WP5 - Evaluating and Validating Unaccredited Sectoral training / Competency acquisition
European aquaculture sector is an innovative industry, which has grown rapidly from a cottage industry in the 1960s into a diverse industrial sector. Its success, as in any other sector, relies very much on a joint practical and theoretical knowledge base, and people working in the sector often require specialized training. Much of the training provided in the aquaculture sector however falls outside current formal qualification systems. Therefore it is a challenge to prove that any individual worker has indeed gained the requisite knowledge, skills and competences acquired through specialized training that has slipped through national qualifications structures.
To remedy this situation, the European Qualification Framework (EQF) is being introduced throughout the EU starting from 2008. The EQF has been described as a translation device which will make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers' and learners' mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning. One knock-on effect is that National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) need to be related to the EQF in some way. The EQF system is divided into 8 categories from the lowest to the highest knowledge level, with category 8 equivalent to the PhD level. Each level is described in terms of specific knowledge, skills and competence.
Using the EQF system requires that the client must know, and know how to use, learning outcomes for course descriptions. A learning outcome can be defined as a statement of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning. It can also be considered as a sort of “common currency” that assists courses and programmes to be more transparent at both regional and international levels.
How far the inclusion of the EQF system and learning outcomes have reached varies a lot in Europe; though some countries are well on the way, others have not yet begun the process. It looks as if so far the EQF system seems to work quite well in the formal education context. However in the aquaculture sector much of the training provided falls outside current formal qualification systems and it is a challenge to prove that any individual has indeed acquired the requisite knowledge, skills and competences through such learning. To improve this situation was the basis of the VALLA project (Validation of Lifelong Learning in Aquaculture).
A major aim of the VALLA project was therefore to develop, test and evaluate tools and methods that make it possible to describe and evaluate unaccredited sectoral training/competency acquisition using the recommended Learning Outcome format. The aquaculture sector was used as a case study but the developed methodology should have the potential to be transferred to other sectors.
The project was divided into 4 major parts:
- Functional and occupational mapping of a sector
- Development of a dedicated software tool based on existing European Best Practice that enables trainers to define (non-formal) training units in terms of competences and learning outcomes
- Testing of the software in 20 case studies
- Meetings with National authorities for higher education (HEA) and vocational education/training to get feedback on the methodology