Good practice examples

During the course of the project, the GATOM partners identified examples of best practice in terms of policy and education/training provision that addressed the needs of labour market participants who wish to change occupations. These examples are provided under the following headings:

Increasing transparency in the training market

Opintoluotsi is a Finnish online portal providing information on education, courses and studies in various institutes and is provided by the Ministry of Education. Opintoluotsi has been a development project in 2000–2006, supported by the European Social Fund. The purpose of the service is to support people in finding education possibilities suitable for their individual situation. The services of Opintoluotsi are offered to all potential users of education and training provision regardless of their age or background. The services include information on all education and training courses available, on the diplomas and degrees and the courses leading to them, on the various forms of additional and further training and on courses related to hobbies and other interests. Opintoluotsi also offers information on schools and universities, their location, the terms of admission, financing of the studies and the arrangements related to the education and training provided. There are also articles and case studies about different occupations and people working in them. The portal gives users an opportunity to ask for more detailed information or career counselling from counsellors (questions are normally answered within five days).

Financial support for re-qualification

In Finland, persons having a working history of at least 5 years and being in a valid public or private employment relationship which has lasted for at least one year are eligible for the adult education allowance if they have been accepted for a diploma, degree or a separate study course under the Finnish education system lasting at least 2 months during which the applicant must be on study leave. The length of the allowance is determined according to the employment history accumulated (0.8 days of grant for each full working month). The allowance comprises a basis part of €500 financed from the State budget and an earnings-related part based on the applicant’s salary financed from the unemployment insurance contributions paid by employers and employees. In addition, the applicants can also be given a government guarantee for a student loan (€300 per month).

Recognition of informally gained expertise

The Spanish government recently (January 18, 2008) passed the Royal Decree 43/2008 to regulate the so-called certificates of professionalism (certificados de profesionalidad). These certificates certify the availability of competences and skills required for fulfilling a specific profession. They can be obtained through two main ways, i.e. either via an ad-hoc training activity or via the official validation of professional experience acquired on-the-job.

In Switzerland, a new vocational education and training law was passed in 2004, allowing the recognition and validation of prior vocational or general skills and practical experiences and thereby opening the opportunity for adults to gain federally recognised education and training certificates without having to attend formal education and training programmes. For this purpose, a validation system determining the minimum standards for the validation system has been developed at federal level, acting as a guideline for the cantonal validation system to assure quality and comparability across Switzerland. After an information and counselling phase candidates have to do a self-assessment regarding their competences that is evaluated by experts. Afterwards, the validating body decides upon the recognition of prior skills and/or the necessity of (further) competence development initiatives. At the end, the candidate receives a certificate that is equal to the ones attained in formal education.

Career counselling for the mobile workforce

In Switzerland, career advice is available and covers all sectors of the economy (i.e. there are specialists counselling clients for individual occupations). The service is free of charge for persons aged 20 or younger; older clients pay a small fee.

In Finland, the selection of adult education measures is publicly supported by the elaboration of individual training plans for mature persons seeking (re-)qualification. As these also take into account competences that have been gained on an informal basis (e.g. learning on-the-job) these training plans may be assessed to be particularly suitable for uncovering competence development initiatives in the framework of an occupational change. The consideration of previously gained skills is realised by competency-based exams that are jointly conducted by education providers, practitioners and the social partners.

Design and provision of occupational change-friendly courses

The anticipated future demand for chefs led Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, to develop a customised version of its National Apprenticeship in Professional Cookery to suit the needs of a wider variety of potential trainees including occupation changers. The new Professional Cookery Nine Month Intensive Learning Programme is designed to be delivered as an intensive 9-month immersion programme, integrating theory and practice. Only candidates who demonstrate a level of maturity and a commitment to the field of professional cookery will be considered for entry into the programme. During the first 6 months the participants spend 3 days a week in college and 2 days working in industry with an employer of their choice. During the final 3 months, the participants receive intensive structured industry training with an employer of their choice. Fáilte Ireland pays the college tuition fees and a weekly training allowance (currently €97.70) to students while in college. The employers pay students a wage for the days they work. Participants who successfully complete the programme receive a FETAC Major Award Advanced Certificate Level 6. The course is provided in a wide range of locations: Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Letterkenny and Tralee.

Though occupation changers must give up their current employment to participate on the programme, they are fast-tracked into their new profession compared to traditional entry routes.

CONAIF (Confederación Nacional de Asociaciones de Empresas de Fontanería, Gas, Calefacción, Protección contra Incendios, Electricidad y Afines), the national business representative organisation of plumbing companies in Spain, has 16 training centres located all through Spain that are accredited to provide vocational training courses for unemployed people. These courses combine theoretical and practical contents and are focused on teaching the most basic tasks to carry out elementary plumbing activities. In this sense, no special requirement is needed to attend these courses. The characteristics of these courses may be quite different but, in general, they are appropriate for employed persons in terms of length (6 months) time-schedules (i.e., from 18.00 to 22.00 hours) and duration (about 80–100 hours each module, 600–800 hours in total).