A few days ago an international meeting was held in Brno in the Czech Republic. The meeting was attended by four organizations involved in the Competence Kaleidoscope project. Representatives of the organisations analyzed together the pros and cons of pilot courses that had run in their respective organisations. I spoke to the head of the Akropolis Center in Uherské Hradiště Jitka Janíková and to Marta Chabadová from the organisation Miesto pod Slnkom located in Kosice. The interview reveals their opinions and experience of the project.
What is your opinion of the Competence Kaleidoscope project?
Jitka: The idea of the project originated in our organization when we were looking for ways to prepare better our target group (parents returning to the labour market after maternity /parental leave) for a return to the labour market. We came to the conclusion that the most important was to be aware of one´s strong points and to train their presentation. That’s why I think this project is important and meaningful.
Marta: I think it’s an amazing thing. In Slovakia I have not experienced so far anything that would resemble this systematic approach to the unemployed. And I even feel that there are no agencies that would professionally deal with this issue. Maybe in big cities, in Bratislava, in Košice, but certainly not in regions where there are smaller towns.
How do you perceive the cooperation with other organizations in drafting this project?
Jitka: The collaboration in the project preparation and in its implementation was and is without any problems. Partners are aware of their responsibilities and tasks.
Marta: It was excellent. I was excited. For me the language barrier was a bit more problematic because I’m not so fluent in English or German. I think that our foreign partners took this into consideration.
Had you tried the course before piloting it?
Jitka: No. We gained our first experience only during the first pilot course.
Marta: Yes, but it was not as successful as the pilot course. We had problems of an organizational character. We had quite a problem with collecting participants. Some women preferred to meet in the morning while others opted for the afternoon. Though we looked for various suitable schemes, some clients gradually left. Even though they wanted to make up for missed course hours, there was no room for it.
What was your target group in the pilot course?
Jitka: Our target group is formed by parents on maternity and parental leave, parents of small children and also people above 50 years of age.
Marta: Our clients were women on a long parental leave and university graduates who had not had a job yet and faced difficulties in the labour market.
How do you assess your work with them?
Jitka: Very well. Our target group is in most cases collaborating. It actively participates in individual activities and our participants want to work on themselves.
Marta: Also very well. We created a group of people who have a long-standing problem. We work in the region with a relatively high unemployment and therefore the course was very beneficial for participants. We learned even from the feedback that the participants were enthusiastic and that it would be very beneficial if the project was to continue for other target groups.
Did any complications occur during the course?
Jitka: I would not call it a complication. Certainly our job was made difficult by bad timekeeping of some clients with small children and also by the fact that one client had missed one module.
Marta: There was a problem with competence cards because we received a bad translation. The cards were translated from German to English, from English to Czech and then to Slovak. We had to translate them into the Slovak language because it was difficult for some clients to understand the Czech meaning of notions on competence cards. For example, we had a card that was translated as a social commitment, which I myself had the problem of understanding what it meant. And when we translated it from the English version, we found out that it was more like a social mission, which is quite different. Sometimes it happened to us that we lacked some competencies that clients knew they had but were not listed anywhere.
What were reactions of your target group?
Jitka: Reactions were very positive. Participants appreciated both the content and the way of implementation. The fact that the course is practical was appreciated as well. Participants are forced to think about themselves and have to work on themselves. And every day they left with some new experience.
Marta: Our target group expressed a great satisfaction.
What about writing profiles for your clients?
Jitka: It was not at all easy to write a profile. If you know somebody for a short time, it is very difficult to sketch his or her profile. In addition, as a lecturer you have to write only facts, not your assumptions. However there is often no chance to verify the assumption.
Marta: It was difficult to write them. It is not easy to find the right words in order not to offend anyone nor to praise too much. My colleague helped me with the profiles and I think we managed to write them in the way that they satisfy our clients.
Where do you see the merit of the project?
Jitka: If the project fulfils its goal, i.e. to develop a simple and financially low-cost method that will lead a client through the process of identifying, naming and understanding his or her own competencies, of their internalisation and connection with the labour market, I will be satisfied.
Marta: I can see it in promoting self-confidence and in preparing for the labour market. I think the project also encourages a creative aspect and value in people and thus it opens up new perspectives. We had one silent and shy participant who opened herself thanks to the course and realized her strengths. She changed from a diffident and insecure creature shaken by her life to a person who realized her value. That was our great success.
Would you change anything in the project?
Jitka: Not in the project as such. After one and a half year´s project duration I might change some of the steps we had made.
Marta: From an organizational aspect, I might shorten intervals between individual training days. Anything can happen in the course of one month when the training takes place. Things might happen both to participants and lecturers. We also talked about the problem of engaging men in this course. It is designed in a way that the course is primarily for women. In my opinion, a man will not share his problems and failures, especially when there are mostly women in the course and only one or two men. I think it would be helpful to adjust the course so that it is suitable for men as well. I would recommend to focus more on a practical side, such as preparing a CV, getting ready for an interview or how to work with job advertisements. I would definitely adjust the terminology used in the course which can be difficult for people with a lower education level.
Did the course meet your expectations?
Jitka: The aim of the course was to verify the method, test individual activities whether they work or not. This has been achieved, we have a lot of comments and suggestions for changes. In this respect, the course certainly fulfilled my expectations. Some of my concerns were confirmed, others were refuted.
Marta: Yes, sure.
What did the course bring to you personally?
Jitka: I certainly met a lot of interesting people and learnt about their fates. From a lecturer´s point of view, I tested new activities and techniques. I lectured the course together with my colleague and we found out that it was amazing to lecture the course in two. Lecturers can complement each other, one leads a group and the other can check the time schedule, reactions of participants etc. It’s just a piece of cake.
Marta: An interesting question. The course work was unique and different from what I normally do. It was inspiring to watch participants how they work on themselves. I would like to continue this work because I think it has a sense. I had a good feeling of a well accomplished work.