10.6 Recognition and validation of skills acquired through youth work
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There is currently no nationwide accreditation of non-formal skills that young people develop in child and youth organisations and transfer to other areas of their life (e.g. pursuing a profession) towards a qualification within the system of formal education.
In order to achieve a greater level of awareness of the value of skills obtained in an informal or non-formal environment as a key addition to formal education, the Department of Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is working with specialists in a targeted manner to develop measures. It thereby takes into account the National Qualification Framework (Nationaler Qualifikationsrahmen, NQR), which is an instrument to transparently map qualifications from the Austrian education system in order to support their comparability and comprehensibility throughout Europe.
WIK:I ('What I can do through informal learning / 'Was ich kann durch informelles Lernen')
WIK:I is a low-threshold model on making basic and key skills informally obtained by young people and young adults visible and recognised. It's a flagship project of the Department of Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery and is carried out in cooperation with the Alliance of Austrian Educational Work (Ring Österreichischer Bildungswerke) and the Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centres (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichischer Jugendinfos, BÖJI).
WIK:I enables young people to record and present their informally acquired competences. The focus lies on informal learning among peers, in leisure time, in family, sports, voluntary work, hobbies, jobs and others. Qualified WIK:I portfolio guidance supports young people in systematically recording their informal learning experiences. Starting from collecting and describing personally significant activities ('What I do'), young people finally arrive at identifying and describing the competences they have acquired ('What I can do'), always keeping the link to concrete activities in mind ('I can do that because').
The WIK:I procedure is a guided self-assessment in which young people align their strenghs and resources in a process of being empowered and stimulated to self-reflection. The work is orientation towards dialogue and group processes (peer learning) as well as biographical learning.
Benefits and results
The benefit of creating a portfolio for young people lies in making them aware of informally acquired competences and in gaining orientation for further education and career planning, but above all in empowering them to present their personal competences (for example in job interviews).
The WIK:I competence portfolio for young people is a folder containing the worksheets (including data sheets, checklists, questionnaires, posters) that were created during the workshop and during the participants' own work. It provides participants with a competence profile (naming and describing the competences), an action plan (indication of next steps, need for resources and support, timetable), and the competence description or proof of competence for job applications. The focus of the portfolio is individually aligned with the respective goal of its creation. The portfolio can be used as a supplementary application document.
aufZAQ: Certification for non-formal education courses
In Austria and South Tyrol, aufZAQ (word-play with the idiom 'to be on the ball') certifies non-formal education and training courses. Funded by the Section of Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery (formerly: Ministry for Families and Youth) and the Youth Departments of the Federal States, aufZAQ offers certification to basic and further education and training courses for people active in youth work and accompanying fields. The project runs since 2013, so far 34 training courses have been certified. Between 2015 and 2017, the aufZAQ Competence Framework for Youth Work has been developed. It outlines how people active in youth work act competently and covers open youth work and the work of children’s and youth associations. In Austria, the aufZAQ Competence Framework is regarded as the binding standard for trainings of youth workers. aufZAQ is further detailed in Chapter 10.4.
As part of the description of the Principles and Goals of Children and Youth Work the Department of Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery states: 'By discovering their own abilities as well as their limits, young people can develop their own perspectives on life. By building relationships – whether with other children/youth or to the children and youth workers – they develop their ability to communicate and strengthen their social skills. Being able to experience a variety of views and interests, different cultural orientations and religious beliefs creates a foundation for dealing with such differences in a reflective manner. This strengthens the basis for solidarity.
When children and youth are actively involved in children and youth work institutions, work on projects and take part in local decision-making processes, they can experience their own potency and get a sense of themselves as being effectual in the public sector. Seeing that their opinion counts and that anyone can contribute towards the success of a project is a fundamental of political participation and thus for shaping society.
Reflective learning becomes possible when children and youth discuss and reflect on their current experience and then transfer these experiences to their own living environment. In this way, children and youth work facilitates learning experiences that are anchored in reality and that – as opposed to formal learning settings – are neither evaluated nor graded.'