Skills Recognition Systems – Filling the lack of hard, direct evidence of its contribution

Skills recognition systems are an important component of skills development, employment and migration policies. If designed and implemented properly, they bring benefits to individuals, employers and to the economy as a whole.

However, this development and implementation give rise to a number of challenges, namely in the areas of stakeholder involvement, awareness raising and impact assessment. A lack of capacity and access to data, as well as to state-of-the-art methodologies and approaches, have a negative impact on effectiveness and a return on investment in these systems. The role of skills recognition will likely gain more importance in years to come; the focus must be placed on improving the labour market impact of existing systems, as well as on providing assistance to those that are about to develop – and implementing them in years to come.

The research focused on skills recognition systems that are the product of public-driven initiatives, while also giving comparisons and examples of private sector initiatives. As an important policy measure in the areas of learning and the labour market, skills recognition systems are supposed to address challenges such as skills mismatch, poverty and informality. They have considerable potential for delivering desired outcomes, and expectations in what these systems might provide for their users are high.

However, despite extensive desk research and the number of case studies conducted, there was little hard, direct evidence that skills recognition systems contribute towards addressing these challenges and benefit end users.

In addition, the research brought to light numerous examples of design and implementation challenges: lack of trust, awareness and involvement of the stakeholders and users; insufficient coherence with other measures and existing policies; and scarcely any proper monitoring and impact assessment at the system level. Consequently, the value of skills recognition is not sufficiently acknowledged, and many systems struggle to attract attention, capacity and resources for further development.

All this results in a waste of the potential of skills recognition systems:

  • Skills certificates are insufficiently recognized and valued by employers in the labour market;
  • Recognition providers do not have the capacity to provide services for a sufficient number of
    users to make a change;
  • Skills certificate holders are not motivated to use them as a springboard to new careers and
    paths of learning;
  • Potential users (individuals) are not interested in obtaining skills certificates on account of
    their low awareness of these systems, their lack of access to them, their scarce resources and their limited trust in skills recognition.

The research also illustrates that by amending methods of development and implementation, these stumbling blocks could be successfully overcome or significantly reduced. But this requires capacity, methodologies and access to state-of-the-art tools, which developers of such systems often do not possess.

On the basis of this research, it is evident there is a need for guidelines for developing, implementing and evaluating the impact of skills recognition systems. These should focus on providing guidance and assistance in five most key areas:

  • Needs analysis;
  • Stakeholders and the environment;
  • Quality and accessibility;
  • Reaching out; and
  • Monitoring and evaluation.



There is a need for greater capacity building and technical assistance to integrate these guidelines into existing national skills development systems and employment policy design, in order to improve the efficiency and outcomes of existing recognition systems.
Lack of proper monitoring and outcomes measurement is one of key issues that prevents both stakeholders and the users from understanding the value inherent in skills recognition, thus limiting its impact. Examples of existing monitoring and impact measurement tools are convincing in terms of the evidence they provide; but most of these are the result of a one-time impact assessment, conducted on a limited scale. In order to gain trust in skills recognition outcomes, as well as a sufficient knowledge base to enable recognition authorities to adjust provisions, regular monitoring and impact measurement are essential components of the system.

Many skills recognition systems are stand-alone, focusing on a narrow area – such as one sector or a few occupations. Others are extensive, closely linked to nationwide measures; NQFs are a case in point. There is a tendency towards unification and the creation of a “system-of-systems”, for which the NQF (or its national equivalent) seems to provide the soundest structure.

Skills recognition systems and qualifications frameworks may help to strengthen each other and achieve a strong impact; however, the skills recognition system may work well without any linkage to the NQF. The benefits and drawbacks of consolidating skills recognition approaches must be carefully assessed. It is not necessarily the best solution for every system.

Skills recognition has a great – and mainly untapped – potential at the national or sectoral level. Its potential at the international level is also considerable, and this has been drawn upon even less. Skills recognition can play a significant role in fostering labour market mobility and improving the working and living conditions for migrant workers. Collaboration with regional economic communities to enhance the portability of skills at a broader geographical level, and improved migration governance, are key objectives. The ILO should strive to achieve these objectives, and its projects should address this priority more.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  Understanding the potential impact of skills recognition systems on labour markets: research report


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