to Work













Instrument has been developed by a group of partner organisations from across

o Romanian
Institute for Adult Education (IREA) (Romania) (Lead Partner)

o Merseyside
Expanding Horizons (MEH) (United Kingdom)

o European
Centre for Education and Training (ECET) (Bulgaria)

o National
Knowledge Centre for Validation of Prior Learning (NVR) (Denmark)

o Aristotle
University of Thessaloniki  (AUTh)

o German
Institute for Adult Education (DIE) (Germany)

o Romanian Forum for Refugees and Migrants (ARCA)

The project
aims to build on existing European Life Long Learning Projects – ACCED, VINEPAC
and FAMCOMPASS, to transfer the innovation contained within these projects and
draw upon the competency based models of these projects to develop a training
and validation tool that will support counsellors in working with unemployed
people, including low skilled, those without few or no qualifications, and
returning migrants.

Instrument will assist counsellors to draw out and formalise the skills,
knowledge and experience that individuals have acquired throughout their lives.
The projects key objective has been to address the issue of how an individuals
competences can be validated, recorded and accredited, when they have been
acquired in a non formal setting (e.g. outside of formal education and
training). It is essential that all the competences that are valuable and
useful can be recognised and formalised. This Instrument will assist counsellors
to match the competences of their clients to opportunities in the labour

Instrument is intended to be of practical use to the counsellor, and to enhance
good practice across partner countries, and be compatible across Europe.

The Back to
Work instrument is aimed at professionals delivering careers advice and
counselling, in adult education institutions (public or private), or in
government and voluntary based agencies Counsellors should have a minimum level
of knowledge and competence in the field. The Instrument can be used with
unemployed people, but specifically with low skilled clients, those with none
or few formal qualifications, and returning migrants.

This user guide contains the following:

· Background:
setting the Instrument in context

· Preparation:
Recommendations on preparation for using the instrument with clients

· Guidelines
for use: Description of each section of the Instrument, and methods of
practical delivery with clients



European labour market is in a constant state of change. Individuals now often
change jobs, even professions several times over their working lives. The
evolution of technology, the dynamic nature of a changing labour market,
changes to the workforce and to organisations, all require us to acquire new
competences that we can transfer and use in a new workplace. People who become
unemployed have to be able to transfer their experience, knowledge and
competences to new fields of work, activity sector or even to new countries.

This project
addresses the importance of being able to fully validate the knowledge,
competences and skills adult learners have developed in non-formal and informal
contexts and/or work settings.  This
project aims to develop some of competences that career counsellors will
require in order to prepare, support and facilitate individuals who wish to access
an accreditation and validation process. This Instrument is aimed at
counsellors working with people with low levels of formal education, and specifically
returning migrants. Many clients in these groups will have a wide range of
experience and competences, but may not have the formal qualifications to
validate these competences.

professions still require formal qualifications such as diplomas and certificates,
even though many European countries are encouraging the use of the process of
recruiting on the basis of APL. In order to lower the barriers to formal
learning and to improve the attractiveness and accessibility of the
opportunities of LLL, this project aims to facilitate access to validation and

As a
consequence of the current European Economic crisis, 2 groups of people require
additional support in accessing validation and accreditation:

returning to their country of origin, after a period of time working abroad
(reverse migration). A significant number of people who are unemployed, in
particular need are people with low levels of education and qualifications.


returning migrants have acquired useful experience and developed some
competences while working abroad and it is these competences that we intend to
address. Statistics show that low qualified people, and especially those from a
migrant background, are much more vulnerable to becoming unemployed when the
jobs market is under pressure. This is true even in countries like Denmark,
which have low rates of migration and relatively low unemployment rates. Among
the outreach strategies for these people, validation of non-formal and informal
learning is often named.

Often, as
you can see in the National reports and Final report about counselling and
validation (, local,
regional or national agencies offering counselling services are not responding to
the real needs of individuals and it can be difficult to make the link between personal
competences and those required by the labour market.

Our National
Reports show that the validation process is either not well known or that there
is some distrust in the validity of its use. 
Learning does not just take place in school and universities, but in
family, at work, hobbies, voluntary activities, involvement in different
associations and organizations, through interactions with different people or
individual studying.

We need to valorise
all types of learning in all contexts and to accredit and validate non-formal
and informal learning. The benefits of Valorisation are:

o A
method of matching an individuals skills, knowledge and experience to those
required by a dynamic workforce in a knowledge based society

o It
will empowered disadvantaged groups in society e.g. those with little or no

o Facilitate
more effective career education

o A
useful method for self-evaluation and raising the individuals’ self-esteem.

The Back to Work
project intends to develop the validation and recognition of knowledge and
competencies unemployed people have previously acquired, in different contexts,
as part of the employment services, in order to facilitate better matching
between needs and competencies on the labour market. The unemployed people,
including returning migrants facing unemployment, are offered counselling and
support services within the local employment offices, but these services are
not enough adapted to go into deep supporting the reflection and validation of
the real competences that workers have.

of non-formal and informal learning is seen as a process which ‘... records and
makes visible the individual’s learning outcomes. This does not result in a
formal certificate or diploma, but it may provide the basis for such formal

of non-formal and informal learning  
‘... is based on the assessment of the individual’s learning outcomes
and may result in a certificate or diploma.’ The term validation of learning
outcomes is understood as:‘ The confirmation by a competent body that learning
outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences) acquired by an individual in a
formal, non-formal or informal setting have been assessed against predefined criteria
and are compliant with the requirements of a validation standard. Validation
typically leads to certification.’

The self
evaluation (self-assessment) method offers the opportunity to reflect upon the
competences that have been achieved outside of formal settings. The purpose is
to encourage a person to build up a clear picture of the extent and the range
of competences related to his/her role performance. This picture will help
him/her and other people also, for example to apply for a new job.

counselling is associated with the idea of crises, dysfunction or unsatisfactory
situation. When  people who are returning
migrants or with low levels of education, are asked about their competences or
abilities, often they respond they do not have much competences because they
make a connection between knowledge, competences, abilities and so on with the
idea of school, certificates, diplomas etc. Generally, adults have a very rich
life experience, they may be a member of a family, take care of children or elderly
relatives, they may contribute to their community, they may have a good track
record in employment and have acquired vast learning ‘on the job’…but
often…having no “framework of competences” or formal certification for these
skills.  That is why through BACK TO WORK
counselling instrument we intend to help the counsellor to facilitate validation.
The counsellor can help the client to discover and reflect upon the competences
acquired, to reflect upon them and to organise them, in order to prepare the
client for the assessment process. Helping adults to be aware of their
competences acquired in non-formal and informal contexts is a good opportunity
to raise their self-esteem, and to help them to develop a plan of action
regarding their personal and professional life in the future.

We hope you
will find the Back to Work Instrument useful in providing a service to your
clients, and will assist you in your aim of supporting clients into employment.

Preparing to Use the

The Back To Work instrument is designed to
be used by professionals who are providing career counselling and advice on
work, education and training to individuals, especially those clients who are
unemployed and seeking to return to work. 
The Recognition and Validation Tool itself is designed to be used during
one to one counselling sessions between the client and an appropriately
experienced Counsellor.

The process
of recognition and validation can be a complex and difficult one, and will
require some level of skill from the counsellor if they are to be able to
confidently extract the relevant information from the client.  In order to be able to use the Instrument and
provide appropriate advice and support to the client, we recommend a minimum
level of competence on the part of the counsellor. The levels of training and
qualification for careers counselors across Europe varies dramatically (as
evidenced in the Countries Report) and at present in many countries there is no
single recognised minimum professional standard for delivery of counselling and
advice. With this disparity in mind, the instrument is aimed at counsellors
with sufficient experience to be able to deliver a good quality service.

When you agree to begin the Recognition and Validation
process with your client, there are a number of issues and considerations for
you to think about that will help you get the best out of the process. Many of
these things will be things you may do as a professional as a matter of course,
but they are worth noting again here:

o Ensure
that your counselling sessions with your client take place in a secure and safe
setting. You will need private space so that your client feels comfortable
speaking about often very personal matters.

o Establish
whether your client has any additional needs. Does the client require any
adjustments due to a physical disability? Is your meeting room accessible?
Assess whether your client has any communication needs, or learning needs, and
ensure that you are communicating and providing information for your client
that is appropriate to their needs. For example, a client with dyslexia may
appreciate any written information being produced according to how they can
best use it (coloured paper etc).

o Agree
a plan of action with your client. You will need to fully explain to them what
is involved in the Recognition and Validation process. They will need to know
exactly what will be expected of them, how long the process is likely to take,
and if there will be any writing for them to do. Most importantly they will need
to know why the process is useful for them. At your first meeting, clarify what
their requirements are, and agree what their goals are, e.g. to return to   employment within a period of time. It is
important that the client recognises how the process is going to benefit them –
this will make them feel at ease, and will help ensure they are committed and

o Assure
your client that any information they share with you is private, and will
remain confidential. You will obviously have to detail much of the information
they give you in the portfolio, but you should always check this with the
client. During the course of your sessions they may disclose very personal
details about themselves, and a counsellor must always have the agreement of
their client before sharing any personal information with a third party.

o It
can be useful, before embarking on the process, to have an initial meeting with
your client to establish a rapport and a good working relationship. Trust is an
important factor in the process, and an informal introductory session can be a
good way for you to get to know your client, and for them to become used to
speaking to you.



















Basic competencies for Career

The First Step
in using the Instrument is to assess the professional skills and knowledge of
the Counsellor who will facilitate the Recognition and Validation Process with
the Client. This section should be used by the Counsellor to assess whether
they have the basic competencies required to adequately guide their client
through the recognition and validation process. This process is in two stages.
Firstly the Instrument presents a matrix of Basic Competencies which are
considered to be essential and necessary requirements for all adult career
guidance Counsellors.  There is then a
further matrix which looks at competencies which are directly related to
Recognition of Prior Learning.

beginning to use the tool with clients, counselors should firstly complete both
stages of the Counsellor self -assessment, and thoroughly evaluate whether they
are able to competently carry out the process.



This Section of the Instrument contains a set of Basic
Counsellor Competences. Before embarking on a process of Recognition and
Validation with a client, the Counsellor should use the Self Evaluation
Checklist to determine if they possess the required skills and knowledge to be
able to support the client through the process in a competent manner. Counsellors
should assess and reflect on their own knowledge, skills and practice and
consider whether they are suitably experienced in order to guide their client
through the process.

 If the
counsellor is unable to confidently state that they possess all of the basic
competences it is recommended that they undertake further training and
professional development before carrying out work with clients that
incorporates The Recognition and Validation Tool.







Self Evaluation of
Competences related to Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), EQF Level 6.

In this Section you will find a further set of
counsellor competencies which are directly related to the delivery of
Recognition of Prior Learning. The matrix is intended for the counsellor to use
to assess their level of skill, knowledge and competence. Even if the counselor
doesn’t have direct experience of RPL they may have experience in other areas
that are directly relevant. For example a counselor will have experience of
assisting clients to write job applications, or of helping clients to describe
their work history.

There are 3 Parts to the Self Assessment Matrix. Each
part asks you to consider your practice in terms of your level of knowledge,
skills and competence in each of these areas. The 3 parts are: your knowledge;
your skills and your level of competence.

Each Self Assessment Matrix consists of 3 Steps:

Self Evaluation

Look at each Competence and assess whether in the
course of your work with clients you have knowledge and skills in this area of
work. For example, when you meet a client for a first counselling session, do
you explain how your service operates, and what the client can expect from your


The next step is to draw on some examples of how you
do this – for example, when agreeing what your service can provide for your client;
do you give them a written statement of service?


Finally, assess whether your knowledge and ability in
this area of your work is sufficient or if you need to undertake further
training or professional development in this area. You will need to consider if
your level of ability is suitable for using this instrument.


Repeat these 3 steps for each part of the Matrix: It
is often useful to complete this exercise with a colleague who you work closely
with and may be able to offer constructive advice and support in assessment.

Use the attached case studies to help you with this
assessment process if you feel that these would be helpful, to consider if you
have carried out similar tasks with previous clients.



this self –evaluation process as a counselor allows experience and insight into
the RPL process which is similar to that which your clients will follow while
using the Back To Work Instrument. The counselor will be identifying and
evidencing the skills, knowledge and experiences which have been developed over
the course of the counselors career, and will allow reflection on areas of
strength and areas requiring development. This is very similar to the
experience which your client will have.




This part of the Instrument is
intended for counselors and clients to prepare for embarking on the ‘Back To
Work’ Instrument.

This section contains a series of 19
different learning activities. Each activity looks at an aspect of the RPL
process, and will enable the counselor and client to work on developing skills
and knowledge that will be useful during the process.



1 We’ve got so much in Common

Getting to know each other

2 Listen to each other

Learning to listen

3 You and me in the forest at night

Trust and communication

4 Me and My Life

Talking about life events

5 Valuing different forms of knowledge

Identifying different types of skills and knowledge
which are non academic

6 4 sides of a message

Explains how verbal communication works

7 telephone

Demonstrates importance of clear communication

8 Clock of Questions and answers

Active listening and open/closed questioning

9 Feedback Letters

Giving and receiving constructive feedback and
promoting tolerance

10 Methods of Evaluation

Advantages and disadvantages of different types of

11 Portfolio

Questions that will help to build up a portfolio

12 Learning is important!

Describing formal and non formal learning

13 Its time to assess my competencies

Practicing self assessment

14 Local Labour Market Study

Thinking about steps needed to access labour

15 Finding your path through the obstacles

Understanding the counseling process

16 Interview

Preparing to be interviewed

17 Reflection on Biography

Learning contexts and learning outcomes

18 Establish an action plan

Identifying and assessing goals, aims and

19 Learning Opportunities

What is available that will help to progress


The aim of
this section is to enable counsellors to build a working relationship with
their client and to explore some of the issues and areas to be addressed in a
way which is interactive and illustrative. These exercises can be used in group
work sessions, or may be adapted to suit one to one work between the counselor
and the client.

do not need to use all of these exercises. We recommend that counselors conduct
an initial assessment of individual clients and decide which of the above
exercises would be most relevant and useful to your client.

should consider the suitability of some of the exercises in relation to
individual clients. For example, there are some exercises that involve writing
which may not be suitable for clients with low levels of literacy. Several
exercises involve interaction with other members of a group which may be
unsuitable for clients lacking in self- confidence and who may not be ready for
this type of activity.

need to be assured of the clients commitment to the RPL process at the outset,
and ensure that the client remains engaged with the process. If the process is
too lengthy, or is too challenging for the clients level of ability, this may
cause the client to become disengaged from the process.

will also need to take into account the availability of the client and the amount
of counseling time available when planning these activities.





The Counselling Instrument

This section is the part of the
instrument you will use during counselling sessions with your client, the
Reflection of Prior Learning Process.

The RPL process is in 5 parts –

o General Information,

o Assessment of Competences linked to
working life,

o Reflection File.

o Portfolio of Evidence

o Self Evaluation Report/Case Studies

General Information

Use this
short questionnaire to allow your client to begin to reflect on their past
experiences and current situation and to build a picture of their working life
to date. What were the important phases of their working life, where did they
learn new skills, take responsibilities and take on new challenges? Take plenty
of time with your client to explore and put together an overview.

Assessment of Competences related to
working life

In this
section you and your client will complete a series of tables listing
competences that are acquired through employment, education, training and
voluntary and life experience.



Assessment Tables cover the following areas:

1. Communications at workplace

2. Working in a team

3. Planning the activity of a team

4. Diversity of orientation

5. Building relationships

6. Learning and development

7. Creativity

8. Innovation

9. Work commitment

10. Time

11. Management

12. Job

13. Planning
and activity

14. Organising
an activity

15. Decision

16. Health
and security

17. Quality

18. Self-

each of the competences and sub competences carefully and ask your client to
select which level of competence they consider best describes their level of
ability. There are 5 levels of competence. Before starting this exercise ensure
that you are familiar with these levels:

Level 0 – the
competence is not relevant to the clients experience, they are not at all
familiar with it

Level 1 – the client is
familiar with the competence but does not have any practical experience

Level 2 – they have
some limited experience in this area, but have very seldom used it practically

Level 3 – your client
has often used this competence and can reflect on how to use this

Level 4  - your client is very familiar with this
competence and uses it often and can readily reflect on how to use it.

In each
section of the competence tables, you may add other sub competences not already
covered in the list. There may be competences that your client has acquired
that are important or useful, and its vital that these are included in the
table. They can be assessed against the 5 levels in the same way as the listed


Reflection File

In the
reflection file, you and your client use the questionnaires provided to
describe in detail the skills, knowledge, strengths and weaknesses that have
been identified as part of the assessment process. In this part of the process,
you will encourage your client to consider and note in their own words how they
feel they perform in this area related to all areas of their life.

questionnaires look at the following life areas:

· Social

· Family

· Activities
done outside of work work/hobbies

Basic competences for career counsellors
Self Evaluation of Competences related to Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for career counsellors, EQF Level 6.
Counseling intrument