Rome (Italy). As part of the 6th edition of the European Week of Vocational Skills (16-20 May 2022), organized every year by the European Union Commission to celebrate best practices in vocational education and training (VET) with events of local, regional, and national organizations, and other the FP partners, the award ceremony of the “VET Excellence Awards” took place on 18 May 2022.
This year’s theme was the green transition, in line with the European Green Deal, the European Commission’s commitment to achieve the climate goals in Europe by 2050, including equipping people with the right skills for the transition. The EU Commission has bestowed 12 awards in four categories and a special mention to apprentices, projects, companies, and regions in the EU, from neighboring countries who have successfully used VET to build a greener, digital, and inclusive society.
The CIOFS-FP Piemonte, of the Piedmontese Mary Help of Christians Province (IPI), was awarded the 1st prize in the “European Funding for excellence in VET” category, with the “Training of Food Production Operators” project which promotes a culture of sustainability in the production and consumption of food along the agri-food chain.
The Project, carried out with the support of the European Social Fund (ESF), is born from the vision of the Institution to “take care” of the products of the earth, from their cultivation at km 0 to a good, virtuous, and honest transformation. “Good because it is good for us and for our planet, pleasing to the senses, with quality raw materials; virtuous because it respects the Earth and everything around us; honest in the equitable distribution of value along the entire supply chain and in preserving and enriching raw materials, territories, and cultures”, reads the documentation.
The achievement took place on several fronts, starting from the cultivation of plants up to innovative processing techniques. The first part of the project began with the partnership between the Agricooltur start-up and the construction of two aeroponic cultivation plants at the CIOFS / FP offices in Nizza Monferrato and Tortona, and with the insertion in all operational offices that they deal with the agri-food transformation of a conservation module called “Aerofresh”, which allows the growth and nourishment of the plants grown in the plants.
The use of these technologies for educational purposes allows students to acquire greater awareness of respect for the environment and biodiversity, through healthy nutrition with quality raw materials without residues; on a more sustainable agriculture with technologies for saving water, treatments, and soil; on environmental sustainability with the reduction of pollutants due to transport.
The second intervention concerns the processes of transformation of products in the various agri-food chains, allowing students to acquire specific skills and knowledge on: sensory and qualitative analysis, first and second transformation; storage of food in booths; and ovens for drying, grinding of organic cereals in stone mills; sterilization, autoclave system for cooking in water and steam through the use of multifunctional food processing benches, for a uniform and controlled thermal transformation process.
Furthermore, in a logic of application of the principles of environmental sustainability in production processes, an innovative waste treatment system is available to students to be used during processing. In a complementary way, work was done on energy saving and on the transition to clean and renewable energy through the use of an integrated system for monitoring and optimizing energy resources resulting from the use of automated systems and photovoltaic panels.
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Labor and Social Rights, said, “The green transition can become a real engine of work if people are given the right support they need to grow in their careers and in evolving labor markets. VET Excellence Awards help us identify the best approaches to the green economy, overcoming current labor shortages in key sectors. I would like to congratulate all VET candidates and students, and thank the thousands of providers of education and professional training for their dedication!”.