VET and HRD research in European countries > Overview

Sweden  [7]  Review of VET/HRD research

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Current VET/HRD research

Since the reform of the Swedish upper secondary school system in 1991, the concept “preparatory vocational education” has been used instead of vocational education. Vocational education is therefore an integrated part of the upper secondary school with a goal to provide both vocational competencies as well as prepare students for a changing working life. Given the integration of VET into upper secondary education, there are also goals to engender general knowledge and prepare students for entry to higher education. The current system of VET training at the upper secondary level better reflects socio-political values than specific, national VET research initiatives.

It is important for observers outside Sweden to note that the majority of Swedish vocational education and training occurs at the upper secondary school level where students are typically between the age of 16 and 19. However, there are also VET pathways at the post-secondary level the largest of which is advanced vocational education (, a new form of VET designed to fund training to meet labour market demand for specialist know-how in several sectors. Other forms of post-secondary vocational education can include supplementary education programmes, sector-based training, continuing education and other forms such as through folk high schools.

At present, there is limited research into VET in Sweden and, therefore, the research has a minimal impact on vocational education and training in the country. Instead, most education research is directed towards the compulsory education system. There is research exploring the match between training outputs and labour market needs but this is mainly driven by the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications ( and by the National Labour Market Board (AMS – Clearly there is a need for more VET-related research and this is articulated in section 7.2, below. 

The human resource development (HRD) environment in Sweden is focused at the firm level and, consequently, most HRD research in the country has been concerned with skills needs and knowledge management at the firm level. To date, there has been little linkage between HRD and VET themes though there is increasing interest in ensuring a better relationship between education and training outputs and labour market skills needs. This supports enhancement of VET programmes to meet skills shortages (e.g. carpenter, electrician, plumber) in industry in Sweden. To date these skills gaps have been partly bridged by temporary skilled vocational labour from neighbouring countries (e.g. from the Baltic states and Poland).

As mentioned in section 6, Skolverket plans to initiate a research consortium in the field of VET in the near future and will report on these efforts in the next ERO report.

Future VET/HRD research

There is a need for Swedish research and development in the field of vocational education and training to address issues such as work-based training and apprenticeship and their role in VET, especially at the upper secondary level. This will be even more relevant with the launch of a new upper secondary apprenticeship system from the autumn of 2007.

There is also a need to better investigate the linkage between education outputs and labour market needs, particularly in the light of significant demographic change that will result in a massive wave of retirements from many traditional trades. This, of course, speaks to the need to increase the status of vocational education and training to increase the number of young people entering the trades facing a large outflow of older skilled workers. Another theme in this regard is the need for research addressing the barriers, real and perceived, to non-traditional groups entering VET (e.g. the extremely low proportion of women entering VET in the contraction and vehicle trades). 

Finally, there is a need in Sweden, as in many countries, to investigate how to improve access to VET for people currently outside the education system. A critical issue here is improving the access of adults to post-secondary vocational education and training – an issue that may become increasingly urgent as many industries (e.g. construction and resource extraction) face shortages of skilled trades people.

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Source: Cedefop - National Research Report Sweden (details see Bibliography)
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO