The University of Gdańsk's Rector, prof. dr hab. Piotr Stepnowski chaired a panel on European Universities and European Centres of Vocational Excellence, and together with, among others, director Krzysztof Zanussi, participated in a discussion summarising the Congress organised as part of Euroskills 2023 Gdańsk. During the conference accompanying the competition, academics, education leaders, and representatives of the European Union met to discuss the future of vocational education and training.
The 6th International Congress of Education and Training took place during the European Championships for Young Professionals Euroskills 2023 Gdańsk on September 7 at the Polsat Plus Arena. The industry skills competition currently taking place in Gdańsk was announced a year ago, on 5.09.2022, during a ceremony at the University of Gdańsk with the participation of, among others, Laurence Gates, representative of WorldSkills Europe, and the Rectors of Pomeranian universities. (read here).
The importance of the Euroskills 2023 competition for the development of education in Europe is demonstrated by the presence of European Union Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, who UG Rector prof. Piotr Stepnowski also met.
On the programme of the Congress accompanying the competition was a discussion on cooperation between different levels of European education. The Rector of our University chaired a panel on this topic.
'Today, we will talk about two elements of the European Education Area that should be fully realised by 2025. The European Universities and the Centres of Professional Excellence are initiatives focusing on educational innovation,' opened the panel with the Rector of UG. 'When discussing these two very different initiatives, we will look for synergies and means of communication between higher and vocational education.'
The panellists represented four different perspectives. Dr Anna Budzanowska, Director of the Department of Research and Development at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, talked about the new approach to education provided by European Universities. Prof. dr hab. Piotr Mikiewicz, a sociologist from the University of Lower Silesia, presented the requirements of current employers looking for employees with practical skills. Director of Research Solutions in Central and Eastern Europe at ELSEVIER Publishing B.V. Tomasz Psonka gave the global science publisher's perspective on changes in the world of higher education, paying particular attention to the greater accessibility of science through Open Access services. And EPLUG Centre of Professional Excellence Project Leader Jan Jeronimus talked about the Dutch initiative to build a 'green skyscraper', which showed the demand for the professions of the future - including vertical gardeners, i.e. green experts who will be able to take care of vegetation growing 10, 20 or even 50 metres above the ground.
Further panel discussions focused on European climate policy and global trends in green skills. They featured experts from Stanford University, Lancaster University, WorldSkills USA, and the European Commission.
The final thematic panel on inclusivity and accessibility, in the broadest sense, was chaired by the Vice-Rector of the Jagiellonian University's Collegium Medicum in Kraków, prof. dr hab. med. Tomasz Grodzicki. It was attended by Vladyslav Yatsuk, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Anna Radecka, Director of the Department of Education and Social Policy of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Monika Chabior, Deputy Mayor of Gdańsk for Social Development and Equal Treatment.
The representative of Ukrainian education spoke about the realities of schooling in a war-torn country, including the two million young people currently in internal exile. Monika Chabior, meanwhile, talked about the many initiatives whereby the City of Gdańsk includes excluded people in society, such as people with disabilities or senior citizens.
The congress was summarised in the concluding session by Teija Ripattila, President of the Board of WorldSkills Europe, the Rector of UG prof. Piotr Stepnowski, the famous director prof. Krzysztof Zanussi and the founder of the Educational Foundation 'Perspektywy' Waldemar Siwiński.
'What dreams do we have these days? Some time ago, there was talk of the American dream, but where is the European dream?' asked prof. Krzysztof Zanussi. 'We are facing new challenges, the prospect of a post-human civilisation in which people will be genetically modified. Do we really want this? If not, who will stop it? What kind of future do we want to create?’
Prof. Piotr Stepnowski talked about his vision of the university of the future, in which, on the one hand, academic society retains its values and, on the other, opens up to the world of technology and professional professions. 'I would like to find a compromise between these two poles so that we can discover exactly what role the university should play as a bridge to knowledge,' said the UG Rector.
Finally, the panellists addressed the participants with a message they would like to pass on to the younger generation. 'Be courageous. All problems can be solved;’ ‘Each of us has at least one talent. Find it and use it;’ ‘There is no going back. The future is before us' – these were the words that closed the proceedings.