The Coronavirus pandemic has been a way for many professionals to improve their competences online. There is a variety of possibilities – from the team meeting gathering a small number of colleagues (Zoom meeting), to conference online (webinar) addressing a larger audience through virtual training sessions trying to involve the trainees. The “Zoom competence” has become a “Coronavirus competence”.
The digital skill is part of the 8 European key competences. According to the definition given by the European framework: “Digital competence involves the confident, critical and responsible use of, and engagement with, digital technologies for learning, at work, and for participation in society. It includes information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, media literacy, digital content creation (including programming), safety (including digital well-being and competences related to cybersecurity), intellectual property related questions and problem solving.” (European Union & EC, Brussels, 2006). Nowadays, this key competence is acquired since youth and has become a main competence in our connected societies - 3.0 is already history, we are working on the 4.0 society.
Therefore, this is as main competence to be updated in lifelong learning. Any professional must use and improve it. Learning strategies and pedagogical tools in Vocational Education and Training must take into account this digital dimension. Excel tables and PDF remain examples of resources but in any dynamic approach when you mean to build a tool kit with access to many resources you have to design a digital learning tool kit. This has been the process at stake to design the Digital Learning Tool Kit (DLTK) in the PROVE project. It combines the Competence Model (graphic representation of the competences) with a selection of resources (valid for all of Europe or for one of the six EU member states participating in PROVE). There, VPL professionals will find relevant resources including the author and hyperlink in order to improve their competences – structured on the basis of the PROVE Competence Model. This is therefore a way to match the Competence Model with the resources to be used after having self-assessed one’s level of competence with the Self-Evaluation Tool. There is a virtuous and circular learning process1.
52% of Europe’s workforce need reskilling due to changes in the job market (Digital Europe, Brussels, November 2020). The upcoming Pact for Skills can help lower this figure and bring us closer to a successful result in Europe, which is to leave only 32% of workers in need of reskilling by 2025. Faced to an uncertain social and economic environment, digital learning is not an option but an imperative to build a sustainable professional future. The PROVE DLTK is one illustration of the digital approach in Adult Education – a decent VPL counselor has to be digital in the 21st Century.
1 Digital Learning Tool Kit PROVE- https://www.prove-ltk.eu/
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The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the European economy is expected to be much higher than the last economic crisis it had to overcome in 2008 after the financial crisis of the sub primes. The European Union is faced to a “recession of historic proportions” as the pandemic should cause a 7.4 % drop in economic output in 2020. It is comparable to the economic shock of the Great Depression (1929-1930) worldwide according to the Economy chief of the EU (Euronews, 06/05/2020).
Unemployment across the European Union is expected to rise to nine percent in 2020, after the lockdowns enforced by national governments. Greece is expected to suffer the worst unemployment rate of 19.9 percent, followed by Spain at 18.9 percent while Germany is forecast to have the lowest unemployment rate at four percent (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1115276/coronavirus-european-unemployment/, 29th of May 2020).
The EU economy is not expected to have recovered before the end of 2021, especially the labour market. The Commission warned the pandemic could leave "permanent scars" through bankruptcies and long-term damage to the labour market (Euronews, 06/05/2020).
On the 27th of May 2020, the European Commission presented its major recovery plan to ensure a sustainable recovery, inclusive and fair for all Member States embedded with a long-term EU budget with a total financial firepower of the EU budget up to €1.85 trillion (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_940 , 27th of May 2020).
In this perspective, in order to enhance a fair and sustainable recovery of the labour market in Europe, and to support Europeans who are already unemployed or those whose employments might be jeopardized in a near future, this would be a perfect opportunity to put the validation of prior learning process (VPL) process back on the agenda. The VPL approach might be a relevant approach to contribute to the social and economic recovery in Europe as it is based on the experience and competence people have acquired in the past to build a new professional future. It used to be a main social and economic innovation in the 1990s in times where the European Union was also faced to difficult times with high unemployment rates. Equipping professionals working in in the labour market with relevant tools and methods to improve their support to unemployed people is a key issue. The profiles of unemployed people are more and more diverse and so must also be the profiles of professionals supporting them. The VPL process is also an example of diversity in the method and strategy to be enhanced to build a sustainable labour force.