Competence Audit

The Competence Audit–An Instrument to document quaifications

One of the last projects I worked on during my time at the German Youth Institute was the development of the Competence Audit for Migrants, together with Wolfgang Erler,  a colleague. The Competence Audit is an instrument to document and validate qualifications and skills, especially those developed in the informal sector. Migrants come with a lot of knowledge, experience and competences, but unfortunately they cannot apply their knowledge in the host country because their competences and qualifications are not recognised. They often cannot get what they came for and end up working way under their qualifications, motivations, and potentials. For the host country this means that many resources, skills and talents of the population are left unused and wasted.

According to European studies about 70% of what people use in life, originates from informal learning. What is needed is a way to document and make visible these competences and to get them recognised. This is what the Competence Audit is designed to do.

People are often not aware of the competences and skills they have. It is important that they get a chance to reflect on them and spell them out in order to develop ownership and confidence. This process is facilitated by the Competence Audit. It also supports becoming more aware of one’s priorities and goals, as well as one’s potentials and ways accomplish more with one’s life. The instrument helps to develop concrete steps and planning as well as providing strategies to document and gather evidence for existing competences. This is a big support when someone applies for a job or a voluntary activity.

The Competence Audit consists of four parts:

a) Describing what have you done in your life. Questions lead you through the instrument and help you reflect on the activities and experiences you have engaged in in your life. In the end this leads to a CV.

b) Recognizing the skills you have learned. Skills need to be named (if not named not claimed, not owned). You reflect while describing the things you have done and experienced in your life what you have learned through these activities and experiences. The Competence Audit offers a list of competences as frame of reference, which you fill in. Thereby a skills profile is created.

c) Gathering evidence: the Competence Audit offers a lot of examples how to prove a skill, e.g. with certificates, letters, photos, third party recommendations. In order to be recognized and acknowledged by others, evidence has to be provided of your skills and competences.

d) Implementation/making an action plan: This phase is about clarifying one’s objectives and goals as well as doing a reality check. What are realistic options that go along with personal interests and passions as well as with real opportunities in the host country (reality check). What can be the next step? This can concern a next step to learn something, to join local activities, link up with local networks as well as to see what opportunities there are to get a job or get active in the neighbourhood. These opportunities are linked back to the personal skills profile. The reality check is very important and needs to be based on solid information about what is possible in the host country.
It is an important goal of the method to create new ways to apply existing skills. This requires creativity and flexibility, because not everything is possible in the same way as it is at home, but on the other hand it is necessary to also think out of the box and create new and unusual paths in the host country.

The Competence Audit produces a portfolio with personal documentation, containing amongst others a C.V., a skills profile and a documentation of the competences of the person. This portfolio is the “distillation” of the whole process of using the instrument. It is what one can show to others and use for further steps in professional and personal development. A list applied to all the questions in this section helps to keep the perspective wide.

The workbooks are owned by the people doing the Competence Audit and they decide how to use the information. Everybody decides for themselves, what they want to discuss or what they prefer to answer alone. The coach of the group has an important role in seeing that privacy of participants is respected and delicate subjects (e.g. in the past, of refugees) are treated respectfully. The instrument is very flexible and adaptable to different groups.

The Competence Audit is very successful in Germany and is used in very many different settings, as part of vocational counselling as well as in language courses, in voluntary groups as well as in integration projects, with migrants as well as with local grassroots groups. It has served as basis for many similar instruments, some constituting further developments, some which were simply repackaged under another name.

The Competence Audit is one of the things  we managed to transfer into the Dutch context. We translated it into Dutch and adapted it to the context of the Dutch Mother Centers. My partner wrote a complementary handbook in Dutch, describing the instrument as well as the ways to apply it  in great detail. This handbook  serves as the basis for train-the-trainer seminars we give for the Dutch Mother Centers. The material portrayed on this website is mainly in German.