Report

Skills Audits In Europe – The term itself and its translation is not used in practice

A skills audit measures and records the skills and knowledge of a person. This study looks at skills audits in 16 EU countries to identify main types and the different methods, approaches and standards used. Effectiveness of skills audits is also analysed.

Is there a common understanding of skills audit?

The research shows that while there is a high number of practices that fall under the definition of skills audits as presented in the 2012 Council Recommendation on validation, the term skills audit itself and its translation is not used in practice. None of the 41 practices analysed is actually called a skills audit or equivalent translation. When the term skills audit is used, it can actually refer to a different type of practice than what the Council Recommendation on validation suggests. For example, the term skills audit is used to refer to large scale surveys in a country, region or a company in an English- speaking context. The terminology used more frequently is:

 Skills profiling;
 Skills diagnostics;
 Skills assessment;
 Skills portfolio;
 The term ‘bilan de competences’ in French is broadly used and sometimes also
translated into other languages;
 Some countries prefer to use the term competence instead of the term skills
(‘competence check, competence assessment’);
 Sometimes a skills audit is part and parcel of a larger validation process but designated with a specific term (other than validation).

Overall the vocabulary in this field is not yet stabilised and shared among the stakeholders (with the exception of the above mentioned term ‘bilan de competences’). This was a challenge for this research assignment as explaining the scope of the assignment to country researchers as well as stakeholders interviewed, and created some confusion about what is and what is not covered by the study. As a result of this terminological challenge, the study covered a broad and somewhat heterogeneous group of practices. In the eyes of some countries and stakeholders, some of these practices may not fall into the category of what they understand as a skills audit (or its equivalent).

This report continues using the expressions skills audit to align with the EU Recommendations mentioned above. However, it also notes that beyond the heterogeneity of terminology used there are related challenges with the term ‘skills audit’:

 It does not translate well into other languages;
 The word ‘audit’ has a negative connotation as it suggests verification of
compliance; and
 The negative connotation is further exacerbated by the fact that while many skills audits rely on the voluntary nature of participation, the term is not appealing to the target group. As one interviewee put it, ‘no one wants to be audited’.

Are there common features to a skills audit practice?

Most skills audits have a common thread which consists of the following principles:

 In most cases, the process is owned by the individual. This individual ownership results in one of the main effects of a skills audit: better awareness of ones’ capabilities. This is often combined with the voluntary participation of individuals in the process. Some target groups are recommended or obliged to take part in a skills audit (for example, certain categories of unemployed or certain profiles of employees if it is a company-level initiative). In these cases, the skills audits may be owned by employers and PES rather than the individual;
 Forms of assessment which combine narratives of past experience, interviews, and self-assessment are frequently used. There is typically some form of self- assessment which can be done on an individual basis or in a guided context.

However, for some target groups, for example, people facing issues with literacy or with the language of the host country, support through trained counsellors is needed to help extract evidence from a persons’ narrative.

The use of these approaches is typically sufficient if the aim of the process is to improve self-awareness, inform future choice, or better present one’s capabilities to an employer.
These forms of assessment can be combined with more rigorous and ‘authentic’ approaches, such as observations and demonstrations under real-life conditions, tests, and work trials. This is especially the case when the individual receives a certification for his/her knowledge, skills and competence from prior learning.

 The output from the process is often a portfolio, in particular, in cases of more complex and in depth skills audit practices. When the output is not a fully-fledged portfolio, there is still some form of profile documentation, such as a skills card or skills map. In some cases, skills audits lead to the certification of skills and the award of a qualification.
 Where the skills audit is carried out together with a counsellor, this is typically accompanied by advice on next steps. This may simply be advice on how the outcomes of the skills audits can be used, or, in the context of Public Employment Services, the skills audit can be used as a basis to develop an individualised action plan. In the case of online assessment tools, skills audits typically lead to more general career suggestions.

This ‘common thread’ points to a number of key features of skills audits, which are
shown in the figure below.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Publications catalogue – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – European Commission

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