In times of an ageing population and shrinking workforce, validation of informal and nonformal learning experiences can also help Europe bring those furthest away from the labour market closer to new learning and work opportunities and tap into all human capital to combat unemployment, boost productivity and competitiveness. In particular, validation can support young unemployed looking for their first job or with very little professional experience to demonstrate and create a market value for their skills and competences acquired in different contexts.
Non-formal learning concerns learning that takes place through planned activities (in terms of learning objectives, learning time) where some form of learning support is present (e.g. student-teacher relationships). It may cover programmes to impart work-skills, adult literacy and basic education for early school leavers. Very common cases of non-formal learning include in-company training, through which companies update and improve the skills of their workers such as ICT skills, structured online learning (e.g. by making use of open educational resources), and courses organised by civil society organisations for their members, their target group or the general public.
Informal learning is learning resulting from daily activities related to work (Work-Based learning), family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. Informal learning may be unintentional from the learner’s perspective. Examples of learning outcomes acquired through informal learning are skills acquired through life and work experiences. Examples are project management skills or ICT skills acquired at work; languages learned and intercultural skills acquired during a stay in another country; ICT skills acquired outside work, skills acquired through volunteering, cultural activities, sports, youth work and through activities at home (e.g. taking care of a child).
Non-formal and informal learning in the Europe 2020 Strategy
Validation of non-formal and informal learning experiences in the EU Member States makes an essential contribution to EU’s ambition to achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth set by the Europe 2020 Strategy. Its impact can be significant in the labour market functioning: validation mechanisms allow for more transparency on the skills available in the workforce and facilitate a better match between skills and labour demand, promote better transferability of skills between companies and sectors and facilitate mobility on the European labour market. By easing occupational and geographical mobility and allowing for a better skills match, validation can have an important impact in addressing skills shortages in growing sectors and support economic recovery,
From an individual perspective, validation brings prospects of enhanced employability, increased wages and career moves, easier transferability of skills across countries, second chances for those who have dropped out from school prematurely, improved access to formal education and training, greater motivation to learn and increased self-confidence.
Altogether the validation of non-formal and informal learning experiences also contribute towards the achievement of the Europe 2020 headline targets for early school leaving, the proportion of 30-34 year olds having completed tertiary or equivalent education, the overall employment rate and poverty and social exclusion, a process that is followed up during the European Semester.