European Seminar within the framework of the SMEQUAL project in Warsaw

European Seminar within the framework of the SMEQUAL project in WarsawOn 12 March 2015, in the Golden Tulip hotel in Warsaw, a European Seminar was held devoted to ways to raise qualifications in the SME sector, as part of the SMEQUAL project, run in several European countries. The seminar was participated by representatives of the Educational Research Institute (IBE), education institutions from Belgium and Italy, as well as Warsaw’s entrepreneurs.

What does the notion of ECVET contain, and how is it implemented in the Polish education system? What will be the features of the Europeans qualifications handbook? How are qualifications designed in the small and medium enterprises sector in Belgium and Italy? These and other questions were answered by experts at the seminar. The SMEQUAL project is intended to improve the quality of training in the SME sector both in Poland and in several other European countries.

In the first part of the meeting, experts of the Educational Research Institute presented the way in which the ECVET system is implemented in Poland. “By saying ECVET (European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training), we mean facilitation of work in many locations, a certain common system and common rules for describing and confirming competences. This requires an orderly environment, such as is afforded in education, for example, by the Bologna system and reconciliation on the basis of ECTS points. The problem is that, apart from the education system, each major company has an individual way to conduct training, run training programmes and provide opportunities to obtain certificate, which is usually tailored to that company only. ECVET-compliant solutions, which were included in the premises for the integrated qualifications system, are intended to change the status quo,” said Horacy Dębowski of IBE, expert on the ECVET system in Poland.

Horacy Dębowski talked also about the changes introduced by the new system, using the example of acquiring the qualifications of an electrical technician. “Obtaining an electrical technician diploma requires continuous education for four years of the technical secondary school, during which the student acquires the relevant education and required skills. The problem arises when the learner is unable to have a continuous period of four years of technical secondary school, and remains empty-handed after leaving the school before graduation. This happens even though he or she has learned enough to be awarded the title of, say, an electrical mechanic. The new system introduces changes and allows individual qualifications to be certified earlier, therefore the entire education process will not have to be passed in one period, but it can be ended at the level of electrician qualifications, after two years of learning, or of an electrical mechanic after three years.

Wojciech Stęchły of the Educational Research Institute noted how important a change is introduced by the ECVET system – a unified description of qualifications: “The description of qualifications will be made up of four parts. The first will contain general information about the qualification. The second will present the skills and knowledge required by the given qualification. The third will list institutions which issue a given qualification, and the final part will comprise additional information relevant for the functioning of the qualifications record.

The IBE expert also described how the ECVET is introduced in Poland. “Introduction of the possibility to transfer and accumulate achievements in the Polish environment progresses in three steps. The first, implemented between 2011-2013, allowed us to gather all the necessary data, define goals, problems, methodology. At the second stage, which began in 2014 and is still continued, we propose a cohesive system, which can be used for characterising qualifications for most professions. In the future we hope to verify how the system actually works in Poland,” summarised Wojciech Stęchły
of IBE.

The second part of the meeting was devoted to presenting the concept of the European qualifications handbook and exchange of Polish experiences with representatives of foreign education institutions from Italy and Belgium. “The purpose of the publication will be to propose a methodology for consistently defining professional qualifications for different European states. The overall purpose is to unify the system. The most important chapter of the book will be devoted to learning at work. What it will not be is solely a set of recommendation – it will demonstrate, using the example of a human resources specialist, how such qualifications should be created,” said Guiseppe Solarino of the Italian CONFAPI company, which is one of the partners in development of the handbook.

The representative of the Italian SME sector also emphasised that publication of the European qualifications handbook for the SME sector will be available for all who are interested, probably within the present year. “We are planning to translate the book to more than ten languages, including Polish. We are hoping that it will contribute to unification of the system in many European countries. After work on the handbook is completed, we will try to distribute it among all interested foreign small and medium enterprises. We are working on finishing the final version of the book by the end of October 2015, and we want to start distribution this year still,” Guiseppe Solarino added.

During the European seminar, Belgian and Italian delegates also gave an account of experiences in developing a qualifications system and training sessions for companies in the SME sector in their countries. All emphasised how important is the task of establishing a single European qualifications system. Mario Spatafora of the Italian Effebi Association compared the existence of such cohesive system with the way cappuccino is made. “All over the world, when you order a cappuccino, you are sure to get a product which is a mixture of three ingredients: milk, coffee and sugar. Similar should be the case with the qualifications system, whose cohesive form we want to develop as part of the SMEQUAL project. In this case, milk is knowledge, coffee is skills, and sugar is competence needed to obtain the qualification. People in the world serve cappuccino in different ways – some add more milk, others add more sugar, and some do without one of the ingredients altogether. Our mission is to establish a system in which all three key components will always be taken into account, combined in just the right proportions so that the cappuccino “tastes” equally well to everyone around the world.”

The European seminar in Warsaw was the second in a series of meetings of the SMEQUAL project. The first of those took place on 9 October 2014 in Rome. The Warsaw meeting was attended by about 20 people from Belgium, Italy and Poland.

 KRK na youtube