Danish Ministry of Education

Viktor Haarlov

“A visionary and innovative law”

Viggo Haarløv is a recognition advisor at the Danish Recognition Agency. A Recognition Law for foreign educational qualifications has been in place in Denmark since as long ago as 2001. In the summer of 2012, Viggo Haarløv brought his experience and specialist knowledge to the Foreign Skills Approval Competence Centre of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK FOSA), where he spent three months as a guest advisor and was able to see the professional and practically related manner in which the introduction of the Vocational Qualifications Assessment Law (BQFG) is being prepared and implemented. The IHK FOSA was set up in 2012 and acts as a central recognition body for occupations which are the responsibility of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce. Viggo Haarløv is a recognition expert attached to the Danish Ministry of Education. He sets out his impressions of the way in which the German Recognition Act is being implemented.

The German system of dual training, which provides both company-based and school-based training, is not easily comparable with foreign vocational education and training. In addressing this challenge, German legislators have passed a law which is visionary and innovative in many regards.

One particularly interesting feature, and I believe that this is an aspect which is unique, is that the German equivalence assessment procedure also accords due consideration to occupational experiences and other continuing training which have been acquired at a later date. Very many individual elements such as job references and continuing training courses are included within this process. This is in line with the requirements of today’s labour market.

Such an approach enables an overall picture of occupational skills to be built up including all qualifications acquired. Even if equivalence with the German reference occupation is not achieved, the assessment notice issued is of considerable value to the applicant. Such an assessment notice lists existing qualifications and the significant differences between the foreign and German qualifications. This means that applicants may be able to compensate for any deficits by undertaking continuing training and then be in a position to apply for full equivalence.

The German equivalence assessment procedure takes up much more time than in Denmark, where we only recognise training-related final qualifications (“learning outcomes”). As far as tools are concerned, the IHK FOSA team has already drawn up extremely thorough summaries and checklists for the most important Chamber of Industry and Commerce occupations. The Danish Recognition Agency does not have such internal instruments.

After more than ten years of experience (!), in Denmark we are able to process an average of approximately two applications a day, including all other recognition-related tasks (responding to e-mails, telephone calls, training descriptions from applicant countries, development of recognition standards etc.). Once the staff of IHK FOSA have established a certain routine, I estimate that the higher degree of investigation required will mean that approximately one application per day will be able to be processed. Initially, however, meaning until the end of the year, it is possible that double the amount of time will be needed.

Ensuring that assessment notices are of high quality and respected and accepted by employers and the trade unions is, however, much more important than accelerating processing time. Other countries are bound to see soon how useful the German assessment notices are. Perhaps this will lead them to pass similar laws in a few years’ time, taking the German Recognition Act as a model!