The people of Małopolska learn during their entire life

The people of Małopolska learn during their entire life“Education does matter,” claimed Dr Barbara Worek of the Jagiellonian University at the 8th Conference “Małopolska is open to knowledge”, which took place on 13 May in Kraków on the topic “From challenges to solutions”. The representatives of science, education, business and public administration discussed the subject whether the people of Małopolska improve their competence, and how the local authorities support personal and professional development of the adult population of this region.

Time of educated women

The newest study on the Human Capital Balance, presented by Dr Worek, shows that the people of Małopolska and Podlasie regions are the most active across Poland as far as 2014 educational activity
is concerned. This concerns people with employment as well as the unemployed, who take part in courses or trainings. As it is the employees who more often try to raise their qualifications, we can conclude that professional activity increases the will to improve one’s competence.

The people of Małopolska are motivated to participate in training mainly for professional reasons, but it is also important for them to develop their own interests. People employed at specialist positions invest in their own development more frequently than others. What is surprising, however, is low educational activity among the teachers, especially those teaching vocational subjects and primary school teachers. As many as70 per cent of teachers who do not participate in trainings claim that they do not need such trainings for their work,” the Jagiellonian University expert expressed her surprise.

Women raise their qualifications more often than men do. Trainings are usually attended by the women aged 25-29, 40-44 and 50-54. The biggest training activity is observed among the women with higher education aged 45-49 and even 55 plus. The training activity drops among the working men aged 30 plus.

“It is a stereotype that older people are not active in the field of education. Contrary findings are demonstrated especially among women, who are most active at the age 50 plus. They invest in themselves more than men do,” emphasised Dr Worek.

Innovations in education

The Małopolska people’s willingness to engage in lifelong learning has been higher than in other voivodeships for a couple of years now. According to Barbara Worek, this is partially due to innovations introduced in the region, which serve its population’s development. Małopolska is testing two large novelties in the labour market. One of them is the project run by the Voivodeship Labour Office in Kraków: “Subject-related funding of education”. It aims to support entrepreneurs in training employees with the use
of educational vouchers.

The second innovation is the pilot launch of the National Qualifications System and the information campaign about it. This project is run by the Educational Research Institute in partnership with the Krakow Voivodeship Labour Office. Within the framework of this project, the entrepreneurs can propose qualifications and describe them with the language of learning outcomes. It also includes confirmation of competence acquired in different ways: at school, at the university, at courses and trainings and through professional experience. It also includes quality assurance in the institutions confirming competence and allocating qualifications.

This was the subject discussed by Barbara Matyaszek-Szarek from the Małopolska Association of Employers Lewiatan, a partner in the projects promoting lifelong learning in the region. “Our goal is to improve access to well educated employees through educational activities. A problem that persists is low quality of vocational education in Poland and its misalignment with employers’needs,” emphasised Matyaszek-Szarek. In her view, both Małopolska innovations offer the following values: focus on the future (i.e. getting ready for changes in education and labour market), subjectivity and entrepreneurship (looking for training), order (e.g. they verify standards and the level of training), rights (impact on the changes happening across Poland), potential and universality. They have a significant impact on the employers, the population of Małopolska and the training companies.

“We will not escape from aligning the educational system with the National Qualifications Framework. Business has learned the philosophy of this system, the educational companies prepared for the changes and aligned their offers to the requirements,” emphasised Lewiatan representative. “The people of Małopolska evolve along with the system. They are aware that the time is coming for us to accumulate evidence of our competence acquired during our life span in many ways, also through experience. Until now, we have not been accustomed to do that,” added Matyaszek-Szarek. She emphasised that thanks to the National Qualifications Framework people will know what kind of specialist doctor they are going to visit and what is the actual level of skills of a given painter. “The National Qualifications Framework does not substitute any system, it is new and different. It allocates the same weight to formal and informal education, as it is not important how you learned certain things, what counts is that you know them.”

System for the economy

The conference was concluded with a debate on the innovations implemented in Małopolska, with the participation of experts and audience. The points of the discussion included, inter alia, how the Integrated Qualifications System will impact the labour market, how revolutionary is the educational voucher, whether co-funding of training services with public money or conformation of competence acquired through experience is something completely new and what is the meaning of quality assurance for the planned innovations.

“In order for the qualifications system to be alive, we need commitment of the stakeholders,” said Beata Balińska of the Educational Research Institute, addressing all the people, companies and institutions that may have an impact on the National Qualifications System. “Employees are very important, as they define which qualifications they expect of their employees. Conscious co-operation between them and the administration is important. The Integrated Qualifications System pertains not just to education but to the entire labour market and the economy and this is where it is mainly needed. Education is just a modest beginning,” she added.

“We got interested in the project because we train the employees and it would be cool if they could have their informally acquired qualifications confirmed somewhere. It is important that people start boasting about what they can do. Qualifications confirmation system would force them into self-reflection onto what they learned in their life,” said Ewa Szuba of Aspen.
“We have confirmation of the skills present in the labour market, but they are not part of the school education system. We had people with such qualifications but with no diploma to confirm that,” –Marek Filipczyk of Centre of Practical Education in Krakow described the successful validation test (recognition) of qualifications of a CNC machine tool operator.

“We witness a genuine digital revolution in the society. Knowledge can be gained in various different ways, we have the internet, supercomputers, robotics. This requires acquisition of new competence. The traditional forms fail, so we look for new ones. If we fail to take care of the quality of these forms, they will be rejected. No quality means no sense. Małopolska innovations help maintain the quality and properly manage the organisations.” said Professor Roman Batko of the Jagiellonian University.

“We were surprised with the high level of satisfaction among the project stakeholders: 90 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises that participated in it were satisfied,” added Łukasz Krzykwa of Sodexo, the operator of the educational voucher programme.

“We have introduced training vouchers and certification as early as in the nineties of the 20th century. The cheques proved useful and the entrepreneurs were contacting the training centres with quality certificates. We see the benefits but you have clearly outpaced us. In Wallonia, a cheque is a model for the employers, they are the ones who decide where and who to send out for training, while you are already thinking about handing this decision over to the employees,” observed Celine Marchal of the Walloon labour market organisation FOREM.
The discussion was moderated by Andrzej Martynuska of the Voivodeship Labour Office in Krakow.

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