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Recognition of labor competences


The recognition of labour competences for workforce development and employability is closely associated with the National System of Competency Standards (NSCS), which has been developed by the National Council for Standardisation and Certification of Labour Competences (CONOCER) and under which the recognition of non-formal and informal learning is organised, regulated and implemented (García-Bullé, 2013). In accordance with Agreement 286 of the Ministry of Education (Acuerdo 286 de la SEP; issued on 30 October 2000) CONOCER promotes the development of certifiable standards for recognising the competences of employers and workers, accredits the assessment and certifications unit standards, and issues the official “labour competence certificates”.

To promote mobility within the country and in the region, CONOCER relates the NSCS with formal educational degrees and the Mexican Qualifications Framework.

Procedures and processes

Relaying information to key players is an important element of the NSCS. Following initial contact, candidates, firms, trade unions and institutions wishing to engage with the recognition of non-formal and informal learning receive a statement detailing their rights and obligations and the cost of the process.

Recognition of labour competences is voluntary. Applicants undertake a voluntary diagnostic test in order to receive a preliminary assessment of their level of competence. Various options for addressing skills gaps are available. Based on the preliminary assessment of their level of competences, applicants decide whether they want to go directly to the assessment process, or improve their competences through a particular training programme or additional work experience. Feedback is important in this process.

The accreditation of labour competences uses standards developed by sector councils. These are panels of employers and trade unions that represent specific branches of the economy.

Assessment centres use the standards to determine whether workers are competent in specific job roles. A holistic notion of competences is used. The various types of competences include:

  • functional and labour competences (e.g. knowledge and abilities required to execute a particular function in any service or manufacturing activity);
  • social competences (capability to build relationships of trust with others through productive collaboration both in work teams and social networks);
  • attitudes (referring to entrepreneurship, capability to achieve goals, self-esteem, resilience, personal motivation);
  • capabilities to generate new ideas and innovation;
  • and ethical competences.

Different methods and instruments are combined. The certification of competences is based on:

  • evaluation of a portfolio of workers’ achievements;
  • observations of real life performance;
  • interviews;
  • assessment of knowledge by means of a written test;
  • evaluation of attitudes, behaviour and personal values carried out through workshops, case resolution and presentations, as well as simulated scenarios and assessment centre models.

Assessment is accessible to all. CONOCER does not deny access to any candidate, firm, trade union or institution that approaches an evaluation centre to go through the assessment and further certification processes. All candidates who decide to participate in the process are accepted for the evaluation and certification process.

The cost of RVA depends on the market of service providers in addition to a fee to be paid to CONOCER (this depends on the level of the certificate). The majority of the applicants are recommended by trade unions, employers’ associations, individual firms or educational institutions for recognition and certification. Rarely do individuals demand certification of their own.

The CONOCER certification of competences is official and valid throughout Mexico, as it is issued by an entity that belongs to the Ministry of Public Education. In addition, equivalency with credits of formal education programmes at the vocational or professional levels is guaranteed through an agreement issued by the Secretary of Education (Acuerdo 286). Employers and trade unions, through their sector committees, also endorse the certifications, thereby providing the certificates in the labour market with credibility.

Outcomes and ways forward

The recognition model of CONOCER is succeeding in Mexico. More than 706,000 were issued until 2016 and there is an expected growth of 36 per cent annually.  The National Competence Standard System in Mexico, although promoted and regulated by government, is driven by employers and workers. Social partners (employers, trade unions, and the voluntary sector) participate in the design and development of competence standards through sector committees responsible of evaluating and certifying workers in their sectors. These standards are then utilised by the educational sector for curricula adjustments and validation.

Currently, in some international companies learners are involved in designing their own learning processes.

Overall, however, summative and formative models of assessment and recognition of previous competences have not yet been developed, although the Mexican Bank of Academic Credits (launched in 2012) will certainly contribute to this process.

The Ministry of Public Education is currently identifying targets for formal training and recognition of non-formal education in some specific industries and areas of the country. The programme has identified 12 major sectors of Mexico’s economy as targets, which are already being addressed by CONOCER. Employers and trade unions have a significant role in deciding upon this training, evaluating and certifying workers.


Acreditación de Centros de Evaluación y Evaluadores Independientes [Guide for accreditation of evaluation centers and independent evaluators]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/acreditacion_de_centros_de_evaluacion_y_evaluadores_independientes.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Acuerdo 286 publicado por la Secretaría de Educación Pública de Mexico[Agreement 286 published by Mexico Secretariat of Public Education].

Automotriz [Automotive]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/documentos/2009_12_23_CONOCER_resumen_sector_AUTOMOTRIZ_VF.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Cómo se lleva a cabo la evaluación de competencia [How to execute an evaluation of competence]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/como_se_lleva_a_cabo_la__evaluacion_de_competencia.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Derechos y Obligaciones de los Usuarios del SNC [Rights and obligations of users of the National Competence Standard System]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/derechos_y_obligaciones_de_los_usuarios_del_snc.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Desarrollo de software [IT: Software development]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/documentos/2009_12_23_CONOCER_resumen_subsector_DESARROLLO_DE_SOFTWARE_VF.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

El ABC de los Comités de Gestión por Competencias [The ABC of Sectoral Committees]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/el_abc_de_los_comites_de_gestion_por_competencias.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

El ABC del desarrollo de Estándares de Competencia [The ABC of Competence Standard Development]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/el_abc_del_desarrollo_de_estandares_de_competencia.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Estatuto Orgánico del CONOCER [Organisational Statute of CONOCER]. Presentación institucional CONOCER [CONOCER institutional presentation]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=100 (Accessed 6 January 2012).

Estudios sectoriales para la definición de agendas de capital humano para la competitividad [Sectoral studies for the development of human capital].

Evaluación de Competencia de las Personas [People´s competences evaluation]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/evaluacion_de_competencia_de_las_personas.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Externalización de procesos [Business Process Outsourcing –BPO]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/documentos/2009_12_23_CONOCER_resumen_subsector_BPO_VF.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

García-Bullé, S. 2013. Mexico. National System of Competence Standards (NSCS). In: M. Singh and R. Duvekot. eds. 2013. Linking Recognition Practices and National Qualifications Frameworks: International benchmarking of national experiences and strategies on the recognition, validation and accreditation of non-formal and informal learning. Hamburg, UIL. pp. 197–206.

Guía para la certificación de mis competencias [Guide for the Certification of my competences]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/guia_para_la_certificacion_de_mis_competencias.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Guía de acreditación de Entidades de Certificación y Evaluación de Competencias[Guide for accreditation of certification and evaluation entities]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/guia_de_acreditacion_de_entidades.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Guía para acreditación de Organismos Certificadores [Guide for accreditation of certification entities]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/guia_para_organismos_certificadores.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

La evaluación y certificación de competencias [Evaluation and certification of competences]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/la_evaluacion_y_certificacion_de_competencias.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Material informativo del CONOCER [Information Brochures by and about CONOCER].

Qué es el CONOCER [About CONOCER]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/que_es_el_conocer.pdf (Accessed 6 January 2012).

Normateca del CONOCER (Manuales operativos) [CONOCER operational manuals].

Qué hacemos en el CONOCER? [What do we do at CONOCER?] http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/que_hacemos_en_el_conocer.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Por qué y cómo me certifico? [Why and how can I obtain a certificate of competence?] http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/por_que_y_como_me_certifico.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Registro Nacional de Estándares de Competencia del CONOCER [National Registry of Competences Standards]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=11 (Accessed 6 January 2012).

Reglas Generales y criterios para la integración y operación del Sistema Nacional de Competencias. [Rules of operation of the National Competences Standard System] http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/documentos/reglas_generales_criterios.PDF(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Reporte de resultados 2009 CONOCER [CONOCER annual report 2009).

Turismo [Tourism]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/documentos/2009_12_23_CONOCER_resumen_sector_TURISMO_VF.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Un trabajador certificado vale por dos [A certified worker is twice as valuable]. http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/un_trabajador_certificado_vale_por_dos.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).

Video institucional CONOCER [CONOCER institutional video]. http://youtu.be/PWhSij6pAHc (Accessed 6 January 2012).

Y tú estudias o trabajas? [Are you a student or a worker?] http://www.conocer.gob.mx/pdfs/libreria_doc/y_tu_estudias_o_trabajas.pdf(Accessed 6 January 2012).


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