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Spain: more than three million workers eligible to validate their skills

A new procedure for validation of non-formal and informal learning approved in 2021 supports individuals wishing to acquire a formal qualification.  

A Royal decree has recently been published, amending the procedure for validation of professional skills acquired through work experience; it offers a permanent procedure for their assessment, affecting all productive sectors, thus addressing a basic right of workers.

The main difference with the previous procedure is that, until now, the competent public authorities were responsible for deciding when and which qualifications to validate. The new regulation places the initiative in the hands of the individuals, who can apply at any time to the public authorities to have their skills validated.

This change can have a great impact on the active population, as it puts an end to the limitations of the existing procedure through specific calls for applications referring to one or several qualifications – a procedure that, until now, had enabled the accreditation of competences for  only 300 000 workers in the past 10 years.

The amendment aims to contribute to the objective of the Plan for the Modernisation of Vocational Training (2019-23), presented in July 2020, of validating the competences of more than three million people in four years, with an initial budget of almost EUR 852.5 million. It must be noted that almost half of the Spanish workforce (48%) do not have formal recognition of their professional skills despite carrying out daily work activities using them, which affects their training and employment opportunities.

Cumulative accreditation system

The National Catalogue of Occupational Standards serves as a reference for all units of competence (unidad de competencia is the minimum unit of vocational competences to be recognised and validated). Registration of units of competences is the responsibility of the Regions delivering the respective training programmes. The system will be cumulative, so that the beneficiary can complete training leading to a corresponding vocational qualification (VET diplomas) or professional certificate (Certificados de Profesionalidad).

The process begins, as usual, with an initial assessment stage led by a guidance counsellor, who draws up a guidance report for the applicant. This is followed by the assessment phase, when the report and the documentation provided by the candidate are analysed and the competences acquired in the workplace are assessed using various methods. Finally, the assessment outcomes are recorded in a State-wide register.

To participate, candidates must have at least three years of work experience related to the competence they wish to validate, with a minimum of 2 000 working hours in the 15 years prior to the application submission. For level I units of competence, which cover a reduced set of relatively simple work activities with limited theoretical knowledge and practical skills, two years of experience with a minimum of 1 200 hours worked are required.

Public centres providing vocational training in the education system (VET diplomas), integrated vocational training centres (both VET diplomas and professional certificates) and reference centres (carrying out innovative, experimental and training activities in the production field, serving as reference to the whole national system of VET qualifications and training programmes) are authorised to carry out the activities involved in the validation procedure. In addition, other venues that provide their facilities and services for this purpose may also be authorised.

This modification is in line with the European Union employment strategies aimed at the qualification of the active population to facilitate employability, mobility, social cohesion, equity and lifelong learning.

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Real Decreto 143/2021, de 9 de marzo, por el que se modifica el Real Decreto 1224/2009, de 17 de julio, de reconocimiento de las competencias profesionales adquiridas por experiencia laboral [Decree 143/2021 amending the procedure for the recognition of professional skills acquired through work experience] 

Real Decreto 1224/2009, de 17 de julio, de reconocimiento de las competencias profesionales adquiridas por experiencia laboral  [Royal Decree 1224/2009 for the recognising the professional skills acquired through work experience]

Validation of skills

Catálogo Nacional de Cualificaciones [National Catalogue of Occupational Standards]

Plan de modernización de la formación profesional [Plan for the modernisation of vocational training]