Application of European Qualification Framework (EQF) in Maintenance
The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a translation device to make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning. Improving workers’ mobility and support lifelong learning becomes especially important in the fields of maintenance and physical asset management, as organizations in many European countries face lack of qualified mechanics, technicians and supervisors.
Maintenance technicians are the hands of maintenance processes – the true executors of day-to-day maintenance work. After all, technicians are the ones who implement and execute maintenance strategies and bring maintenance systems to life. It is no surprise that skilled maintenance technicians are being sought after in European labour markets with increasing intensity and it becomes evident that experienced maintenance technicians belong to the scarce and highly demanded professions.
The EQF system attempts to relate national qualification systems of different countries to a common European reference framework. Individuals as well as employers will be able to use the EQF to better understand and compare the qualification levels of different countries and different education and training systems.
Formally adopted by the European institutions in 2008, the EQF is being put in practice across Europe. It encourages countries to relate their national qualification systems to the EQF so that all new qualifications issued from 2012 carry a reference to an appropriate EQF level.
The EQF system has eight reference levels describing what a learner has to know, understand and be able to do – “learning outcomes”. In EU language, learning outcomes are specified in three categories: knowledge, skills and competences. Levels of national qualifications will be placed at one of the central reference levels, ranging from basic (Level 1) to advanced (Level 8). This will enable a much easier comparison between national qualifications and should also mean that people do not have to repeat their learning if they move to another country.
Figure 1. EQF levels compared with achieved education and maintenance personnel positions.
How Does EQF Relate to Maintenance Qualifications?
The EQF system concerns eight reference levels describing the learning outcomes – what a learner knows, understands and is able to do. Levels of national qualifications will be placed at one of the EQF reference levels.
The EQF levels ranging from basic to advanced can be roughly assigned to levels of education (academic, secondary, primary) or achieved degrees and diplomas as shown in the diagram below. However, what really defines various EQF levels is the learning outcomes, not an education level achieved by an individual.
EQF levels between 3 and 8 are generally expected for personnel in the field of physical asset management and maintenance. EQF Levels 3 and 4 are sufficient for basic mechanics, usually the professionals on the lowest level in the maintenance organization structure. Maintenance technicians and specialists are professionals with significant experience and flexibility to be able to perform various advanced tasks in the field of maintenance. For Maintenance technicians, EQF level 5 is considered adequate.
Maintenance Managers and supervisors then typically recruit from professionals on EQF levels 6, 7 or 8, with suitable academic training combined with sufficient experience with maintenance processes.
Besides managerial functions, EQF level 6 includes also teachers at vocational schools educating maintenance technicians and mechanics.
Current situation in European labour markets is characterized by shortage of maintenance professionals qualified on EQF levels 3 to 6: mechanics, technicians, supervisors and also vocational teachers capable to educate young maintenance professionals.
Table 1 explains the respective competence requirements for maintenance professionals of EQF levels 4, 5 and 6.
Table 1. The respective competence requirements for maintenance professionals of EQF levels 4, 5 and 6.
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