The Belgian i-COMP project focused on the extent to which the competence concept is integrated into daily practices of 31 European public employment services (PES) and 35 vocational education and training organisations (VET). The i-COMP project (funded by ESF) was run by the VDAB (Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Service) in partnership with SERV (Social Economic Council of Flanders).The results were presented at the i-COMP exchange event held in Leuven in September 2012.

Actual use of competences in VET is limited to descriptions of vocational training programmes and their objectives. Competence classifications are barely used; and certainly not as a common tool when cooperating with labour market-oriented organisations. There are no examples of operational use of structured competence profiles for students after training, and positive results of training remain difficult to integrate into the job-matching processes of PES.

In terms of using tools based on competences (plus taxonomies), they are already used in some aspects of PES services (such as orientation and the profiling process of job-seekers). Competences have made their entry into PES mediation files both of job-seekers and job offers. Mostly this is limited to short descriptive texts of the key competences required. Use of competence and skills classifications, however, increases in importance when describing competence profiles. Today, several PES use such a classification in their core operations, to match supply and demand on the labour market.

The most progressive countries in this field were selected for an in-depth study visit. In France and Germany, competences are already integrated into the entire mediation process. By registering candidates’ competence profiles, and by describing the needs of a vacancy with the same classification, competences are used on a daily basis in labour market matching. Austria and Sweden are taking steps in the same direction. A common competence standard classification would be helpful to support competence-driven processes across borders. VDAB and SERV are going to use an existing standard called competent/Rome, based on the French Rome v3.

Another i-COMP conclusion is that competence links between training and the labour market is not yet in existence. To increase the match between training and the needs of the labour market, stakeholders need an inventory of skills and competences acquired by trainees. This inventory needs to be prepared in a common competence language.

All i-COMP conclusions and transferable good practices have already been incorporated into the new VDAB competence-driven matching system that will be launched in 2013. VDAB is both a PES and a VET, so in a subsequent phase, competences will be added to the VET services system, and will form a bridge between training and the labour market in Flanders.

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