National Skills Institute created
In March 1999, the National Skills Institute was set up in Spain, as part of the process of fostering social dialogue on vocational training, to provide technical support for the tripartite General Vocational Training Council. Its purpose is to achieve the goals laid down in the National Vocational Training Programme, such as monitoring, developing, accrediting and integrating skills.
On 17 March 1999, under the terms of Royal Decree 375/1999, the National Skills Institute (Instituto Nacional de las Cualificaciones, INC) was set up in to provide technical support for the General Vocational Training Council (Consejo General de Formación Profesional, CGFP). Its purpose is to achieve the following objectives, as set out in the National Vocational Training Programme (Programa Nacional de la Formación Profesional):
- monitoring skills and their development;
- determination of skills;
- accreditation of skills;
- integration of occupational skills into the workplace; and
- monitoring and evaluating the National Vocational Training Programme.
The INC has been set up as part of the process of fostering social dialogue on vocational training in Spain. This process started with the signing of the first national continuing training agreements in 1992, which established an institution co-managed by trade unions and employers (FORCEM) responsible for this whole subsystem of training employed workers. In 1996, the government and the most representative social partners subsequently signed the "basic agreement on vocational training policy (ES9702101F)". This led to a greater degree of consultation and resulted in a new National Vocational Training Programme (ES9804152F), which was drawn up by consensus in the CGFP (an institution on which are represented the social partners, the ministries of labour and education and the regional governments) and approved by the Spanish Council of Ministers in March 1998.
The priority objective of the National Programme is to initiate a national occupational skills system, with the following aims:
- to draw up skill profiles at a national level that operate as a single guideline for the acquisition of suitable occupational skills;
- to promote the integration of the different ways of acquiring occupational skills; and
- to integrate all the training within the various vocational training subsystems.
These aims are aimed at remedying one of the characteristic shortcomings of vocational training in Spain: the lack of a relationship between the three training subsystems (vocational, occupational and continuing training) and any harmonised criteria for the certification of occupational skills, including certification through occupational experience.
Therefore, the INC is a key element in the methodical development of the future national skills system, to be proposed by the CGFP as the result of negotiations already underway between the national and regional governments and the social partners.
Responsibilities of the INC
In relation to these central objectives, the main responsibilities of the new Institute are to:
- propose the establishment and administration of the national occupational skills system;
- establish criteria for defining the requirements and characteristics that occupational skills must have in order to be incorporated into the national occupational skills system;
- establish a basic methodology for identifying occupational skills and defining a framework for occupational qualifications to enable their incorporation into the national occupational skills system;
- propose a system of accreditation and occupational recognition;
- establish a procedure for making the skills agencies or institutes of the autonomous communities or the social partners jointly responsible for defining the list of occupational skills, and for bringing sectoral demands for skills up to date;
- establish criteria for regulating the basic methods that should be observed in the evaluation of skills and in the procedure for awarding accreditation by the appropriate authorities;
- propose the procedures for accrediting occupational skills within the national occupational skills system, and for keeping it up to date;
- as a basic instrument at the service of the CGFP, carry out essentially technical activities to support vocational training at a national and community level (such as studies, reports, comparative analyses and scientific seminars);
- support and improve the relationships between the training activities of the varying vocational training subsystems, and between the skills that they generate and the occupational classification systems that emerge from collective bargaining (ES9905122F); and
- establish a frame of reference for the general planning of all the subsystems, and to provide support in establishing the standards and regulations governing vocational training.
An "occupational observatory" will be located within the INC with a database that will actively promote the cooperation of the other sectoral and regional observatories across the whole of Spain. Its purpose will be to provide information on developments in the supply and demand of professions and occupations and trends in the labour market, with special attention paid to the occupational classification systems that emerge from collective bargaining.
In addition to drawing up and determining qualification "standards", one of the priority tasks of the INC will consist in regulating the system of correspondences, authentication and equivalence between the three training subsystems. This will include regulating the relevant procedures for accrediting work experience, in order to facilitate access to work, mobility between jobs and transparency between the three subsystems.
Differences of opinion
Although there has been a high degree of consensus throughout the process of defining the role of the INC, there have been differences of opinion over its constitution, its degree of independence from the state administration and the degree of direct participation by its "stakeholders". These differences explain the delay in setting up the INC, which was scheduled for September 1998, and the abstention of the trade unions in its final approval by the plenary session of the CGFP.
In the course of the negotiations, the trade unions, employers' associations and autonomous communities felt that it was more appropriate to set the Institute up as an autonomous body. However, central government finally imposed its view that it should be a ministerial unit, directly dependent on the CGFP but located within the Ministry of Labour. This means that the social partners and autonomous communities are represented only through the permanent commission of the CGFP, which is the governing body of the INC.
The creation of the INC is a very important step in setting up the national skills system. The current lack of an integrated framework for skills and training presents a structural limitation on the adaptation of vocational training to the needs of companies and individuals. This is especially so from the strategic viewpoint of guaranteeing permanent retraining (lifelong learning), integrated training and employment policies, and moving towards the convergence of vocational training models and the transparency of skills in the European Union.
The drawing up of basic regulations for the skills system are currently under discussion in a working group within the CGFP. These, along with the setting up of the INC according to the guidelines of the National Vocational Training Programme, are urgently required to reorganise employment and training policies in a country with the highest unemployment rate in the EU. Another urgent task is the integration of skills systems already in existence in two autonomous communities (particularly well developed in the Basque Country) into the national system (Juan Blanco, CIREM Foundation).