Digital technologies are a focus for new opportunities, directly dealing with innovation, growth and job creation but, so far, there is not yet a common understanding of what are the most important digital skills to be developed, neither at European level.
In Europe there are hundreds of thousands of ICT centres, libraries and NGOs where people can learn digital skills. Many get interested in ICT and go on to follow a university course. For others, their new digital skills help them find a job. But are the skills acquired through these trainings formally recognized? Do they count for employers and universities and how do people prove them? With a university diploma, we can prove our skills. But what happens when we learn at a non-formal training centre or through volunteering?
Validation is a hot topic in the youth field, especially in the context of youth volunteerism and activism. EC representative Koen Nomden (Skills Unit) at the European Youth Forum on 9th July in Brussels spoke about EU initiatives, namely the Council Recommendations on validation of non-formal learning outcomes.
Member States should set national validation frameworks for non-formal learning before 2018. The main objective of validation is to “enable individuals to obtain qualification based on validating their experience”. There are four steps in validation: identification, documentation, assessment and certification.
But where are digital skills in all that?
Digital skills, such as language skills, are considered horizontal skills. They do not lead to a specific qualification and occupation. Therefore, they are not validated against the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) through the same formal procedure applied for example for a chef who has cooking skills and who can get his skills tested and receive a formal diploma without going to a professional school.
To address this problem and to bridge the worlds of education and labour market, the European Commission developed a common European Digital Competence Framework to identify and describe the set of competences that are needed by all citizens today. According to this framework, 30% of all Europeans are digitally illiterate (older people, less educated youth, lower income families, migrants, at risk of social exclusion, etc.) and are as such deprived from e-government; e-health, ebanking, etc. services. For digital skills and language skills the EU has developed self-assessment tools, that everyone can use to document their skills. There are two reference frameworks for digital skills – the European Digital Competence Framework DIGCOMP (for users) and the e-Competence framework e-CF (for ICT professionals).
A common system to validate digital skills is therefore due: the European e-Competence Framework is based on e-Competences to validate a specific level (at five proficiency ones) adapted and customised into different contexts from ICT business and stakeholder application perspectives.
In any case, EC future plans are on the European Qualification Framework (EQF) that will be updated soon with the recognition of digital skills, EU tools for documenting skills will be modernised and a digital skills portfolio will become part of the EUROPASS documents and migration as the validation of skills of third country nationals and will become increasingly important.
Article realized for the Vocational Skills Week