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The importance of transition qualifications for adults

od Simon BROEK
Jazyk: EN
Document available also in: LV PL HR NL

/es/file/eqf-level-5-epaleEQF Level 5 EPALE


On 9-10 November 2017 EPALE's Thematic Coordinator, Simon Broek, attended the first CHAIN 5 seminar in Luton (UK). CHAIN 5 is an international community of practice that shares knowledge and experience concerning qualifications at EQF level 5. The community of practice was established in December 2013 after Cedefop conducted its study on qualifications on EQF level 5. Simon shared his experience and what he learnt at the event.


The CHAIN 5 took place in November 2017 in Luton, UK and focused on theory and practice concerning work-based learning as a ‘container concept’ and how it can strengthen the role of level 5 qualifications for different target groups; how it can increase the quality of provision (bearing in mind issues like permeability between levels), and how qualifications can be more relevant in the labour market for all kinds of learners as part of ‘lifelong developing’.

There were many valuable contributions in terms of research and practice. Concerning the latter, for instance, workshops were provided to discuss English higher apprenticeships and Dutch institutional models for providing formal level 5 qualifications in a more modular, flexible manner. The research perspective was covered by a presentation of the Tandem project for learning pathways for employees and a presentation on teachers and trainers in work-based learning.


Importance of level 5 in easing transitions

For adults, EQF level 5 qualifications play a particularly important role. These qualifications provide transition pathways from school to work, from vocational education and training (VET) to higher education (HE), from work back to school. In addition, in Europe there are a variety of different types of qualifications with different orientations (e.g., labour market access, further learning). What I took from the seminar is that in many countries a lot is going on at level 5, and not only in short-cycle higher education. It really is the transition qualification that connects (higher) VET and HE, vocational and professional education, business academies and the labour market. These transitions are also becoming more important as some occupations are at risk of disappearing due to low interest. People need to be able (and need to be enabled) to make transitions faster, for their career, and for when flexibility is needed to make ends meet. Level 5 qualifications in this context have a key role for:

  • adults who would like to upgrade their skills, competences and qualifications (horizontal transition);
  • adults who would like to change their career (vertical transition).

/es/file/level-learning-outcomes-cedefopLevel of learning outcomes Cedefop

Level of learning outcomes Cedefop

Source: Cedefop (2014), Qualifications at level 5: progressing in a career or to higher education


Especially when level 5 qualifications take into account work-based learning in its many forms, depending on the situation now and in the near future, learning can be best aligned with adults’ needs and specific situation.


Work-based learning and use of terminology

However when discussing work-based learning and apprenticeships in Europe, we are often a bit lost in translation as similar concepts mean different things. Hans Daale (CHAIN 5) proposed three categories that can be found related to qualifications at level 5:

  • Study-based working: The student is enrolled in a formal education programme and components of the programme are based on work practice. There is not a formal contract with the employer.
  • Dual education: Study programme leads to a formal qualification, but there are two contracts – one with the employer and one with the education institution. The learner is both a student and an employee.
  • Job-based learning: the learner has a formal contract with the employee; the qualification relates strongly to the job and the career progression within the company/sector. Learning can be non-formal, leading to certificates which can eventually be validated and combined into a full formal qualification.

The difference between the three categories shows the wide scope of learning that takes place at the workplace, not always directly linked to formal education programmes. It is exactly those programmes that might be the most relevant for adult workers, as they provide them with possibilities to learn on the job and progress in their career.

Check out the presentations from the CHAIN 5 seminar

Simon Broek has been involved in several European research projects on education, labour market issues and insurance business. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and European Agencies on issues related to education policies, lifelong learning, and labour market issues, and is Managing Partner at Ockham Institute of Policy Support.

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  • Obrázok používateľa Zane Katrīne Kļaviņa
    Manuprāt darbā balstīta mācīšanās Latvijā nav pietiekami populāra - tai nav pietiekami daudz iespēju. Zinu, ka Vācijā, piemēram, duālā izglītība ir ļoti izplatīta izglītības forma. Mācoties strādājot, veidojas daudz ciešāka saikne starp teoriju un praksi un mācības kopumā varētu izrādīties jēgpilnākas par parastām akadēmiskām mācībām augstākās izglītības iestādēs.
  • Obrázok používateľa Hümeyra BAYKAN
    Normal 0 false false false DE X-NONE X-NONE

    Normal 0 false false false DE X-NONE X-NONE The TANDEM project aims at enhancing the flexibility in learning pathways across education systems (from EQF levels 4 to 5 and 6) connecting Vocational Education and Training (VET), Higher Education (HE) by taking into consideration the demands of the labour market.

    The project mainly focused on the need for education and training in the labor market, how to offer workers and apprentices learning pathways where they can take a next step to advanced vocational qualifications. Even though higher-level VET qualifications refer to highly skilled workers, this does not mean necessarily that those skills can be obtained only by higher education institutes/degrees.

    As Tandem shows, employers and employees invest in a substantial bundle of trainings, leading to a group of certificates. Depending of what the labor market (and the job) needs employees fill a “port-folio with VET certificates” based upon courses, training and work-experience. For employers the certification/recognition is a minor issue; they expect immediate results. Although the EQF/NQF aims to promote flexible learning pathways and focuses on learning outcomes independently of where the qualification has been acquired, no common arrangements exist for credit transfer and accumulation for qualifications related to the EQF. This makes it more difficult to move from one learning setting to another; such transitions are, however, fundamental for individuals who experience several transitions throughout their learning and employment careers. The growing internationalization of products and services value chains has triggered an increasing number of international (sectoral) qualifications industry-based training and certifications, based on standards developed by international companies or sectoral organizations.

    TANDEM recommends:

    •Close cooperation with companies and educational institutions: An important aspect that reflects one of the basic deficits is the gap between training and employment with a shortage of skills and qualifications of interest to the labour market. The training system is mostly not providing agile and well-oriented responses to the changes that are occurring in the labour market.

    •Education matters are mostly transversal and in charge of several ministries; absolutely necessary to have a platform for LLL in a country, having representatives of all ministries on board for shaping pathways and recognition diplomas and certificates outside the formal system, whit involvement of business organization. A European directive on how to recognize competences acquired from all types of learning and training is needed as well to issue certificates which could also be used as parts of national/international formal studies and joint degrees incl. recognition and accreditation of skills acquired through professional experience.

    •Involving the business world in the necessary reform processes for the simplification of EQF; EQF is still too much considered to be an education policy, falling under the responsibility of the educational sector driven by governments and the decision-making role of labor market side is often weak. The main focus should be placed on evidence of competences acquired rather than on the learning pathway; and building bridges between formal, non-formal and informal learning, leading also to the validation of learning outcomes acquired through experience.  The implementation should respond quickly to the rapid changes that are occurring at companies.

    Besides; the business world, as well as VET providers are more and more concerned that the numbers of graduates are growing in the HE (higher education) programs as already observed even in countries like Germany   “duale Berufsausbildung” with high reputation. In Bulgaria: 54% percent of the university graduates have jobs, which don't require a university degree; similar in TR and UK, studies indicate half of all university graduates are doing non-graduate jobs. On the other side students drop out of higher education without completing their studies. Though data availability and comparability still pose challenges, available completion rates range from 48 % to 88 %. In Germany 28% of students of any one year (in many technical courses at 50% or higher) currently give up their studies in bachelor degree programmes at higher education institutions.

    So it is actually highly recommended, to have a VET degree at level 5, to be seen as Higher VET by linking academic and vocational competences to each other. The traditional notion of white/blue collar with the concept of separate (higher/lower) skill sets is no longer appropriate to current conditions, has serious repercussions on VET students’ capacity and must be revised. Students/apprentices need the right tools representing alternatives more precisely attuned to job market demands to keep up with technological and economic change. For many people, VET remains a second option, and only a minority of workers has opportunities to develop new skills.

    EQF level 5 offers possibilities to build flexible learning pathways, creates a potential for expansion of VET at higher levels to better reflect the qualifications demanded by the businesses. New impulses can be created by means of incorporating of elements  of both VET and HE, a promising platform that can facilitate the step-through to advanced vocational qualifications without workers/students have to “invest” in a higher education degree. “Level 5 area” could be continuum for all supplementary qualifications and interdisciplinary skills acquired through business education, in-company training and vocational courses with effective procedures for recognizing skills acquired beyond formal education.

    It is becoming increasingly important in countries that are critical of their education system and think of modernization, that it is necessary to develop VET programs at their own national level 5. VET provider itself could develop programs that are suitable for those with a VET4 diploma, strongly with the focus on the labor market, with the help and input from the (regional) field of work. VET can only become more attractive if people rely on its results. The common trade coin is the learning outcomes. The step from VET4 to a higher level is often a difficult one, and it demands a specific approach in the government legislation and therefor the overall national strategy.