedback loops and graduate tracking systems

  • setting-up procedures, mechanisms and instruments for effective feedback and review as part of a strategic learning process in the VET organisation, to support the development of high quality provision and improve opportunities for learners
  • enabling the timely adaptation of learning provision based on effective graduate tracking systems.

viii. Providing guidance services

  • ensuring quality guidance for both young people and adults to support their career and education and training choices, as well as and their participation in lifelong learning
  • providing tailor made support to people with vulnerabilities
  • enabling adults to make use of their entitlements to training

ix. Providing validation of prior learning

  • Providing validation of skills, no matter how they were acquired, including outside formal education and training: at work, at home or in voluntary activities, as a basis for personalised training provision

Cluster 2 – Cooperation and partnerships

x. Establishing business-education partnerships

  • Cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with the business sector by forming long-term business-education partnerships, including for innovation and skills anticipation
  • Working together to continuously review and update curricula to ensure its relevance to learner and labour market needs, in particular for work based learning and apprentices
  • Supporting companies and in particular SMEs’ with tailor made training for up-skilling and re skilling
  • Co-operation with Public Employment Services and civil society to up-skill and re-skill unemployed and inactive
  • Supporting sector-based and regional co-operation, including joining the Pact for Skills, and supporting its implementation
  • Providing SMEs with technical support, skill needs assessment, tools and methodologies
  • Organising work-based learning, apprenticeships, and internships opportunities for learners, sharing of equipment, as well as exchanges of teachers and trainers between companies and VET centres

xi. Applied research and Innovation

  • Working together with companies, in particular SMEs on applied research projects involving VET learners and staff
  • Making use or co-creating innovation hubs and technology diffusion centres to support SME innovation process with the involvement of VET learners and staff
  • Contributing to creation and dissemination of new knowledge

xii. VET internationalisation and mobility abroad

  • Developing strategic planning for international activities, closely linked to the development of the VET institution, and the quality of teaching and learning practices
  • Creating support structures and measures to foster and ensure the quality of VET mobility experiences (including virtual mobility) among the partners in the CoVE network in compliance with the Erasmus Quality Standards
  • Launching initiatives to mobilise learners, teachers and trainers (including in-company trainers), as well as experts, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Erasmus+ programme (KA1) to engage in mobility abroad

xiii. Fostering entrepreneurial skills and initiatives

  • Developing an entrepreneurial culture within VET organisations including leaders, staff, teachers and trainers as well as learners
  • Working with local partners to develop learners’ entrepreneurial skills and attitudes that respond to real world challenges
  • Providing or linking with local business incubators for VET learners to develop their entrepreneurship initiatives

xiv. Raising VET attractiveness

  • By launching and actively participating in communication campaigns and activities, aimed at raising the attractiveness of VET
  • Informing of job opportunities through VET and attracting young people and adults (including learners in primary and secondary schools) to VET learning pathways
  • Setting-up International VET campus or summer camps aimed at learners, teachers and trainers, leaders in VET institutions, Trade unions, as well as for people considering future vocational study options. These could focus on specific occupational fields, products or services, as well as on complex challenges of societal and economic importance

xv. Skills competitions

  • Fostering the participation of learners in sectorial, national and international skills competitions, aimed at raising the attractiveness and excellence in VET (e.g. World Skills and/or EuroSkills competitions).

Cluster 3 – Governance and funding

xvi. Autonomy and effective VET governance

  • Developing the capacity of VET providers to take decisions, independently and with accountability, on educational, organisational, financial, staff-related and other matters, in pursuit of activity carried out within the scope defined by national rules and regulations
  • Involving relevant stakeholders, particularly companies, chambers, professional and sector associations, trade unions, national and regional authorities and social partners, including representatives of learners, in the governance of VET systems

xvii. Strategic approach to skills development and governance

  • Actively engaging in the national and regional skills governance systems
  • Contributing with a skills perspective to employment and social policy making at local, regional, national and European level

xviii. Co-creating skills ecosystems

  • Mobilising relevant economic and social partners as well as other educational and training institutions to engage or create local skills ecosystems aimed at supporting innovation, smart specialisation strategies, clusters, and sectors and value chains (industrial ecosystems)
  • Enabling local skills ecosystems contribute to attract foreign investment, by ensuring timely provision of skills for companies investing locally

xix. Developing sustainable financial models

  • Combining public and private funding, as well as income generating activities, and taking full advantage of performance-based funding schemes (if relevant)

xx. Making full use of national and EU financial instruments

  • These can include the support of education and training actions, mobility of learners and staff, applied research activities, infrastructure investments to modernise VET centres with advanced equipment, implementation of management systems to assure excellence and sustainability of VET organisations and the services they provide

The project must clearly identify and explain the choice of each of the selected activities, and describe how the work to be carried out through those activities will concretely contribute to the relevant work packages, and with the overall objectives of the project.

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