Italy - Changing an organization's culture

Background

The Vocational Institute of Industry and Handicrafts in Rome trains qualified technicians in the mechanical and electrical/electronic sectors. Its four main goals are to:

  • provide professional qualifications which meet the needs of the labour market;
  • promote educational success and social inclusion (including unemployed adults, migrants and those with disabilities);
  • provide routes from vocational training to Higher Education;
  • provide lifelong learning and re-training opportunities for those returning to education.

The practice that is being quality assured

The Institute’s quality management system covers all aspects of provision and operates in line with ISO 9001. Its quality strategy ensures:

  • provision meets and exceeds student expectations;
  • consistency across all the curriculum delivery and content areas;
  • the Institute is sustainable and can meet its short and long term objectives;
  • high levels of involvement and motivation from stakeholders.

There is frequent monitoring and reviewing of both practice and policy control and success is measured in line with the indicators in the EQAVET Recommendation

The approach to quality assurance

The Institute gained its first accreditation from ISO in 2004. This approach has now been applied to a wide range of Institute activities including training provision, a computerised student evaluation process, on-line registration, staff management and external communications. As a result of the Peer-Review experience the Institute has started to evaluate its processes based on Isfol –Reference Point for Quality in VET approach [http://www.rpnqualita.isfol.it] and the European benchmarks (EQAVET).

Using the building blocks

All six of the Building blocks proposed by EQAVET are used. Roles have been assigned to the management team and staff members. In line with the EQAVET Recommendation, the head teacher has created an environment where dialogue and involvement enable the Institute to respond to local circumstances and meet the demands for education and training in the region.

To support new learners, the Institute has introduced a series of “welcome” activities (e.g. the development and use of entry tests in order to evaluate individuals learning and relational skills, additional support for those who need to improve their study skills, careers advice and advice on studying autonomously.), Within these activities, the Institute has developed a culture of continuous improvement, identifying the need to create a cycle of quality assurance and improvement, based on planning, implementation, evaluation / assessment and review.

A recent Peer Review provided an opportunity to inform the whole institution of the self-assessment methodology and create a shared culture of quality.

Data and feedback are central to improving quality. Through the use of ongoing and final audits and the implementation of improvement plans, one of the most significant changes has been the transformation of organisation’s culture. This has helped to keep the drop-out rate low; ensured student attendance is high and supported student employment (currently 84 per cent are employed after six months and 81 per cent after one year.

How the practice is improving quality assurance

The Institute has adopted a school-wide approach to quality assurance with clearly stated rules (e.g. regulation, objectives and standards to follow), quality assurance processes and reviews of the outcomes achieved. This has led to a greater appreciation from students, their families and stakeholders. All students have benefitted from the school-wide approach.

What challenges were overcome?

Many schools can be resistant to change. Developing a culture that addresses and assesses professionalism can lead to opposition. To date the systematic use of procedures, the use of new technologies, the implementation and management of a quality assurance approach have led to positive results. Central to implementation has been the need for effective internal and external communication. This needed to make clear the proposed changes and the new roles and functions that were being introduced. Staff needed many opportunities to discuss the changes and share their thoughts on best practice and how to ensure continuous progress.

A second challenge related to introducing a culture of self-assessment which could identify strong and weak points in the structure. This was helped by the Peer Review project and the systematic collection of data. This has allowed for a more objective analysis of the Institute’s activities to be undertaken.

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