Creating an information management system for a national VET provider

CIOFS-FP is a VET provider which provides training in 13 Italian regions through 13 Regional Associations and 61 centres. The Association focuses on creating a system-wide approach which involves all its regional associations and VET centres. The association works with stakeholders at the national and European level and across the private and public sector. It supports young people with an interest in practical activities – this is done by providing them with careers guidance, training and opportunities for employment. This helps them to develop their professional skills, meet their personal objectives, and move from the training world to the labour market.

To ensure the quality of its services the Association’s quality management systems have been certified using ISO 9001 and ISO 29990 standards. In addition the Association has established safety management systems using the UNI-INAIL[1] guidelines for health and safety at work and uses an organisational and management model in line with Italian legislation (Decree n°231/01). Over the last three years the Association has designed an integrated management system which brings together all the existing systems and processes currently used by CIOFS-FP. This new, comprehensive framework enables each regional association to use the same approach and set common goals. The new system provides a better response to the needs of learners and local employers, and enables regional associations and centres to design and implement strategies which meet their local circumstances.

The development of a new IMS involved the following steps:

  • the Association completed a comparative analysis of the management systems, certified or otherwise, which had been adopted by each regional association. This identified the strengths, and opportunities for improvement and sharing of good practice. The analysis also identified the extent to which the operational/practical instruments within each of the existing systems responded to the expressed and unexpressed needs of learners;
  • applying a risk-based analysis to the current processes – this identified the benefits of creating a new IMS for all the regional associations;
  • identifying and connecting the EQAVET+ indicative descriptors and EQAVET indicators to the training provision (this step is on-going).

To implement the new IMS all interested parties have to be directly involved: this includes trainers, companies, learners and their families. The system requires stakeholders to work together and collaborate in order to meet the explicit and implicit needs of learners; to ensure the needs of the labour market are met; and to support learners’ transition from school to work.

How the new EQAVET+ indicative descriptors are being used

Each of the Association’s centres uses the same pedagogic model (the Salesian preventive system[2]) which involves the creation of individual professional pathways for each learner. A draft design for each professional pathway is prepared by connecting the learning outcomes in the national job profile with a set of possible learning units. Each trainer then adds information to the learning unit to make it more relevant to the learner. Each learning unit includes objectives, skills, content, expected learning outcomes, duration, prerequisites, training methods, methods of assessment and the required level of performance. It also includes the tasks and responsibilities of the VET provider, the learner and employers when there is work-based learning and/or an apprenticeship. The learner’s individual professional pathway is based on these learning units. An Individualised Training Plans (IEP) is prepared for each learner with special needs: these plans identify and describe the specific activities (educational, social, cultural, recreational, sport etc.) to be provided. They are developed and verified annually with the help of the learner’s family, school staff, health and social operators. Similar plans can be arranged for migrants or refugees.

The training programme and each learning unit are presented to learners. Each learner has a tutor who works with them to collect feedback on the planned programme and, when necessary, suggest specific actions to enable the learner to deal with difficulties. This helps learners to strengthen their ability to make decisions for themselves and improve their problem solving skills. The team of tutors (trainers) meets at the beginning of, and during, the training course to organise the learning units which respond to the needs of the group and each individual learner. These meetings provide support for tutors and help them to collaborate to plan the delivery of their work, learn from their colleagues and take account of potential issues relating to quality, health and security, and the prevention of unlawful behaviour. The team meets regularly to set the assessment rules which are used to assess learners' performances. These rules are presented to learners to ensure they know the assessment criteria and the minimum thresholds of performance required for each learning unit and their training pathway.

How is this practice linked to the EQAVET indicators?

CIOFS-FP’s VET provision focuses on strengthening learners´ motivation and skills. Increased motivation helps the Association to reduce the drop-out rate, and helps learners to complete their training and achieve a qualification which can be used in the labour market.

The case study is connected to the following EQAVET indicators:

  • Number 1a&b Relevance of quality assurance systems for VET providers - all CIOFS-FP’s Regional Associations and centres have their own quality management system certificates and are accredited in their region
  • Number 2a&b Investment in training of teachers and trainers - the Association organises training for all its staff. The national plan integrates the individual regional training plans managed by each regional association (95% of trainers participate in continuing professional development).

What problems were encountered and overcome in using these EQAVET+ indicative descriptors?

The IMS processes and mechanisms are based on consolidating practice from across the Association. Connecting the IMS processes to the EQAVET+ indicative descriptors and EQAVET indicators is on-going. So far, the new IMS has not encountered any problems as the new approach matches the ones used by regional associations and centres to monitor and assess their VET provision.

The role of employers/companies, despite being well established in each management system, had to be strengthened to improve learners’ education and help them to move more smoothly from training to work. In addition, a greater role for employers helps policy makers to strengthen the attractiveness of VET and the perception of VET with companies. The new system also requires VET providers to be more open to different perspectives and more flexible in order to respond to changes in the labour market.

What lessons have been learnt by using thes EQAVET+ indicative descriptors?

Changing an IMS is time consuming and requires the engagement of staff at all levels in an organisation. Despite this it is worthwhile as there are benefits for all stakeholders, especially the learners. To succeed it is crucial that all the stakeholders are involved from the start of the process. Establishing and maintaining a close working relationship between the chief executives and VET centres (in terms of sharing the leadership role and responsibilities) creates a more effective working environment where individuals are able to face the problems and challenges associated with change. There is a need for continual professional development to help staff work in new ways – this includes professional, pedagogic, didactical, organisational and management training

[1] The UNI-INAIL guidelines cover the design and implementation of health management systems and safety at work. They are aimed primarily at SMEs in Italy.

[2] The Salesian preventive system is based on persuasion and encouraging pupils to follow instructions. This system is based on love, kindness and religion.

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