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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.9 Skills recognition

Last update: 21 February 2024
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  1. Policy Framework
  2. Existing arrangements

Policy Framework

Germany has no standardised statutory system for recognising learning achievements gained in a non-formal or informal setting that spans all educational sectors.

The German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen für lebenslanges Lernen, DQR) provides a framework for recognising qualifications, no matter in what learning context they were acquired. The DQR was adopted on 22 March 2011 by the German Qualifications Framework Working Group (Arbeitskreis Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen, AK DQR), which is composed of stakeholders in this area and develops and implements the DQR.

The inclusion of learning achievements gained in non-formal and informal settings in the DQR is currently being debated. In 2011 AK DQR published an opinion on recommendations that had been put forward by the working groups in this regard. In 2016 a group of authors, funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ), published a position paper on the recognition of competences acquired by young people in non-formal and informal settings as they embark on a career (Kompetenzen junger Menschen anerkennen – den Berufseinstieg fördern: Eckpunkte zur Anerkennung von non-formal und informell erworbenen Kompetenzen junger Menschen auf dem Weg in den Beruf).

The relevant statutory rules and regulations form the general basis for the recognition of skills that volunteers acquire in connection with the various volunteering schemes. Cf. Social inclusion through volunteering > Support to young volunteers.

Existing arrangements

Young people who have completed a volunteer placement are issued with a certificate. Either this is done automatically or upon request by the volunteer. The rules pertaining to this are set out on the relevant legal texts. Cf. Youth volunteering at national level. Depending on the legislation, the certificate or confirmation concerning the work provided must make reference to the professional qualification characteristics of the placement. The documents also refer to the type and duration of the placement and, where applicable, to the actual work done and the volunteer’s conduct during the placement. Responsibility for issuing a certificate or confirmation concerning the work provided lies with the place of work or alternatively the organisation in question.

There is currently no standardised form of “volunteer ID” (Freiwilligenausweis) volunteers taking part in the youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste) scheme. All volunteers affiliated with the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) are issued with a volunteer ID, which gives them discounted access to certain cultural or sports facilities and on public transport.

According to the final report of the joint evaluation of the Federal Volunteer Service Act and the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Abschlussbericht der gemeinsamen Evaluation des Gesetzes über den Bundesfreiwilligendienst (BFDG) und des Gesetzes zur Förderung von Jugendfreiwilligendiensten (JFDG) there are various ways to recognise young people’s completion of a voluntary service. Besides letters of reference detailing their duties, confirmation of skills acquired or certificates, volunteers are given honorary mentions in the organisations’ PR materials and campaigns. They receive awards, opportunities to gain a qualification, or free access to equipment or meeting rooms as a form of appreciation. In addition, some volunteers benefit from discounts thanks to a volunteer pass (Freiwilligenpass/Ehrenamtscard), and some are given a free public transport pass.

In some volunteering schemes, the time volunteers spend in their place of assignment is counted towards the waiting period for a place at university. Cf. the ordinances of the federal states on the assignment of places at university (Hochschulvergabe- und Zulassungsordnungen der Bundesländer).

Responsibility for recognising a period of service under a volunteering scheme for the purpose of a university place or as an internship lies with the federal states and the university or university of applied science in question. Some institutions award credit points for volunteer placements.

Whether and to what extent a volunteer placement can be recognised depends on the relevant regulations pertaining to the (degree) courses at the universities or universities of applied sciences in question.

Youthpass is the European recognition tool for non-formal and informal learning under the Erasmus+ Youth programme and the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). Young people and youth work experts use Youthpass to document and advertise the competences they gain by participating in activities funded by the Erasmus+ programme and the ESC. Youthpass uses the eight key competences for lifelong learning that are uniform across Europe. By July 2020, 1,075,349 Youthpass certificates had been awarded across Europe.

In 2017, 406 organisations used Youthpass in 665 projects. Overall, in 2017, 11,641 certificates were awarded in Germany (127,651 across Europe), mainly for youth exchanges (7,804), training activities for youth workers (3,146) and the European Voluntary Service (387). Young people benefit in particular from developing social, foreign language and intercultural skills, as well as from learning personal initiative and gaining entrepreneurial experience.

Regarding quality assurance in volunteering, see also Quality assurance.