The certification of professional competences in Portugal
It’s integrated either in the educational system, at the level of higher education, or in vocational training for non-higher levels, in the vocational and education training system.
The National Qualifications Framework defines eight qualification levels, with the last three, 6, 7 and 8, corresponding to higher education levels (bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate) and the remaining ones corresponding to Education and Training courses at a non-higher level. These eight levels span basic, secondary and post-secondary education and both educational and professional training pathways.
In recent years, the Portuguese education and training system, along with the mechanisms for accessing jobs, have been the object of several alterations following the reformation in Vocational and EducationTraining (VET) and the creation of the National Qualification System (2007).
Since 2011 this system for accessing jobs is defined in accordance with the Decree Law 92/2011, of 27th July. Said diploma establishes several significant changes relative to the previous model, among which is the definition of a new designation of Jobs Access Regulation System and the creation of a direct link with the national curricula for initial training in professional certification.
Other changes have been introduced, namely the extinction of professional cards and/or professional competences certification for a wide group of jobs in several lines of business (culture, administration, tourism, and others).
Hence, given the direct connection defined in this diploma between the Jobs Access Regulation System and the National Qualifications System (NQS), the study programmes of initial training for qualifications must be guided by training frameworks and criteria for recognition of competences acquired in informal and nonformal ways, as predicted in the National Qualifications Catalogue (NQC).
This diploma defines the concept of certification of professional competences as the “process through which possession of knowledges, skills and competences adequate and/or required to perform a given job or professional activity is acknowledged and certified” (Decree Law 92/2011). Furthermore, it defines two possible access pathways to obtain certification: by attending one of the training modalities of the NQS or through the process of Recognition, Validation and Certification of professional competences (RVCC pro).
It is nevertheless important to mention that possession of this certificate grants access to the job for which those qualifications are required, notwithstanding the fulfilment of additional specific requirements.
The Portuguese national system does not certify jobs per se but only professional competences.
In Portugal all certifications obtained by the formal system of education and training have equivalency to a given level in the National Qualifications Framework.
Non-higher level qualifications
Levels 1 through (and including) 5 match certifications of non-higher level, obtained in the network of establishments managed by the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Labour, while levels 6 through 8 match certifications of higher level, obtained in universities or polytechnic institutes.
This chapter starts by presenting the process of certification for non-higher levels of qualification
Obtaining a qualification by attending a training course or by recognition of competences is dependent on the curricular frameworks of the National Qualifications Catalogue. This instrument for strategic management of non-higher level qualifications regulates all training offer involving double certification, i.e., those courses assigning simultaneously an academic and professional certification.
Access to qualification via initial training is dependent on attendance and approval in all associated training units. For each qualification a set of mandatory Short Term Training Units (with a duration of 25 or 50 hours) has been pre-defined, along with some other optional STTU selected from a series of facultative training units.
A reformation of curricula for double certification modalities is currently taking place, where the main innovation is the organization into learning outcomes which must be in tune with the competences expected/required from the worker while performing the job.
Aside from this change in curricular organization, modifications in curricula management have also been introduced allowing for partial and specialized professional opportunities. This means that attending the whole set of training units fixed as the course core will assign a basic professional certification.
If, however, the individual, means to complete only a fraction of the modules for that certification, a partial certification may be issued. This partial certification does not assign a qualification level because it has not been completed. Only the full attendance and approval of the modules defined as the course core will issue a complete certification.
Specialization certifications may be obtained when the individual already holds a complete professional certification but means to focus on a given area of intervention, which can be achieved by attending a set of specific/specializing training units. This innovation in curricular organization intends to make access to qualifications more flexible while additionally increase the employability level of the individual by granting more competences in areas complementary to their basic qualification.
Professions not covered by the National Professional Certification System
We can identify three types of different situations:
• Top-level professions, whose access is via a post secondary level course (Higher Professional Technical Course) or BSc
• Jobs that depend on a specific regulation of access to the profession, • Jobs, or rather, functions that can be carried by professions that can have different access mechanisms, which are mainly dependent on the rules of recruitment and selection of the labor market.
The labor market does not always recognize the validity formal certification. In fact, also in Portugal, employers and professionals attribute value to professional certifications outside the system, or at least not compatible with the formal system in place.
For this purpose international systems with greater relevance in terms of recognition by employers and the labor market in the different area are used when it’s necessary to obtain a certification.