2.7 Skills recognition
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None of the described documents which concern volunteering contain any specific regulations pertaining to the skills acquired by volunteers, therefore any proposals or solutions in this regard cannot be considered as universally applicable. Another consequence is the lack of clear provisions on the mechanisms that allow the recognition of skills acquired by volunteers. Yet, volunteering can be an important part of one’s career. Long-term engagement in volunteering is sometimes more beneficial for people entering the labour market than traineeships. It is important for employers to be able to appreciate volunteering as part of one’s career and to promote those who engage in volunteering. In this respect it is worth mentioning the provisions of the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 27 August 2019 on school transcripts, diplomas and other educational documents (Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 27 sierpnia 2019r. w sprawie świadectw, dyplomów państwowych i innych druków). It states that volunteering activities shall be taken into account and listed in official school transcripts and diplomas. Social engagement shall also be taken into account in the recruitement procedures: a pupil can receive up to 3 additional points for volunteering activities or social engagement.
Provisions regarding the skills acquired by volunteers are only available in volunteering guides, which are not of obligatory nature. The exception is the Youthpass certificate, which is guaranteed for participants of the EU Erasmus+: Youth programme (described in Section 2.6 Cross-border Mobility Programmes) (it contains details of the skills gained during volunteering in the project), but this is a consequence of EU regulations, rather than Polish regulations. Despite the fact that most of the documents and guides which describe how to build good volunteer relationships often include provisions regarding the conclusion of co-operation with a volunteer, when it comes to the skills acquired by them, they usually mention, at most, giving them feedback. We rarely see provisions such as those in the “Warsaw Volunteers” (Ochotnicy Warszawscy) document, which explicitly recommend “giving them a certificate or a reference”.
The Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work (Ustawa z dnia 24 kwietnia 2003r. o działalności pożytku publicznegoi o wolontariacie) is the only document in Poland that is obligatory in the area of volunteering. Despite the fact that it contains a provision regarding the requirements for a volunteer in terms of their qualifications (they should be “appropriate to the type and scope of services provided, if the obligation to hold such qualifications and comply with the relevant requirements arises from separate regulations” – Article 43), the list of a volunteer’s rights (described in Section 2.5.4) contained in this Act does not mention any obligation from the institution which benefits from their work to, at minimum, certify the skills acquired by the volunteer.
Since December 2015, the Act on the Integrated Qualification System has been in force in Poland. Article 4 reads that the Integrated Qualification System creates “the possibility of recognising learning outcomes acquired through non-formal and informal learning”, but the concept of volunteering does not appear once in the entire piece of legislation (Act on the Integrated Qualification System of 22 December 2015, Journal of Laws (Dz.U. of 2020, item 226, Ustawa o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji). In turn, a specialist publication on the Integrated Qualification System says that “from 1 October 2016, the role of National Co-ordination Point (NCP) for the Polish Qualification Framework shall be performed by the Minister of National Education, under a resolution of the Interdepartmental Team for Lifelong Learning and the Integrated Qualification System. This ensures an appropriate combination of the functions to be performed by the NCP and the tasks of the Minister of National Education defined in the Act as the Integrated Qualification System co-ordinating minister”. Although these guidelines contain an entry on informal learning, the term ‘volunteering’ appears only once in the entire publication: “informal learning also denotes the acquisition of new knowledge and skills >as a bonus< while working, volunteering as well as doing various activities related to social and family life”. In addition, although the skills it goes on to list are undoubtedly achievable through volunteer involvement – especially of young people (project management, foreign language skills, use of computers and computer programs, knowledge and skills needed to care for others), neither the Act nor the Encyclopaedia contain any regulations regarding the recognition of skills specifically acquired by volunteers.
In Poland, there are no national regulations that facilitate recognition of the knowledge, skills and competences of young volunteers as part of formal education, e.g. in the system of compulsory work practice, ECTS credits, or ECVET credit system, and introduction of such solutions remains dependent on the awareness of their usefulness among representatives of the authorities of each higher education institution.