Aims & addressed problems

Needs for innovative and labour market oriented education in the EU

According to the 2011 EU Modernisation Agenda, higher education should provide graduates with knowledge and skills they need to succeed on the labour market. However, yet the available curricula and educational approaches are often far from responding to the employers’ needs. Graduates therefore struggle to find quality employment in line with their studies. As stated in the Agenda, involving employers in the study programmes and including practical experience in courses may help attune curricula to current and emerging labour market needs and foster employability and entrepreneurship. There is a strong need for flexible, innovative learning approaches in the EU.

Analysis of needs: Specific skills and competencies required from university graduates

According to the EU Commission Analytical Reports ‘Employers’ perception of graduate employability’, the most important skills and capabilities required by European employers include sector-specific skills and knowledge, but also communication-, team working-, analytical and problem-solving skills, foreign language skills and ability to adapt to and act in new situations. Analysis of organic labour market needs carried out in 7 EU countries within the ongoing EPOS Strategic Partnership project coordinated by prof. Rembiałkowska confirmed the above, showing in addition great importance of practical expertise and ability of graduates to innovate and create. The same analysis showed that more than 60% employers are not satisfied with the current level of knowledge and skills of university graduates and state that innovations in the teaching methods are necessary, pointing at the ‘Learning by cooperation with enterprises’ as the most recommended innovation. At the same time 25% of entrepreneurs declared that they look for new employees among graduates who participated in students internships or projects organized in their enterprises. All mentioned analysis outcomes showed a strong need for the SUSPLUS project.

Sustainable food system as a target subject

In face of global population growth, resource constrains and growing environmental as well as public health concerns, there is a strong need for a shift towards a more sustainable development. As most of the mentioned global problems are strongly influenced by the current unsustainable food systems, high priority is given towards developing strategies to improve sustainability of current food production and consumption models. At the same time there are hardly any study programmes and modules targeting this important subject globally, and the sustainable food is still a niche market in many European countries, hardly supported by well-educated and skilled university graduates.

Strategic partnership to address the above needs: SUSPLUS

The SUSPLUS project supported cooperation between eight European universities to develop, implement and widely disseminate innovative educational materials and methods in the subject of sustainable food systems, thus to provide university students with necessary knowledge, competencies and skills to support this important sector, but also increase their employability. Organic food system was one of the presented models for increasing the overall food production and consumption sustainability. The high quality international, comprehensive knowledge in different areas of sustainability of the food systems, unavailable in standard educational programme of a single university, were transferred to wide community of students with the use of highly innovative tools and educational methods. The set of methods has been attuned to address European employers’ expectations (as described in the above analysis of needs). As recommended by the 2011 EU Modernisation Agenda, cooperation with employers and providing practical experience was included in the project activities. Development and implementation of innovative, labour market relevant teaching approaches aimed to enhance the quality of education and, in perspective, to improve students’ employability. The project addressed the previously described key issues of the 2011 EU Modernisation Agenda, as well as priorities and aims of the Erasmus+ Programme. It also addressed specific aims of the strategic partnership projects. In addition, the studied subject clearly responds to the main international challenges addressed to the well-being of the next generations.

SUSPLUS target groups

Direct: students, lecturers and entrepreneurs participating in the project educational activities, pupils and teachers participating in lectures in schools, participants of transnational project meetings, participants of project dissemination activities, receivers of the booklet on the sustainable food systems.

Indirect: students and lecturers of partner universities and other educational institutions in Europe, stakeholders representing sustainable food sector in Europe, general society.