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VALIDATION - Interview with Ernesto Villalba, Cedefop

From the Validation Biennale at Aarhus, DK, April 26th and 27th.

Interviewer: Graciela Sbertoli, EPALE Norway

1. You spoke today about the need to improve the coordination between the three main arenas of learning (formal education sector, working life, third sector). In your work for the European inventory, have you come across any examples of good practice for this type of coordination? if so, could you identify any success criteria for that development?

I think countries are creating the conditions for this coordination, but we need to further explore how this coordination actually happens. The 2016 inventory ( shows that there are more countries establishing institutions that coordinate validation initiatives and this is the first step. In total I think there are 20 countries that have some institution that is responsible to coordinate across sectors (or sometime within sectors). We can also see that countries are developing strategies, comprehensive strategies, so this, hopefully will give a coherent approach to validation in different sectors.

In terms of success criteria, the South African presentation, that we saw this morning, showed how important it is making sure that you have roles and responsibilities clearly defined and that you have all relevant stakeholders involved. But there are a lot of things to consider and you have to look at the European Guidelines on validation to get them all! 


2. You mentioned also that some employers may avoid getting their companies involved in validation processes out of fear that if their employees get a higher level of qualifications this may result in demands for higher salary. In Norway, however, we find that many employers feel the need to formally upskill their staff so as to stay competitive, and they'd rather enable their existing staff to get this higher qualifications than go out and recruit new people. Is this, in your experience, a purely Nordic phenomenon?

No, I think there are a lot of companies/ employers in different countries that want to have qualified employees and that will help them to increase their level of qualifications by validating their skills acquired at work. It is a measure to retain employees and keep them motivated. But, what I was trying to say is that this is a real argument and it is something to consider. If we want business to get involved in validation, we need to ‘talk business’. 

Also, our study of validation by enterprises shows that companies place an important value on competence assessment and making visible their most valuable employees’ capacities. 


3. In the session you chaired we heard about an interesting project dealing with "translation of competences", ie validation processes that did not use the standards of formal education as reference. In your work with the European Inventory, have you come across similar initiatives in other countries? What seems to be the success criteria for this type of work?

Yes, it was an interesting case! There are several countries and sectors that develop sector specific standards to create certificates or common frameworks, so it is not unusual to have standards that do not relate to the formal system. In a way, companies have a lot of activities that are related to validation when they carry out recruitment or appraisals. I still think that although this is important, it is only a first step. I believe it is important that the standards, if they refer to the same learning outcomes, should be equivalent and transferable. It is all about the learning outcomes, what the person has actually learn and is able to do.


4. The Nordic countries mention often the fact that our validation processes are to a considerable extent built on an attitude of trust among the stakeholders. To what extent do you think aspects as culture, attitude, and existing social norms play a role in the successful implementation of validation systems?

Our main proposition, in our presentation in the biennale, was that validation is an issue of values, so yes, all this you refer to  has an influence! I would say that Nordic countries that have a longer tradition on lifelong learning and have had long history of adult education are probably in a better position for some of the conditions that validation requires.


5. Are there any particular aspects of validation you think it is important that EPALE focuses on in the near future? What sort of awareness raising should we try to contribute to among the professional adult education staff in European countries?

I like EPALE a lot. I think it is a great source of information and there is quite a lot going in there. SO, I think that it needs to keep doing what is doing. I think EPALE can be a great tool to create a community of practice and to maintain it. It will be this community of practice, in a way, that will decide, with their contribution what the next steps to take are.


See also:

Ernesto Villalba (@ernvillalba) is an expert at the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Education and Training (Cedefop) since 2011 working on European transparency tools and principles. He is main responsible in the area of validation of non-formal and informal learning, where he works together with the European Commission in the follow up of the Recommendation of 2012 on validation as well as updating the European Inventory and European Guidelines. During 2012 he worked in the development of the European Skills passport and in a prototype of a tool for recording non-formal and informal learning experiences within the Europass framework.

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