EUPA Newsletter Special Edition for Employers

20 June 2012

visit is us at www.llpeupa.eu

Based on the EU policies regarding the recognition of qualifications, EuPA's main objective is to develop a model for the recognition and validation of the qualifications of the sector of personal assistants, based on learning outcomes.

The sector of Personal Assistants (PAs) has been selected (as a case study) for the following reasons:

  1. PAs often do not have academic qualifications, which makes the validation of other skills and competences a necessity.

  2. A signifiicant number of inactive women, when entering the labour market, request a position as a secretary or a PA and in many cases they have no formal qualifications. Evaluation of their non formal and informal learning will ease their access into the employment market.

  3. PAs are of vital importance in every EU Company. Their role has been upgraded during the last decade.

EUPA is supporting the improvement of flexible learning pathways, through the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework and systems for the validation of non formal and informal learning and lifelong guidance. In this light, EuPA is developing a qualification framework based on learning outcomes and a certification based on the validation of formal, non formal and informal learning outcomes.

A qualification framework for EuPA has been developed which consists of several steps, and is based on research that identifies not only the knowledge, skills and competences needed by a personal assistant, but also the importance of different learning outcomes. An assessment tool is also developed to assess the knowledge, skills and competences of PAs. Additionally, training modules are designed and developed for different learning outcomes.

Eupa and Employers Eu Policies Aims and objectives





EUPA ...






Challenges faced by employers

In today's continuously changing environment, employers are being faced with the following challenges:

·        To be able to identify all knowledge, skills and competences their employees should have in order to perform their work effectively and efficiently.

·         To be able to recognise and validate the  above  knowledge, skills and competences.

·         To be able to develop employees on the above knowledge, skills and competences.

Solutions to the above challenges will enable employers to:

·         Perform successful recruitments, since they will know exactly what knowledge, skills and competences they should be looking for.

·         Assess the knowledge, skills and competences of their employees and identify development gaps. Assessment and thus validation of knowledge, skills and competences allows a fairer treatment of employees (in case of promotions etc), as well as the use of systematic methodology for development.

EuPA as a solution to the challenges

Personal assistants are vital for a modem European company. EuPA enables employers to handle all the challenges of the sector of personal assistants mentioned above,   through the development of:

  1. A qualification framework, consisting of four levels, which states the knowledge, skills and competences a personal assistant should have in order to belong in a particular level. EuPA starts from level 2, which is considered the lower level for a personal assistant, and continues up to level 5 which is the higher level a personal assistant can reach.
  2. An assessment tool which can be used by expert assessors to assess personal assistants, and identify the level of each personal assistant.
  3. Training material, through the use of which personal assistants may be trained.

Therefore, EuPA has a significant role to play in the increase of effectiveness and efficiency of European Employers.

Steps to be taken by employers to utilise EUPA results

If you are interested in the development of the personal assistants in your organisation, please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the coordinator or one of the partners.
  2. Receive a copy of the qualification framework. The qualification framework exists in four languages: English, Greek, Swedish, Slovak.
  3. Try to identify the current level of your personal assistant to decide on the starting level of assessment.
  4. Identify the target level of your personal assistant.
  5. From this point on, there are two different paths you could follow:

    Path A

    1. Run the assessment to identify gaps for development.
    2. Use trainings to reduce the gaps.
    3. Run the assessment once more for certification purposes.

Path B

  1. Participate in all trainings for the requested level.
  2. Run the assessment for certification purposes.

It should be noted that EUPA has proved that non formal learning is vital for certification; It is recommended that you allow personal assistants to gain through non formal learning before they engage in the EuPA process.

Eupa ...

and EU Policies


- Different types of learning

- European Credit Transfer and Accumulation system (ECTS)

- The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)


EQF is a common European reference system which links different countries’ national qualification systems and frameworks together. EQF shifts the focus from input (lengths of learning experience, type of institution) to what a person knows and is able to do (that is, learning outcomes).

Learning outcomes are expressed in terms of Knowledge, Skills and Competences.

·         Knowledge: In the context of the EQF, knowledge is described as theoretical and/or factual.

·         Skills: In the context of the EQF, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) and practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).

·         Competence: In the context of the EQF, competence is described in terms of responsibility and autonomy.

Moreover the EQF uses 8 reference levels.

Formal, Non formal and informal learning

Formal learning

Learning that occurs in an organised and structured context (in a school/training centre, or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time, or learning support). Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically leads to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Informal learning

Learning resulting from daily work-related, family, or leisure activities. It is not organised or structured (in terms of objectives, time, or learning support). Informal learning is in most cases unintentional from the learner’s perspective. It typically does not lead to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

Non-formal learning

Learning which is embedded in planned activities, not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support), but which contain an important learning element. Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically does not lead to certification.

Source: Cedefop, 2003.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

ECTS makes teaching and learning in higher education more transparent across Europe and facilitates the recognition of all studies. The system allows for the transfer of learning experiences between different institutions, greater student mobility and more flexible routes to gain degrees. It also aids curriculum design and quality assurance.

The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)

The European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) aims to give people greater control over their individual learning experiences and make it more attractive to move between different countries and different learning environments.

The system aims to facilitate the validation, recognition and accumulation of work-related skills and knowledge acquired during a stay in another country or in different situations. It should ensure that these experiences contribute to vocational qualifications.

ECVET aims for better compatibility between the different vocational education and training (VET) systems in place across Europe and their qualifications.


EUPA ...

Aims and Objectives

The main objective of EUPA is to develop a model for the recognition and validation of the qualifications of the sector of personal assistants (PAs), based on learning outcomes.

As far as the specific objectives of the program are concerned, EUPA aims:

  1. To develop a qualifications framework for PAs based on learning outcomes (LOs).

  2. To identify learning outcomes that may be easier to be developed through non formal and informal learning and to use this information to design methodological tools to be used during formal training for these outcomes.

  3. To develop, with the aid of an Assessment Tool, a European certification for secretaries and PAs. The Assessment Tool is be two dimensional and uses different methodological tools for the assessment of different learning outcomes. Therefore, when customized, it can be used across sectors.

  4. To develop a modular curriculum and training material that enables PAs to certify and to assign credits to the modules of this curriculum.


EUPA ...

Qualification framework

EuPA qualification framework has been developed according to the European policies. It consists of 4 EQF levels. In total it consists of 21 work areas that are listed below:

  • Office Procedures

  • Office Equipment and Technology

  • Communication, Telephone Handling Social and Relationships

  • Written Communication

  • Filing System Documentation and Databases

  • Accounting and Financial Issues

  • Business Travel, Diary Systems, Meeting Organisation and Event Management

  • Visitors/Customer Service

  • ICT skills

  • Projects

  • Human Resources Issues

  • Numeric Skills

  • Foreign Languages

  • Office Effectiveness and Efficiency

  • Team dynamics

  • Self-Management, Supervision, Management and Leadership

  • Business Environment

  • General Legislation

  • Assistance at a Corporate Level

  • Innovation and Change

  • PA as a Manager

For each level, one area of work consists of several units. Each unit then consists of several learning outcomes (LOs). Level Two consists of LO 1-37, Level Three of LO 38-94, Level Four of LO 95-137 and Level Five of LO 138-166.

The EUPA qualification framework can be downloaded from the EUPA web site. Using the following link:


Why is the qualification framework important for employers:

The existence of the qualification framework provides employers with significant opportunities:

  • It provides them with a structured framework presenting the role of the PA. It should be noted that the tem PA is sometimes interchangeably used with the term secretary or executive secretary.  However, in its essence, the role of the PA involves much more than the role of a secretary.

  • It can assist them in the recruitment process, since they can identify the level they need for the PA to be in.

  • Development of personal assistants can be done systematically through the existence of a qualification framework.




Eupa ...

Assessment tool

EUPA assessment tool is used to assess the personal assistants on each of the learning outcomes.

The assessment tool consists of an introduction to the assessor's (although an assessors manual has also been developed), the factors that must be taken into account while using the assessment tool, as well as the types of evidence used. The following should be noted here:

  1. Observation is a method that needs to be used for achieving reliability and validity. However, during pilot assessments observation will not be used, because this is an exploratory project (that is, no real certification will be given to the participants), therefore it will be difficult to persuade companies or organisations to accept this specific method.

  2. The fact that the project involves also inactive (unemployed) women, means that observation cannot be applied as a method of assessment.

  3. Therefore, all assessments will be performed in the offices (or other locations) of the partners.

The following types of evidence are included in the EUPA assessment tool:

  • Direct Observation of the learners’ performance by their assessor

  • Outcomes from oral or written questioning

  • Products of the learner’s work

  • Personal Statements and /or reflective accounts

  • Outcomes from simulation, where permitted by the assessment strategy

  • Professional Discussion

  • Assignment, project/case studies

  • Authentic statements/witness testimony

  • Expert witness testimony

  • Evidence of recognition of prior learning

The assessment tool is being accompanied by two very important tools:

1.     The current situation map which, as its name indicates, presents the current level of the personal assistant on each of the LOs.

The current situation map presents the current situation (in blue) versus the ideal situation (red).

2. The EUPA personal development map (next page) presents the ideal and the assessed situation together with the gap. Therefore, the learner can visually see the amount of development they have to undertake to reach the requested level. 

Why is the assessment tool important for employers:

  1. It is through assessment that a personal assistant will manage to receive his/her certification on a specific level. The assessement tool is vital for employers, since they can use it to recruit a certified personal assistant on their required level.

  2. On the other hand, employers may actually develop their existing PAs and ask them to certify through the assessment tool.

  3. Existence of a certification provides a fairer treatment of the personal assistants in an organisation, as it can be used as the basis for promotion, for instance.

  4. Sometimes the performance of a personal assistant does not depend on knowledge, skills and competences. A personal assistant may possess the knowledge, skills and competences for a specific level but still perform at a lower level. The existence of a certification may act as a 'contract' between the manager and personal assistant on the required level of performance.



EUPA ...

Findings, results and conclusions

The main findings of EUPA ane summarised in the following points:

·         Non formal learning (on the job learning) is extremely important and it must be validated. The EUPA project proved that non formal learning in a specific sector is vital for a person working in the sector (PA's in this case), to be able to have all the knowledge, skills and competences needed for the specific sector.  Formal learning will significantly enhance the results of informal learning, but still non formal learning is vital to enable a personal assistant to be certified.

·         Informal learning is also very important. One could argue that informal learning takes you half way through your development but will most probably not lead you to certification. It seems that the development through informal learning is much slower. Informal learning is strongly related with reflection, that is the ability of the person to gain knowledge from lifetime situations, and this is probably another skill one has to develop in order to gain from informal learning.

·         Formal learning is very important but may not always be enough to guarantee a certification. A small amount of work experience may also be required. If combined with non formal learning, success is almost guaranteed.

·         As far as learning outcomes are concerned:

o    There are specific learning outcomes that can easily be developed through non formal learning and these learning outcomes are learned through experience.

o    There are learning outcomes that cannot be developed through non formal learning. Probably, expert input is required for the development of these LOS.

o    There are some learning outcomes that can be developed solely through formal learning. However, a combination of learning is needed for most of the learning outcomes to be developed.



Keep in touch

So many ways to keep in touch with EUPA

By becoming a EUPA friend you will receive update emails on the project every two weeks as well as invitations for several project events. If you wish to become a EUPA friend please inform us by sending an email to eu@mmclearningsolutions.com

  • EUPA in now on facebook. Just log in to facebook and search friends with the word EUPA or by entering





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 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.