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Recognition of (bénévole / volunteer) commitment is a priority both for the public authorities and leaders of non-profit organisations calling for better understanding of capabilities and skills acquired during bénévolat or volunteering missions, which are regarded as vectors of non-formal education, acquisition of knowledge and skills for young people.
Associations play an essential role in improving volunteering skills, by producing the tools for evaluating volunteering skills, just as the ministry responsible for higher education has put in place policies adding value to community and volunteer work by students. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports also contributes to recognising the benefits of volunteering activities by promoting them and, in particular, carrying out studies and experiments.
Since 2012, the ministry for youth and the Youth Development Fund (see Glossary) have supported a number of trials aiming to improve the skills acquired. The latter consisted of “using an awareness campaign to promote better recognition amongst employers of the skills developed by young volunteers” and implementing “testing” campaigns to assess the perception of non-profit association volunteer work on a young person’s CV. The results of the involvement testing were compiled and analysed in an issue paper published in 2012.
There are several volunteer skills recognition schemes that are defined and governed by legislative documents or charters drawn up by the public authorities, including ministries, in partnership with civil society stakeholders, among these documents:
Legislative documents and charters on skills recognition
_In 2001, the Ministry of Higher Education’s Memorandum on development of associative commitment and student initiatives (no.2001-159 OF 29-8-2001) promoted recognition of students' voluntary commitments, which "help students set up and develop their projects", and set up an optional teaching unit “[that] is undoubtedly the best way to validate student action as part of training, and can also take the form of internships, a thesis or a report, a distinction or even a bonus.”
_In addition, article 29 of the law of 27 January 2017 on equality and citizenship generalizes the mechanisms for recognizing student engagement in higher education institutions. Since the start of the 2017/2018 academic year, all higher education establishments must put in place a mechanism for recognizing skills and abilities acquired through voluntary activity within an association. These devices already exist in 70% of universities, in particular through the allocation of ECTS credits or bonus points. In addition, higher education establishments must allow the organization of the studies of students strongly invested in community life.
_An optional “civic engagement” course unit (see Glossary) in agricultural education was also created in order to promote (association-based or voluntary) involvement of pupils in agricultural education, both within or outside the institutions. This course unit is based on the Decree of 13 June 2017.
_Decree no.2011-1009 of 24 August 2011 pursuant to Section III of Article L. 120-1 of the National Service Code bearing on conditions for promoting Civic Service in post-baccalaureate training" sets out conditions for promotion and validation of skills acquired during civic service by students.
Accreditation of volunteer experience (VAEb)
Accreditation of volunteer experience (VAEb), set out in Law n°2002-73 of 17 January 2002, known as the “social modernisation law”, allows all people, regardless of age, level of education or status, to have their community or volunteer work accredited to receive a diploma, a professional qualification or certification or to access training without the required educational qualifications. The volunteer has to carry out three years of volunteer work in their given field before they are eligible for accreditation. Volunteer experience accreditation is granted by the institutions issuing the diplomas. The VAEb has been considered as a “quiet revolution” because it confirmed the fact that it is possible to gain skills outside a professional context.
Bénévolat recognition schemes and mechanisms are diverse and based on a partnership approach involving several ministries and public stakeholders:
Recognition of prior learning
In the context of VAE – accreditation of prior work experience (validation des acquis de l’expérience) candidates may obtain all or part of a certification: diploma, vocational or qualification certificate following evaluation by a jury of knowledge, skills and competences developed during such experience. There is a national directory of professional qualifications, ranking them by occupation and level, which lists qualifications that can be obtained through VAE. The VAE procedure involves a series of steps: definition of a project, advice from advice relay points (points conseil relais), certification bodies that inform and support candidates in preparing their application, submission of the application, preparation of the recognition, and final evaluation. Bénévoles and civic service volunteers are eligible for VAE.
Educational recognition of bénévolat and volunteering
Each higher education institution can choose how it implements educational recognition of commitments, based on its concerns, non-profit fabric, means and numbers of students enrolled. Some universities offer educational content that may involve the non-profit sector and which needs to be validated to obtain ECTS (European credit transfer system) units, a points system developed by the European Union to compare university courses in different European countries.
Educational recognition of commitment undergoes final evaluation based on the quality of a given submission, course attendance and the activities carried out within the organisation, and, above all, the investment made and personal benefits that the young person has gained from the experience.
Students completing a civic service mission enabling them to acquire knowledge and skills in the course of their studies can also request recognition of their activities in order to obtain additional ECTS units. To do so, they must provide their institution with a certificate of civic service delivered by the receiving organisation upon completion of their mission.
Another tool for recognition of bénévolat is the Skills Portfolio (Portefeuille de Compétences ), a booklet designed to help bénévoles materialise crosscutting skills, gained from their volunteer experience. The portfolio is a self-diagnosis tool set up in 2011 by the ministry in charge of voluntary organisations workgroup composed of representatives of major organisations along with experts on recognition and promotion of bénévoles’ skills and a sociologist. Public stakeholders such as Pôle Emploi (national service for employment) also participated. The Ministry of National Education coordinated the workgroup.
Any organisation (public or non-profit) can set up and customise its skills passport, but the skills are defined and formalised in 8 identical fact sheets :
- Getting involved, taking a stance
- Demonstrating initiative and making suggestions
- Directing and managing projects
- Team leadership
- Taking on responsibilities
The skills portfolio should reflect the degree of qualification of bénévolat, helping bénévoles to identify and formulate the skills implemented during their missions, and should also help organisations in their role to support volunteers. The document is not mandatory when hiring, but can be useful when bénévoles / volunteers are interviewed by a certifying board or employer.
The bénévole passport
The France Bénévolat organisation has developed its own skills portfolio, the "Bénévole Passport ", which helps "detailed description of all missions carried out on a bénévolat basis, have each organisation certify that the mission was well performed, describe the training procedure followed through reception organisations and tie all these elements to the volunteer profile". The Passeport Bénévole is supported by Pole Emploi, (a public body that helps jobseekers find employment and meet company recruitment needs), the Ministry of National Education, the ministry of health, and the ministry in charge of youth and is recognised as a supporting document in the context of the accreditation of prior work experience (VAE).
The civic service certificate
Under the provisions of Article L 120-1 of the National Service Code, each civic service volunteer must receive a civic service certificate at the end of their mission, along with an assessment of their activities, describing the skills acquired during their mission. It is the mentor's responsibility to assess the progressive acquisition of aptitudes and skills throughout the mission. The certificate may help a jobseeker find employment. Some companies have signed Civic the Service Certification Charter (Charte de Valorisation de l'Engagement de Service Civique).
The Civic Service Commitment Institute (Institut de l’Engagement du Service Civique)
The Civic Service Commitment Institute ( Institut de l’Engagement du Service Civique) is an organisation that supports domestic and European service volunteers "identified for their potential, quality of commitment and value of their future project". Young people interested must submit an application in which they describe their project, their course and their expectations of the Institute. They are then invited for an oral interview which determines whether or not their application is successful. The Institute seeks to detect young talents and accompany them in their projects, towards three career paths in particular:
- Training: laureates are guided towards training courses at partner institutions that open specific paths for them.
- Professional path: laureates are accompanied in implementation of a professional project, with support from partner companies.
- Business creation: laureates who wish to create a non-profit organisation, business or project, receive special support.
Volunteering Management Training Certificate
Since 2008, any person of 16 and over engaged in a bénévolat activity who wishes to receive additional training and recognition of their volunteer experience can apply for a CFGA- Volunteering Management Training Certificate (Certificat de Formation à la Gestion Associative ). Introduced by Decree no.2008-1083 of 1 October, the certificate is delivered to people who have received theoretical and practical training in order to exercise bénévolat responsibilities in administrative, financial and human management in a non-profit organisation. The course consists of two phases:
- theoretical training of 30 hours minimum, supervised by a pedagogical Manager;
- at least 20 days’ practical training, carried out under pedagogical mentoring in a declared non-profit organisation.
The certificate is awarded by training organizations authorized by the Prefect (Prefects are the custodians of State authority in Regions and Departements).
Young people participating in European voluntary programmes such as European Voluntary Service (EVS) may obtain the Youthpass certificate, which they partly complete themselves after self-assessment of their learning. The certificate is a validation and recognition tool for skills acquired in non-formal educational settings. It can be useful when looking for a job or in vocational training, above all because it reflects the holder’s qualities, their ability to adapt to intercultural environments, commit to a project and be mobile.
Digital tools make it possible to add value to the skills gained by the volunteer, like the “civic engagement” account (or volunteer account) implemented by the French government.
The civic engagement account (or volunteer account)
The Civic Engagement Account (CEC) was established by the Law of 8 August 2016, known as the “Labour Law” (Loi travail). This is a measure that aims to recognise and promote volunteer engagement for association managers. It gives those who are eligible access to additional training, which is credited to their professional training accounts. (See Glossary). Volunteers who want to take advantage of this measure should declare their activities on the remote service for declaring volunteer activities: “the civic engagement account”.