Discussion on European initiatives for VNFIL in volunteering

Last June 16th YouthProAktiv participated in the online event organized by the Lifelong Learning Platform on the discussion on European initiatives for VNFIL in volunteering. The event counted with the view of key stakeholders like Pavel Trantina EESC (Civil society advocate), Eeva Jeronen (from the Sivis Study Centre), Jo Peeters (expert on the field of validation at the Edos Foundation) and Sabine Wiemann (Project manager at JobBridge).

The event aimed to draw the EU attention on the importance of develop reliable and accessible validation tools to ease the work inclusion of volunteers, especially those without previous work experience.

To start with, Pavel remarked the need to validate non formal education in order to recognize its value, the outcomes of it for the learner and the role of the organization providing it. Hence, non-formal education should not be recognized as a rival but as a complement to formal education since, from the point of view of Pavel, nowadays there are several competences which are not learned at school. In addition, everybody needs to continue learning and acquiring new skills after school, and to this extent Pavel asked employers what the most valued skills in the future would be, which in their view were leadership and creativity. From the learner perspective, Europe should work in the awareness and validation of skills acquired outside of the school since they are undoubtedly a great advantage on the labor market, but with the current lack of recognition it is hard to train and validate these skills. Hence, Pavel remarked the importance of keep building EU validation mechanisms, such as the guidelines for validating formal and informal learning, which will result in the personal and professional wellbeing of Europeans.

To continue with, Eeva highlighted what to improve, since for her it is key to understand the importance of skills gained from volunteering, since there are some skills that can only be gained by being a volunteer. To this end, Eeva showed a total of 45 validation tools for soft and vocational skills in 20 European countries, which can be consulted by clicking here.  According to this small-scale study on experience using validation tools, both volunteers and voluntary organizations found some difficulties while identifying self-reflection competences but in the end they agreed on the professional development which validation tools provide. As for the next steps, ImproVal will soon publish a policy paper and recommendations on validations tools in order to deepen the dialogue between the voluntary sector, the formal education institutions and the labor market.

Afterwards, Jo presented the project UpVal which pretends to upgrade our current validation tools and support the voluntary sector. UpVal has three target groups; the volunteer (who need to know how to validate its competences), the organization (which needs to support the volunteer in the validation process) and the volunteer center or volunteering platform (which needs to know how to support the organization). On the one hand, UpVal would increase the self-confidence of volunteers, but on the other hand it would need to be recognized by institutions and accepted by stakeholders. For the next outputs, UpVal pretends to publish a step by step roadmap for validation in January 2021 and a Validation support manual for volunteer centers in June 2021.

Finally, Sabine introduced the Job Bridge project, which sees volunteering as a means to acquire valuable competences thus helping volunteers to enhance their job readiness level and raise awareness among employers about the benefits of these validation tools, especially in the case of young people with little professional experience.