The first sub-module of Module 3 is dedicated to the learning path of your migrant users. Thus, it focuses on their prior education and working experience and how to validate those as well as on how to identify their potential and the right learning path for them.
3.1.1 Recognition and validation of previous education and working experience
Before starting to look for a job, it might be helpful to comprehensively analyse where our participants or the individual we are working with stands. Obviously, migrants do not arrive from a vacuum, but bring all of their previous life and working experiences, a spectrum of different transversal competences and hard skills as well as a certain attitude and approach to their environment with them. On the other hand, many have already attended school, professional training or university in their countries of origin. Instead of having to start over it should be a key priority to support them in the process of getting their degrees recognised, thus enabling them to go on with their educational path if they want to.
The UNESCO proposes different definitions of Recognition of prior learning (RPL), among them:
- “The acknowledgement of a person’s skills and knowledge acquired through previous training, work or life experience, which may be used to grant status or credit in a subject or module. It can lead to a full qualification in the VET sector.” (Source: NCVER 2013, Australia) and
- “The process in which the individual’s previous learning outside the formal system which contributes to the achievement of current competency/ies can be assessed against the relevant unit of competency and given recognition through the issuance of appropriate certificate.” (Source: TESDA 2010, Philippines).
Based on these definitions it becomes clear that the recognition of prior learning does not exclusively refer to formal education, but includes all different sorts of learning, knowledge and experiences gathered from many different experiences, such as hobbies, such as carpentry, cooking, sewing or playing sports; on-the-job training, informal internships, organising events, caring for children, animals and plants or for sick or elderly people, speaking different languages and many more.
It is hence clear that one of the first steps towards a successful labour market inclusion, must be the comprehensive analysis and, if possible, recognition or validation of all the aforementioned previous skills, experiences and knowledge. In this context, it is important to keep an open mind, ask many questions, create connections and consider many different competences to be integrated into certain professions. In the testimonial section you can find the story of Kalissa, which gives you an idea about it.
In addition to just staying open and being aware of your participants skills, there are many other approaches, supporting you in the evaluation of RPL. Following the International Labour Organisation (IOL) these include the ones depicted below.
Eight assessment methods as per CEDEFOP are:
1. Debate offers the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate their depth of knowledge as well as their communicative skills.
2. Declarative methods admit an individual’s personal identification and recording of their competencies and are normally signed by a third party in order to verify the self-assessment.
3. Interviews can be used to clarify issues raised in documentary evidence presented and/or to review scope and depth of learning.
4. Observation enables the extraction of an individual’s evidence of competence while they are performing everyday tasks at work.
5. Portfolio method, which uses a mix of methods and instruments employed in consecutive stages to produce a coherent set of documents or work samples that show an individual’s skills and competencies in different ways.
6. Presentation, which can be formal or informal and can check the individual’s ability to present information in a way that is appropriate to the subject and the audience.
7. Simulation and evidence extracted from work, i.e., where individual’s are placed in a situation that fulfills all the criteria of the real-life scenario in order to assess their competences.
8. Tests and examinations to identify and validate informal and non-formal learning through, or with the help of, examinations in the formal system.
Source: CEDEFOP, 2009
A very systematic and comprehensive way for skill evaluation is the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals, a tool developed by the European Union to help foster the labour market inclusion of third country nationals: “The multilingual EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals is intended for use by organisations offering assistance to Third Country Nationals. It helps to map the skills, qualifications and work experiences of the third country nationals and to give them personalised advice on further steps, e.g. a referral to recognition of diplomas, skills validation, further training or employment support services.”
Even if you do not have the time to go through the whole tool, it is worth taking a look to getting some ideas of “hidden” competencies the migrants you work with might have and that you were not even thinking about. Furthermore, the tool offers a formalised and European-wide uniform way to validate competencies and previous experiences in a formal manner.
3.1.2 Education: Professional training and university studies in the host country
When working towards the labour market inclusion of migrants (or any other target group for that matter), it is of high importance to understand the differences between the educational systems in various countries. Even in the European Union we have systems that vary greatly from each other. It is thus not surprising that this is also true for non-European countries. In order to foster labour market inclusion, knowledge is key. Knowing which educational path or which prerequisites are the basis to obtain a certain profession will guide the way to take the right next steps in order to get there.
A very good starting point, in order to get a general overview of different education systems in Europe is the website of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational training (CEDEFOP), where you can find a comprehensive overview of how each European system is structured, as is presented exemplary for Sweden in the picture below.
Figure 2: Overview of the educational system in Sweden (From: CEDEFOP, 2015)
Furthermore, you can also find additional information on various issues, such as :
- A summary of the main features of the VET system for each country;
- Education attainment;
- VET financing and mechanisms;
- Teachers and trainers;
- Validation of prior learning;
- Incentives for learners or
- Guidance and counselling.
All in all, this website hence offers a great tool for anybody looking for specific information and does not know where to start.
After the educational path is clear, the next step is to access the educational system. Your participant might already have gained an academic or professional degree in their country of origin, which means that they might want to get this recognised before accessing the educational system. In the testimonials section, Chamwil tells us his story on the hurdles he encountered, when wanting to access University in Italy with his Highschool degree from Cameroon.
If you need information regarding the recognition of academic degrees in Europe, you can refer to the EC’s website dealing with this topic in order to get started. Unfortunately, there is no Eu-wide uniform recognition of degrees – not even between member states, which means the national processes and regulations might differ greatly. The same is true for other professions, such as nurse or electrician, which might be regulated in some countries, while they are not in other EU member states. In order to get a better idea on which professions are regulated and how in your country, you can refer to the Regulated Professions Database.
Finally, if you want to support your participants, but do not feel prepared enough or do not know where to start, you can refer to the Europass platform for Guidance and Counselling, an online platform dedicated to providing guidance practitioners with multilingual tools and information enabling them to support others in their career and learning path.
Activity 1: Identify your potential
Group and/or individual activity
Identifying personal life objectives and reflecting on which skills you will need in order to get there.
Ca. 30 min
Pen and paper
- Handout a piece of paper and a pen to each participant and have them divide it into two columns by drawing a line in the middle. The first column is named “Outcomes”, while the second is for “Skills/Competencies”.
- Participants will be given three minutes to fill in the column “Outcomes” with everything they want to accomplish in their lives, everything they consider worthwhile thriving for. This may include starting a business of some kind, writing a book, becoming a famous chef, selling products from their country of origin, speaking many languages etc. While doing so, guide them to not filter their ideas, but just put everything down that comes to mind. If they find it difficult, you can also start this activity by brainstorming some ideas together, asking questions such as “Do you have a role model?”, “Whose work do you admire?” or “What did you want to become/ loved doing as a child?”.
- After the initial brainstorming phase, participants will be instructed to circle the 3 outcomes they find most exciting and interesting to them personally from the initial list of everything they put down.
- The next step is to have them list down the necessary skills and competencies that they will need in order to achieve these outcomes. Connecting the skills they write down to the related outcome through lines. There might also be certain skills useful for more than one outcome. As has been mentioned before, it can be useful to brainstorm one example together with the whole group to get them started.
- Finally, participants will turn the paper and separate the skills they have identified into “Skills I already have” and “Skills I want to develop”. This will help give them a clearer idea of what they already know how to do get to the outcomes they want to achieve.
- If you want to, you can have them present to the rest of the group what they have elaborated so far, in this way, participants can discuss and support each other as well as learn from what the others have noted down. Close the activity with a debriefing asking them what they have learned from the activity and how they think it applies to their lives.
- The EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals;
- PATHWAYS project consortium (2021): Pathways toolkit for adult education.
- CEDEFOP Overview of the Vocational education and training in Europe;
- Information on recognition of academic diplomas in Europe;
- Regulated professions database – overview of different;
- CIMEA – to obtain a certificate of comparability in Italy;
- Europass for Guidance and Counselling practitioners.
Testimonial 1: Valorisation of previous competences and skills – The Story of Kalissa
“I was born to two parents of different ethnic groups, each of whom spoke their own language, which is why I have grown up bilingual speaking Sousou and Fullah since birth. When I moved to the city in order to study, I also learned French and other local languages (Malinké, Mighifore). As I teenager I moved to Senegal, where I further learned Wolof. After that I started my journey towards Europe, during which I have learned different languages along the way. Upon arrival in Italy, I also learned Italian. In the reception centre, the social workers noticed that I spoke many different languages and started bringing me along to official appointments to help them translate for other guys during the official procedures. It is through this that I discovered my interest for translation and that the languages I spoke were a useful asset to the Italian society. At some point, the social workers put me in touch with public entities, which ask me for my cv to be able to officially employ me as an interpreter for the hearings of other migrants. This has been the starting point of my professional journey as an interpreter for the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who convoke me for different hearing all over Sicily. Furthermore, I started working as a intercultural mediator for different social projects in the local territory, based on the recommendation of some friends I had who worked in this sector. Through all of these activities I have been able to further develop my soft and linguistic skills.
Based on my journey, I would give you the following recommendations:
- Everything you know how to do is an asset and added value to society – believe in the value of yourself and the things you can do;
- There is no “useless” language in this word – every language is as useful as any other;
- Be interested and engaged in the local context and put yourself out there – this will help people to get to know you and discover your unique talent;
- Be curious and keep learning – everything you know how to do will come in handy at some point in your life.”
Testimonial 2: Accessing university in Italy with a foreign degree – The Story of Chamwil
“I already had attended one year of university in sociology in Cameroon. Unfortunately, it was not possible to recognise it in Europe. In Italy, however, the first thing I had to do to get my Highschool degree from Cameroon recognised was to have it officially translated into Italian. I had to find a person who could help me with the translation. The university put me in touch with another migrant who had enrolled in the University and who told me that first I had to contact a notary who would then officially translate the degree. After this first step, I had to contact CIMEA, which is the contact point for academic degree recognition in Italy and who hence would legalise the document and give you a Certificate of Comparability. With this you contact the university. In addition to the Certificate of Comparability, you will also need a valid permit, without which everything becomes a bit complicated. The University of Palermo is one of the few Italian universities that has passed an academic decree to admit asylum seekers officially to university, so any asylum seeker here can benefit from the right to university study.
If you want to enrol into university in Europe, I would give you the following advice:
- Always ask for information well in advance in order to prepare yourself in the long term;
- Look for people who are competent in that specific field – not everyone can know everything;
- Be patient, but also insist on what you want to accomplish;
- Ask for help when you need it.”
Tips for the facilitator
- Listen carefully and ask questions about your participants’ previous experiences;
- Try to form connections between previous experiences, hobbies, skills and interests of your participants and the needs of the local labour market;
- It is not your job to know everything! If you feel unsure about something very specific, such as the recognition of foreign degrees, ask a competent person for help.
- Explain everything slowly and in as much detail as possible – being thrown into such a different educational system might be confusing for the people you work with;
- Research on the educational paths or ask experts in the respective field for help;
- Be patient, empathetic and prepare for frustration: not everybody will be happy about having to redo certain procedures and learning paths in order to work in a profession they might have already worked in before coming to Europe.