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Qualification "Skills Audit Method"

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Schemat_Bilans_Komeptencji_Polska_EN_v3ASSESSMENTIDENTIFICATION ANDDOCUMENTATIONBASIC CAREER AUDIT VARIANTIN-DEPTH VERSION OF THE CAREER AUDITBASIC CAREER AUDIT VARIANTIN-DEPTH VERSION OF THE CAREER AUDITAssessment of learning outcomes by external institutionsPreparing the Individual Development Plan and passing a feedback (written document) on to the participantPreparing the Individual Development Plan Discussion on the results of cooperation and passing the documents on to the participantConducting the biographical interview and the behavioural interviewConducting a diagnosis based on the Skills Audit MethodIdentifying and documenting learning outcomes by performing the In-depth version of the Career Audit under the guidance of a career counsellor Obtaining information about the educational and professional situation along with filling in the Project Participant Card Advisory and recruitment conversationRegistration in the systemSTART

1. Origin, Institution name

  • Poland
  • Regional Labour Office in Kraków

2. Institution website

3. Qualifications

Use of the Skills Audit Method (SAM) as an element of the career counselling services provided in the "Career Direction" project.

4. Short description of the validation process

The in-depth variant of the Career Audit is a cycle of career counselling that participants can use in the "Career Direction" project implemented by the Regional Labour Office in Kraków. The in-depth version of the Career Audit was developed on the basis of the Skills Audit Method (SAM), which was expanded with additional diagnostic tools. SAM was prepared by experts from the Educational Research Institute and the Regional Labour Office in Kraków (see: E. Bodzińska-Guzik, I. Gmaj, J. Grzeszczak, A. Leyk, Metoda Bilansu Kompetencji [Skills Audit Method], Educational Research Institute, Warsaw 2015). The Skills Audit Method includes the identification and documentation of learning outcomes. It consists of describing the competences of the participants that are worth developing, as well as identifying their interests and planning their further development.

Stages of the process:

  • preliminary stage: registration of the participant and an interview with a recruitment advisor;
  • research stage: identifying and documenting competences;
  • summary stage: discussion of the results of the skills audit and giving the final documents to the participant.

While working with a career counsellor, the participant has the opportunity to systematise their own educational and professional experience, identify their strengths in the labour market, analyse their current professional life and determine which further actions should be taken to improve their professional situation. The participant can also create a portfolio, i.e. documenting his/her learning outcomes, as an additional diagnostic activity in this process.

5. Detailed description of the validation process

The in-depth Career Audit is part of a career guidance service that includes identifying and documenting learning outcomes. Assessment – usually preceded by training – is a separate element of the "Career Direction" project and is performed by external institutions.

The first meeting with a career counsellor has a conversational character. The client is provided with all the details of the "Career Direction" project, the activities that are conducted at its subsequent stages, the duration of involvement in the project, and the anticipated number of meetings with the counsellor. The benefits of participating are reviewed. This discussion is very important in terms of promoting the in-depth Career Audit, many persons decided to participate in the project only after the meeting with the counsellor. About 13% of project participants select the in-depth version of the audit, most often older persons or those at risk of losing their jobs. Additionally, during the advisory and recruitment discussion, but also during subsequent meetings, project participants can count on receiving support with all the technical issues. Participation in the project requires using electronic mail as a form of contact with the RLO, as well as registration in the Development Services Database. The Database enables participants to purchase training vouchers, which are co-financed as part of the second stage of the project. Due to the low digital competence of some of the participants, counsellors support them in setting up an e-mail account, using the database and all other technical and organisational issues. Clients can always count on contacting a counsellor in person or by telephone in case of problems relating to participation in the project.

5.1. Identification and documentation

Identifying and documenting learning outcomes as part of the in-depth Career Audit consists of the following stages:

  • initial stage,
  • research stage,
  • summary.

Initial stage

At the initial stage, the client:

  • registers in the system,
  • takes part in the advisory and recruitment discussion.

Working persons can participate in the project (full or part-time, employed on the basis of a civil law contract or operating a business without employing workers, or operating agricultural activities) who are in some way connected to the Małopolska Voivodeship (living, working or being educated within its territory).

The participant must:

  • have completed primary or secondary education if he/she is between the ages of 25 and 50, or
  • be over 50 years of age to be able to take part in the project, regardless of the level of education.

Persons under the age of 25 can also participate in the project, but in a limited number – recruitment for this age category is announced from time to time.

During the first advisory and recruitment conversation, lasting up to 1.5 hours, a Project Participant Card is filled out. The client, with the help of the counsellor, provides information about:

  • the schools attended;the schools from which he/she graduated;
  • completed courses and training, including their duration, learning outcomes and attained qualifications;
  • professional experience, taking into account the form of employment, position or function and the scope of duties;
  • non-business activity, e.g. membership in organisations or participation in social activities;
  • interests;
  • other issues that the participant considers important.

In the basic Career Audit variant, the counsellor only obtains general information about the current educationalwindows and occupational path of the participant and the work he/she is currently performing. The counsellor also tries to focus the client's thinking on the potential benefits of attaining a new qualification on his/her professional career – due to the general nature of training and the qualifications offered and subsidized in the project, the client may initially be motivated to participate due to different factors than professional ones (e.g. personal interests or hobby-related).

The in-depth version of the Career Audit corresponds to the scheme developed within SAM: it is an audit performed under the guidance of a career counsellor, understood as "(...) a way of identifying and documenting learning outcomes – possessed resources of knowledge, skills and social competences – acquired in the learning process; [SAM was] developed for the needs of persons (counsellors) working with clients in identifying and documenting [learning outcomes]" (Metoda Bilansu Kompetencji, op. cit., p. 8–9).

Research stage

The second stage consists of conducting a diagnosis based on the Skills Audit Method, supplemented with additional tools in the form of questionnaires or tests.

The audit lasts about 4.5−5 hours and is most often held over 2 to 4 meetings (not including the advisory and recruitment discussion). Sometimes, however, even 6 meetings are held. The most important parts of the in-depth Career Audit, required of each participant are: 

  • the biographical interview, and
  • the behavioural interview.

Depending on the client's situation, expectations, competences and cognitive abilities, various diagnostic tools, in the form of a questionnaire or test, are used, originating from the fields of career counselling, coaching or the company recruitment processes. They include:

  • Competency Test Tool (CTT),
  • Questionnaire on Professional Interests (QPI),
  • Schein's Career Anchors questionnaire or other analogous tool for testing the client's system of values and sources of motivation (e.g. personal values cards).

Summary stage

In the summary stage, the results of the joint work are discussed and the client is given his/her documentation. This discussion, lasting from 1 to 1.5 hours, is a summary of the conclusions drawn from the interviews and tests taken. At this stage, an Individual Development Plan is made, and the client is provided with a document called Feedback, summarizing the in-depth Career Audit.

 5.2. Assesment

Assessment is a separate element of the project, performed by external institutions. Including the assessment of learning outcomes as a variant of the in-depth Skills Audit Method is not foreseen in the discussed counselling services provided by the "Career Direction" project.

6. Validation methods

Methods of identifying and documenting learning outcomes through the in-depth Career Audit:

  • Biographical interview – the first diagnostic tool used in the course of the in-depth Career Audit; it is conducted in accordance with the scheme proposed in SAM. The interview provides information on three areas: the educational, professional and personal life of the participant. Before the start of the interview, counsellors inform the client about the planned duration of the meeting – from 1 to 1.5 hours, with the stipulation that another meeting may be held if needed. The starting point for conducting the discussion is the Project Participant Card that was created during the first meeting. The counsellor has a list of questions (a "cafeteria") for each issue, from which questions are chosen that are relevant to the participant's situation. The most comprehensive "cafeteria" for the field of professional activity includes, among others: questions about the first job, subsequent places of employment, undocumented professional experience, the greatest successes, failures and favourite and least willingly performed activities at work. According to the guidelines of SAM, the discussion on personal issues is preceded by informing the client that it only serves to identify additional competences and is voluntary. The participant has the option to stop the interview and can decide about the level of detail.
  • Behavioural interview – is based on the modified STAR model, as proposed in SAM. The modification consists of a discussion by the participant of various situations, not only those from professional life, but also from private life, in relation to the tasks set before him/her, undertaken activities and achieved results (Metoda Bilansu Kompetencji, op. cit., p. 19–20). As in SAM, the behavioural interview scenario is divided into three parts on the following areas: professional experience, personal experience and key events in the participant's life. The client analyses events that were particularly important, e.g. they related to successes, they provided a sense of satisfaction, they allowed weaknesses to be overcome or permanently changed a way of thinking. Counsellors pay special attention to questions about the competences that were useful to the participant in a given situation. In relation to each analysed situation, the client is asked how the learning outcomes associated with it can be documented and whether evidence of this exists.
  • Competency Test Tool (CTT) – a test for measuring competences developed by the Labour Market Department of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy (cf. G. Morys-Gieorgica, Implementation of the "Narzędzie do  Badania Kompetencji [Tool to Test Competences]" , Labour Market Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, presentation at http://docplayer.pl/15148285-Realizacja-projektu-narzedzie-do-badania-kompetencji.html, accessed 26.03.2018). The client is asked a maximum of 52 questions. Each of them contains a concise description of a problem at the workplace. The task of the participant is to identify the best and worst of the three proposed solutions. The results are presented on the scale: very low – low – moderate – high – very high. A very low level of competence means the lack of desirable behaviours, testifying to an inability to solve even simple problems. A very high level of competence means that the person taking the test has the desired behaviours even in the face of new and very difficult problems, as well as an ability to develop new ways of working ever more effectively. The counsellors working in the "Career Direction" project use a basic profile or a dedicated test – two of four available variants of the CTT. The test examines key competences – selected on the basis of information obtained during the behavioural interview. It is then possible to compare the results of the CTT and the conclusions from the interview regarding the participant's specific competences. Some counsellors indicated limitations in using this method – it may be too complicated for people with a generally low level of competences.
  • Professional Interest Questionnaire (PIQ) – a tool used to determine a client's interests using 11 measurement scales (relating, for example, to artistic, commercial, conventional, mechanical, entrepreneurial or social interests) and two control scales, including a social approval scale (cf. A. Grzechnik (ed.), Testy w poradnictwie zawodowym, Labour Market Department, Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, Warsaw 2006). It allows situations to be identified in which the client does not provide honest answers about him/herself, only those that are considered to be more desirable or socially acceptable. According to one of the counsellors of the "Career Direction" project, some of the tests are, in fact, not diagnostic because of this. Compared to the CTT, PIQ is an easier method for the participant because the answers only consist of "yes" / "no" / "don't know" to statements on the types of tasks that he/she would be willing to do in professional work.
  • Schein's Career Anchors questionnaire – a questionnaire tool used to identify a client's values and sources of motivation to work. Persons completing the questionnaire evaluate various statements in reference to themselves, which allows the values that are particularly important to them to be determined. Counsellors point out that the questionnaire allows the participant to learn about the sources of their own motivation and professional satisfaction. For example, a person for whom accuracy is important in their work will not be happy in an organisation where this aspect of work is not appreciated, while, for example speed in acquiring new clients is emphasised instead.
  • Assessment/Development Center (AC/DC) – a method of measuring competences often used in recruitment processes and promotion in the organisational structure of enterprises. It involves organising workshops during which participants are asked to perform various tasks, such as, e.g. presenting before the company's management board (cf. P. Jurek, Metody pomiaru kompetencji zawodowych, „Zeszyty informacyjno-metodyczny doradcy zawodowego” no. 54, Labour Market Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Warsaw 2012, p. 140–162). Assessors then assess participants' competences based on observations of their behaviour. 
  • The portfolio is used to document learning outcomes. It is created by the participant mainly in between his/her meetings with the counsellor. The portfolio can be both a set of physical evidence confirming specific skills (samples of handicrafts, photos of works, films, etc.), as well as documents (certificates, diplomas or proof of having other qualifications, work certificates, references, etc.).

7. Validation results

The results of the in-depth Career Audit should be divided into two groups. The first includes the formally defined products of the identification and documentation stages as well as further activities within the "Career Direction" project. The second group contains the potentially numerous and varied changes (direct or indirect) that can occur in the professional life of the participant by performing the more in-depth variant of the Career Audit.

7.1. Direct results

Specific products are developed as part of the Career Audit:

Individual Development Plan – a document prepared in the course of conducting the audit to guide the future activities of the client in order to achieve his/her development goals. The Individual Development Plan consists of the following elements:

  • the agreed purpose and scope of the audit;
  • the professional development goal that the participant wants to achieve (e.g. employment, change of job position, change of job, undertaking studies or training) along with the forms of learning that will serve this goal, together with an assessment of how advanced the achievement of the goal is on a scale of 1 to 10);
  • possible intermediate or alternative goals;
  • a list of activities that should be undertaken by the client to achieve the set goals – a scenario for their implementation, which contains eight additional questions, among others on the competences the participant already has, potential barriers and ways of minimizing them.

Feedback – a document containing a list of validated learning outcomes and other relevant information relating to the further development of the project participant. This product contains the following items:

  • the agreed and implemented scope of the in-depth version of the Career Audit and the goal to be implemented resulting from the Individual Development Plan,
  • the educational and professional situation,
  • interests and predispositions,
  • possessed competences, 
  • competences that are worth developing,
  • values, aspirations and goals relating to educational and vocational development.

7.2. Long term results

After completing the in-depth Career Audit, a client can purchase vouchers (by paying a fee of 13% of their value, the rest is reimbursed) for training courses listed in the Development Services Database. It is also possible to pay just for an exam itself to confirm that the person has the required learning outcomes of the given qualification, if it is included in the database. The regulations allow clients to participate in training courses leading to a universally recognized certificate in three areas: (1) foreign languages, (2) various categories of the driver's license, (3) computer skills, including project management. The Regional Labour Office in Kraków is not involved substantively in the assessment of learning outcomes at this stage of project participation.

A direct result of the in-depth Career Audit can be the organisation of a participant's information about his/her current professional achievements and competences. Many project participants indicate that before beginning the audit, they did not realize how many learning outcomes they had achieved or that they had underestimated their value. Therefore, a frequent result of the audit is improved self-esteem, emotional strengthening and a better perception of one's potential in the labour market. The audit allows people to review their professional life in a new light and talk to the counsellor about issues that many of them had not thought about previously. According to one counsellor, the audit provides an opportunity for some women aged 50+ to ask for the first time in their lives questions about what is important to them. Up until then, the needs of their family was their only priority. An important benefit is also the opportunity to organise one's development goals, set intermediate goals and make specific decisions about supplementing one's education.

In the longer term, participation in the Career Audit can lead to significant changes in the professional life of participants, and consequently – also their personal life. Counsellors cited examples of various decisions made by clients in the process of preparing Individual Development Plans. Some clients became convinced that their situation does not need to be changed after realizing the value and self-fulfilment provided by their currently performed work, and that it is not worth giving it up (even if they have a hobby that potentially could lead to gaining new qualifications and obtaining a better income). Other clients decided to supplement their qualifications, e.g. by completing an interrupted stage of formal education or undertaking post-graduate studies. Still others decided to look for better jobs, start a business or undertake another form of securing additional earnings. The last two examples involve some added value, i.e. finding a new "way of life". For example, one participant facing retirement decided to guide tourists in interesting historic sites in Małopolska, using the knowledge gained as a result of his long-term avocation of this topic. Some persons aged 50+ decided to try "something new" after their children left the family home, which was associated with gaining more time for realizing one’s own aspirations. Audit results could also influence personal development: one client began to look after her appearance and health more, while another realized that he had a problem with complying with rules and decided to work on this aspect of his character.

Counsellors suggested that the development of the Integrated Qualifications System, especially the new opportunities offered to attain market qualifications, should contribute to broadening the range of potential benefits of the Career Audit.

8. Human resources

The Regional Labour Office in Kraków employed 16 career counsellors to provide the Career Audit. Four of them were working at that time in the branch office in Nowy Sącz, and three in Tarnów. Counsellors worked in the project full-time. All of them were qualified career counsellors and had diplomas from various fields of study, such as psychology, pedagogy or sociology, although the team also included an economist and a Polish language graduate (with a specialization in teaching and theatre). Both internal and external recruitment was conducted for the project. Project employees included persons from other public institutions (such as county labour offices, social welfare institutions, etc.) in addition to the existing staff of the RLO, who had experience both in project implementation as well as the private sector. Persons who did not have sufficient experience in career counselling at the time of their hiring were employed initially as trainees for a dozen or so months.

All counsellors involved in the "Career Direction" project underwent thorough training, which was the responsibility of the methods coordinator. The training consisted of about 35 hours of group classes and, on average, from two to three individual meetings with the coordinator. There was no possibility of organising group classes for counsellors who were employed at a later time, therefore those persons had a greater number of individual meetings. During the training, counsellors were thoroughly acquainted with the process of conducting the Career Audit. The training included a packet of didactic materials, including a study on SAM (Metoda Bilansu Kompetencji, op. cit.), a diagram of the Career Audit process, forms, interview scenarios, a glossary, segments of an unpublished report from a prior piloting of selected elements of the Integrated Qualifications System implemented by the Kraków RLO with the Educational Research Institute (M. Białek, M. Budny, W. Matysiak, M. Wykrotka, "Opis metody i narzędzia do identyfikacji efektów uczenia się zgodnie z metodologią bilansu kompetencji [Description of the methods and tools for the identification of learning outcomes in accordance with the skills audit method]." Material developed as part of the project "Budowa krajowego systemu kwalifikacji – pilotażowe wdrożenie krajowego systemu kwalifikacji oraz kampania informacyjna dotycząca jego funkcjonowania [Developing the national qualifications system – pilot implementation of the national qualifications system and its promotional campaign]” [unpublished report], Regional Labour Office, Kraków 2015) and selected material from "Zeszytów Informacyjno-Metodycznych Doradcy Zawodowego [Information and Methods Notebooks of a Career Counsellor]" (No. 12 , No. 20, No. 54).

Counsellors also obtained the necessary authorization required to use additional diagnostic tools for the Career Audit. Additionally, initial training included, among others, identifying situations in which the client requires other types of assistance than career counselling – because project staff are only able to advise its participants on issues within their sphere of competence. 

The employer supports the counsellors in their professional development both directly, by offering training on new diagnostic tools as well as supervision and intervision (see section 12), and indirectly, by co-financing their external training and post-graduate studies. In the second half of 2017, counsellors were trained in the Assessment/Development Center method, which in the future will be used in some cases as part of the group meetings with project participants.

Career counsellors are responsible for the entire Career Audit process, from the first meeting with the client to the summary session, and also is expected to complete all the documentation and provide technical support. They also provide the client with all the information needed about participation rules and the opportunities offered. 

Career counsellors are responsible for the entire Career Audit process, from the first meeting with the client to the summary session, and also is expected to complete all the documentation and provide technical support. They also provide the client with all the information needed about participation rules and the opportunities offered. 

9. Organizational and material conditions

Career Audits are performed:

  • In three facilities of the Regional Labour Office in Kraków: in the headquarters in Kraków and branch offices in Tarnów and Nowy Sącz. Rooms were specifically adapted and appropriately equipped to conduct the audit. The aim was to ensure that participants felt comfortable and had a sense of security. Conditions conducive to maintaining full confidentiality were created. In addition, the staff did not want participants to feel like applicants in a bureaucratic office. There are comfortable sofas in the hall where one can relax and also children's play areas. All rooms are equipped with computers with access to a printer, allowing the counsellors to use the diagnostic tools available in digital form. In addition, counsellors have their own assigned laptops.
  • At scheduled times in local communities. All of the counsellors working in the project travel throughout the region to reach as many people as possible. These visits are held regularly in all of the region's counties (in several places in some of them) in the offices of various public institutions (e.g. municipal offices, public libraries, schools, community centres).

The entire Career Audit process should be completed within a period not exceeding half a year, which is in line with the recommendation of the Council of the EU, although usually the time frame is much shorter. Local visits usually occur once every two weeks. The start of the project required counsellors to organise their work in a new, more flexible way. Project participants are working people, which means that in addition to frequent trips, the counsellors must be willing to meet with them after working hours (even until 19:00) and on Saturdays. 

10. Quality assurance

As employees of the Regional Labour Office, career counsellors are subject to a quarterly evaluation in accordance with the Act of 20 April 2004 on the promotion of employment and labour market institutions (Journal of Laws of 2004 No. 99, item 1001 with later amendments), which is used to determine the amount of salary bonuses. Quantitative indicators are taken into account, such as the number of persons provided counselling. The evaluation is performed by the counsellor's department head.

The methods coordinator supervises the quality of the process of performing the Career Audit. She is also a career counsellor in the project and co-authored its premises. She is responsible for preparing employees to perform project tasks (initial training), as well as providing current information and materials about new work methods, diagnostic tools and other relevant issues for career counsellors. The key responsibility of the coordinator in quality assurance is to regularly perform supervision and intervision.

  • Supervision is a form of substantive support provided by the coordinator of the career counsellors, similar to mentoring. It can have an instructional character ("functional"), used to familiarize counsellors with the project's structure, activities or record-keeping practices – such supervision sessions prevailed at the initial stage of the project. Other types of supervision are (according to the terminology used by the methods coordinator): problem-solving supervision (discussions about specific problematic situations encountered in working with individual participants) and development supervision (serving professional development, providing the counsellor with new knowledge and skills). One of the counsellors stated that supervision is rarely used in Poland as a form of support for career counsellors – but it is used with coaches and social workers. Meanwhile, it is a valuable support tool to protect against burnout, and is especially useful with professionals who work with people. In particular, problem-solving supervision can protect against such negative emotional phenomena as transference and countertransference.
  • Intervision is a group form of supervision, in which, apart from the support of the coordinator, counsellors exchange experiences, discuss problems and seek solutions together.

In the future, an evaluation is being considered to determine the results of the project by examining the outcomes of the work with the clients, which is formally possible because of the declaration they are asked to sign when participating in the project. At the same time, partial insight into their professional situation is already possible from the electronic training voucher system. As much as possible, counsellors try to check whether the vouchers have been purchased within the allowable 12-month period from the conclusion of the audit, or as this period is approaching, they try to find out why the client has not yet done so. 

11. Financing

The "Career Direction" project is financed by the European Social Fund under the Regional Operational Programme of the Małopolska Voivodeship (Measure 10.3). There are no additional forms of financing from the funds of institutions or other domestic sources. There is no charge for the provision of counselling services (i.e. the Career Audit in both its variants) in the project – the participant must pay part of the costs only in the second stage, covering 13% of the value of the training vouchers purchased (the total value of the vouchers for one participant is PLN 2,700). 

12. Context of good practice

The assumed number of project participants over the entire implementation period (2016-2023) is 46,500. In terms of the voivodeship, this is a significant undertaking, especially since efforts have been made to reach potential participants in all counties as well as in smaller cities and rural areas. By the end of 2017, 4,845 persons participated in the project, of which 582 participants (13%) used the in-depth Career Audit. 

The "Career Direction" project is part of the long-term activities of the Regional Labour Office in Kraków aimed at promoting lifelong learning (for more information on the project, please visit: https://www.pociagdokariery.pl/lista-materialow-dla-instytucji-uczacych-1/40,slow-kilka-o-bilansie-kompetencji, accessed 26.03.2018).

13. Comments

The counsellors encountered some limitations or difficulties in the course of their work in the "Career Direction" project. They indicated the following:

  • The reluctance of project participants to have an in-depth Career Audit performed due to, e.g. the lack of time, high level of professional and family responsibilities. Many clients are not interested in the in-depth audit at all, as they mainly want to take a specific training course or exam. 
  • The Development Services Database, which should be used to purchase vouchers for training, is not a fully fine-tuned and ergonomic tool. For people who are just planning to take basic computer training, using the database can be frustrating – to use it, they must have skills which they have not yet acquired. As mentioned earlier, the counsellors offer technical support at every stage of participation in the project, but this can sometimes lead to an excessive amount of work for them. 
  • Some advisers would like to see less restrictive eligibility criteria for people to participate in the project – the need to eliminate the required level of education for persons under age 50 was particularly emphasized. This would allow a much larger number of potential participants to benefit from the project. 
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