Category Archives: EMPLOYABILITY

NFE values versus the need of official certification

164HI have to say that the work of the youth worker is not an easy one, and the more we move forward the more traps we can find on our way. Just imagine the situation related to the recognition of NFE (non formal education), that is becoming very popular and hot topic among the youth work practitioners.

The ¨imaginary¨ situation:

The group of 5 European organizations is preparing the project to innovate the topic of recognition of the learning in the European mobility projects (btw. the next blog post should be about the innovation, since it is very funny in the youth work as well). As each good practice to start the project preparation, they discuss what are the real needs they observe in their local communities. One partner explains that learning in European mobility is not considered as an added value by employers since those types of projects are associated mainly with drinking etc. Other partner refers to youthpass, that is still not recognized, and it is too long for the possible employers to actually have a look on that, besides many young people have several youthpass documents and presenting all of them is too much. Other partners express their observations that what is the most valued by employers are the formal certificates – like the certificates from the universities, official language exam certificates, etc. In this moment other partners react positively that in their countries there is very similar situation.

This excitement among partners that finally they have found something in common quickly leads to development of the first draft of the project – creation of the certification system, that is prefebly recognized by some institutions (here you can mention National Agencies, Governments, Local Authorities and if nothing would work hosting organizations). There might appear as well ideas as creating the standardized programmes, common evaluation systems (if not something that might look like exam, but will not be an exam because we talk about NFE), procedures, online platforms, competences frameworks etc…

Sounds familiar?

And then imagine that one partner is late for this meeting. This person comes when all the others are already getting into the details how to create the evaluation system and who will sign the certificates. Looking on what is happening around ask a very simple question to others: HOW WE CAN DO ALL OF THIS IN THE ACTIVITY THAT SHOULD BE BASED ON THE NFE PRINCIPLES LIKE BEING LEARNER CENTERED – MEANING ADJUSTING THE CONTENT TO THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF THE LEARNER AND SELF EVALUATION – EXACKLY WHAT IT MEANS, THAT THERE ARE NO GREADES, LEARNERS ARE NOT BEING COMPARED AND ONLY THE LEARNER IS EVALUATING OWN RESULTS. In this moment the previous excitement that all partners had disappears as a soup bubble leaving the question what next….

For me the above-described situation is nothing new and I have observed it already several times. It presents very big dilemma that we as youth workers have. Since youth workers usually believe in the NFE principles (or they would like to believe, but still needs to internalize it a bit more), they try to follow them in the everyday youth work, that that´s great. On the other side recognition as well as employability are hot topics, and we are pushed by the local needs as well as the funding opportunities that put it as a priority, to work with that, innovate, improve and do something to make it work. Unfortunately quite often our innovation ends up exactly like our imaginary story – we end up producing something that is not fully in line with the NFE principles (although is fully desired by the employers) and something that is a simple multiplication of the things that has been already done – like youthpass. As youth workers we usually have very good ideas, but the truth is not easy to do something better then youthpass, with maybe 1% of the money that has been invested in the tool, and with much smaller network of stakeholders and promotion capacities.

But the life doesn’t have to be so sad and negative as it might seem from the last paragraph. I do believe that there are several things that we can do, and even more important are super necessary! So let´s start with the list:

Improve the image of European Learning Mobility – we need to promote more and more that all the European Mobilities within ERASMUS+ are learning mobilities, and the participants are learning; what is even more important they are getting new competences, not only getting to know the theories, but being able to use them in the real life situations… saying with the simple words they learn practical things.

Embrace self-evaluation as valid type of evaluation – I have heard it many times that is the evaluation is not standardized, and does not finish with the sigh and stamped certificate (yes some people are crazy about stamps, and is come countries they even doesn’t exist) it is not real, and doesn´t serve anything. IT IS NOT TRUE, and until we start believing in this we will not change much. Self evaluation it is very helpful to improve the self-esteem of the learner, since they start believing that they actually can do things, start believing in themselves. Secondly self-evaluation helps to name the competences that they have learned, so it brings added value to the CV learners are doing, or their self-presentation during the job interview. And there are for sure much more examples how useful the self-evaluation is (if you have some you can comment this blog post). Our responsibility as people who want to promote the recognition is to believe in and to spread the world that the real-evaluation really make sense.

Stop producing new recognition tools – in this point maybe my pragmatic point of view is getting too dominant, and maybe one of the tools that will be produced would really make sense. Although based on my observation for now I see that the organizations try to develop something new, quite often it really make a lot of sense and might be really useful, but due to the lack of funding, promotion and time it slowly dies. It is very difficult to compete with the youthpass in terms of the recognition, since already a lot of money has been invested in that, a lot of time dedicated (10 years or something), and it is becoming well known. Within the 2 years project that cost 150 000€ it is simply impossible to have the outreach that youthpass has, and then comes the question what next? How can I sustain my tool when the funding ends…

Train youth workers on how to use youthpass – yes, I said it, many manuals and trainings has been developed on that and still the quality (in my opinion based on what I see) of support on youthpass is very limited. It is very simple to improve, just find the time in the project to really implement the youthpass process – which we can call self-evaluation, and ensure the time that learners really can reflect. It can be very helpful to introduce the Learning to Learn competence better and develop it within the project. Finally we need to support learners to use the language that is relevant for the employers, so whenever learner went through the self-evaluation, we can help them to give a from, to translate what they have learnt into the employers language.

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What is employability?

20downloadThinking about the employability I think always about my profession – youth worker. The term is being present almost everyday in my professional life – I open my mailbox and there is a new training offer on employability, I looks for youth exchanges for my young people – most of the topics employability, we write projects and what topic we can choose… EMPLOYABILITY!

To write this article I did same small investigation about the presence of the word employability in the ERASMUS+ programme guide, and yes it popped up a lot, especially in relation to the youth field. What catched my attention is how some of the objectives and priorities has been formulated. Here are some examples what you can find in that document:

  • The mobility activities supported under Key Action 1 are meant to produce the following outcomes: enhanced employability and improved career prospects;
  • AIMS OF THE MOBILITY PROJECT ARE: support learners in the acquisition of learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) with a view to improving their personal development, their involvement as considerate and active citizens in society and their employability in the European labour market and beyond;
  • KA2 should have a positive impact on the persons directly or indirectly involved in the activities, such as: improved levels of skills for employability and new business creation (including social entrepreneurship);
  • HORIZONTAL PRIORITY of KA2: Transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications to facilitate learning, employability and labour mobility.
  • FIELD SPECIFIC PRIORITY Youth (KA2) Promoting high-quality youth work. Priority will be placed on projects that: foster the inclusion and employability of young people with fewer opportunities (including NEETs);
  • As well employability is stressed out in the Knowledge Alliance and Jean Monnet

So as we can see there is a lot going on in the field of youth on the topic of employability, but how well we actually understand this concept? For my for a very long time I was thinking that employability is the ability to get a job, and while working with young people we need to focus mainly on the application process and the things that young people can put into their CVs. While I started working with the topic of employability I have discovered that it is much more.

If someone would ask me right now what the employability is, I would state that it is the ability to get a job, do the job, keep a job, develop within the job and move on to the next job. Taking this approach while working with young people we need to focus on preparing them for being employed, for example how to be efficient, how to find the balance between personal and professional life, how to be responsible and how to take care about the personal development and life long learning.

Therefore whenever we are talking about the employability competences we are talking about something transversal, skills that everyone need to some extend and they are not really connected with the application process, rather with the soft skills. Within one of the projects that we have implemented within the KA2 – Strategic Partnership in the field of youth that is called OVPELO we have identified based on research the set of 9 main employability competences that are:

  • Learning to Learn
  • Taking the initiative
  • Social competence
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Organizational competences
  • Problem Solving
  • Self-management

Since to some extend each young person poses those competences, developed at school, in the social life, doing volunteering etc., and on the other hand many young people are not really aware of this, we have created the new tool – portfolio of the employability competences, that aims to help young people to self-evaluate and realize where are they, on what they want to work and were to improve. The tool soon will we up, so stay tuned!

About the blog

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We are the practicioners of the youth work, working in depth with the EVS project, and a year ago we have decided to create a project called OVPELO, that aims to improve the employability of the EVS volunteers. During the process of the implementation of the project we have faced a lot of interesting questions, analyzing what the employability is, reflecting on the different aspects of the recognition and valorization of learning, and exchanging a lot of best practices and challenges that we see in this field.

A lot of the discussions that we had were interesting enough to motivate us to share them with the wider public, and include other practicioners to contribute. Therefore we have created this blog. We are planning to post minimum once per month, and discuss the following topics:

1) NFE values and self-evaluation versus the need of official certification.
2) What are the benefits of EVS that can be useful for employers?
3) Challanges for the EVS volunteers to get a job – why?
4) The story of recognition – how it has all started.
5) Recognition – who recognize the learning in the youth project?
6) Learning to Learn approach versus external need of recognition.
7) What really young people learn during the EVS.
8) Employers are looking for transversal skills – but how they can verify them?
9) How EVS can support young people in the process of getting a job?
10) What is employability?
11) What is the role of youth work in europe in relation of employability?
12) Employability – magic word to get the project approved or soemthing more?
13) Employability what we do versus what we need to do as youth workers.

If it sounds interesting, stay tuned!