For ReferNet’s 10th anniversary, Margaretha Allen and Ulrika Hallin wrote a story illustrating how the common EU tools will, in the near future, open up opportunities for citizens - for learning, working, and for building exciting and fulfilling careers.

A keen traveller, Sara became interested in tourism as profession. This led her to study hotel management and tourism, with an eye to getting a job in the industry and working abroad. She chose Nösnäs upper secondary school in Stenungsund, which was part of a Leonardo da Vinci international collaboration project with Spain. This allowed students to undertake part of their workplace-based learning abroad. Sara´s leaving certificate was at NQF-level 3.

At the beginning of her first year Sara tried two different workplaces as part of the programme, including a spa resort on the island of Orust. Six weeks later, Sara obtained a certificate from the employer stating the different tasks she had performed. She was proud to include these tasks in her Europass CV.

During her third year in upper secondary school Sara went to Belgium for workplace learning. For this to be possible a learning agreement was signed between the two schools, specifying which parts of the course she will learn in Belgium and how many ECVET points these correspond to. The Belgian school ensured the appropriate standards, according to EQAVET, which was used to evaluate these modules. The employer in Belgium and the host school assessed Sara’s results, as described in her Learning Agreement. This allowed her to bring her ECVET credits back Sweden, without having to repeat course content or take a test.

Sara also got a Europass mobility document that described what she had done and what she had learnt at the Belgian workplace. On being awarded her upper secondary school diploma, Sara also obtained a Europass diploma supplement, which gave a general description in English of the education and training that she had undergone. The supplement also showed some occupations that might be available in the future. This time she was evaluated at NQF level 4.

Next, Sara got a summer job at a hotel resort in Belgium. It was an exciting summer with many new experiences to add to her Europass CV. Back in Sweden, Sara spotted a vacancy notice for the Selma Lagerlöf resort. She send in her European Skills passport, containing a Europass CV, copies of her diploma and her diploma supplement (also available in Swedish) – and got the job.

Within a few years, Sara felt she wanted to learn more about the spa and wellness side of the business. She found, within higher vocational education and training programmes, a new type of course for those who had a qualification such as hers and who also had work experience. That same autumn, she embarked on a two-year education and training course, specializing in spa tourism and in health promotion. This course led to NQF level 6.

With her new diploma (and with the Europass diploma supplement in English), Sara was eager to venture out into the world. She got a job at a hotel in Marbella as a health coach and greatly enjoyed her time there. At the end, she received a Europass experience, describing the knowledge and skills acquired during her time in Marbella.

But by the age of 35 she longed to return home. Through her personal contacts she heard that there was a lack of teachers and trainers in the hotel management and tourism sector. The web page of Gothenburg University revealed that the requirements for admission for higher studies were at level EQF 5 in the vocational area. So she applied. To her delight, she not only was accepted to the programme, but was assessed – through the University’s recognition of her non-formal and informal learning in the work experience she had described in her CV - as eligible for two more courses.

At the end of her course, Sara started working part time as a VET-teacher at her old upper secondary school in Nösnäs, where her international experience was highly valued. In fact, she was able to work at the school while undertaking part-time distance study on one of the two other courses where she had been accepted.

And so the circle is closed – at least until Sara decides to take on a new challenge!