2.9 Skills recognition
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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
Thus, the circular on the development of associative commitment and student initiatives (N°2001-159 DU 29-8-2001) encouraged the recognition of student associative commitments which should enable "helping students to set up and develop their projects" and set up the optional teaching unit [which] constitutes [...] the best means of validating student action within the framework of training.".
Moreover, Article 29 of the law of 27 January 2017 on equality and citizenship generalises the mechanisms for recognising student commitment in higher education institutions. Since the start of the 2017/2018 academic year, all higher education institutions must set up a system for recognising the skills and abilities acquired through voluntary activity within an association. Such schemes already exist in 70% of universities, notably through the award of ECTS credits or bonus points. In addition, higher education institutions must allow students who are heavily involved in voluntary activities to adjust their studies.
An optional teaching unit (see Glossary) for 'civic commitment' in agricultural education has also been created in order to recognise the commitment (associative or voluntary) of students in agricultural education, whether within or outside the institution. This optional unit is based on the decree of 13 June 2017. It is accessible to candidates preparing for the certificate of agricultural vocational aptitude (cap), the general education baccalaureate series S speciality "ecology, agronomy and territories" prepared in establishments under the jurisdiction of the ministry of agriculture, the technological baccalaureate series "sciences and technologies of agronomy and life: agronomy, food, environment, territories" and the vocational baccalaureate for specialities under the jurisdiction of the ministry of agriculture. It enables the civic commitment of a student in agricultural education to be valued in the context of the voluntary activities that he or she carries out as part of his or her social life, in the school or outside the school.
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, nationality, 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
Within the framework of the validation of acquired experience (VAE), the candidate can obtain the recognition of all or part of a certification, a diploma, a title for professional purposes or a certificate of professional qualification (CQP), after evaluation by the jury of his or her knowledge, skills and competences developed during experience. The National Directory of Professional Certifications (RNCP), which can be consulted on the France Compétences website, makes it possible to determine whether a training course is recognised by the State and whether it is suitable for the labour market. It lists and classifies the qualifications that can be obtained through VAE, by field of activity and by level. The VAE procedure involves several stages: the definition of a project (the activities carried out must be directly related to the chosen diploma), advice from the "points conseil relais", certification bodies that inform and support them in putting together the file, submitting the file, preparing the validation and finally the final assessment. Volunteers and civic service volunteers can carry out VAE.
Educational recognition of bénévolat and volunteering
In accordance with the provisions of Articles D. 611-7 et seq. of the Education Code, higher education institutions providing training leading to a higher education diploma validate, as part of the training followed by the student and at his or her request, the skills, knowledge and aptitudes acquired through voluntary activity. Each higher education institution can choose how to implement the educational recognition of commitments, depending on its concerns, its associative fabric, its resources and the number of students. Some universities offer educational content that may relate to the voluntary sector, which must be validated in order to obtain ECTS (European Credits Transfer System), a points system developed by the European Union that makes it possible to compare university study programmes in different European countries.
The educational recognition of the commitment is subject to a final evaluation based on the quality of the dossier submitted, attendance at classes and activities carried out within the association, but also and above all on the personal investment and benefits that the young person derives from this experience.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Research's circular of 23 March 2022 gives higher education institutions the keys to valuing student commitment, which "develops citizenship and openness". As an example, the text cites the following commitments: those of elected or appointed student employees, the civic reserve, universal national service, trade union mandates, high-level artists, student parents or family carers. Within this framework, the Development fund for student initiatives (Fonds de développement pour les initiatives étudiantes - FSDIE), managed by the Centre régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires de Paris (Crous) and mainly financed by the Contribution to student life and campus life (Contribution vie étudiante et de campus - CVEC), can receive additional funding from institutions, local authorities, sponsorship or other sources.
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)
Article L 120-1 of the national service code stipulates that each civic service volunteer must receive a civic service certificate at the end of their mission, as well as a report describing the activities carried out and giving an account of the skills acquired during their mission. This assessment is based on the RECTEC skills card. It is the tutor's responsibility to assess the progressive acquisition of skills and competences throughout the volunteer's career. This certificate can be used when looking for a job. In addition, the Civic Service Agency, together with partner companies and institutions, has created a club for the enhancement and promotion of civic service around a "charter for the enhancement and promotion of civic service in companies". The aim is to increase the recognition of civic service as a natural and constitutive step in the career of young people.
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
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 or people realizing a civic service, etc. 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”.