“assessing COmpetences for REintegration” – initial results and materials developed in the Erasmus+ project “CORE”
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Youth unemployment rates in some European countries are still very high and currently rising again. Especially in Western Balkan countries many young adults aged 16 to 30 are presently Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) and at high risk of suffering long-term negative effects from their NEET phase, such as lower income or further unemployment in the future. The main goal of the Erasmus+ funded project CORE is to support the (re)integration of NEETs (back) into the labour market or education system by making their non-formal and informally acquired competences visible.
Experiences of young NEET adults and how to support them
In the first research phase, all project partners collected information about young NEET adults in their own country (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia) by reviewing relevant literature as well as via expert interviews and focus group meetings with individuals who work with NEETs, do research on the topic, or are NEETs themselves. The objective of this phase was, on the one hand, to collect general statistical information about this target group in the respective country (e.g. NEET rates, youth unemployment rates, school dropout numbers, etc.) and, on the other hand, to identify the specific needs of these young adults. The overview below summarises some of the research results. For more detailed information please see the comprehensive report on young adults Not in Education, Employment or Training.
- Young women have higher NEET rates than men, mainly due to family responsibilities.
- Additional risk factors are having a low level of education, a migration background, (learning) disabilities, divorced and/or unemployed parents, a low household income or living in remote areas.
- In North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, young Roma are especially at risk.
- Access to professional career counselling and support programs is often limited and not familiar to young NEETs in Western Balkan countries.
When looking at these results, one can quickly see the great heterogeneity that is hidden behind the term NEETs. True, these young adults show great variety in their specific situations and needs, but they are also united in their need for guidance and support. Many NEETs have had negative experiences while in education, lack formal qualifications, struggle to find their place in the labour market and must deal with rejection.
Therefore, they can all profit from professional counselling and guidance in which their non-formally and informally acquired competences are evaluated and made clear to them. This process of guided self-reflection can foster their self-esteem and empower them. It also helps them to find the best occupation or education/training to match their competences and personal strengths.
The CORE Toolkit – a collection of materials for counselling young NEET adults
The CORE project aims to support the (re)integration of NEETs by providing materials for counsellors working with the target group. The CORE Toolkit was developed for this purpose. To match the situations and meet the needs of young NEET adults described above, existing tools for assessing competences, vocational orientation, empowerment, and up-skilling were collected by all project partners. A total of 27 tools that are suitable for NEETs and available online for free were selected and organised in a user-friendly way. Every tool is represented as a fact sheet that offers a compact overview of the most important information and provides a direct link to the tool.
Figure: Structure of the fact sheets from the manual for counsellors page 11
Additionally, 12 support services aimed at counsellors and NEETs in the Balkan region were added to the toolkit to compensate for the above-mentioned lack of information in those countries.
What struck us while compiling the CORE Toolkit was that hardly any tools for assessing competences and vocational orientation were available in the Balkan countries. This underlines the importance of the CORE project’s aim of adapting the existing ProfilPASS (an instrument for assessing informally and non-formally acquired competences) for NEETs so it can be implemented as a tool for competence assessment (and career guidance) in these countries.
Developing the ProfilPASS – kickstart your career! – a new adaptation of the tried and trusted ProfilPASS
According to expert interviews and focus group meetings the existing ProfilPASS and ProfilPASS for young people are not sufficiently suitable for assessing young NEET adults’ non-formally and informally acquired competences. Whereas the ProfilPASS for adults to some extent requires a high amount of independent self-reflection and language skill, which can be too demanding for the target group, the ProfilPASS for young people lacks the in-depth exploration of an individual’s competences and is therefore not demanding enough. Both instruments lack links to young NEET adults’ real-life experiences, which made further developmental work necessary.
Therefore, a combination of the ProfilPASS and the ProfilPASS for young people was created with additional adjustments of the language, content, and layout to meet the needs of the target group of NEETs. The new ProfilPASS – kickstart your career! is available as an open access resource in all partner languages (German, Bosnian, Macedonian, Serbian and Slovenian) as well as in English on the CORE project website. This new instrument is especially useful for counsellors from the Balkan region, where tools for assessing competences and vocational orientation are rare and hard to access.
Additional material accompanying the CORE Toolkit
The main barrier to young adults’ access to professional education or vocational counselling in Western Balkan countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia) is the lack of counselling structures and existing offers. The CORE project supports the professionalisation of counsellors especially in this region by providing a curriculum for the training of counsellors as well as a specific manual for counsellors. Whereas the CORE Curriculum describes in detail specific training modules for new counsellors, the CORE Manual provides additional information for counsellors working with the CORE Toolkit and the ProfilPASS – kickstart your career!. These additional materials are available in English and all partner languages as an open access resource on the project webpage.
On October 1st 2019, the two-year EU project “assessing COmpetences for REintegration” began as part of the Erasmus+ programme (project reference: 2019-1-DE02-KA204-006193). CORE is led by the Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung – Leibniz-Zentrum für Lebenslanges Lernen (DIE) [German Institute for Adult Education – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning] in the role of coordinator, together with partner organisations Association for Competency Development “S.K.I.L.L.S.” (SKILLS) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) from North Macedonia, Association of Citizens Laris (LARIS) from Serbia, and Ljudska Univerza Velenje (LUV) from Slovenia.
About the authors:
Eveline Bader is a research associate at Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung – Leibniz-Zentrum für Lebenslanges Lernen e.V. Since 2019, she has been coordinator of the EU Project CORE – “assessing COmpetences for REintegration” (2019-1-DE02-KA204-006193)
Nikolina Garača is the president of the Association for Competency Development "S.K.I.L.L.S." (Bosnia and Herzegovina), partner organisation in the EU Project CORE – “assessing COmpetences for REintegration”