CEDEFOP, the vocational education agency of the European Union organised an interesting event entitled What role for community lifelong learning centres? – The potential of one-stop shops for preventing youth at risk from disconnecting. The event was organised in cooperation with the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLL-P) as they have published a policy paper on community lifelong learning centres. Our Director was involved in drafting this document and thus participated at the event. The main discussion point was if these centres should primarily be built on schools. This is our standpoint, emphasising that there is a responsibility of professional educators working there for lifelong learning of local community members. While everybody agreed that other venues should also be considered depending on local needs, the majority of participants share our view on this.
According to CEDEFOP, Community lifelong learning centres should provide a welcoming, non-threatening education environment centred on learners’ needs. They typically focus is on non-formal education but can combine both non-formal and formal education approaches. As part of a community outreach approach, such centres are accessible to the local community, both in terms of physical proximity and as places where learners – including marginalised and minority group learners – feel they belong. Learning is learner-centred, starting at each learner’s current level and aiming to engage with their life experiences. Such outreach approaches, building on strengths, seek to engage learners who may feel alienated from formal education and from society in general. Some of these centres employ staff from the local community and involve local groups in their management board.
Viewing community lifelong learning centres as a gateway to multidisciplinary-teams-based services for those with complex needs, presupposes a collocation between these centres and the teams, as part of a one-stop shop. Of the wider groups attending community lifelong learning classes, a smaller number of marginalised young people and adults will have more complex needs, such as mental health issues, trauma difficulties, experience of domestic violence, bullying, abuse, etc. These community-based centres offer a vital opportunity to engage such individuals with services meeting their needs, in an environment where they already feel at ease and have a sense of belonging.
The forum was an opportunity for participants to discuss Member State experiences using integrated service delivery (one-stop shops, case management and multi-skilled teams) in different settings. Participants discussed the potential for establishing CLLCs in disadvantaged areas across Europe. These could offer people of all ages access to a wider range of learning opportunities, maximising the support offered by multidisciplinary teams. Participants were also invited to reflect on the post-2020 agenda in the field to ensure continued progress towards improving EU citizens’ qualifications and skills.