International cooperation for developing youth workers’ skills

Four organizations from Slovakia, Great Britain, Poland and Spain have developed a virtual tool to measure, assess and validate the job competences of employees working with NEETs.

Mapping, Assessing, Validating –MAV- is a European project developed by four different organizations over two years. Using an online tool and a group of assessors, they want to be able to register, assess the competences and create individual self-development plans for the youth workers. This project is still being tested by its four partners in these four countries with almost 200 participants.

The idea of MAV project started with a French partner and Vivafemina, a Polish organization which is very active in research, mapping and assessing competences of youth workers. After they created the idea, they started to look for partners for this Erasmus plus project. They found a British partner, Kairos Europe, a Spanish workmate, Postal 3 and a Slovak one, KERIC.

The profiles of these four organizations are really different: while the Spanish and British partners are more focused on vocational and business trainings, the Polish concentrates its activity on women education and the Slovak one uses a non-formal way of teaching and learning in its actions. “We are the only partner who is a non-formal NGO working with youngsters, so our profile is a little bit different but it fits perfectly to the structure of the project”, says Ivana Hrušková, the coordinator in KERIC. According to her, having different profiles among the participating organizations is a good point, because they “can learn from each other and that is very good”, she continues.

Two years of process

In spring of 2017, the four organizations started preparing the application form of the project, which was submitted to the National Agency of Erasmus+ in Poland and, around June of that year, the KA2 project –as it is called- was approved.

After approving the project, the partners had their first meeting in September. During that date, some of the partners met face to face for the first time and together in Warsaw they discussed how the project will run. With the project lasting until the summer of 2019, the four organizations aims are to map, then to assess the competences and accomplish the validation.

During these two years, the participants have been working hard to achieve their initial goals. KERIC did research into what kind of competences and skills the youth workers and youth educators have and what are their typical tasks. They mapped all this data with a questionnaire filled in by thirty youth workers in each country. Then, they elaborated a document with the comparison of the different skills, abilities and knowledge that those workers have in every country.

The outcomes of the research were sent to the Polish partner, who created the expertise check-up –the theoretical part- with explanations of the skills. Meanwhile, the Spanish organization created a training module for assessors and the British association developed an online tool for youth workers, who can use it to assess their skills and capacities.

More than 200 people have been involved

KA2 is a project based on the idea of developing the capacity of youth workers and organizations working with young people. Thus, active NGOs and their employees or volunteers develop their skills and the organizations become stronger, often achieving their aim in an innovative way or using online tools.

In the first phase of the project, 30 people were involved in the questionnaires in each country. Then, 30 youth workers and youth educators -some from the first phase, some new- took part in the testing of the online tool. These youth workers and youth educators don’t work alone but are helped by assessors. These assessors form an important part in the MAV project. In each country, five people have been trained by the coordinators to be able to assess and validate the skills of the youth workers. After the process, they will receive a certificate validating their experience, which they can continue using in the future. In total, more than 200 people have been involved in the project so far.

Another fundamental pillar of the plan is the group of youth workers, whom the assessors interview for validating their skills. Workers, but it really depends on the organizations profile. For example, in Keric, they work with youngsters that are involved as volunteers in a non-formal education environment. On the other hand, in Great Britain, they have interviewed older and more professional youth educators.

The NEETs -young people who are NOT in education, employment or training-, are the last link in the chain, even though they are not directly involved in the project but the people working with them. This group of people is formed by those youngsters who when they finish school –if they finish-, they stay at home doing nothing. “It seems that they have no future, so this is something that does not bring anything positive to the young people and to the society”, explains Hrušková.

The disillusion of these people with no job, maybe a complicated background or the fact that the NEETs lack experience and often face prejudice -on both sides-, created in these four organizations the interest to motivate young people and also to make them be more open and more tolerant, because of the nowadays rising trend of racist attitudes. For this reason, it is important to motivate young people to be active, to be able to start their own business or to have a different alternative like working as a volunteer, which is possible around Europe thanks to the Erasmus plus programme.

How is MAV project being tested?

More than 120 youth workers have tested the MAV online tool, 30 in each participant country. To do this, they were invited to the MAV platform by an assessor and they registered there. Then, the youth worker completed a self-assessment, like a questionnaire from 1 to 5 where they evaluated their competences. After that step, the second one was the PFI, performance focused interview, where the youth worker should write explanations about real experiences when they have used their abilities and during an interview, discuss them with the assessor.

Finally, the youth worker together with the assessor creates a self-development plan, where he or she plans the skills to develop within the next months.

During all this, of course, the assessor should explain the project to the youth worker, its aims and steps. Another important thing is that this online tool is still being tested. For that reason, the assessor will ask for the feedback because, afterwards, the four involved organizations would like to use this platform as a general method for other youth organizations, to assess the knowledge, skills and experience of their youth workers.

Who pays MAV project?

As an approved project, KA2 is being financed by Erasmus+. The job that the organizations do and the travel and the accommodation costs are covered when they travel to meet the other partners. There were three meetings during the lifetime of the project. Firstly, they met in Warsaw, and then met in London and the final meeting was in Vigo in December.

Actually, the budget of the project includes travelling and the work of the people involved in it. But the costs in that kind of project are effective: that means that European Union pays them a reasonable price, according to the expenses of the plan and always equivalent to what the outcome of the project will be.

MAV after June

In its initial idea, as a European financed project, MAV has to be available, at least, two years for everyone that wants to use it. And not only the website and the information about it but also the online tool. “But, of course, we want to make it longer” explains Hrušková, who thinks that is a good opportunity for other organizations or NGOs. “If they would like to see what knowledge, experience and skills their youth workers have they can really take it”, she continues.

Apart from the online tool, the assessors also can keep using the online tool, even though they are not anymore in the organization or they have changed their workplace. They will receive a certificate that enables them to continue working and assessing new youth workers. “I really see the potential of this tool for organizations who work with a stable team of youth workers or youth educators. Every three, four or five months they can have a meeting to assess the development of the skills of their staff and draw a new self-development plan.” Hrušková adds.

MAV project is proof that an international and intercultural project is possible. It also demonstrates how different organizations can work together and create an online tool –so important nowadays in the Internet era. Finally, 20 assessors with very different working profiles –teachers, social workers, psychologists, journalists…- are able to work and learn from each other while they help youth workers to improve their competences.

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