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Survey and assessment of validation activities for foreign-born persons (2013:6)

On assignment from the Government, Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has surveyed and assessed processes for validating the competences of foreign-born persons and new arrivals. The basic idea behind all validation is to identify and highlight an individual's knowledge and competences, regardless of where, how and when these were acquired. Validation is often described as an opportunity for persons who have difficulty gaining access to the labour market. In Sweden, validation has frequently been performed for the purpose of integration, in order to facilitate the entry into the labour market of new arrivals and foreign-born persons .

The validation referred to here is performed through industry validation, within Arbetsförmedlingen (Swedish Public Employment Service) and adult education. Statskontoret's commission is composed of three parts:

  • survey of the scope of validation activities for foreign-born persons,
  • survey and assessment of methods and tools for the validation of foreign-born persons' competence, and
  • assessment of which authority/authorities should be chiefly responsible for the further development and execution of validation activities for foreign-born persons.

New arrivals' competence is validated to a minimal extent

The survey performed by Statskontoret shows that few newly arrived immigrants have their competence validated in accordance with the profession-oriented industry models procured by Arbetsförmedlingen. Of those new arrivals covered by Arbetsförmedlingen's establishment activities, it was only some ten individuals who commenced such a validation in 2011, which corresponds to less than one per cent of the total number of individuals involved in establishment activities the same year. In the entire group of foreign-born persons, most validations were performed according to the industry model in the fields of construction/installation, commercial driver/bus driver, health care/social care and restaurant/large-scale (institutional) household.

In addition to industry-specific validation, there are also other validating processes within Arbetsförmedlingen, for example within the Agency's preparatory education and vocationally-oriented employment training programmes. In 2011, these processes included less than one third of the total number of new arrivals within the establishment activities.

Within municipal adult education, data on the number of foreign-born persons who have their competence validated is far more uncertain. Many municipalities do not register performed validation and have no obligation to report information on validation to the Swedish National Agency for Education. Statskontoret's survey shows that the number of foreign-born persons who had their competence validated within municipal adult education was around 1,300 in 2012 in the 67 municipalities that provided information in the survey. When it comes to establishing the number of newly arrived immigrants who have had their competence validated in 2012, there is even less supporting data for these approximations. Among the 19 municipalities that provided this type of data, the number of individuals was a little over 300.

Significantly more men than women were included in both Arbetsförmedlingen's procured validation and the Agency's other validation activities during 2011–2012. The opposite was true within municipal adult education, with women comprising the majority of those validated. It is evident that women are generally validated against traditionally female-dominated occupational branches and men against male-dominated occupational branches.

Statskontoret considers there to be insufficient knowledge regarding foreign-born persons' need and conditions for validation which is required in order to determine what constitutes an appropriate scope of validation within Arbetsförmedlingen. Statskontoret therefore proposes that the Government commissions Arbetsförmedlingen to investigate and report these conditions, and to relate the conclusions that are drawn to the direction and scope of current validation activities.

Monitoring and evaluation require common concepts, process descriptions and register information

Both the monitoring and evaluation of validation activities are demanded by a range of actors. The demand relates in particular to knowledge regarding validation's effects on the individual's participation in the labour market. The external audit of performed validation activities is also seen from different angles as a key factor in increasing the legitimacy of validation.

However, the experience from Statskontoret's survey is that important preconditions for qualified monitoring and evaluation are lacking. In order for different validation activities to be surveyed, monitored and evaluated, and thereby further developed, measures need to be taken by both the responsible school authorities and by Arbetsförmedlingen.

A fundamental problem with survey and evaluation within the field of validation is that, despite the developed national criteria for validation, there are different interpretations of the concept of validation between different actors. This is evident for example in the surveys conducted by Statskontoret among actors involved in the validation process. A first step in improving the monitoring of validation is for relevant authorities and actors to work together to reach a consensus regarding the concept of validation. To make it possible to monitor validation work, the next step must involve a survey of the validation process within the respective operations so that the content of the various steps in the validation is made visible. Another important piece of the puzzle needed in order to monitor and evaluate validation is that relevant authorities and actors keep more comprehensive and reliable records. This applies both within municipal adult education and within Arbetsförmedlingen. Many municipalities do not register the validation that is currently performed.

Statskontoret considers the Swedish National Agency for Education's plans to increase statistical data collection within adult education's introductory courses to be an important step in facilitating the monitoring of validation within adult education.

Arbetsförmedlingen registers a significant amount of information on the registered jobseekers and their participation in various initiatives. The possibility of monitoring the direct outcome of validation activities at an aggregate level is however limited in terms of the validation work's results in the form of survey reports, certificates of competence, supplementary reports and competence scores. This information is essential in order to interpret the validation's significance for the individuals' subsequent employment status.

Statskontoret therefore proposes that the Government commissions Arbetsförmedlingen to clarify their validation activities as well as identify which indicators are relevant for being able to monitor and evaluate the different processes. These indicators should then be registered in a systematic way.

Validation at an early stage can be problematic

Early initiatives for newly arrived immigrants are generally considered to promote their establishment in society and in the labour market. Early initiatives in the form of a survey provide valuable supporting data for designing further initiatives for newly arrived immigrants. However, Statskontoret recognises that there are problems and risks associated with validation of an examining and assessing nature carried out at too early a stage, as early initiatives risk resulting in the individual not being able to highlight their competence in an appropriate way. The problem is mainly related to the issue of mastering the Swedish language.

Combine validation with supplementary initiatives

To achieve the goal of validation requires that the operations concerned are capable of utilising the results of the performed validation. Statskontoret's investigation shows that the opportunities to enhance competences, for example through supplementary training for individuals who do not meet all requirements during validation, are far too limited. Unless relevant supplementary training and education follows validation, there is a risk that the validation will remain unutilised.

Other initiatives in combination with validation could also give the individual an idea of what the profession entails in a Swedish workplace before the assessing steps of the validation are performed. This reduces the risk that the results of the validation are adversely affected by the individual not having time to gain an understanding of their professional role in a Swedish context.

Statskontoret proposes that Arbetsförmedlingen reviews the possibilities of increasing the extent to which validation activities are combined with work placement and workplace-based learning. A more integrated work approach would provide newly arrived immigrants with valuable work experience and valuable contacts with employers.

Increase awareness of validation through further education

Statskontoret believes that there is a need for increased awareness regarding the opportunities that validation can provide. This applies both within Arbetsförmedlingen's activities and within municipal adult education. There are several functions and occupational groups within Arbetsförmedlingen and municipal adult education that, through greater understanding and knowledge regarding validation, could become more aware of the opportunities that can be found within the validation activities. Study and vocational guidance, for example, play a central role in the validation process for students, not least for identifying the need for validation and weighing validation against other initiatives such as further guidance or education.

Statskontoret agrees with the proposal that the investigation into basic adult education recently presented regarding the need for further education related to validation and study and vocational guidance within municipal adult education.

Investigate the possibility of developing Arbetsförmedlingen's procurement of industry validation

Statskontoret understands that Arbetsförmedlingen's procured industry validation does not cover the needs that exist today. The number of providers are few and the geographic distribution of providers is in some cases limited. The centralised and national procurement has meant that fewer performers are given the opportunity to submit tenders, partly because the small local providers are unable to provide a countrywide validation service. Statskontoret proposes that the Government commissions Arbetsförmedlingen to investigate the problems relating to the procurement of industry-specific validation models and to recommend measures within this area.

Examine the pros and cons of expanding the purpose of the procured industry validation

Arbetsförmedlingen primarily uses validation to facilitate matching employer requirements with the skills of jobseekers. This means that Arbetsförmedlingen mainly procures validation work within occupational branches where a labour shortage is evident. However, in addition to the task of matching, Arbetsförmedlingen plays a central role in newly arrived immigrants establishing themselves in working and social life. Currently, the competence of new arrivals is not highlighted within occupational branches where there is not a clear demand for labour. It may, however, be useful to the individual in the long run to have their competence surveyed, assessed and documented with the aid of profession-oriented industry models even if the individual's skills do not meet the current needs of the labour market. Validation may also provide information that can be valuable for Arbetsförmedlingen, even if the individual seeks employment or training within an area where there is currently no shortage of labour.

Statskontoret believes that Arbetsförmedlingen should examine the pros and cons of using industry validation to a greater extent in order to highlight new arrivals' competences. This includes occupational branches where there is currently no clear demand for labour.

Maintain the current division of responsibility for validation

There is currently no single agency or actor who has overall responsibility for the development of methods and tools for validation or for performing validation activities for foreign-born persons. Arbetsförmedlingen is responsible for validation activities for jobseekers and plays a central role in new arrivals in Sweden becoming established in working and social life. The responsible school authorities assumes responsibility for validation within municipal adult education.

Validation is often performed in conjunction with or as part of Arbetsförmedlingen's employment programmes and municipal adult education's guidance function or course programmes. It is therefore natural that the responsibility for the development of methods and tools fall in line with Arbetsförmedlingen's responsibility for employment activities and the responsible school authorities' responsibility for municipal adult education. Statskontoret therefore considers that the current division of responsibility for validation should be maintained.

Examine organisation and forms for promoting validation

The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education plays a supportive and promoting role when it comes to validation. The Swedish National Agency for Education is commissioned with providing support for validation, specifically to responsible school authorities. The requirements of the new Education Act regarding the reinforcement of individualisation in adult education mean that the need for validation and support for validation activities may increase.

Statskontoret perceives a risk that the promotional work regarding validation undertaken by both the Swedish National Agency for Education and the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education may create ambiguity and unnecessary duplication. Statskontoret therefore proposes that the Government examines whether there is a need to clarify the boundaries between the promoting function of the Swedish National Agency for Education and the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education. It may be appropriate in this context to also consider clarifying the mandate of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education within the area of validation.

Statskontoret's proposals to the Government

Statskontoret proposes that the Government commission Arbetsförmedlingen to undertake the following tasks:

  • Investigate and present an appropriate scope for the validation performed within the Agency's activities. Arbetsförmedlingen should also relate the conclusions that emerge to the direction and scope of current validation activities.
  • Clarify the Agency's validation activities, identify indicators that are relevant to being able to monitor and evaluate different activities and systematically register these indicators.
  • Investigate the problems relating to the procurement of industry-specific validation models and recommend measures within this area.

Statskontoret also proposes that the Government examines whether there is a need to clarify the boundaries between the promoting function of the Swedish National Agency for Education and the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education. It may be appropriate in this context to also consider clarifying the mandate of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education within the area of validation.

Statskontoret's proposals to Arbetsförmedlingen

Statskontoret proposes that Arbetsförmedlingen:

  • Examines the pros and cons of using industry validation to a greater degree in order to highlight new arrivals' competences, even within occupational branches where there is currently no clear demand for labour.
  • Review the possibilities of, to a greater extent, combining validation activities with work placement and workplace-based learning.