ESF-project: ‘partnership policy as a trigger for lifelong learning, innovation and change’
Template study visits: country profile, guidelines, evaluation sheet
1. Country profile
1.1 General information
2017 (if not available: 2016) Austria Vienna
Population (2017) 8.739.806 1,867,582
Area (km²) 82,523 km² 414.9 km²
GDP/capita (2017) 40 400 EUR 48 600 EUR
Employment rate (15-64 years, 2017) 71.9% 68%
Unemployment rate (15-64 years, 2018) 8.00% 12.5%
Labour force participation rate (2016) 76.2 %
European Innovation Scoreboard (innovation leader, strong innovator, moderate innovator, modest innovator) Strong Innovator Strong+ Innovator (Ostösterreich)
Levels of educational attainment (25 – 64 years, 2015)
Low (ISCED 0-2) 19.77% 24.59%
Medium (ISCED 3-4) 51.40% 40.44%
High (ISCED 5-8) 28.83% 34.97%
LLL participation rate (25-64 years, 2016) 14.9% 19.6%
Sources: Eurostat & OECD
1.2 Political and social context
Political system of Austria:
The Republic of Austria is a federal parliamentary republic composed of nine autonomous federal provinces or Bündesländer: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna. The highest representative of the state is the Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, who is in office for six years. The chambers of the parliament are the national assembly (Nationalrat) and the defederal senateFederal Council (Bundesrat), both responsible for legislation. The Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has the presidency over the national government, and is appointed by the federal president.
The federal state as well as the provinces both have their own legislative bodies, executive organs and their own system of financial management. The regions have thus a budget of their own, and may levy taxes. However, only the federal government can levy important taxes such as the income and value-added tax. By use of the revenue-sharing plan, the regions receive funds of the federal government’s tax revenue.
Although Austria carries the official stamp of federalism, the supremacy of the federal government reveals a weakly developed system. Legislative matters solely reserved to the provinces are meagre and deprived from real significance, such as: matters concerning provincial constitutions, building regulations, housing promotion, matters of tourism and public events and waste management. there are several movements occurring in the political landscape granting more power to the provinces. First, there are concrete plans to establish administrative courts at provincial level. Secondly, the Conference of Provincial Governors, whose existence and functions are not enshrined in the constitution, has gained some political power. But still Austria remains a country of “unitary” federalism, one in which the regionals powers are subordinated to federal power, and the locus of power is highly centralised.
Current political climate:
On October 15, 2017, parliamentary elections were held in Austria in which the conservative centrum-right Austrian People Party (ÖVP) emerged as the victor. The party led by the young Sebastian Kurz received 31,5% of all votes. Therefore Kurz was appointed by federal president Van der Bellen to form a new government. As coalition partner for the federal government, Kurz chose the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), who had acquired 26.9% in the election. The Freedom Party of Austria is an extreme right populist party, and the only one in Europe currently participating in a federal government. In 2000 the participation of FPÖ in government of Austria provoked a wave of international political protest and dissent from all across Europe. A reaction with a similar extent and impact today remains non-existent. Yet there are still some who gave voice to their concerns and disapproval. Such as Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who labelled the Austrian coalition with extreme right “a dangerous development”. Zeid especially condemns the prospective policy concerning implementing sanctions for immigrants whom refuse to abandon their own culture . Even further than voicing concern, Israel threatens to boycott the Austrian Ministries of Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs . All three positions are currently occupied by FPÖ, which was originally founded by a member of the Nazi. FDÖ received these three significant important positions in a trade-off to let go of their anti-European agenda. Kurz announced that he is not just pro-Europe, he even wants to enhance the European cooperation.
1.3. Social partners:
After the Second World War, a voluntary based cooperation has been developed in Austria between the government and the four main interest groups, the Social Partnership. The voluntary aspect of the cooperation is a translation of the absence of a legal basis in either the constitution or a separate law. The Social Partnerships focusses on maintaining an ongoing dialogue between the main groups of society, in order to identify the common, long-term goals of economic and social policy and how to attain these objectives. Despite the existing conflicts of interest, the social partnership has made vital contributions to economic, social and political stability in Austria. These contributions are exemplified by the economic growth, development of social welfare and harmony and the creation of more jobs throughout the years.
Austrian social partners are involved in most policy areas by Konzertierung or Akkordierung, which defines two distinct processes of the involvement of social partners in policy making in Austria: Konzertierung refers to the participation of the four interest associations in governmental policy formulation. Akkordierung refers to the participation of the interest associations in the search for, and realisation of, compromises between either the government and the interest associations (tripartite) or between the interest associations alone (bipartite).
The social partnership consist of a wide and comprehensive representative group of organisations at both sides of the industry.
The interest group are:
• Federal Chamber of Labour is an independent, democratic institution, whose officials are elected for a term of five years. Their function according to the law is to represent and promote the social, economic, occupational and cultural interests of employees.
• Austrian Chamber of Agriculture are established provincial interest groups representing the farming community. Only the Budesländer may organize agricultural chambers. Therefore there are nine agriculture chambers with their headquarters located in Vienna. Their main tasks include providing assistance to its members and representing their interests vis-à-vis the State and other occupational groups.
• Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) is a non-partisan body representing the interests of employees and has around 1.4 million members. The ÖGB and its 13 affiliated trade unions represent the social, economic, occupational and cultural interests of all employees vis-à-vis employers, the State and political parties. They also provide assistance to their members in employment matters. The main functions of the ÖGB as an umbrella organisation include: representing the interests of all employees through initiatives for sectoral collective agreements and statutory provisions, and giving opinions on social policy and draft legislation affecting employees.
• Austrian Federal Economic Chamber is the legal democratic and self-governing organ of the entire Austrian business community, responsible for the coordination and representation of all Austrian business on national and international level, while membership is compulsory. Moreover it is also the umbrella organisation for the nine provincial economic chambers and for 110 sectoral organisations.
• Federation of Austrian Industry is a voluntary interest group with currently around 3 500 members, representing the Austrian industry. Nine independent groups at provincial level are the direct contact point in Austria for members and interested parties. As a lobby group, the aim of the Federation of Austrian Industry is to represent effectively the interests of its members in Austria and at European level and to strengthen Austria and Europe as an attractive business location.
2. Stakeholders & actors
The governance of Austria is, despite their federal system, characterised by highly centralised focus of power and strong central competences. Consequently, the main actors on the field of education and competences are located on the federal level. The broad scope of these subjects results in the fact that numerous ministries, institutions, and organisations have competences in these matters. This in combination with Austria’s tradition of active stakeholders involvement, as proven with the Social Partnership, cultivated an immense collection of relevant institutions who participate in various policy stages: from strategy planning, to policy implementation and evaluation. As said before, the main actors can be found on federal level, several ministries and institution and the research centres linked to them.
At the province level, Bundesländer are often engaged from early on in the policy process. Moreover some provinces have taken initiative on their own. For example Vienna has created their own policy concerning reducing people in lower formal education with the ‘Vienna Qualification Pass 2020’. Austrian municipalities have in accordance with the story of strong central competences, little autonomy. They are solely responsible for maintenance of general compulsory school buildings. Obviously, the Austrian education system and its institutions are key actors. The schools autonomy over the curriculum is around the OECD average, with 72% of decisions about the curriculum taken at school level. Higher education is provided by 21 public and 13 private universities, 21 Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) and 14 University Colleges of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen, PH). All higher education institutions undergo regular obligatory external quality assurance by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (Agentur für Qualitätssicherung und Akkreditierung Austria) .
Listed below are the remaining relevant stakeholders:
• Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research is responsible for the entire educational system of general and vocational schools, from compulsory schooling until completion of secondary level 2 and for all University Colleges of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen) in Austria. Furthermore are they responsible for the subjects of adult education and life-long learning.
• Federal Minister within the Federal Chancellery for Women, Families and Youth promotes employment and education, as they are two of the goals of the Austrian Youth Strategy. Education, as key to employment, empower young people to have more positive employment and income opportunities and secures future professionals and experts. High-quality qualifications enable young people to meet current and future challenges in the work environment and to make the best possible use of opportunities.
• Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs continuously strives to improve the apprenticeship training program with a variety of action points: modernisation of apprenticed trades, modularisation (more flexible design of the dual system of education and training, improved options to combine training modules, facilitated recognition of previously obtained qualifications, better response to the needs of specific industries), internship abroad,… Another responsibility is the accreditation process, or the formal recognition of the equivalence of a professional qualification gained from a college and/or through work with an Austrian apprenticeship, regardless of whether this involves training from an EEA country or from a third country.
• Federal Minister for Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection aims to completely eradicate unemployment in Austria by operating simultaneously three policy methods: passive, active and activating policy. The goal of taking active measures to raise the level of qualifications and skills and promoting equal opportunities are translated on two levels of policy. Firstly, the active policy measures mentions the importance of further vocational training in order to adapt the skills of the labour force to the needs of the market. Secondly, on the activating policy level, measures of financial supports for people in initial and further training are voiced.
• The Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) is Austria’s leading provider of labour-market related services. With the eradication of unemployment in Austria as main target, AMS provides assistance to jobseekers as well as companies by offering advice, information, qualification opportunities and financial assistance. In the Career Information Centres (BIZ) AMS offers detailed information about various professions, employment opportunities as concrete training, for in particular unemployed people and gainfully employed jobseekers.
• Austrian Educational Competence Centres (AECC) are specialised didactics centres who are active in the field of teaching and learning of their respective field of research, development and advisory. Their results are used in teaching, teacher education and school development, and as steering knowledge in educational administration and education policy.
• Federal Institute for Educational Research, Innovation and development of the Austrian School System (BIFIE) was established to promote fact-based education policy and systematic school development. Additionally BIFIE is responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of important educational policy reforms. Resulting in an quality improvement in the Austrian education system by steering the educational policy on one hand. And on the other hand implementing concrete improvements in everyday school life alongside the schools, such as: targeted teacher education or the development of teaching materials.
• Federal Institute for Adult Education (BIFEB) is an institution of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, responsible for developing and promoting scientifically sound education and training for adult educators as a competence centercentre for adult education and offering them as a seminar. The BIFEB is actively involved in the implementation of the Guidelines for Lifelong Learning.
• Association of Austrian Adult Education CentersCentres (VÖV) together with its Educational Work and Research Unit (PAF), regards itself as a coordination centercentre for activities relevant to educational policy and pedagogics in Austrian Adult Education Centres and also as a service centercentre for its member organisations, the regional associations. It compromises the ten largest continuing education and training associations in Austria.
• Weiterbildungsakademie Österreich (WBA) is a certification and competence recognition office for adult educators. It awards degrees on two levels: WBA certificate and WBA diploma based on predetermined standards. By doings so it penetrates the barriers between adult and higher education. WBA makes a lasting contribution to the professionalisation and quality development of adult education in Austria.
• The Austrian CenterCentre for Personality Education and Social Learning (ÖZEPS) is a federal centercentre of the BMB. ÖZEPS contributes to the strengthening of personality and social learning nationwide; a mission not to be underestimated in an economic and labour climate where the possession of certain soft skills are heavily sought after.
• Austrian Institute for Vocational Training Research CenterCentre (OÏBF) carries out high-quality research and development in order to support and promote activities and policies concerning vocational education and training (VET), focusing on innovation in education and interrelation of education and the labour market.
• IBW (Österreichisches Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft) draws up reports and analyses at the interfaces between education and training, skill needs of businesses and qualifications. IBW develops products and provides services for companies, social partners, sectoral associations, apprentices and schools.
• The Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship’s role is to advise the Secretary of Labour on critical matters related to the National Registered Apprenticeship System, such as development and implementation of policy and legislation, improving ways to work more effectively with partners,… The membership of the Committee includes equal representation of employers, labour management organisations, and members of the public.
• Austrian Cluster Platform (Clusterplattform Österreich) is an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Digitalization and Business Location, and was founded in 2008. As the federal umbrella organisation for 61 clusters, the platform is a structured strategic and working environment for national and regional cluster organisations in Austria. The platform enables the collaboration and cross sectoral learning between different sectors and clusters.
3. Main strategies and measures
a) Strategies to map, develop and validate competences
The current Austrian approach towards life-accompanying learning and competences is an implementation of the strategy written down in one document: LLL: 2020 – Strategie zum lebensbegleitenden Lernen in Österreich. This strategy became an inevitable necessity while globalisation and the dynamics in the economy and society continues to generate a growing need for the further development of knowledge, skills and competences. Austria acknowledged this demand and adopted the LLL: 2020 strategy on 5 July 2011, presented by the Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection ; Federal Ministry of Family and Youth.
The policy is a process of various actions of implementation over the period of 2011-2020, focusing on multiple stages of learning: from childhood education to post-professional phase of life. This holistic approach of the strategy transcends the classic barriers of policy implementation and demands an incorporation of different policy areas, such as: education, integration, labour market, economy, social, financial and regional issues. Therefore LLL: 2020 does not focus on formal responsibilities and competences of authorities and institutions, but on combined actions towards common goals.
The Austrian LLL: 2020 strategy is based on five complementing guidelines:
1. Life phase orientation. Enable educational processes that do not depend on age and are suitable for different age groups.
2. Putting the learners in the center. Connect different learning locations, develop new learning architectures and new teaching and learning forms, make learning more flexible and develop the role of instructors.
3. Life Long Guidance. Provide comprehensive support for learners, improve and expand counselling and professionalize consultants.
4. Competence orientation. Assure transparency and comparability of qualifications, develop competence portfolio instruments and recognize informal knowledge and competences.
5. Promoting the participation in LLL. Strengthen the motivation for and joy of learning and education, incentive and promotion measures.
From these guidelines concrete political ideas, targets and packages of measures were formed, resulting in ten action lines.
1. Strengthening of pre-school education and childcare
2. Basic education and equality of opportunity in the school system and the initial vocational education and training system
3. Free acquisition of basic qualifications and safeguarding basic competences in adult age
4. Expansion of alternative transition systems to working life for youths
5. Measures for enhanced re-orientation in education and the world of work
6. Strengthening of ‘community education’ approaches
7. Promotion of learning-friendly work environments
8. Continuing education and training to secure employability and competitiveness
9. Learning in the period after retirement
10. Procedures for the recognition of non-formally and informally acquired knowledge and competence
The strategy is steered by a “task force” (representatives of ministries) with the involvement of a “national platform” (social partners, countries, cities, municipalities, actors in education, scientists). In addition to annual reports, Task Force 2020 will present a final report on the achievement of the objectives and other recommendations. The strategic goals are measured by benchmarks. These are based on national and EU-wide projects and are expressed in specific quotas.
b) Measures for map, develop and validate competences
As an adaption of one of the guidelines of LLL:2020 and as response to the European qualifications framework (EQF) initiative, Austria has designed a national qualifications framework (NQF) with an eight-level structure . It aims to include qualifications from all education and training subsystems and forms of learning. Within the framework, formal, non-formal and informal learning context should be treated as equal learning processes. The main objectives include supporting lifelong learning and enabling stronger links between all learning opportunities. Due to this mapping, the NQF strengthens transparency, understanding and comparability of all Austrian qualifications. Thus the NQF is solely intended for information purposes and has no regulatory or legal effect on vocational and other authorisations. The Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) is the main implementation coordinating body. But the entire process was characterised by active involvement of relevant stakeholders, such as: AMS, federal ministries (education, research and economy; families and youth; labour, social affairs and consumer protection; health; defence and sports), social partner organisations (chamber of labour, chamber of commerce), youth organisations (Austrian Youth Association), adult education (Austrian Conference of Adult Education), Universities Austria and Austrian Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the Länder.
Additionally to NQF, there are several other measures concerning the mapping of competences, first and foremost the AMS-Skills Barometer . Designed in 2002, the barometer, a web-based labour market information tool, provides a broad group of different users with valid, comprehensible and well-structured information on current and medium-term occupation and qualification needs Providing forecasts on qualitative basis occupational and qualification trends for three to four years, for example the detailed occupational profiles related to jobs in demand in the labour market. The forecast is made for 24 occupational sectors, approximately 100 occupational fields and more than 550 single occupations.
Another initiative created by the AMS, in cooperation with Austrian Social partners, is the foundation of the “AMS Standing Committee on New Skills” . The committee was created in order to help companies, employees and jobseekers prepare for new trends in the working world as early and purposefully as possible. Within the framework of the Standing Committee, specialist groups are set up each year, in which experts from various professions (“clusters”) are to identify short to medium-term qualification requirements. The results obtained will find their concrete output in
? The formulation of detailed information and the preparation of recommendation catalogues for the qualifications required in the future of a particular occupational area.
? The recommendations for the design of innovative offers both in in-company training and in the labour market policy qualification area.
In the area of validation of competence, Austria has implemented The new Recognition and Evaluation Act (AuBG) for qualifications obtained abroad in 2016. First of all, AuBG introduces new procedures for evaluation of professional qualifications and training. For example the new procedure for formal recognition without a certificate or verification. The procedure is designed for individuals entitled to asylum and those to subsidiary who lost their certificate of education through no fault of their own while fleeing. From now on, they are able to have their qualifications confirmed through alternative procedures (e.g. practical or theoretical examinations, random testing, technical discussions, work samples). Furthermore AuBG has enshrined existing evaluation procedures in law.
As voiced in LLL: 2020, the creation of procedures for the recognition of non-formally and informally acquired knowledge and competence is an major objective of the Austrian administration. Nevertheless validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNIL) in Austria cannot yet lead to a complete award of a higher education qualification. Still, it is possible to obtain admission to some Austrian higher education institutions or to receive credits for prior learning within study programmes. Some programmes are:
? Studienberechtigungsprüfung (SBP): Limited Higher Education Entrance Examination
? Berufsreifeprüfung (BRP): The General Higher Education Entrance Examination is for people who went through apprenticeship training or vocational education schools but did not take an examination entitling them to study at higher education level.
? Admission without Reifeprüfung/Matura, SBP or BRP: Under certain conditions, HE institutions admit applicants who have not taken the Reifeprüfung/Matura or any other exam mentioned above. As an example, Danube University Krems offers admission for study programmes based on VNIL
? Admission without Reifeprüfung/Matura: Traditionally access to higher education is granted based on the successful completion of the school-based upper secondary certificate called ‘Matura’ or ‘Reifeprüfung’ (school-leaving certificates of Secondary Technical and Vocational Colleges or Secondary Academic Schools). New initiatives grants non-traditional access based on specific exams. As an example, Danube University Krems offers admission for study programmes based on prior VNIL.
This is in contrast with the validation of foreign formal qualifications, which can be easily validated through so-called “Nostrifizierung”. A process that leads to full recognition of a foreign higher education qualification by an Austrian university or university of applied sciences, if needed upon pass of supplementary examinations.
There are several validation arrangements closely connected with the labour market, but only a few of these validation procedures have a legal basis and therefore result in formal qualification. In other words, many of them aim at obtaining non-formal qualification. Some examples:
? The Austrian Public Employment Service Vienna offers “competence checks” for asylum seekers. These checks include the validation informal learning (outside school or university, e.g. work experience).
? In some federal states there are institutions which validate prior learning. For example, in Burgenland, the Volkshochschule (VHS) is certified to validate prior learning.
? When it comes to recognition of formal vocational education, the platform berufsanerkennung.at gives guidance and shows success-stories of people, who went through validation procedures
In order to cater to the identified need of competences, various programmes for developing skill and competences have found the light of day. In 2013 the programme ‘professionals/skilled workers scholarships’ (Fachkräftestipendium) has been introduced to reduce skills bottlenecks. It supports the training of low and medium skilled workers and jobseekers in occupations with labour demand. Until the end of 2014, more than 5 000 scholarships were approved. Another skill developing initiative is FIA – Skilled workers intensive training (Facharbeiterinnen-Intensivausbildung). The programme addresses registered jobseekers and gives them the opportunity to complete apprenticeship training in a shortened amount of time. A specific objective of FIA is to qualify women for ‘future jobs’ (e.g. crafts and engineering, health). Furthermore, technical jobs for unemployed women are also addressed with the programme Women in crafts and engineering (Frauen in Handwerk und Technik (FIT)), which enables training of women in non-traditional occupations.
Vienna has composed for itself a strategy for reducing the amount of people with a low formal education, as economic researchers agreed that a qualified workforce will be the decisive factor for Vienna as a business location. This conclusion stresses the importance of training and qualifications of the future workforce. The Vienna 2020 Qualification Plan is a joint strategy designed by: the City of Vienna, the Vienna Economic Chamber and the Vienna Regional Group of the Federation of Austrian Industries, the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) and the Vienna Chamber of Labour, the Public Employment Service Vienna, the waff, the Federal Social Welfare Department and the Vienna Board of Education. Two measures regarding the identification of qualifications were carried out. On one hand there is the Qualification Pass Vienna (Qualifikationspass Wien) which identifies the competences and documentation of received education and training. Thereby it documents also non-formally and informally acquired competences. This documentation is the basis for the planning and realisation of further training, and should guide the person towards apprenticeship examination. On the other hand there is: ‘Recognition system Vienna: ‘My chance – I have competences!’ which also support the acquisition of an apprenticeship qualification. The apprenticeship examination comprises a theoretical and a practical part. The theoretical part is waived for candidates who have successfully completed an accredited course or the responsible vocational school attests that the required theoretical knowledge has been achieved. Candidates are supported in the development of an individual portfolio documenting the theoretical knowledge; this is included in the ‘Qualification Pass Vienna’.