Innovation in FE: an exploration of the Basque Country

This week (06-10 June), a delegation from Wales’ further education sector is visiting the Basque Country in order to explore innovation in post-16 education and training and links with SMEs.

Innovate FE image showing flags of Basque Country and Wales describing delegation organised by CollegesWales and funded by Erasmus+

The delegation, led by ColegauCymru and funded by Erasmus+, are blogging on their observations.  Here is their entry from the first day, following presentations and meetings with TKNIKA – a centre for innovation in Vocational Educational Training.

No lie in for us, early rise at 5.30am GMT for team #InnovateFE. A sprint across the sea front for some and a leisurely walk for others, we had a student style canteen breakfast and hopped on our green bus for the week. Inigo from TKNIKA welcomed us. He will be our host for the week. A bit shy at first, he soon became animated when talking about the role of TKNIKA, which promotes innovation and enterprise.

First impressions of TKNIKA after driving through the beautiful hills (comparable to Mid Wales) were of the cleanliness and openness of the reception area. It was understated for the wealth of expertise and knowledge that we were soon to experience.

Our first presenter was Victor Rodriguez, Tknika International Manager, who was happy to share his wealth of information and best practice of the centre.

Key messages from his presentation were:

  1. Vocational education and training (VET) is a renowned, prestigious and respected sector in the Basque country with its own Vice Minister, advocating the importance of innovation to the economy, environment, education, skills and business
  2. TKNIKA is driven by the European framework model that is strategically aligned to European policy
  3. It operates SMART operations that adhere to their key competencies and expertise and invest in these on a global scale. As a result it has achieved global recognition and collaborative partnerships that span the world
  4. It is strategic in its outlook and has recently launched its 4th Basque Vocational Education and Training Plan – keeping the supply chain and productivity to new technologies and training opportunities – recently engaging the unemployed in training and employment opportunities
  5. As in Wales, apprenticeships are a key focus. They involve 300 hours / 3 months on the job training
  6. There were no talks of formal qualifications, only about Level 3 and Level 5 – the qualifications framework levels, and there was a lot of focus on soft skills and flexibility, change and responsiveness, adapting to market needs.

There followed a lively and animated discussion on how these models are applied or could could be adopted in Wales.

Our second speaker from TKNIKA, Mikel Leunda, talked in more detail about a TKNIKA spin-off project, TK.gune.  In summary this project provides conditions for SMEs and the VET sector to collaborate on 5 strategic environments:
1. Automation
2. Automotive
3. Energy
4. Manufacturing
5. Creative Industries.

This is a good platform for research and development for collaboration across sectors and industry. It has become the ‘go to’ place for research and development solutions. A thank you in three languages (Welsh was one) gave another indication of a progressive and innovative Basque country.

To finish off we had a tour of the fantastic understated but effective centre that puts learning at the heart of their operations. Looking at hydroponics, nano technology, a recently converted basketball hall that now acts as a greenhouse and bio-diversity for plants – a form of future proofing food production. And one of our colleagues jumped on the bus carrying rock salt that had been converted into a weightless powder for use in food technology, manufacturing cosmetics etc.

We have certainly been fed food for thought and seen some inspiring best practice in action. The fact that the debrief lasted an hour and more was testament to the inspirational visit to TKNIKA. We are all now deep in thought and discussion about possibilities for a similar model to TKNIKA that could be run by FE in Wales. Let’s get the key people to make this happen around a table in ColegauCymru on our return….

Off for a walk to Old Town – more from our visit tomorrow.


Thank you to the #InnovateFE delegation members for jointly contributing to the blog. The 15 members include representation from: ColegauCymru / CollegesWales, The College Merthyr Tydfil, Coleg y Cymoedd, NPTC Group of Colleges, Cardiff & Vale College, Pembrokeshire College, Coleg Sir Gâr, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, Coleg Cambria, and the Welsh Government.


About Claire Roberts

Claire.roberts [a]
This entry was posted in Europe, FE Policy, Skills and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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