Exclusive Interview with Antonio Silva Mendes

Exclusive Interview with Antonio Silva Mendes

Since March 2012, António Silva Mendes has been the Director for the Education & Vocational Training at the Directorate-General (DG) of Education & Culture in the European Commission. He is in particular in charge of the Youth and Sports Policies and Program as well as the Dissemination and Valorisation of the Programmes and the Traineeship Programmes.

It is a pleasure and an honour for EOSE that he agreed to share his view as regard why the sector should and how it can take opportunities of the European policies in the field of skills development and qualification framework in order to develop better relationship between the education and employment worlds hence allowing the sector to fulfil its potential.


Enjoy the read!


September 2015 saw the first European Week of Sport. What will you personally remember from this special week and what is the overall first assessment of the initiative?
ASM: “A great enthusiasm of the different stakeholders and partners of the week in promoting different actions and events at European and national level.”


Today more than ever, it seems that sport could bring more to society. Which role do you foresee for the sport and active leisure sector in the Europe 2020? How could it be used as a tool to experiment European values?
ASM: “Europe 2020 is the European Union’s ten-year jobs and growth strategy. Unquestionably, sport can be a tool to effectively reach some of the targets of this strategy, notably those relating to social inclusion, education and employment . The synthesis report of the Europe 2020 Strategy mid-term review listed among its key outcomes the sport sector’s valuable role as an instrument of social cohesion and inclusion.
I don’t have to convince you that sport makes a significant contribution to Europe’s economy and is an important driver of growth and employment.
In order to better explore the links with employment and to secure more evidence-based policy making, the Commission decided to launch a study on the contribution of sport to the employability of young people in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy. The tender evaluation process is on-going.” 
Coming now closer to EOSE expertise, would you mind letting us know how to create better synergies between education and employment? What is the role of apprenticeship and vocational education and training on this specific challenge?
ASM: “One of the main challenges Europe is currently facing is a skills gap between education and employment. In different words, the education process is not replying totally to labour market needs. Therefore we have to promote inter-sectoral cooperation and build bridges between education, training, youth and sport as well as employment. In the area of sport, an effective tool is the dual careers concept. Creating an appropriate environment for combining education paths with sport training can contribute to combat the effects of the economic crises and high unemployment across the EU.
In the case of professional athletes, vocational education and training is crucial, since it is less time consuming and provides more concrete skills. All forms of non-formal as well as informal learning should be seen as a way to acquire labour market-related skills and competences, complementary to formal education.”
Do you personally believe that barriers between Schools education, Vocational Training and Adult Learning could be broken down and would this be worth investing in bridging those worlds?
ASM: ”Building on my previous experience as Director responsible for Education, I am convinced that those sectors should work together closely. Establishing cross-sectorial partnerships is a way forward. Nowadays, only through inter-sectoral cooperation we can develop successful policies. It applies to European, national as well as the local level.”
What could be the role of sport when thinking of this specific challenge?
ASM: “I think the answer is simple. Sport is a perfect integration tool. It helps overcome cultural differences and brings people together. Underlining the contribution of sport to other sectors the links with different policies are an inherent part of the EU Work Plan for Sport. One of the key Work Plan themes is Sport and society, in particular HEPA, volunteering, employment in sport as well as education and training in sport; sport could also be a good support to reduce early school leaving.
In the context of education, I consider that we do not need more regulations or legal acts. What we need are soft tools or initiatives to bring about social changes, to increase dialogue, to show experiences and best practices and to connect people on a personal level through their common interests, values and passions. And sport can deliver here.”


Last but not least, what is your view as regard the implementation of the policies on work-based learning in the sector? What would you expect?
ASM: “The Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning identifies opportunities and mechanisms that enable knowledge, skills and competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning to play an important role in enhancing employability and mobility, as well as increasing motivation for lifelong learning.
For the area of recognition of the value of transversal skills gained through non-formal and informal learning via grassroots sport, I would like to see as a first step a focus on awareness-raising. Visibility should be promoted primarily among participants themselves, parents, volunteers, but also society at large, including employers; definition of clear learning outcomes with Education Institutes could also reinforce this recognition.”
On that area, what is your feedback as regard the work lead by EOSE on the recognition of skills and the promotion of learning mobility?
ASM: “A new approach on education for sport professions based on learning outcomes which will led to the best possible match between the needs of society, requirements of the job market and qualifications offered has to be set in place. With those efforts we contribute to better employability, which is one of the main concerns of the Commission under President Junker. That is why I warmly welcome all your efforts related to sectoral qualification frameworks or recognition of non-formal and informal education and training in sport professions. There is still a lot to do in this context. And we need cooperation between all the partners: European and national administration, sport organisations and educational institutions.”


Interview by Carole Ponchon, EOSE European PR & Projects manager


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