Expert blogspot
Modifier 20 July 2020
by Ronald Lievens

Passport4Work update: abstract skills in layman's terms

P4W Web Article 2
P4W Web Article 2
As described in the previous web article, P4W is developing tools for skills assessment, eLearnings and job matching.

As described in the previous web article, P4W is developing tools for skills assessment, eLearnings and job matching.  Developing these tools is contingent on having a common understanding of what skills are, to ensure we all speak the same "skills language". Once this step is taken, it becomes easier to convey one's skills to others, because skills will be less open to interpretation and individual (or organisation-specific) perception. 

To achieve this goal, significant progress was made in two areas.

First, the U.S. based O*NET skills (which is the basis for P4W) are being applied to the Dutch labour market. For example, in the U.S., a pharmacy assistant is performing mostly sales clerk tasks. In The Netherlands however, a pharmacy assistant also prepares medication and provides medical advice. In P4W, these differences are further investigated through a massive nation-wide research among Dutch employers and employees within the targeted sectors of industry (health care, construction and technology) . More on this in the upcoming web article and Zoom-in podcast in September. 

Second, all the O*NET occupations, skills and underlying definitions that will be used in P4W tools are being translated to the A2 language level. The A2 level is part of the European CEFR framework, and represents a basic language level. It is aimed to meet the needs of those who can read and understand short and simple texts. This is a key step to ensure that P4W tools (such as an assessment) are as accessible and understandable as possible. 

In a joint research project with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), the A2 translation of O*NET skills and occupations is being realized. This entails a systematic translation and testing of a wide range of O*NET occupations and skills. The testing of the translations is being done together with representatives of the target user population. This to ensure that the contents resonate with the intended target users. 

One testing round was organized near the end of June, with 10 participating vocational students from the Eindhoven Ster College. A selection of the translated skills were presented to the students, after which in-depth discussions were held on their understanding of the skills, the choice of wording and possible alternative ways of structuring the information.

A2 test session
The test session with the vocational students from the Eindhoven Ster College

The test session with the students resulted in different changes and recommendations. For example, one skill's translated definition included the phrase "I can make technical things". This was a major source of confusion among the students, who rightly indicated that some more context is required in the definition, since there can be a variety of technical things (for example, software or hardware). The students also observed that in skill definitions, often the same keyword was used more than once. In case the word is not understood, the definition remains unclear. The suggestion was made to make use of different synonyms to help the user understand the phrase better.

Multiple other points were addressed, which in turn were defined as quality indicators for the rest of the translations to ultimately achieve the best translation possible. Together with TNO, these indicators will be applied to all of the translated materials, and further testing sessions will be held with other target user representatives in Eindhoven.