Dana-Carmen Bachmann, the Head of vocational training and adult education unit of the European Commission, says that fusion of vocational training and adult education units has enhanced Commission's work on both areas.
The units were joined from the beginning of 2013.
"Leading a combined unit with 30 staff members requires good organisation, within the unit and with other units and DG´s of the Commission, but also with a wide range of stakeholders, like NGOs, member states, and so on," Dana-Carmen Bachmann tells.
The first year in the lead of this Unit has been very interesting.
"Head of Vocational and Adult Education Unit has to keep her ears open and have an open dialogue with all the players of the field to avoid misunderstandings."
The Romanian lawyer, who has worked in the European context since the beginning of her career, was appointed as the Head of Unit at the Adult Learning unit in December 2011. She however went on a parental leave a few months after, and returned to office last October. The new Unit started soon after, in January 2013.
Dana-Carmen Bachmann's job is to contribute to the development of adult learning and vocational education and training (VET) policies of the EU.
"We have clear policy visions based on EU´s growth strategy Europe 2020, Bruges Communiqué on enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training and the Renewed European Agenda on Adult Learning. One of my unit's tasks is to support in putting these strategies into practice," she says.
According to her, vocational and adult education policies should be fully aligned to wider goals of the union. Also civil society partners have a role to play in implementation of EU strategies.
"EAEA has a big role to play there," Ms Bachmann reminds.
Vocational training and adult education units were combined because the Commission wanted to reinforce the policy capacity of the two units and intensify the management of Grundtvig and Leonardo da Vinci programmes.
"Now we have more time for concrete policy development. We are also able to exploit better the good practices of both Grundtvig and Leonardo and reach larger systemic impact that way."
Another reason for merging the units was to bring the fields of VET and adult learning closer.
"Under adult education there is a wide range of different types of learning: formal, non-formal, informal. Adults learn for various purposes, including for developing their vocational skills," Ms Bachmann says.
Making colleagues for adult learning and VET policies work together in a same Unit helps connect these two essential policy areas.
"In other words, it helps develop comprehensive policies to ensure that all adults have opportunities to develop their basic skills and key competences and but also their skills for the world of work," she tells.
Also the cooperation with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training - CEDEFOP has been enhanced within the new Unit.
"We are identifying areas of activities and further developing cooperation based on the Renewed Agenda for Adult Learning, for instance, we join our forces in the work on financing and quality of adult learning," she tells.
European adult education community often feels threatened by vocational training, which is getting more attention in European and national policy agendas. Ms Bachmann however reassures that there is no change in how her unit sees non-formal and informal adult learning.
"We see that both VET and adult learning need to be promoted. All forms of adult learning - for personal development, active citizenship and employment purposes - should be boosted in a comprehensive way," she stresses.
She would like to build bridges between different forms of learning instead of highlighting differences.
"Adult learning has various purposes, and it is our task to work with Member States and all stakeholders to ensure that opportunities for developing all kinds of skills and competences exist for all Europeans."
Text: Aura Vuorenrinne