The competitiveness of our country in the world economy depends on that of each individual. The goal of Kazakhstan is to join the world’s top thirty developed countries, and it involves the development of human capital assets and the formation of a fundamentally new type of employees that must meet the requirements of a science-based economy.
In his article “Looking into the Future: Modernizing Public Consciousness”, President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that the technological revolution leads to the fact that some of the existing professions will disappear in the coming decades
With rapidly changing external conditions and labor market requirements, competitiveness involves the ability of an individual to adapt to such changes and keep learning throughout one’s life. And even if the competitiveness of each individual depends largely on him/herself, one should not underestimate the strategic role of the state in creating conditions for the forthcoming transformation of labor resources. It is for this purpose that the National Qualifications System is being developed. Below are the questions and answers on this topic:
1. Why was it necessary to develop the National Qualifications System?
In today’s world, an effective interaction of the labor market and education for the development of competitive citizens occurs through the introduction and use of the National Qualifications System, the fundamental part of which are the National Qualifications Framework and Sector Qualifications Frameworks.
In Kazakhstan, the National Qualifications Framework was approved in 2012 and updated in 2016, taking into account the requirements of the labor market and current trends in the development of the economy.
2. What exactly is this national system?
It represents four interrelated elements.
The first fundamental element is the National Qualifications Framework and Sector Qualifications Frameworks. They distribute homogeneous types of professions among the required levels of qualification in the whole labor market and individual industries.
The second element is occupational standards, that is, employers’ requirements for knowledge and skills for various professions. In other words, this is the “technical task” from the labor market.
Another element is educational standards and programs. Now the ball is in the court of the education system, which ideally ensures the relevance of the content of education in accordance with occupational standards.
And the last element is the assessment and accompanying assignment or confirmation of one’s qualification.
3. The foundation is the qualifications framework. What else can be said about the National Qualifications Framework?
In fact, it is a structured description of the qualification levels recognized in the labor market. In the Kazakhstani system, there are 8 qualification levels. That is, a person can join the labor market with minimal knowledge and skills of initial levels. Later, by gaining experience, new knowledge, improving skills, the person can build their career path and move from the initial level to more advanced qualification levels.
For example, the first level includes employees who have just received school education and undergone basic training in the workplace. Such an employee can perform only basic and standard practical tasks under the supervision of a senior employee and has the most basic knowledge. A college graduate, though, who received a middle-ranking specialist diploma, starts his/her career from the fourth qualification level.
4. But can there be general criteria for all professions?
Of course not. The national system defines the basis, the common standard. Based on that, the Sector Qualifications Frameworks are developed for each industry and profession. I want to emphasize that experts from such industries are involved in the development of the standards.
Let’s take the “construction industry” as an example. An employee who is just starting his/her professional career with basic education and no work experience, is at the first level of the Sector Qualifications Framework, that is, he/she is a trainee, loader or racker. But by receiving appropriate education, for example, basic secondary, vocational education, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, professional retraining, and appropriate knowledge and skills, the employee can move further along the qualification levels.
After the first level and training and practice, the trainee moves to the position of a steel fixer, glass operator or machine operator at the second level. Then comes the third level, where the steel fixer can become an equipment operator in the production of building products or an equipment adjuster in the production of building materials. At the fourth level, the employee can take the position of a shift foreman, a dispatcher, or a quality engineer. At the fifth level, if the employee has a bachelor’s degree or any other professional degree, he/she can move up to the position of a process engineer, mechanical engineer, designer, etc. At the sixth level, the employee is already a production manager, lead power engineer, lead project engineer. After obtaining a master’s degree, at the seventh qualification level, the employee may qualify as technical director, chief mechanic or development director. The eighth level includes such positions as the president of the enterprise or general director.
Based on the Sector Qualifications Framework, occupational standards are being developed that define standards in a specific professional field, requirements for the qualification level and competence, as well as for the work content, quality and conditions.
5. It is still not quite clear, what do the state, the employer, the employee need these standards for?
This system will help everyone. The state will be able to formulate strategies for developing the labor market and education system in a specific field.
The employer will be able to “declare” their needs in qualifications, as well as form a personnel policy, organize training and certification, develop job descriptions and set tariffs for works.
As for the education system, it will help develop educational standards and programs that meet the requirements of employers.
The employee will be able to plan his/her professional development with various educational trajectories, leading to specific qualifications and improving his/her qualification level and career growth.
6. How exactly will the qualifications help the employee in career planning?
Qualifications frameworks will allow one to better plan their career and set goals. If an employee wants to change their professional field, the qualifications frameworks will help determine which area he/she can be requalified to with the current qualifications and minimal labor costs. If an employee wants to stay in their field, they will help determine the ways of moving up the levels of Sector Qualifications Frameworks.
7. This, in part, is a logical approach to choosing a profession. But how can qualifications frameworks and standards help protect one’s rights, for example, how will they affect the wages?
Qualifications frameworks and occupational standards will allow you to better plan your career and set goals. If you want to change your professional field, the qualifications frameworks and standards will help you determine which area you can be requalified to with the current qualifications and minimal labor costs. If you want to stay in your field, the standards can help you determine what skills you need to develop, what qualifications you need to confirm to be able to remain competitive in your field and receive an appropriate reward. Obviously, requirements for jobs change every few years, and nobody would want to get laid off because they did not keep their eye on the ball and “pump up” their skills, did not receive new knowledge or did not confirm their competence in a timely manner.
8. Does the introduction of the qualifications frameworks imply the revision of educational programs? How prepared are our educational institutions for this?
The National Qualifications Framework and occupational standards can be used as a tool for improving the education and training system. By directing educational programs to the qualifications frameworks and occupational standards that take into account employers’ requirements, one can improve the relevance and quality of the qualifications obtained by students, and build a strong relationship between the labor market requirements for skills and the supply of such skills by the education system.
International practice shows that economically developed countries have modernized their education systems in accordance with the qualifications framework and occupational standards.
Considering the importance of the development of this direction in Kazakhstan, within the framework of the Loan Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for the “Skills and jobs” project is being developed. The project is implemented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
As part of this project, measures are being taken to form the basis for the National Qualifications Framework, which includes the development of 550 occupational standards, 360 educational programs based on the occupational standards and the independent certification system.
9. What is being done in Kazakhstan to improve the qualifications framework?
Currently, as part of the “Skills and jobs”, it is planned to conduct an analysis of the National Qualifications Framework, review methodological recommendations for the development of the Sector Qualifications Frameworks, prepare recommendations for their improvement, train a pool of experts for the development of the Sector Qualifications Frameworks and conduct training workshops for ministries and associations.
It is also planned to review best practices to develop a systematic approach to aligning the National Qualifications Framework with professional and higher education programs.
As a result of this work, a methodology will be proposed for the development of educational programs based on occupational standards, as well as a methodology for calculating labor costs for the development of educational programs.
In addition, it is planned to train national experts in the methodology for the development of educational programs based on occupational standards and to form a pool of certified experts for this purpose.
This work will be implemented with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan and coordinating organizations: for technical and vocational education – NJSC “Holding “Kasipkor”, for higher and postgraduate education – RSE on REM “Center for the Bologna Process and Academic Mobility”.
10. When will this system be implemented in practice? What will change in the labor relations in the country?
The National Qualifications System has been introduced in Kazakhstan since 2012. It is necessary to understand that this is a gradual and, one can even say, evolutionary process.
The introduction and application of the National Qualifications System will not change labor relations drastically, but will establish uniform requirements for both employees and employers, thereby providing transparent “game rules”. Both sides will know what is required for each professional field. The employee will be protected from the employers’ inadequate requirements. The employer will know what is needed to be provided for the employee and will be able to plan and conduct his/her personnel policy. Open requirements will provide an opportunity for both competition among professionals, which will improve the quality of work performed, and the protection from the employers’ unnecessary requirements.