How is the certification of specialists in the vast field of cultural heritage currently being carried out? What system does Romania currently apply?
The Romanian system for adult education is mainly created for formal education – formal adult education – and for non-formal and informal competencies’ recognition through dedicated centers for recognition of competencies. In practice, there are two subsystems one formal and one informal.
For the Romanian formal system, the responsibility belongs to the Ministry of Labor who authorizes the institutions which carry out the formal education, in accordance with the occupational standards. On the other hand, the responsibility for the Centers of evaluation of non-formal and informal competencies lies with The National Authority for Qualification (ANC), who carries out the authorization and the accreditation of such centers by following a methodology that is in line with the EU recommendations.
The fact that Romania has this type of authorization is a very important aspect from the quality assurance point of view. All the institutions authorized as centers for evaluation of non-formal and informal competencies are therefore already recognized in the national (and European?) labor market.
To these authorized institutions I will be referring during our discussion, as they are already under the quality assurance system and they can provide relevant insights. For the future, we intend to also accreditate these centers, so as to follow the recommendations about quality assurance in adult education.
Are there any local or regional particularities in comparison with how assessment and certification of professional competencies are being carried out in other European Union countries / regions?
Regarded as a system, I couldn’t point to any major particularity compared to others applied in Europe. We presented in more detail the way this system for adult education work in Romania during the EQF General Assembly (the reunion of relevant institutions from all EU countries) and learned that this model is quite spread across Europe: we share the standards and criteria for evaluation, recognition and certification.
What is maybe particular to our country and region in general is the level of qualification when it comes to competencies that are involved in cultural heritage production, protection and safeguarding. Our focus so far has lied more on workers – so a maximum EQF level of 3 or 4, whilst Western Europe is focused more on higher education.
The particularity comes from the fact that in countries like Romania people still work on monuments, they are still applying their craft, performing intangible heritage practices or doing restoration work on built heritage. It’s not just a matter of administration of formal cultural heritage, we have still a large subsector of heritage producers. (Their informality often accounts for the authenticity of their craft, still being transmitted within the family, from one generation to the next).
These craftsmen and heritage producers often work abroad, across Europe, many performing their some even on restoration sites. But because their skill is not recognized or simply because they cannot present the right certificate, they often end up in non-qualified labor.
We think it necessary to promote our qualified workers, to offer them a much needed recognition and at the same time we advocate for the use of qualified workers for projects and investments in cultural heritage. The CHARTER Alliance project is a great opportunity to do so.
What are the available certification options for the skills that underpin the safeguarding of traditional culture? How can we compensate for the lack of formal qualification and certification for the skills acquired in non-formal and informal learning contexts?
The assessment and validation of professional competencies relevant for the ICH sector and acquired in non formal and informal learning contexts is a process of confirmation, by a competent authority that a person has acquired some learning outcomes measured by reference to a relevant standard.
The authority in charge are the above-mentioned authorized Centers for assessment and certification of competencies. The process has four distinct stages going from 1. identification of particular experiences of an individual, 2. documentation – to make visible the individual’s experiences, 3. a formal assessment of these experiences and last, 4. a certification of the results of this assessment leading to a partial or full qualification.
The National Qualifications Register centralises all qualifications, the infrastructure for assessment and certification and all certified individuals, thus ensuring transparency and allowing for future improvements.
Certification, however, is not something to be acquired easily. Apart from the process, there are also limitations in, let’s say, eligibility. According to our norms, certification for level 2 or 3 is conditional to finishing a certain number of school-years. For instance, if a craftsman wants to get a level 2 certification he needs to have graduated from secondary education (8 years of school) and if he aims for level 3 certification, one need to have also finished at least two years of high-school (10 years or general education).
This is also a local particularity, in comparison with other European classes. There have been cases when craftsmen certified in such European countries, with an EQF level 2 or 3, but with only 4-5 or 6 years of schooling, came to work on restoration sites in Romania. Through them we learned that in countries like the UK, for instance, a craftsmen does not have to meet such drastic requirement as in Romania in order to have his qualification recognized and certified.
Therefore, there is an explainable lack of initial recognition and qualification for workers who do not have proof of graduating the threshold number of formal education years. The informal system depends on the formal one, which explains why we are stuck at a maximum level 3 EQF.
When everybody will have graduated 10 classes or more, of course then the level of recognition for qualification of professional competencies acquired in non formal and informal learning contexts will rise above 3 EQF or even 4 EQF. Going higher on the EQF scale to level 7 or 8 is more challenging, as in order to access higher education, one needs to have a Baccalaureate diploma which entails graduating 12 classes and passing the required national tests.
So if one has, let’s say, graduated a vocational school in the trade they are mastering and completed a 10 years formal education cycle, the only chance to continue towards higher education is to enroll for two years of theoretical studies or a technological high-school and get a Baccalaureate degree at the end.
Otherwise, one is blocked at level 3 EQF although maybe their craft and competencies have evolved and they could even qualify to be teachers. To be a teacher also requires higher education in Romania, an aspect which also makes for another issue in the heritage sector which is that of the scarcity of certified trainers for the often dying crafts that are so vital for heritage preservation and restoration.
What are the most important gaps and needs that should be addressed so that training, assessment and certification of (intangible) cultural heritage specialists is in line with today’s requirements and pressures of society, markets?
At the moment in Europe we generally speak of programs and standards based on learning outcomes. This is lacking in Romania –we function only on standards of occupations based on competencies. This is what we certify and we can deliver only certificates of competencies – a micro-certificate according to the approach of the 2022 EU recommendations. This means we can certify one, two or all competencies of an occupation.
ANC is currently involved in creating new occupational standards particular for this sector (CH) in Romania. Thanks to another project, in the beginning of 2023, we shall deliver more than 10 new relevant occupational standards. Training and recognition will be improved according to these new standards and, very important in our view, the standards will be based on new competencies, especially the ones from the ESCO classification, where possible.
For the future we’re also looking at establishing programs and standards for learning outcomes – this will be an even bigger plus for workforce mobility at European level.
One of the sectorial pressures we are trying to answer locally comes from the national regulations particular to historic monuments’ restoration and management, requiring all interventions – from project to execution – to be carried out by qualified and certified professionals and practitioners.
This is why, when developing the set of new occupational standards, we are focusing on areas of intervention with most need of qualified workers, such as carpentry, wood carving, traditional roof-making, adobe or stone construction work, weaving etc. We believe that through the new occupational standards we will manage to train and certify a growing number of workers who will then rightly benefit from the existing demand for their skill, both in the country and abroad. Which brings us to another element of pressure or concern, that of the workforce mobility. It is an issue nowadays that informally qualified people work abroad as unqualified workers.
This deprives both the Romanian and international heritage sector of the skills of competent people who cannot reach their potential without recognition and certification. To support this potential to the fullest, our certification system must be clearly harmonized with the European standards – ESCO, quality assurance – present and future. And we know for a fact that ESCO will soon be upgraded with the learning outcomes component so maybe soon enough our occupational standards will become certification standards.
How can CHARTER Alliance contribute to this process?
Charter Alliance can give voice to the cultural heritage working force in Romania and its present hurdles and make sure these voices are heard both at home and in the blueprints that will influence working in heritage in the years to come. It certainly manages and should continue to raise the profile of a theme that is not as commanding as it should be: that of qualification and certification and their role in making the cultural workers and the entire sector survive the present and be fit for the future.
How is the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) system relevant for our local / regional context and why is it important that local occupational standards and qualification be ESCO aligned?
At the National Authority for Qualification in Romania, a EU member, we have been – I believe, quite naturally – focused on building a system of qualifications which fits the European framework, one that is based on EQF, ESCO and QUALITY ASSURANCE.
The reason is that this sync-ing would first and foremost benefit the professionals both during their education and exercise of profession. Sharing these occupational and qualifications standards is important as well for approaching the ever-growing issues like work-force migration or the gaps and needs between the educational and professional level. We need to ensure a broader recognition and mobility of skills and the right of our qualified and valuable professionals – present or future – to be employed and rewarded in accordance with the quality of their skills and level of competence.
And if we keep in mind the above-mentioned challenges met by our craftsmen and women on the abroad labour market, we believe harmonizing the qualifications systems in Europe might also contribute to transmission and conservation of knowledge and craftsmanship, as more young people could find it reasonable to try and take over their parents’ or ancestors’ art when the art is truly recognized, certified and therefore valued and economically viable both at home and across Europe.
Nicolae Postăvaru has – since 2013 – been at the fore-front of the development of a national system of qualifications obtained in Romania as president and later vice-president of the National Authority for Qualifications, a CHARTER project supporter.
His entire energy and focus are dedicated to building a system of qualifications which fits the European framework, one that is based on EQF, ESCO, QUALITY ASSURANCE and as Mr. Postavaru strongly believes, would first and foremost benefit the professionals. He is a friend of cultural heritage and special of historical buildings.
Nicolae Postavaru has been a teaching staff in higher education since 1991, professor in Civil Eng. Technical University since 1999 covering domains like Construction management, project management, facility management, procurement or marketing. He authored and co-authored of more than 100 articles, research studies and30 books on General Management, Marketing, Investments, Project Management, Educational Management, Adult Vocational Training, Competences &Qualifications, etc. He trusts in good education and high qualification.