Validation of prior learning 

Occupational competencies are acquired in various ways:

Formal route: enrolling in a structured education and training programme leading to the issuance of a federally recognised certificate, diploma or degree (i.e. formal qualification).

Non-formal route: attending a structured education and training course that does not lead to the issuance of a federally recognised certificate, diploma or degree (i.e. non-formal qualification).

Informal route: gaining experience by performing tasks relating to a given occupation.

Validation of prior learning focuses on the non-formal and informal routes, recognising the fact that undergoing (but not completing) formal education and training, attending non-formal education and training courses and/or gaining work experience (e.g. performing household chores, raising a family or doing leisure activities) should be considered as valid alternative routes to the issuance of a formal qualification.

Qualification procedures have been established to enable individuals to validate prior learning. These procedures entail guided self-assessment whereby the individual compares his/her prior learning with various modules in a competency profile established for the given occupation. Upon completion of the self-assessment, the individual gathers the necessary supporting documents and places these with the self-assessment into an assessment portfolio, which will be examined by experts. Upon completion of their assessment, the experts will decide whether the candidate may be issued a formal qualification or whether there are still gaps in knowledge and skills that can be filled by supplementary training. In some cases, experts will interview the candidate to determine his/her knowledge and/or ask the candidate to produce an object to demonstrate practical skills.

The prerequisite for admission to the qualification procedure is five years of work experience and proof of the required competencies.

Validation of prior learning is established in Art. 9 para. 2 and Art. 33 of the Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act (SR 412.10).

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has issued a national guideline (in German) that describes the legal framework for the validation of prior learning. Various projects to introduce qualification procedures will be carried out during a pilot phase lasting until the end of 2009.

The national guideline distinguishes four phases:

Phase 1: Information and advice to candidates from skills advisors
Phase 2: Self-assessment of competencies on the basis of a competency profile
Phase 3: Examination of assessment portfolio by experts
Phase 4a: Partial certification (i.e. recognition of some modules)
Phase 4b: Full certification (i.e. recognition of all modules) and issuance of formal qualification

Supplementary training and any related tests constitute the bridge between phases 4a and 4b.

SFIVET's R&D Division offers the following advisory services in this field:
  • Competency analysis for companies and professional organisations wishing to introduce a qualification procedure to validate prior learning.
  • Guidance and support to professional organisations wishing to draft competency profiles and establish qualification procedures.
  • Guidance and support to cantonal authorities and companies wishing to introduce qualification procedures to validate prior learning.
  • Guidance and support to schools wishing to establish qualification procedures to validate prior learning in the area of general education.
  • Quality control.
SFIVET's R&D Division also provides basic and continuing training courses for:
  • Cantonal experts involved in the validation of prior learning.
  • VET/PET professionals involved in the validation of prior learning.

Article by Barbara Petrini : "Auch Erfahrung macht klug"


Contact for the German-speaking region of Switzerland:
Barbara Petrini, barbara.petrini(at)

Contact for the French-speaking region of Switzerland:
Janine Voit, janine.voit(at)

Contact for the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland:
Deli Salini, deli.salini(at)