On 29 May 2013, the Italian Ministry of Labour and the Institute for the Development of Vocational Training (ISFOL) presented the first national referencing report to the European qualifications framework (EQF) advisory group. With this document, Italy linked the qualifications that fall under the remit of the Ministry of Education, University and Research, including those from higher education, and those awarded by Regions and Autonomous Provinces in the framework of State-Region agreements, to the EQF
The national report is extremely important for Italy after long-lasting analysis and a complex debate involving several national key actors: the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Department for European Policies under the presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, as well as employers’ representatives, trade unions, and international experts.
Prior to official approval of the report at institutional level, a national consultation was conducted in the summer of 2012. Through an online questionnaire, in particular VET providers, trade unions, employers, universities and other national organisations were asked whether, in their view, the qualifications linked to the EQF represent a relevant part of the national qualifications system. They were also asked whether its structure and links were clear. The result of the national consultation was positive, in relation to both content and methods adopted for referencing. Subsequently, the report was officially adopted in Italy (State-Region agreement of 20 December 2012, signed at the Permanent Conference for the relations between the State, the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano).
Currently, the report does not include those qualifications awarded by Regions and Autonomous Provinces that are not regulated by State-Region agreements; in addition, licences for regulated professions as per Directive 2005/36/CE have not been referenced either. According to the Regions and representatives of the Department for European Policies, the latter will be linked to the EQF at a later stage. This way, the referencing report is to be considered a ‘work in progress’ to be completed in the future.
The referencing process followed a set of 10 criteria agreed on by the EQF advisory group – the coordination group responsible for the implementation of the EQF at European level. Their aim is to guide the process and ensure it is transparent and understood by stakeholders in all countries involved. The criteria guarantee that the referencing process promotes trust among European countries, which is fundamental for the recognition of qualifications from different national systems.
Following the positive feedback of the EQF advisory group on the Italian report, and in consideration of progression opportunities and flexibility of the national education and training system to support lifelong learning, Italy has confirmed its commitment to include qualifications that have not been referenced yet. Quality assurance mechanisms in national and regional qualifications systems will be strengthened in line with the 2012 national plan for quality assurance of vocational education and training, according to the EQAVET recommendation.
A further incentive to complete the referencing process comes from the legislative decree Definition of general norms and criteria for identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning, and minimum standards for establishing a national system for the certification of competences (of 16 January 2013). More specifically, this national decree sets the principles and criteria for a national register of VET qualifications awarded in the national education system and by Regions and Autonomous Provinces, as the single framework for certification of competences. According to Article 8 of the decree, the national register is based on all registers of such qualifications that are widely recognised and agreed on nationally and regionally. These registers comprise qualifications that follow minimum standards. Competences, for example, are described in terms of learning outcomes and linked to the EQF by means of the national referencing process. The decree also states that, to make the national register publicly accessible, national qualifications will be available online through an ad hoc platform ISFOL is currently setting up in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and the regional technical coordination group. The platform will be open to the public for consultation in June 2014, when, according to the above State-Region agreements, the corresponding EQF level will be indicated for all national qualifications.