Skills analysis as a route to recognition

Jessica Erbe

The equivalence of a qualification acquired abroad with a German reference qualification is usually assessed on the basis of documents. The legislation has made provision for cases in which such documentation is not available (in meaningful form). Great hopes are being invested in the so-called skills analysis. However, can this instrument fulfil expectations? This article uses the latest official statistics on the Recognition Act to present the way in which its application has developed over the initial five years.

The skills analysis as a possible way out

Since 2012, the Anerkennungsgesetz des Bundes [Federal Recognition Act] introducing the Berufsqualifikationsfeststellungsgesetz (BQFG) [Law for the Amendment of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act] has offered a general legal right to assessment of equivalence of qualifications acquired abroad for around 600 professions and occupations legislated under federal law. Together with the Handwerksordnung (HwO) [Craft and Trades Regulation Code], the BQFG regulates the procedure for training occupations and advanced training occupations governed by the Berufsbildungsgesetz (BBiG) [Vocational Training Act] and the HwO.1 In order to achieve formal recognition in accordance with the BQFG, applicants are required to submit written evidence of their professional or vocational qualification to the relevant competent body. If they “cannot produce the evidence required for reasons which are not their fault or if only part of the necessary proof is available or if presentation of relevant documentation is not possible without inappropriate expenditure of time and material cost”, assessment takes place via “other suitable procedures” (§ 14 Section 1 BQFG). In the case of occupations regulated by the chambers, these other suitable procedures are referred to as skills analyses. This means that they form part of the recognition procedure pursuant to the BQFG rather than constituting some kind of alternative process. For this reason, the obtaining of a professional or vocational qualification at some point in time is a prerequisite for both the skills analysis and for the recognition procedure as a whole, even if evidence of the acquisition of such a qualification is currently absent. The law states that other suitable procedures may comprise work samples, specialist interviews, practical and theoretical examinations and expert opinions.

A worthwhile investment

In the five years from 2012 to 2016, the competent bodies responsible for occupations regulated in the scope of the chambers reported a total of 483 decisions that had been made via other suitable procedures. This is the equivalent of an average of almost 100 skills analyses per year, and an increasing tendency has seen annual numbers rise from an initial 60 to 126 in the last year for which figures are available. Training occupations account for the overwhelming proportion of these skills analyses. In addition, skills analyses were also used at master craftsman level, mostly in the case of regulated master craftsman qualifications.

Although the time and cost requirements for the design and conducting of a skills analysis are considerable, the procedures have produced encouraging results. In more than half of the decisions at (50.9 %), the competent bodies identified full equivalence. Partial equivalence was accorded in a further 35.6 per cent of cases (cf. further results of the Recognition Monitoring Project in BMBF 2017, p. 39, and in BÖSE/TURSARINOW/WÜNSCHE 2016).

Data base

This article is based on the official statistics in accordance with § 14 BQFG (cf. BMBF 2017). The object of evaluation comprised decisions reported between 2012 and 2016 in training occupations and advanced training occupations pursuant to the BBiG and the HwO and among these specifically the decisions arrived at via other suitable procedures (skills analysis). In the case of recent statistics, under recording cannot be excluded. For data protection reasons, all data (absolute values) is rounded to a multiple of three. For this reason, the overall value may deviate from the total of the individual values. No data is available for Bremen for the year 2015. For this reason, information from 2014 has been used for this particular federal state.

Already piloted in various occupations

During the first five years, skills analyses were conducted nationwide in a total of 67 different occupations. These include nine occupations which have each already recorded more than a dozen cases. The occupations in question are motor vehicle mechatronics technician, electronics technician, master craftsman qualification in hairdressing, hairdresser, joiner, metal worker, dental technician, plant mechanic for sanitary, heating and air conditioning systems and master craftsman qualification in the occupation of motor vehicle technician (cf. Top 5 in the Figure). These occupations account for 70.2 per cent of skills analyses. Of the five areas of responsibility within the occupations regulated by the chambers (cf. Figure), virtually all of the skills analyses conducted thus far have been in the craft trades. 95.4 per cent of 483 procedures were carried out by chambers of crafts and trades and 2.5 per cent by the chambers of commerce and industry. In the case of the latter, it is encouraging that most were reported in the last of the five years. This means that there has been an increase. By way of comparison, all of the applications for recognition submitted between 2012 and 2016 in occupations regulated by the chambers (21,414) are distributed across the areas of responsibility in the following way: trade and industry (63 %), craft trades (33.2 %), liberal professions (2.1 %) and all others (1.8 %).

Figure: Recognition procedures 2012 – 2016 in which a decision has taken place via a skills analysis (n = 483) by area of responsibility
Figure: Recognition procedures 2012 – 2016 in which a decision has taken place via a skills analysis (n = 483) by area of responsibility

More skills analyses are needed

Just under 500 skills analyses in five years of the Recognition Act do not yet constitute routine application of this instrument for the assessment of the competence of those who have obtained their qualifications abroad. This needs to be viewed against the background of the cost of developing an instrument that needs to take account of the respective individual case whilst fulfilling quality standards (cf. OEHME 2012). Nevertheless, the rising number of skills analyses being carried out is encouraging. In the light of the anticipated demand, the hope would be that this trend will gain significant further momentum. For this reason, the BMBF’s decision to extend the Prototyping Transfer project by another year until the end of September 2019 is an important step in terms of continuing to promote application and acceptance of skills analyses.

Further information source

Individual publications (for example BÖSE/TURSARINOW/WÜNSCHE 2016) use results from the Prototyping Transfer project as well as official statistics. It should be pointed out that these are skills analyses which have been conducted by the five project partners and have been reported on a voluntary basis. These cases form only a subset of the skills analyses carried out across Germany and reported via the official statistics. The project partners have reported the implementation of 112 skills analyses thus far. 40 of these took place in 2015, 47 were conducted in 2016 and 25 had been performed up to 26 September 2017. More information on the project: www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de/prototyping.

BMBF: Bericht zum Anerkennungsgesetz 2017 [2017 Report on the Recognition Act]. Berlin 2017

BÖSE, C.; TURSARINOW, D.; WÜNSCHE, T.: Recognizing vocational qualifications of refugees – examples from “Prototyping Transfer”. In: BWP 45 (2016) 1, pp. 20-23 – URL: www.bibb.de/veroeffentlichungen/de/bwp/show/7907  (retrieved: 13.10.2017)

OEHME, A.: Prototyping – ein Verbundprojekt zur Qualifikationsanalyse [Prototyping – a joint project for skills analysis]. In: BWP 41 (2012) 5, pp. 31-32 – URL: www.bibb.de/veroeffentlichungen/de/bwp/show/6939  (retrieved: 13.10.2017)

  • 1 In the interests of simplification, these occupations are referred to as being “regulated in the scope of the chambers” even though government authorities may also be responsible in some individual cases. Healthcare occupations and professions governed by specific legislation are not taken into account.

Dr., Research Associate in the “Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications” Division at BIBB and Head of the BIBB Recognition Monitoring Project


Translation from the German original (published in BWP 6/2017): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin