The issue and scope
Workplaces are great places to learn but obtaining recognition of what has been learned is often hard. Such recognition has many potential benefits, in particular to workers who seek a new job but lack formal proof of their competence. Sometimes the recognition relates to a formal programme of work-based learning – for example a work placement that is part of a postsecondary qualification. But many skills are also developed by workers as they go about their jobs, trying out different techniques, sometimes advised by colleagues, honing their skills through experience. These informally acquired skills are important, but often go unrecognised. This module examines policy issues and country practices surrounding the formal recognition of skills acquired through work-based learning (WBL). One form of recognition is professional examinations or certifications, which assess a package of skills and certify a person as job-ready, and sometimes, although not always, such assessments are free of any requirements for fixed programmes of study or specific work experience. The module will look at formal skill recognition among young people who participate in WBL as part of their initial training, as well as workers at later stages of their careers who benefit from learning opportunities while working.
A key challenge is to ensure that skill recognition routes are transparent, underpinned by credible and consistent assessment procedures and lead to qualifications recognised in the labour market. In the case of practical vocational skills paper and pencil tests are poorly adapted, but tests of practical skills can be hard – and costly. The institutional context also matters and practices vary widely between countries and sectors in how skill recognition routes are regulated and implemented. Some arrangements are strongly regulated under a national framework, while some certification procedures are driven by private bodies with no public involvement. The arising challenges and potential policy levers will depend on governance arrangements. This module will focus on these two aspects: the governance of skill recognition and the practical challenges of skill assessments. The work will describe existing approaches, analyse the arising policy challenges and distil policy messages.
A one-day workshop took place on 28 April 2016 in Bern, Switzerland and a discussion paper was shared with participants. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss how to design and implement transparent and reliable skill recognition procedures. It provided countries an opportunity to discuss the initial analytical work, share their experience and observe a real life practical skill assessment in Switzerland. A policy report drawing on the discussion paper and conclusions from the workshop was published in September 2018.
Examples of policy questions explored