Workforce mobility is a key aspect of today’s economy, so it is important for foreign workers to be able to have their qualifications recognised by the authorities. In Switzerland, SERI runs a national contact service that answers questions of a general nature on the recognition of foreign qualifications. In order to help people more quickly and efficiently in future, a new internet-based portal is now being set up. This will respond to the needs of the people and partner organisations involved in the recognition process.
Responding to the needs of the workforce
The national contact service at SERI provides information and advice on issues relating to the regulation of professional activities and on the responsibilities of the recognition authorities. A SERI employee (80% position) operates the infoline and mailbox from Monday to Friday, and this work is supported by four further staff members (90%) who draw up new factsheets and guidelines on relevant topics. These are published on the SERI website.
Interest in the service is considerable: the contact point responds to up to 150 enquiries a day, and the webpage receives up to 17,000 hits per month, making it one of the most frequently visited on the SERI website.
Number of visits to the qualifications recognition page on the SERI website in January 2020
Enquiries becoming more complex
Not only has the number of enquiries increased steadily in recent years, the questions are becoming more complex. Those accessing the contact point would like a more comprehensive service which can answer their questions on having qualifications recognised and provide information on the labour market, opportunities for professional development and on salary levels in Switzerland. The fact that so many players are involved, including several federal and cantonal recognition bodies, adds to the growing complexity of the situation.
In order to be able to continue providing an excellent service and focus on the specific role of the contact point – responding to enquiries about qualifications recognition – clear and well-structured information is required.
Project with four main objectives
In response to this situation, SERI has joined forces with the consulting agency staatslabor to launch a project (“Portallösung Diplomanerkennung”) to create a digital information portal which will respond to the new needs of the clients as described above. Four key objectives have been defined:
- The digital solution focuses primarily on the needs of the users.
- The digital solution is pioneering in that it can adapt to future needs, is based on digital predecessors and takes account of future trends.
- The new solution frees up time for the contact point staff to focus on dealing with more complex cases.
- The relevant recognition bodies are involved in the process. Only through close cooperation and coordination can the flow of information be assured.
Person-centred service design methods
The creation of an online contact service will be based on actual user experiences. This means taking an innovative look at the way public services are accessed. When setting up the new online service, it is important to avoid reproducing any of the weaknesses in the current analog process.
So far the project has involved two ‘user journey workshops’, in which current and former users of the contact service were interviewed to find out in what circumstances they need to have qualifications recognised, where they experience difficulties in trying to access information and how they deal with this. Ideas were then developed on how to improve the process. The data obtained was processed and analysed in various formats and the key user needs and recommendations for the new digital solution distilled from the results.
During this stage of the project, a possible solution began to emerge. Many of the recommendations suggest the creation of an interactive indicator that automatically gives users a personalised recommendation on how best to get their qualifications recognised once they have answered a few structured questions to describe their case. Answers to standard questions could be given automatically without the need for telephone or email contact. Users with more complex cases would be identified and advised to contact the staff at the contact point. This would meet the needs of all user groups to obtain clear and personalised information and advice, rapidly and efficiently.
Current status and going forward
Following an intensive design phase, the project is now at the development phase, during which requirements are being finalised and prioritised. A co-design workshop will be held in which the project specialists and IT experts will decide on the functionalities of the system architecture, ways of ensuring media continuity, and how best to integrate the portal into the system of existing applications.
Next comes the implementation phase, in which users will be invited to test the product. Their feedback will be an indication of how successful the new portal will prove to be. It is hoped that the portal will be up and running by the end of the year.
|Typical enquirers’ needs|
|I need to have a simple, clear picture of the recognition process (e.g. testimonials) so as to have the motivation to embark on it.|
|I have heard about getting my qualifications recognised but do not really understand why this is necessary.|
|I don’t have time to do loads of research and would like an answer as quickly as possible.|
|I’d like more visual content rather than pages and pages of text.|
|I cannot find my way through all the different options and the technical language involved in qualifications recognition.|
|I cannot find my qualification/job title in the list.|
|I am looking for other information about working in Switzerland (e.g. how to look for a job, study options).|
|I’d like a clear recommendation/confirmation for my individual case, not general information. In particular I need to know: who I should contact, where I stand, the next steps to take, how much the process will cost me and how long it will take, what documents I need incl. translations and certification (and if there is any financial support available).|
|I am confused by the contradictory and out-of-date information provided by different bodies in the recognition process.|
|Ideally I’d like a personal contact person who can guide me through the entire process.|
|I’d like translations in other languages – e.g. Spanish.|
Samuel Zinniker, SERI
Project leader, International Cooperation in Education and Professional Qualifications