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EPALE: Why was it important to establish a legal foundation for validation on the Faroe Islands in the first place?
I remember one case that happened before the legislation was developed. Two carpenters wanted to be validated. The process was carried out corresponding to the process of our Nordic Partners – the Faroe Islands has been in the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) since 2005 – however, despite the successfully completed validation process, it was difficult for the two carpenters to have their competences accepted by part of the trade, even if the trade was involved in the entire process, the validated competences were … it seems almost like they were treated as a B-qualification. So VPL is important and this case showed us the importance of the legal foundation for a validation scheme. In the process, we have had a lot of support from our Nordic colleagues in the NVL, I wouldn’t know what we have done without them: I have to say, although we are on a good way, it takes a very long time to establish a sound system for validation.
"through the legislation, it was possible to bring together the relevant parties to cooperate on a validation scheme and feed their expertise and perspectives into the process"
So, through the legislation, it was possible to bring together the relevant parties to cooperate on a validation scheme and feed their expertise and perspectives into the process. The Ministry at the moment owns that project and while there is no way to force relevant stakeholders to carry out validation schemes it is necessary to bring them together at one table to discuss a solution. Obviously, many of them struggle with a lack of time for additional responsibilities, but throughout the whole work we have done so far, I feel that they are becoming more and more aware of the importance of validation and the added value it holds for them.
EPALE: The legal foundation is now for a VPL System. However, you mentioned that one of your next steps is to find a regulation for financing the system. Can you elaborate on that?
All education, or all formal education, on the Faroe Islands is free of charge. However, validation is a new area, for which financing structures must be established and it must be regulated who will form part of the financing process. Right now the money used for the establishment of the validation scheme comes from the Government.
There are suggestions about a tripartite financing cooperation. This could for example then be carried out by authorities, social partners and trade unions in the form of the establishment of a fund for adult education – the validation scheme would form one part of it. This funding scheme would apply for all schemes that tackle the labour market, so also VET and further education. This cooperation is currently in the state of preparation. The respective parties are informed and a meeting will take place in the middle of May to discuss the next steps. My hopes are that once the fund is in place, the stir it causes will also trigger a change in perspective onto traditional education and open the way for innovation in education.
EPALE: And, apart from the financing, what would you say are the next steps to foster the implementation of the VPL System?
It is furthermore important to implement the EQF into the national educational landscape on the Faroese Islands. Some years ago, there was a working group developing a Faroese QF but that work stopped some three or four years ago, so this work will have to be taken up again. This will be key to the implementation of the validation scheme and it will need to be prioritised. At the moment we are using the Danish Qualifications Framework as reference. But this does not fully apply to the situation on the Faroe Islands as the educational system is a little bit different from ours.
As I said, it is important to have guidelines for the respective trades. So, right now we are working on guidelines for the different trades and our plan is to have finalized them for up to four trades by the end of this year. But what we need are more experts from the different trades to cooperate with us. This also applies to the guidance structure which is needed for a successful validation process. We will now have to strengthen this structure and put more counsellors and educators in place to do the work. We carried out some training for counsellors, but we need many more to be able to cooperate with validation practitioners from all relevant fields.
EPALE: You mentioned that the VPL legislation also includes the right to appeal to the validation outcome? How would this process work exactly?
The appeal to the outcome of the validation process is handled as it would usually be, in any field of formal education. So when the validated competencies are required for a VET-related educational career, the VET appeal committee would attend to the appeal, if the validated competence corresponds to some qualification usually obtained through higher education, the University would, and so on.
EPALE: Is this committee also responsible for the validation process in the first place or would they, in case of an appeal, take over from another institution?
No, the respective VET committee or the VET appeal committee“ has nothing to do with the validation process, they are totally separated. Although the VET committee is responsible for a possible cut down of the education period, for example shortening practical work or school in the particular trades. Therefore it is so important for us working with validation to cooperate with the VET committee, to get them understand and trust the new validation system.
EPALE: How did the implementation of the VPL system work so far?
After the legislation was through, the VET office apply for a coordinator, which is me. First, I worked half-time (until 2017) and now I am working full time. However, after the agreement for the legislation was signed in 2014, it took half a year for me to take over the position. The main task since then has been the communication with relevant partners and stakeholders in the field, presenting the project at conferences, exchanging experience and information with other countries and learning from good practice. This is important since the validation scheme can only sustainably work if all partners agree to the process and accept the result.
"the validation scheme can only sustainably work if all partners agree to the process and accept the result"
In order to make sure this will happen, we need to set some positive examples of successful validations. Although there is still much work left to do, we know now that also the trade unions will accept the validation as equal to formal qualifications. But, we need to establish a scheme that makes it possible to determine equivalence to all formal qualifications and this is very complex considering all the different trades and job possibilities in play. This is why the guidelines are so important.
EPALE: Do people contact you with the wish to be validated and how do you help them at the moment?
That is a good question. When the legislation was agreed on, we were at first not sure how we can promote the possibility since the implementation of the validation scheme is a work in progress still. But one case showed us how it can work at the moment. An employee contacted us together with the respective institution that wanted that employee to have his competencies validated. We realised that with both parties cooperating in the process, it is at this point much easier to plan the necessary steps and make sure that the validation will be accepted.
So at the moment, we concentrate on VET education and training in some particular trades: 11 office workers will be finished validated by the end of May. After that we start the preparation for validation in some other trades, e.g. plumbers, carpenter, machine workers, and food and nutrition education. We are now working on the guidelines we need to have in place before we start validating in these trades. We don’t think there will be problems for companies or stakeholders to support the validation process itself. More difficult to guarantee is the individual’s further education if needed.
If people contact us on their own with the wish to be validated, we can have a first assessment of their competencies and see whether these would be suitable for a validation process – and most of them do, we receive queries from many very skilled people, so we hope to have the scheme in place as soon as possible. To that end, we need the trade schools to be more involved in the process, and we need to establish a broader network of experts first.
About John Dalsgard: John Dalsgard is the VPL coordinator, working at Yrkisdepilin - the VET Office in the Ministry of Education, Research and Culture in the Faroe Islands. The main areas of responsibility include the implementation and coordination of validation in the Faroe Islands. John Dalsgard is a member of the Nordic expert network for validation under the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL).
Image rights: © John Dalsgard/Ministry of Education, Research and Culture of the Faroe Islands