Recognition and Accreditation of Competencies in 2030: How Different?

Wednesday 16 October 2013, I was invited to give a keynote address at a conference[1] in Warsaw celebrating the publication of 300 competency standards[2] at the initiative of the Department of Labour Market from the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Participants included the State Secretary from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, representatives of social partners such as the Polish Craft Association, the Polish Chamber of Commerce, different employer associations and trade unions.

It was interesting to witness how much has been achieved 6 years after the publication of 200 qualification standards and my first visit to Warsaw when on the 18 December 2007 I was invited to give a keynote at a conference entitled National Occupational Standards as a Tool for Employment and Education Policy. The brief for this year’s keynote was to invite the participants to explore the potential of those newly published competency standards to support, recognise and accredit learning.

What follows is the abstract of my presentation[3].

Recognition and Accreditation of Competencies in 2030: How Different?

learning journeyI have always imagined competency standards as the maps of a professional territory: a good map should be able to tell you where you are (accreditation of prior learning), what are the possible paths for advancing or changing career (learning and career pathways). But competency maps are not static; they are like the maps of cities constantly reconfiguring, demolishing unused or out of date facilities, building new roads, new buildings and generating new services. Digital city maps are now also able to display traffic jams, accidents, speed and police controls. To keep all this information updated in real time, digital technologies leverage collective intelligence. They use crowd sourcing. It is what Geographical information systems such as Waze™ ( do. With Waze™, the initial map data were originally collected from scratch by volunteers performing systematic ground surveys using a handheld GPS unit and a notebook, digital camera, or a voice recorder. The data were then entered into the OpenStreetMap database (

Recognition and Accredication of Competencies in 2030In 2030, competency standards will also use collective intelligence to keep competency maps up-to-date. Just like Waze™ was able to recreate road maps by collecting the GPS data from a crowd, we will be able to create competency maps by exploiting the information recorded in our ePortfolios. We will be able to establish the competency map of a city, a region or a country, thus providing the tools for the citizens, entrepreneurs and policy makers to make informed decisions, having on the one hand the map of all the worldwide competencies (and a visualisation of their dynamic transformation over space and time) and, on the other hand, the representation of the actual social capital of a given territory. Competency maps will also contribute to the construction of our professional identity.

All this will be made possible when competency standards are used to tag every bit of information related to learning, events, documentation, employment, social inclusion, etc.

The movement has already started. It is called Open Badges ( An Open Badge is a criteria- and evidence-based trust relationship between a badge issuer and a badge recipient. Criteria (or competency), evidence, issuer and recipient are represented in a set of metadata ‘baked’ into a picture, the actual visual representation of an Open Badge[4]. Open Badges are already used to accrediting a wide range of learning outcomes from a simple skill to a full diploma. What makes them unique and powerful is their simplicity, the use of metadata, in particular competency standards, and their trustworthiness. Contrary to a CV that is purely declarative and not verifiable unless examining the original documents, Open Badges are verifiable online, by a person or even a machine. An Open Badge is a reliable statement of trust:

I [the badge issuer] trust you [the badge recipient] to do this [the competency criteria] as you provided me with enough evidence.

In 2030, thanks to the movement initiated by Open Badges, the informal recognition of informal learning is becoming as trustworthy as the formal recognition of formal learning. We have transformed the way learning is planned, organised, recognised and accredited. It has also transformed employment, fulfilling the wish of nearly 50% of European citizens to be self-employed[5].


[1] link. The 300 competencies cover a wide range of occupations in the industry and craft sectors.

[2] Projekt : Rozwijanie zbioru krajowych standardów kompetencji zawodowych wymaganych przez pracodawców

[4] An Open Badge is a simple structure with an image and a set of metadata: awarding criteria (URL of a competency definition), evidence (URL of the artefacts supporting the claim) and assertion (URL to the badge issuer and email of the badge recipient).

[5] According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond, 45% of European citizens want to be self-employed.

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