Over the last decade, Europe is struggling with growing populism and EU skepticism among political elites and citizens. Beginning with the economic crisis in 2008 a first social rift was observable. Populist parties took the opportunity to stir up resentments between “us who are paying for everyone”, “those who can’t keep hold of money” or “those who are dictating us how to do”. Further, the criticism of the EU Institutions got louder such as the call for more national sovereignty. The refugee crisis and the failure of finding a common European solution regarding this topic intensified this situation.
In nearly all Member States (right-) populist parties gained voters in local, regional and national elections: In France the FrontNational nearly won the presidential elections, in Germany in 2017 a right-nationalist party moved into the parliament the first time ever after the end of the World War II. In Italy, the right populist LegaNord was even able to build a government with another populist party, the 5StarMovement. Even in Austria, the right Populist Party FPÖ was part of the government, which shows that even the established parties do not shy away from cooperating with populists nor from putting right-wing topics and thesis in their agenda to win elections, like just recently did the socialists in Denmark.
The public discourse moves to the right and studies show that although people declare themselves in favour of democracy and diversity right-populist opinions solidified in the midst of society. Ever since the Brexit it came clear, that a lot of citizens lost trust into the political system and their representatives. In addition, the latest European Elections confirm this: Although the results for the right and nationalists parties was not as high as expected they had the possibility to build for the first time an own group in the parliament (71 seats). This means also more political influence. Further, the election showed that especially the old established parties lost many voters. This shows that citizens need to find new trust in democratic and political institutions.
Further, nationalist resentments, racist attacks and especially the open hostility towards asylum seekers in the European society show that also the European values and human rights, which the EU was always proud of, are in danger. Developments of remodeling political structures like in Poland and Hungary are a bad sign for free democracies, which is why the European Commission initiated to start article 7 procedures for breaches of the European Union’s Common Values in above mentioned member states.
The #GetInvolved project is addressing these issues as it aims to offer an approach for promoting democracy and active citizenship in the VET. Establishing democratic thinking, participation and awareness of discrimination in the field of VET helps to strengthen common values in the society, as multiple stakeholders are involved in the vocational education.
On the one hand, the project addresses to empower young VET-learners, as they build the future generation of our society. On the other hand, the project addresses VET teachers and trainers such as VET institutions and companies, as they are the ones working with youngsters, they need be empowered and sensitized regarding discrimination or participation possibilities at the work place. It is planned to involve further stakeholders like chambers, professional associations and trade unions as the planned results are also for their special interest. Studies prove the existence of discrimination in VET especially migrants and here Muslims are confronted with prejudices and reservations. In a dual VET system, the situation is more critic as Vet learners have to apply directly to companies for a position. Here it is proven that applicants with a migration background have less chance for an interview than others. But also VET-schools are confronted with the issue of discrimination if you look for example on the situation of young girls who want to learn a technical profession and have to prove their abilities twice and fight against sexist resentments at the same time. In addition, learners coming from a school based VET system will be confronted with discrimination when they are entering the labour market the latest.