Research on the benefits of vocational education and training (VET) has only recently started to emerge. For VET policies, however, decisions on actions and measures should be supported by sound research evidence showing the benefits of different learning alternatives. Cedefop has gathered and analysed research evidence on VET benefits from across Europe, with the help of its ReferNet partners, to provide an initial mapping of research in this field. This European review presents the results of research focusing on VET benefits carried out in 2005-09 in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the UK, as well as in Norway and Iceland. 

This review mainly uses a qualitative analysis based on comparative research results and secondary data. It has been designed as a reader which not only presents an assessment of the impact of VET on society as a whole, but also gives theoretical support to understanding the basic notions, issues, problems and challenges in VET. Both economic and social benefits of VET are considered and the links between these two types of benefits are explored wherever possible. 

The VET benefits countries reported are often difficult to allocate to individual, enterprise and societal level as they occur simultaneously and may reinforce one another. The main economic benefits are labour-market outcomes and enterprise performance. The social benefits were largely examined by studying the positive changes in society occurring as a result of participation in VET programmes. 

One key finding of this review is that few countries in Europe are systematically using research as structural input to their VET policy-making. Another problem reported by some countries is that the interplay between institutions, legislation and practice prevents coordination of VET and VET research in a way that benefits VET policy-making. However, although some countries lack sufficient institutional arrangements to develop and improve VET, most countries have identified VET programmes as core components in their long-term development strategies.