Recognizing undocumented competences of refugees in Germany

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© Integration through Qualification Network of the State of Schleswig Holstein
16 June 2017

The critical issue of recognizing the undocumented qualifications of refugees was discussed at a meeting of experts in Germany last month. Delegates heard how obtaining recognition for foreign vocational qualifications, especially in situations where documentation is missing or is perceived as inadequate by the host country, is often challenging for the individual but can make a huge difference to the lives and contribution of refugees. Around 120 participants discussed these important matters at the seminar in Kiel, Germany, organized by the Integration through Qualification Network of the State of Schleswig Holstein, on 3 May 2017. They explored how to improve the recognition process with the aim of establishing ‘new possibilities’ for recognizing the undocumented vocational qualifications of refugees.

When documentation of a qualification is missing or inadequate, alternative means of recognizing competences are required. One programme which aims to do this, discussed at the seminar, was Prototyping Transfer: Recognizing vocational competences through Qualifications Analysis, which is promoted by the German Ministry of Education and Research. The programme allows applicants to provide evidence of vocational competences by means such as interviews or work sampling. The Chambers for Skilled Crafts and other partners are facilitating this process, and are important stakeholders in implementing such programmes.

Madhu Singh, Senior Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), drew attention to the need to focus on recognition systems that have a broader outreach among refugees who might not have obtained an official qualification in their country of origin, but have valuable skills and competences obtained through education, life and work experiences. As an example, she highlighted the Record of Achievement (ROA) from Nova Scotia in Canada, which provides support in assessing broader learning against the Nova Scotia Core Employability Skills Framework. The assessment results in a certificate issued by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. The document can be used by individuals to secure employment or further training. Other promising approaches will be mapped in an upcoming UIL study on building better recognition mechanisms for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey entitled Roads to freedom: Recognizing the non-formal learning and competences of Syrian refugees and supporting them into work and education.

Experts at the seminar agreed on the need to utilize the potential of qualified refugees, even where they lack documentation, and that more efforts must focus on the design of recognition programmes. Recognizing undocumented competences of refugees, they argued, is not only a matter of economic necessity, given the shortage of skilled professionals in Germany, but is also a critical consideration in thinking about integration and community cohesion.