Education Policies and Competence based learning for over 50s in Europe

J. F. Bowyer
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This study was produced in the context of a European Union Erasmus+ project dedicated to the employability of Seniors. The report brings together perspectives on the competences of Seniors in the employment market. Data was collected through web search, review of policy documents, an employer survey and from the insights and experience of the partner organisations. In an ageing society, the role of those over 50 years of age in employment and in volunteering, is increasing. Negative stereotypes regarding health and fitness, inflexibility and a lack of ICT skills need to be overcome and the benefits of older workers will need to be recognised and harnessed. Equality and diversity policy, which aims to prevent discrimination on the grounds of age, supports the notion that employees are recruited on the basis of demonstrable knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to the role. Seniors will therefore benefit from a framework and support to articulate the competences they have developed throughout life and work. The report builds on the framework of the European Lifelong Learning competences and takes note also, of the changing nature of work and predicated priorities for employees in the coming years highlights by the World Economic Forum. The result is an accessible framework of 8 key areas: 1. Communication and use of Information technologies; 2. Working with others; 3. Critical reflection and problem solving; 4. Creativity and entrepreneurship; 5. Attitudes for work performance (Responsibility, flexibility and adaptability); 6. Effective organisation; 7. Learning to learn; 8. Management, leadership and developing others. For each of these, 12 subdivisions are provided which in turn will help Seniors to think about specific evidence they might use to justify claims of competence in each area. In order to stand out in the jobs market, Seniors (like anyone else) need to not only claim competence at certain levels, but also provide evidence to back-up their claims. The European Qualifications Framework proposes 8 possible levels for competence-based qualifications. However, in the context of Senior Plus, a simple and more flexible approach is suggested where Seniors assess, and then provide evidence for, competence at three levels: 3 = Strong, expert, master, very experienced, very confident in this area 2 = Intermediate, middle, average, in the middle 1 = Weak, novice, beginner, starting out, inexperienced in this area Three approaches are suggested for the process of gathering evidence together: 1. Start with the evidence to hand and consider what competences this might validate (qualifications, products, citations, letters of appreciation); 2. Start with the competence framework and use it as a checklist to help look for possible evidence to be used; 3. Start with a job role or description and ask what competences are needed to do, and consequently, what evidence will be needed. In order to help Seniors to follow through on these processes, the Senior Plus project provides help through programmes where Seniors work together and alone. The trainer-advisors leading these programmes, have several different objectives: To encourage Seniors to raise their awareness of their own competenciesand gaps in their competencies To support them planning to fill those gaps or obtain competencies required for meaningful work To help Seniors to collate and present those competencies in an accessible format – primarily in an electronic, online format To assist Seniors in preparing to apply for jobs (paid and unpaid) The Annexes of this report include detailed information gathered from the different partners in 5 European Countries and some of the detail from general web searches on the topic. Also included are the results of the employer survey and a table showing the interrelationships between some of the existing Lifelong Learning competency frameworks, along with some ideas for collecting relevant evidence.
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