Promoting access for all to further learning opportunities
Bringing together representatives from key institutions and civil society stakeholders in adult learning and employment, the event “Bridging non-formal and formal adult learning through PSL competences” marked the official end of the successful Erasmus+ KA2 project MASTER – Measures for Adults to Support Transition to further Education and Re-skilling opportunities. Organised by EAEA, the event took place on 17 May 2022 in Brussels.
Promoting access to education, training and employment opportunities for adults with low levels of formal qualifications as well as encouraging their participation as full citizens in their communities, by developing their self-assessment skills and their Personal, Social and Learning-to-learn competences (PSL), were at the heart of the project.
Making the case for PSL competence in bridging programmes
The speakers – including Ms. Klara Engels-Perenyi, Adult Learning EC, DG EMPL, Mr. Michele Tuccio, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD, and Mr. Guibert Debroux, Director Vocational Training & Business Services, Le Forem Belgium, and moderated by Ms. Sylvia Liuti (FORMA.Azione srl) – shared with the MASTER partners and the audience interesting insights and information relating to the new policy priorities at EU level, on recent innovations in frameworks and tools for assessing PSL in education and employment services, on outreaching to adults at risk of social exclusion, and in supporting the cooperation among actors and stakeholders in formal and non-formal education domains.
The roundtable speakers were joined by the MASTER project partners Helen Cormack, SWAPWest Scotland, and Giovanni Serra, University of Roma Tre, Italy.
Ms. Helen Cormack spoke of the challenges faced while delivering the project during the pandemic and outlined the ways in which the loss of face-to-face delivery had been overcome by changing the means through which the Intellectual Outcomes were developed. She showcased one of the model workshops that had been offered to adults and the positive response given by one of the stakeholders engaged with the project.
Local networks and the validation of competences are key
Mr. Giovanni Serra proposed a reflection on the relationship between formal and non-formal education, starting from the experience of the University of Roma Tre, and from its consolidated collaboration with an Italian organisation that provides non-formal training activities for third sector managers and volunteers.
Research shows that recognition of experiential learning brings multiple benefits for NGOs and society at large.
He underlined how the construction of local networks of collaboration between formal and non-formal education institutions and the recognition and validation of competences are the key strategy to favour the passage of adult learners between these two contexts. He added that the development of personal, social and learning to learn competences is a common ground on which to develop this collaboration. In this context, the contribution of universities in the promotion of PSL competences is very important. Universities can play a key role through the so-called third mission’ to support people in their lifelong learning journey, in the acquisition and development of skills for their personal fulfilment, work, health, etc.
Learner-centred perspective in offering tailored provision
The roundtable was followed by Ms. Klara Engels-Perenyi, representing the European Commission, recalling the need for policymakers at all levels to pay attention to PSL competences.
Maintaining a learner-centred perspective in offering tailored provision is key.
She introduced the targets and commitments stemming from the Porto Social Summit, as well as the critical policy initiatives including the European Skills Agenda, Upskilling Pathways Recommendations, and the upcoming Recommendations on Individual Learning Accounts and Micro-credentials. With the overall objective of equipping everyone with the right skills for life, Ms. Engels-Perenyi underlined that building broad partnerships – based on learners’ needs – is essential.
Employers are increasingly valuing non-cognitive skills, including PSL competences
Mr. Michele Tuccio, economist at the OECD, continued the conversation by presenting the work of the OECD on skills anticipation and its link with PSL competences. In particular, his research found that (long) unemployment may lead to a loss of confidence, anxiety and feelings of guilt.
The OECD has created a new skills assessment tool focusing on soft and cognitive skills, emphasising the importance of life skills.
Another aspect comes from the side of employers, which are increasingly valuing more non-cognitive skills, such as empathy, motivation, commitment, and time management. It is, therefore, of primary importance for both educational providers and policymakers to take into account PSL and non-cognitive skills.
Michele Tuccio, OECD, and Giovanni Serra, University of Roma Tre (from left to right)
PSL competences can empower learners and job-seekers
Mr. Guibert Debroux, Le Forem Belgium, brought to the table the perspective of public employment services, especially in Wallonia.
We need a holistic approach where job seekers are supported throughout their path.
Stressing the role of a complete social-professional integration, he elaborated on the empowering function of PSL competences. While employment services need to include them more explicitly in their work, he noted the reluctance of a number of employers to accompany the development of PSL competences. Lastly, he introduced the reference framework implemented by Le Forem, giving a prominent space to transversal competences.
Guibert Debroux, Le Forem, Klara Engels-Perenyi, European Commission, and Helen Cormack, SWAPWest (from left to right)
The roundtable, enriched also by interventions from the audience, confirmed what has already emerged from the MASTER results. The MASTER experience, indeed, clearly showed the role of PSL competences as enablers in adult people in continuing their learning pathways and in stepping up their career opportunities and thus also making the step from non-formal adult learning into further education.
Every learner comes with a personal life story and learning history
Ms. Raffaela Kihrer, EAEA, presented the recommendations for adult education organisations and policymakers that were developed in the project.
The most important recommendation, which stands above all other recommendations, is that the personal and learning needs of the learners must come first. We must always keep in mind that every learner comes with a personal life story and learning history. When this is taken into account and learning programmes are sensitive to learners’ circumstances, they work best. This also requires adequate funding for PSL programmes.
Key stakeholders – including labour market services, adult education organisations, policy makers, academics, and civil society actors – from four partner countries were also involved in the drafting of the recommendations: Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Scotland (UK).
Sustaining the momentum for PSL competences
The event was an opportunity to consider how to sustain the MASTER outcomes and recommendations after the end of the EU funding, bearing in mind that it is essential to work on PSL development, reinforcement, and monitoring for adults’ empowerment, activation, and awareness, to ensure their full participation as citizens, and also to develop specific initiatives to foster stakeholders’ awareness and trainers’ competences on this topic.
More information about the project and the event are available on
- Fb @eumasterproject
- LinkedIn MASTER project
For any questions, please contact the project coordinator Chiara Marchetta, FORMA.Azione, at firstname.lastname@example.org.