Stakeholders are involved in designing and updating VET qualifications in line with labour market needs. They develop occupational standards in all sectors of the economy; these make up the national register (CNCP) (
) and are used as reference for designing and updating VET programmes and qualifications ( ).
The backbone of VET is the national catalogue of occupational standards (CNCP) (
), which comprises the most important occupations organised in 26 sector branches. It currently has 668 occupational standards on three levels, according to the degree of complexity, autonomy and responsibility necessary to carry out a work activity ( ).
Occupational standards (
), consist of a set of competence units (UCs) reflecting the expected performance of a job holder in the respective occupation. A competence unit is defined as ‘the minimum set of professional skills that can be partially recognised and certified’. Each competence unit is associated to a learning module, which describes the necessary learning (knowledge, skills and competences) required to achieve that unit. The learning specifications are expressed as capacities (learning outcomes) and their related assessment criteria, as well as the contents leading to the achievement of those capacities. The capacities to be completed in a real working environment are also identified.
Structure of occupational standards
Occupational standards are used by the education and employment authorities to design VET qualifications: VET diplomas and professional certificates (CdP).
- VET diplomas are composed of a set of these occupational standards (
- a single occupational standard is used for each professional certificate (
As stated in Act 5/2002, the Government establishes the equivalences and recognition between VET diplomas (issued by education authorities) and professional certificates (issued by employment authorities) through competence units.
The national institute of qualifications (
) is responsible for defining, drawing up and updating the national catalogue of occupational standards (CNCP) and the corresponding competence units and learning modules, in active cooperation with VET stakeholders ( ). Regions have an active role in the development of some professional branches according to their productive context; this is the case for Galicia in the maritime and fishing industry (MAP) or for País Vasco in metalworking (FME).
Experts from the 26 professional branches, covering both the productive and training sectors, work together to define the occupational units of competence and the standards of the reference profiles in the production system. A competence unit is then described in terms of the professional tasks that skilled workers do.
Updating and reviewing all vocational qualifications is continuous and starts with standards older than 5 years or when the changes in the production sectors make it advisable to update before five years. This process involves all parties, including experts from companies and VET institutions, as well as an external validation of the revised occupational standards, based on current labour market needs analysis in terms of skills supply and demand in all sectors and professional branches. INCUAL collects information through various channels using qualitative and quantitative approaches and VET qualifications are updated accordingly. New occupational standards are created based on identified emerging professional profiles.
National reference centres (CRN) are in charge of planning and carrying out activities for innovation, experimentation and training, which serve as a point of reference for the whole national system of qualifications and vocational training for the development of VET.
Recently, INCUAL has improved its observatory and created an early warning system network, with different stakeholders, to identify prospective trends and changes in professional profile requirements and to draw up and, if necessary, modify the occupational standards.
VET diplomas (education authority VET)
These are based on the occupational standards included in the CNCP. They are offered at basic, intermediate and higher levels, have an academic and professional value and signify both an education level and the professional qualification obtained. They are accessible to learners enrolled to basic, intermediate and higher VET programmes.
A working group of educational and technological experts, drawn from the related productive sector and different regions, work together to design and draw up each diploma programme. Educational experts are usually teachers or trainers in the same professional field. Several consultation rounds take place before a VET qualification is approved by the Government and all interested groups and institutions can express their considerations (
). All main advisory bodies are involved in the process:
- the sectoral education conference;
- the general council for vocational training (CGFP),
- the national education council;
- when other authorities have responsibilities in the occupation or professional fields to which the curriculum of the diploma programmes refers, their favourable report is a prerequisite for approval and publication in the official gazette (BOE).
VET diploma programmes, defined according to learning outcomes, are approved by royal decrees for 55-65% of national curricula, ensuring the validity and the consistency of the qualifications nationally. Between 45 and 35% of the curricula contents are settled at regional level, according to the socioeconomic characteristics of the immediate environment. These royal decrees also establish the facilities, equipment requirements for VET providers, assessment criteria and teacher requirements for each VET diploma programme.
VET diploma programmes consist of different modules: some are linked to occupational standards (the occupations covered by the diploma) while others ease access to employment such as business and entrepreneurship (Empresa e iniciativa emprendedora) or professional training and guidance modules (Formación y orientacion laboral, FOL). Personal and social skills are also covered transversely in all modules making up the curriculum of VET in the education system.
Starting in 2015, VET diploma programmes are being updated and adapted to the requirements of the productive sectors (
), including and reinforcing the eight key competences in a cross curricular way. Currently, there are 170 different Diplomas ( ):
- 34 in basic VET (Título profesional básico) (ISCED 353)
- 62 in intermediate VET (Título de Técnico) (ISCED 354)
- 92 in higher VET (Título de Técnico Superior) (ISCED 554)
Professional Certificates (employment authority VET) ()
Professional Certificates (CdPs) are State-recognised vocational qualifications issued by the employment authorities. They are based on occupational standards and are developed and updated by the State public employment service (SEPE), with the cooperation of the national reference centres. SEPE also produces teaching and assessment guides (
A common curriculum is set for each, regardless of the region and irrespective of the type of training programme (full-time, e-learning), based on the standards set in the national catalogue of occupational standards (CNCP). Whenever an occupational standard or competence unit changes or is updated, the relevant CdP is also reviewed and changed accordingly.
Professional certificate programmes are organised in three levels, level 1 being the most basic and level 3 the most complex. They have a modular structure with learning outcomes, assessment criteria and contents and guidelines for providers which are fully employment-oriented. Each professional certificate also includes a compulsory on-the-job training module (módulo de formación práctica en centros de trabajo) whose learning outcomes must be assessed in the workplace. The total duration of the professional certificate programmes ( ) varies, according to the structure of competences and learning outcomes to be acquired without reference to a specific academic year. The duration of the on-the-job training module depends on the profile and occupations included in the curriculum of each diploma, ranging from 5% to 52% of the total workload of the training programme.
Features of the 583 CdP learning programmes listed in the national catalogue of occupational standards (CNCP)
Source: ReferNet, based on results from SEPE’s search tool of training specialities [accessed 24.10.2018].
To adapt training programmes to the target audience, employed or unemployed workers, the workload of the training modules (Módulos formativos) associated with competence units (UCs) lasting 90 hours or more is split into shorter training units (unidad formativa, UF), with a minimum of 30 hours, based on an analysis of the competences with which they are associated.
Before their publication in the official gazette, all professional certificates undergo consultation with education and employment bodies: the general council for vocational training (CGFP), the training for employment State commission and the sectoral conference on labour affairs.
Professional certificates have a double effect: they set out training programmes and award a vocational qualification. As the competence unit is the minimum unit to be certified, it is possible to gain partial credits for a professional certificate.
Professional certificate programmes can be delivered face-to-face or as blended learning. In the latter, the State public employment service uses experts’ opinions to set the duration of instruction to be provided in person according to the nature of the content or the need to use certain equipment or machinery. Learning which cannot take place via simulation must be completed in traditional learning settings, as must all final assessments.
Holding a professional certificate indicates the ability to work in a particular field, in line with the classification of occupations, and guarantees the necessary vocational training, although it does not regulate professional activities (this is done by the relevant body in that profession).