Assessing young people's informal competencies

Young people acquire competencies not only at school, vocational education and training and other formal learning settings. They also acquire competencies when they take up responsibilities within their family, when they are meeting their friends, when they work in jobs, when they engage in sports or music, when they do volunteer work.

It is the purpose of the ICOVET validation tool, to make visible competencies that have been acquired by young people in various areas of activities outside formal learning. Making these competencies visible should be useful for a number of reasons:

  • Making competencies visible will help the young person to better understand what abilities she/he has and how these abilities can be applied in further learning, in vocational training, in a job but also in private life.
  • Making competencies visible will help educators (teachers, trainers, social workers) to better link education and training to what competencies the young person has already acquired.
  • Making competencies visible to prospective employers will help them to learn more about the abilities of applicants that are not shown in the certificates that they are able to present.

The validation tool is designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • At the end of the interview process, the interviewer (facilitator) and the young person will have clarified how specific activities and experiences of the young person relate to competencies or abilities. Activities and competencies will be recorded in a document that will be owned by the young person and can be used at her/his will.
  • In addition, the interviewer and young person will cooperate to translate these competencies into the terminology of the EUROPASS. With the EUROPASS the young person will own a document that has been specifically designed for effective presentation of one's competencies and experiences to prospective employers and institutions of education and training and has found wide acceptance in many European countries.


How can competencies be made visible in an interview?

It should be made clear to the young person that the purpose of the interview is to learn more about competencies that she/he has acquired in various areas of activities. Of course, the young person will - in the course of the interview - want to talk about particular troubles as well as what pleases her/him etc. This cannot be ignored by the facilitator. Nevertheless it is her/his task to keep the focus on activities that involve the acquisition of competencies. After all, to be able to talk about things she/he can do, should be gratifying to the young person!

In order to support the interview process, for each area of activities a few questions and examples are proposed. The questions and examples are intended to serve as a general introduction into whatever the young person may attribute specific significance to. Activities of great importance to the young person and high relevance to the acquisition of competencies should become apparent in the discussion. If activities are considered of significant importance, efforts should be made to collect specific and concrete information.

In order to learn more about what a person has learned in an activity, the facilitator will need very specific information about what the young person is/ has been doing in an activity.

To give an example: the hobby "collecting stamps" may simply involve going to a shop and buying a set of stamps and putting them into a drawer. But collecting stamps can also involve a wide range of operations: learning about countries, finding sources were you can get stamps for free, exchanging stamps with persons in other countries, etc.

To provide this type of concrete and specific information will be important as a first step on the route to drawing conclusions about competencies that have been acquired.

How can competencies be "validated"?

It is the purpose of the interview, to produce evidence that the activities described have actually taken place and that the competencies that are recorded presumably have been acquired.

In general, it cannot be the facilitator's task to verify information beyond what has been produced in the interview. There may be circumstances, though, where gathering additional evidence could help to considerably improve the quality of information and thus be of great use for the young person. For example, should the young person describe a period of youth working in a voluntary capacity or a role on a sports team, the facilitator and the young person can determine how this information can be validated by the specific youth club or sports coach.



To make competencies visible that have been acquired in various areas of the young person's life, the facilitator will interview the young person. This interview can be completed in one session. To translate the results of the interview into the EUROPASS terminology and to agree on a procedure to produce the EUROPASS a second session will be needed. If a young person engages in a large variety of activities or if her/his span of attention is limited, more than two sessions may be necessary.

To help structure the process, it is proposed to use the following procedure:

    1. In a first step, the facilitator and the young person will inspect a list of areas of activities to determine which of these areas should be covered in the interviews (set priorities!).
    2. In a second step, the facilitator and the young person will discuss activities and experiences in the selected areas one by one. For this purpose, the facilitator will use the questions and examples given for each area of activities as a starting point or a stimulus. Beyond that, it will be up to the skills and knowledge of the facilitator to go into depth where activities seem particularly relevant to the acquisition of competencies.
    3. In a third step, the facilitator and the young person will determine which activities and related competences will be recorded (examples are given for each area of activities). They will record these on the form.
    4. A summary of these activities and related competences will be compiled by the electronic document. This electronic document and a print out of this document will be owned by the young person.
    5. When this compilation has been completed and agreed upon, the facilitator and the young person will discuss how this list can be translated into the EUROPASS terminology of personal skills and competencies.
      The personal skills and competences used in the EUROPASS are:
    6. Social skills and competences (that refer to living and working with other people, in positions where communication is important and situations where teamwork is essential (for example culture and sports), in multicultural environments, etc.
    7. Organisational skills and competences (that refer to coordination and administration of people, projects and budgets; at work, in voluntary work (for example culture and sports) and at home, etc.
    8. Technical skills and competences (that refer to mastery of specific kinds of equipment, machinery, etc. other than computers, or to technical skills and competences in a specialised field (manufacturing industry, health, banking, etc.).
    9. Computer skills and competences (that refer to word processing and other applications, database searching, acquaintance with Internet, advanced skills (programming etc.)
    10. Artistic skills and competences (which are an asset (music; writing; design, etc.)
    11. Other skills and competences (which are an asset and are not mentioned under earlier headings (hobbies; sports, positions of responsibility in voluntary organisations)


  1. As a last step, the facilitator and the young person will come to an agreement on how an individualized copy of the EUROPASS will be produced, what support will be needed and how support will be provided.


Areas of activities

It is proposed to use the following list of areas of activities to determine, together with the young person, what areas should be covered in the interview. The rationale for choosing any of these areas is evidently because they are important to her/him and because they are likely to involve the acquisition of competencies.

When discussing this list, the facilitator should give examples of how within theses areas of activities competencies might possibly be acquired.

Example: When meeting your friends, you may be the one who proposes activities, organises activities, contacts agencies about rooms to use etc. Perhaps you have a good ability to organise things?

List of areas of activities:

  1. Interests, hobbies, sports, socialising: Things that you do in your "Down time" or "Spare time"
  2. Household and Family: Things you do in the family that you have grown up in or in your own family or household (if you have one)
  3. School and Vocational Training: Things you do outside the classroom and formal training activities
  4. Civic, Social and Political Involvement: Things you do in your youth club, your sporting club, but also for the community, political commitment, neighbours etc.
  5. Jobs and Work Experiences: Things you do in jobs that you hold or work experience you have been in.
  6. Well being and health: Things that you do to look and feel good and healthy
  7. Specific Life Situations: Difficult life situations that you have gone through and things you have done to manage.


Link to ICOVET validation tool




Program Scheme: Lifelong Learning Program of the European Union
Sub-Program: Leonardo da Vinci
Promoter: Deutsches Jugendinstitut e.V, Germany
Website: ICOVET