The ECVET-oriented Nuclear Job Taxonomy: a European cooperative project.
By Alicia Lacal Molina and César Chenel Ramos
The European Human Resources Observatory – Nuclear (EHRO-N), by means of its operating agency, the Institute for Energy and Transport (IET) of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (EC), initiated in 2011 the preparation of a so-called ‘Nuclear Job Taxonomy.’ This answered the request received from DG RTD and DG EAC to promote the implementation of the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)1 in the nuclear sector.
This Nuclear Job Taxonomy aims to create an inventory of the jobs typically present in a nuclear power plant (NPP), encompassing its three life-cycle phases and providing a detailed account of the requirements needed to perform each of those jobs. Taking an approach that is in accordance with the ECVET principles these requirements are expressed solely in terms of competence.
A catalogue of competences built up over the development of the taxonomy has reached the stage where it can be considered an additional and separate outcome of the project.
Once completed the taxonomy shall offer a number of potential benefits, key among which will be the creation of a reference document for the description of qualifications in terms of learning outcomes (LOs).
As a reference document for the description of qualification of an LO the taxonomy can guarantee the harmonization of ECVET's implementation in the nuclear field, favouring the increase of international mobility, saving costs and effort and tackling the actual human resources gap in this field.
The ECVET Workshops
Lacking the necessary in-house workforce and know-how and also driven by the need to provide a trans-European dimension to the project, the IET launched in October 2011 a series of technical workshops targeting experts in the area of nuclear human resources, training and education. A part of these meetings has been devoted to the promotion of the ECVET initiative and the specifications relevant for the task. As awareness grew, the focus gradually shifted towards technical work, which consisted of the preparation of job lists and job profiles. At the same time the design concept of the taxonomy has been revised and progressively fine-tuned.
As the project has gained visibility, its impact has grown, a fact that is reflected in the increased participation in the workshops.
Figure 1: number of participants in the ECVET Workshops
It is worth mentioning the high rate of continuity: around two thirds of the contributors to each of the first three meetings attended the next one. This gives a positive indication of the level of interest in the project, which has generated a small but committed group of practitioners.
Besides the total figures, the diverse range of contributors' country and the type of organisation were a necessary precondition for ensuring an adequate outcome on an EU-wide level. As shown in the figures below, this diversity has been reasonably well achieved.
Figure 2: Participations per type of organisation - - - Figure 3: Participations per country
After several revisions the work methodology for the preparation of the job profiles has been finalised according to a three-step workflow consisting of a draft preparation, an individual review and a group review of every profile. Although the job lists are subject to continuous revision and taking into account the fact that there are currently 155 positions covered, this means that there are 465 tasks in total. Around fifty per cent of them have been completed. Around one out of nine positions has at least reached the first draft stage.
Simultaneously to the preparation of the profiles, the concept has been discussed and revised in every workshop, leading to successive modifications of the profile template. The present model aims for a very concise formulation of the job requirements, which are individually marked with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF)2 descriptors. As it is competence-focused the reference to associated academic levels has recently been removed. According to the conclusions of the last workshop, a more systematic terminology and categorisation shall be implemented to define the job titles.
The Competence Catalogue contains nearly 650 entries. The IET is seeking an expert partner to carry out the necessary screening, structuring and expansion of the Competence Catalogue.
Challenges for the future
The finalisation of the job profiles still requires an important investment of resources. The remaining tasks to be carried out are to a large extent reliant on group reviews, which are significantly time-consuming.
Regarding the sectors involved in the project, so far the presence of the scientific and education sectors prevails: universities, training providers and research centres. It would be desirable to increase the presence of the industry, particularly NPP operators that will be the final users of the human resources trained under the ECVET system. Furthermore, the project has been partly hindered by a deficit of input for NPP design and construction activities, which caused the slower advance of the new build phase.
Also, a broadening of the scope of the taxonomy could be undertaken sometime in the near future to incorporate nuclear activities related to fission generation that are outside the NPP, such as regulatory bodies and research institutes.
Finally, after the completion of the taxonomy it will be necessary to submit the results for consensus among all stakeholders that are part of the nuclear field including: nuclear authorities (TSO's), educational institutions (universities and VET providers) and industry (particularly NPP operators).
The resolution of these potential challenges could benefit the implementation of ECVET in the nuclear field and, thereby, help to close the human resources gap that currently persists in Europe's nuclear industry.
Read more at ehron.jrc.ec.europa.eu/job-taxonomy