Sunday, March 13, 2016

NFE values versus the need of official certification

I have to say that the work of the youth worker is not an easy one, and the more we move forward the more traps we can find on our way. Just imagine the situation related to the recognition of NFE (non formal education), that is becoming very popular and hot topic among the youth work practitioners.
The ¨imaginary¨ situation:
The group of 5 European organizations is preparing the project to innovate the topic of recognition of the learning in the European mobility projects (btw. the next blog post should be about the innovation, since it is very funny in the youth work as well). As each good practice to start the project preparation, they discuss what are the real needs they observe in their local communities. One partner explains that learning in European mobility is not considered as an added value by employers since those types of projects are associated mainly with drinking etc. Other partner refers to youthpass, that is still not recognized, and it is too long for the possible employers to actually have a look on that, besides many young people have several youthpass documents and presenting all of them is too much. Other partners express their observations that what is the most valued by employers are the formal certificates – like the certificates from the universities, official language exam certificates, etc. In this moment other partners react positively that in their countries there is very similar situation.
This excitement among partners that finally they have found something in common quickly leads to development of the first draft of the project – creation of the certification system, that is preferably recognized by some institutions (here you can mention National Agencies, Governments, Local Authorities and if nothing would work hosting organizations). There might appear as well ideas as creating the standardized programmes, common evaluation systems (if not something that might look like exam, but will not be an exam because we talk about NFE), procedures, online platforms, competences frameworks etc…
Sounds familiar?
And then imagine that one partner is late for this meeting. This person comes when all the others are already getting into the details how to create the evaluation system and who will sign the certificates. Looking on what is happening around ask a very simple question to others: HOW WE CAN DO ALL OF THIS IN THE ACTIVITY THAT SHOULD BE BASED ON THE NFE PRINCIPLES LIKE BEING LEARNER CENTERED – MEANING ADJUSTING THE CONTENT TO THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF THE LEARNER AND SELF EVALUATION – EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANS, THAT THERE ARE NO GRADES, LEARNERS ARE NOT BEING COMPARED AND ONLY THE LEARNER IS EVALUATING OWN RESULTS. In this moment the previous excitement that all partners had disappears as a soup bubble leaving the question what next….
For me the above-described situation is nothing new and I have observed it already several times. It presents very big dilemma that we as youth workers have. Since youth workers usually believe in the NFE principles (or they would like to believe, but still needs to internalize it a bit more), they try to follow them in the everyday youth work, that that´s great. On the other side recognition as well as employability are hot topics, and we are pushed by the local needs as well as the funding opportunities that put it as a priority, to work with that, innovate, improve and do something to make it work. Unfortunately quite often our innovation ends up exactly like our imaginary story – we end up producing something that is not fully in line with the NFE principles (although is fully desired by the employers) and something that is a simple multiplication of the things that has been already done – like youthpass. As youth workers we usually have very good ideas, but the truth is not easy to do something better then youthpass, with maybe 1% of the money that has been invested in the tool, and with much smaller network of stakeholders and promotion capacities.
But the life doesn’t have to be so sad and negative as it might seem from the last paragraph. I do believe that there are several things that we can do, and even more important are super necessary! So let´s start with the list:
Improve the image of European Learning Mobility – we need to promote more and more that all the European Mobilities within ERASMUS+ are learning mobilities, and the participants are learning; what is even more important they are getting new competences, not only getting to know the theories, but being able to use them in the real life situations… saying with the simple words they learn practical things.
Embrace self-evaluation as valid type of evaluation – I have heard it many times that is the evaluation is not standardized, and does not finish with the sigh and stamped certificate (yes some people are crazy about stamps, and is come countries they even doesn’t exist) it is not real, and doesn´t serve anything. IT IS NOT TRUE, and until we start believing in this we will not change much. Self evaluation it is very helpful to improve the self-esteem of the learner, since they start believing that they actually can do things, start believing in themselves. Secondly self-evaluation helps to name the competences that they have learned, so it brings added value to the CV learners are doing, or their self-presentation during the job interview. And there are for sure much more examples how useful the self-evaluation is (if you have some you can comment this blog post). Our responsibility as people who want to promote the recognition is to believe in and to spread the world that the real-evaluation really make sense.
Stop producing new recognition tools – in this point maybe my pragmatic point of view is getting too dominant, and maybe one of the tools that will be produced would really make sense. Although based on my observation for now I see that the organizations try to develop something new, quite often it really make a lot of sense and might be really useful, but due to the lack of funding, promotion and time it slowly dies. It is very difficult to compete with the youthpass in terms of the recognition, since already a lot of money has been invested in that, a lot of time dedicated (10 years or something), and it is becoming well known. Within the 2 years project that cost 150 000€ it is simply impossible to have the outreach that youthpass has, and then comes the question what next? How can I sustain my tool when the funding ends…

Train youth workers on how to use youthpass – yes, I said it, many manuals and trainings has been developed on that and still the quality (in my opinion based on what I see) of support on youthpass is very limited. It is very simple to improve, just find the time in the project to really implement the youthpass process – which we can call self-evaluation, and ensure the time that learners really can reflect. It can be very helpful to introduce the Learning to Learn competence better and develop it within the project. Finally we need to support learners to use the language that is relevant for the employers, so whenever learner went through the self-evaluation, we can help them to give a from, to translate what they have learnt into the employers language.

What is employability?

Thinking about the employability I think always about my profession – youth worker. The term is being present almost everyday in my professional life – I open my mailbox and there is a new training offer on employability, I looks for youth exchanges for my young people – most of the topics employability, we write projects and what topic we can choose… EMPLOYABILITY!
To write this article I did same small investigation about the presence of the word employability in the ERASMUS+ programme guide, and yes it popped up a lot, especially in relation to the youth field. What catched my attention is how some of the objectives and priorities has been formulated. Here are some examples what you can find in that document:
  • The mobility activities supported under Key Action 1 are meant to produce the following outcomes: enhanced employability and improved career prospects;
  • AIMS OF THE MOBILITY PROJECT ARE: support learners in the acquisition of learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) with a view to improving their personal development, their involvement as considerate and active citizens in society and their employability in the European labour market and beyond;
  • KA2 should have a positive impact on the persons directly or indirectly involved in the activities, such as: improved levels of skills for employability and new business creation (including social entrepreneurship);
  • HORIZONTAL PRIORITY of KA2: Transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications to facilitate learning, employability and labour mobility.
  • FIELD SPECIFIC PRIORITY Youth (KA2) Promoting high-quality youth work. Priority will be placed on projects that: foster the inclusion and employability of young people with fewer opportunities (including NEETs);
  • As well employability is stressed out in the Knowledge Alliance and Jean Monnet
So as we can see there is a lot going on in the field of youth on the topic of employability, but how well we actually understand this concept? For my for a very long time I was thinking that employability is the ability to get a job, and while working with young people we need to focus mainly on the application process and the things that young people can put into their CVs. While I started working with the topic of employability I have discovered that it is much more.
If someone would ask me right now what the employability is, I would state that it is the ability to get a job, do the job, keep a job, develop within the job and move on to the next job. Taking this approach while working with young people we need to focus on preparing them for being employed, for example how to be efficient, how to find the balance between personal and professional life, how to be responsible and how to take care about the personal development and life long learning.
Therefore whenever we are talking about the employability competences we are talking about something transversal, skills that everyone need to some extend and they are not really connected with the application process, rather with the soft skills. Within one of the projects that we have implemented within the KA2 – Strategic Partnership in the field of youth that is called OVPELO we have identified based on research the set of 9 main employability competences that are:
  • Learning to Learn
  • Taking the initiative
  • Social competence
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Organizational competences
  • Problem Solving
  • Self-management

Since to some extend each young person poses those competences, developed at school, in the social life, doing volunteering etc., and on the other hand many young people are not really aware of this, we have created the new tool – portfolio of the employability competences, that aims to help young people to self-evaluate and realize where are they, on what they want to work and were to improve. The tool soon will we up, so stay tuned!

This article I have prepared for the blog of OVPELO project, where it was originally published.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It is not true that Spanish people are lazy...

... it is just the reality that makes so many things much less efficient.

I don´t see here any lazy people (including me), but I see many people who are facing a lot of obsticles, that makes the work slower:D

For example weather - jajajaja this is the most typical excuse you can think, that means that you have never lived in the south of Spain. The days here are difficult, first you are waking up early because it is hot, the walk to the office makes you even more tired since it is really hot. When you enter the office with the nice cold air condition this is the moment you feel like sleeping. Asking why? Easy finally there are conditions to sleep and you haven´t done it for a while. After work there is a siesta - but acctually you cannot do anything else then put your body on the cauch or bed and drink water! This is usually the hotest part of the day. Thinking about opening your computer to work a bit? FORGET it if you don´t want to burn it!  And the day is progressing and the person is more and more tired from not doing anything. And if you try you will realize soon it doens´t work:D

Weather, as obviously the most important, it is not the only obsticles that we face that stop us from working. With weather is easy it is hot, it is not possible to switch on the computer because will burn, and people cannot sleep due to the hot, so they are permamently tired. A bit more compicated are social obsticles. Social interactions takes quite a lot of time and this counts into the working time of course. Well it is not that bad as for example in Brasil when whenever you are entering the office you have to kiss everybody, in my case the short ¨hola¨ is enough. Talking about the social interaction I mean more that people like to talk, and especially ¨clients¨. So whenever someone is coming to the office to make the consultation, first this person needs to tell you everything about his/her life and only then you can kindly explained that s/he is in the wrong office:D It happens to me quite often, since a month ago office where I work now used to be the unemployment office. You can imagine the faces of the people who come and see me! A foreigner! Working as a public officer! (the last is not true but they don´t know).

So the social dimension! People (clients) come and talk a lot, but in the same time they expect the long responds, and they are getting it. Like today there was one guy who came to the office to ask about the employment possibilities. The easiest and time efficient way to deal with it would be to say ¨Sorry, we are Youth Department, employment office is across the hall¨. And I guess everyone would be happy, if not the need of social interactions. The guy managed to share his age, got to know that there used to be the employment desk for young peple under 30 (he was 40), and the details how it used to work. He got the well introduction of all the people who are working in the employment office, and after some 15 minutes we finally went there:D Believe me, here people doen´t like concrete answers. If you have to say NO, start first explaining what have you eatten in the morning, and comment something about the weathe; only then it will be socially acceptable to give this beautiful and simple answer Yes or No:D


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quit your job, buy a ticket, get a train, fall in love and never return.
maybe it is not a bad idea... 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Partnerships in youth projects

I think I will start the new category and add my few comments about this what I see how the international youth work in Europe works.

And for the first topic I wanted to comment partnerships. Long time ago, might write ¨when I was younger, so much younger then today¨, each project that I was doing was a treasure. Was something that I dedicated a lot of time and energy and it was part of my life. And of course there were problems, but I always had a feeling that I ahve a great team (parterns) and we are doig stuff together! And always people gave me the motivation to continue!

Right now what I see the biggest nightmare of each project is how to find partners and then how to find participants. The yhoo mailing groups, as well as facebook groups are overcrowded. First if you need a partner just post one mail there and in one hour you will have the scans of part III. People over there can provide you everything, y want part III (document that confirms partnership) you have it, you need specific profile - you have it, you don´t want tons of questions type ¨can Turkey/Georgia/Macedonia (etc) participate¨ - well you have it!

But let´s be honest, when your boss two days before the deadline tells you find partners, as well not knowing a lot about the project, what can you do - go online and have all the part IIIs within an hour. but what next?

I have just checked the facebook groups, what can we find there today! And in teh first one:
- Very Urgent!!!! We are Looking for 2 romanian participants for a Training course!! (5 days before the training)
- Urgent call for 2 Croatian Participants for a TC (4 days before the training)
- Looking for participants from Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland or Lithuania for an approved Training (...) in Armenia (5 days before the training)
- Association (...) from Macedonia is urgently looking for 2 participants from Croatia, 1 participant from BiH, 1 participant from Russia (with valid schengen visa) and 1 participant from Ukraine (with valid schengen visa) for a Training Course - 2 days before the training, and here comes the issues of visa as well;)

And because today is 1st of November (deadline) on one group where people were trying to look for the partners for the last 2-3 days congratulate everybody for wonderfull job, and wished all the projects will be approved (please not!).

Honestly, making the projects only to do them, because they might be approved, and then fighting with organization, trying to find participants in the last moment, who are mostly very random, and doesn´t necessary have a profile needed is pointless. I did it as well, but experience teaches. And I don´t want to continue like this.

My suggestion:
- those people who are spending tons of time on facebook preparing the projects should move their asses and go to one project my themselve and fint partners there. Why not write the project within one facebook group to establish partnerships...
- before preparing the project think if it is really worth to prepare something that noone wants to take part (and the motivation that I need money is not enough)
- make the projects with your partners, make the needs analisis, it is really worth to make a project that is usefull
- and I think that we should open the discussio about the partnerships and quality of the projects, because I don´t want that my taxes will be spend on the projects that sucks (and remember the differece between project and activity - I am not comenting the second one. And I don´t want that the youth sector in Europe will have a bad fame, I have already spend a lot of time explaining that my work is not international drinking activity.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ups and downs of being adult.

Finally I have reached that age that I feel adult. I don´t know if it is about the age (I am only 27) or it is because I have changed my life style. I have seen that my needs and aspiration changed, as well as my habits. Like some time ago inviting people for a dinner Friday night would be really strange, it is what my parents does from time to time, but right now I am doing it very often and enjoying a lot. I can notice that my way of thinking, values are different then of 18 years old kids. I can notice some significant change between me and them (I wanted to say the change of generation that would fit into this situation but it happens usually every 15 years).

I feel smart, I feel satisfied, I feel I am on a right way with my career, I feel liked, I feel I am doing something meaningful, I feel happy. It is totally not like I have imagined it, that the adult file is boring, consist only of work, home, house work and raising children. That adults cannot do many things anymore. I realized it is totally not true. I have time to be a kid again, and to do stuff I have never had time to do because there was always school, exams, some house work, or activities that my parents told me to do. I can do all the things that I enjoyed when I was younger, and in terms of parties some of them are even crazier. And the life got more comfortable. I have my flat where I can invite whomever I want and do there whatever I want. Many of my friends have cars, what makes life more easier. As well I have time and money to enjoy my life, because work is one things, and after work is for whatever I want.

And downs… I don´t see a lot. I think that thanks to being adult I realized that life is flowing so fast that I should enjoy it as much as possible, and I am doing it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lorca after the earthquake

The life is slowly coming back to normality. It is Monday, for many the first day of work after ¨terremoto¨. There is a lot of people on the streets slowly moving in the direction of their working place. I am one of them. It is and it is not hot and cold in the same time. For the first time I take some of the small streets and as the majority I try to avoid the side walk. I have time to discover which houses are green and which red. Many roads are closed so I am walking around like the tourist who lost his way. I am talking out my camera to take a photo of the places I liked. I don´t enjoy taking photos of destroyed buildings, I prefer to picture the life on the streets. Almost everything is new, just the habit of drinking a coffee with friends in the morning didn’t change.

For me the proof that everything come back to the reality is when I see the people selling lottery, although there is not a big interests in lottery today. I guess we already used all our luck. Streets looks like ¨after the earthquake¨ but the people used to this view. There is only one place that is different, in each sense – acampamiento, that many of my friends call refugee camp.

Acampamiento it is the now home for over 2000 people, who lost their houses during the terremoto. Most of them are migrants with the few exceptions – gypsies. My first impression about his place is that it looks like the prison. From outside there are grating. People are communicating with their friends who are on the other side through them. Inside there is a fight for survival. Besides those lucky one who managed to get place in the tent, many people still live without the roof, making beds from cartoons and, houses from the blankets they got, which pretend to be a walls. No roof included and the weather forecast is not promising. Cold and raining.

It took them just few days in acampamiento to developed their new culture, and change the daily habits. Over there, there is a fight for survival. They sleep, pass their time in the queues for everything, and protect what they have (in case they rescued something from house, or got necessary things from other people). A friend of mine was almost robbed of shampoo, which cost only 1€ but over there is worth much more. Almost no one have tooth brush or past. People are afraid of each other. This place change people in the very strange way. And they are monitored by police, army, volunteers or people from red cross. That they are over there partly voluntary (they can leave, but they don´t have other place to go), they are watched, they have no privacy, and what they have is a bracelet with the number to be easy to identify.
To be continued…