Gain qualifications by just being on the learning curve; UK-wide scheme launched to attract more people into studying.
From Italian to accountancy, thousands of people across Wales indulge in taking courses for personal enjoyment or to help run the nation's 30,000 voluntary groups.
But knowledge or certificates reaped often cannot be used to back up job applications or apply for other qualifications.
A ground-breaking scheme launched today aims to change that. The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales is designed to attract more people into learning by creating a culture of ``topping up'' qualifications throughout life. Every 10 hours of assessed learning will act as a credit in this common currency for all students.
Jane Davidson, the Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, said, ``We have created a new currency of learning which people will un-derstand and want to use. Most importantly, it will open up many more career and life opportunities by encouraging more people to progress their learning or to resume learning after a long gap.''
``The new framework will help people to explain to others the relative value of their learning, provide an employer with a clearer picture of what they know and what they can do and transfer their knowledge between career paths or different courses, potentially throughout Europe.''
Ms Davidson will launch the Credit Common Accord today which will make it possible for the first time to give a universally accepted value to each unit of assessed learning. This is the root from which the new framework will branch out across Wales by 2006. Each piece of learning will be assigned a specified value according to the volume of knowledge covered and the level of difficulty.
This means individuals can be recognised for any kind of learning -at school, college, in the community, at the workplace or at home -whether or not they complete full courses or take formal qualifications.
Employers could use the flexible system to see more clearly what prospective recruits have achieved. They could also use the initiative to invest in customised education and training for existing staff which matches their company's particular needs.
Those behind the accord -the National Council Elwa, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the curriculum and assessment authority for Wales, Accac -have agreed a ``credit'' is equivalent to 10 hours' assessed learning and that each credit would be assigned a level which indicated the degree of complexity of the learning involved.
All major qualification awarding bodies have been involved in the accord's creation.
Trevor Clark, senior credit framework manager for Elwa, explained, said that, while Wales is taking a lead in the creation of the Common Accord and the framework, a similar process is taking place across the UK.
This means any learning credited in Wales will receive the same recognition elsewhere in Britain and Europe.
Opportunities open up
SERIAL learner Kath Davies has done more than 20 courses since 2001.
Mrs Davies, 46, from Ogmore Vale, near Bridgend, embarked on the learning curve, including business planning and administration, to help meet the demands of her voluntary work.
The unemployed mother-of-three hopes what she has learnt, paid for by the Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations, will help transform a local scout hut into a thriving community centre. ``They are ongoing,'' she said. ``We have done health and safety, and child protection training. Now we want to do the next step up.''
But plans for the new framework have now heightened her personal ambition to translate these skills into the workplace and find paid administrative work.
``If they are doing this new crediting it will be ideal. Instead of going back to tec, which is out of my league pricewise I can turn around to a potential employer and say `Look at this'. I have got the experience through charity work and now I will have the qualifications.''
The scheme could also help Mrs Davies's eldest daughter Bethan, now 20, gain qualifications.
She left school without any GCSEs because irritable bowel syndrome and a then undiagnosed lactose intolerance led to lengthy hospital stays.
``This is another option,'' said her mother.
HEIGHTENED AMBITION: Kath Davies, who intends to find paid administrative work through her skills gained in the charity field; Picture: Simon Ridgway