Fabien Cornu: ‘This is about recognizing what you learned on the job’
Concordia has appointed Fabien Cornu as coordinator of a validation of competencies service that the university will launch as a pilot project in January.
The new service is taking aim at the skilled worker shortages in Quebec and Canada. It’s meant to help immigrants to Quebec, those who took career hiatuses or employees who learned important new skills on the job to gain formal recognition of their competencies.
Cornu brings a wealth of experience to his position. He explains how the new service will work, and why it’s so critical now.
Why do you think it’s important to have this type of service?
Fabien Cornu: When I came to Quebec 16 years ago, I was myself an immigrant, and I started working as an employment counsellor in an organization that helps immigrant professionals settle into Quebec and the Quebec workforce. The question of validating their skills and competencies and making them understandable to the local market has always been at the forefront of what I do.
It’s absolutely crucial to make local employers understand that people coming from abroad have the skills and competencies that are absolutely comparable to what’s being done here in Quebec and they should be able to trust them to do the job.
This isn’t necessarily about having a diploma or the required number of years of experience. It’s making other skills, such as leadership or subject-matter expertise, understandable and appreciable to employers.
I’ve worked with learning institutions as well as other organizations in Quebec to try to implement the logic of validation, the logic of prior learning assessment and recognition, because it’s something Quebec has taken a very long time in adopting and progress has been very slow. Now with the current demographic situation of baby boomers exiting the workforce, it’s absolutely crucial to prepare for the next generation — that’s why validation of competencies is so important.
How did you get your start with competency validation?
FC: I studied political science but have worked all my life in continuing education and employment counselling, and I’ve never received formal training for that. I started working in this field 22 years ago, when I was in the navy in France.
I was conscripted to the navy, and ended up doing something I’d never heard about before — I was in charge of helping military personnel who were leaving the navy settle into civilian life. The job was about translating all the experience they had and the competencies they’d acquired through their years of service into something usable and useful in civilian life.
I had no idea how to do it and, after a few weeks of training, I had to sink or swim and learn on the job. That is exactly what validation of competencies is about — recognizing what you learned on the job. At the end of my service, I was confident enough in my abilities to apply to a similar position in France’s ministry of education.
What skills will you start validating in the January pilot project?
FC: We’re focusing on skills that correspond with the courses in Concordia Continuing Education’s Diploma in Leadership program. So, people who’ve developed experience in leadership but didn’t have an official position, maybe they just led a team without it being official, could apply to have these skills validated. It could be anything from management reflexes to emotional intelligence to interpersonal skills or knowing how to hire and how to develop talent within your team.
How will the validation process work?
FC: First they’ll have an orientation interview with me to determine whether there’s something to validate. Then they’ll have a counselling phase, which consists of a series of meetings with me where I’ll advise them on what to put in their portfolio, how to make it better, more compelling and convincing, and how to provide evidence of what they are writing.
I’ll also help them prepare for the defence interview at the end of the process. When their portfolio is done and it’s being assessed, the assessor, who’s a subject-matter expert, will have candidates defend their case. I expect most people will be able to finish the process in two to three months.
Why did you choose the leadership program for the pilot?
FC: It made sense because it’s a very versatile program. I actually took all five courses myself last year, and the people I studied with had extremely diverse backgrounds — young professionals starting their careers, veteran professionals, people from all kinds of industries and all degrees of experiences and roles. It’s not too technical, it has a very broad audience and it’s more easily transferrable.
What do successful candidates receive at the end of the process?
FC: If they can demonstrate that their knowledge and skills match the learning outcome of the course, they get the course as if they had sat in the classroom and studied the whole 10 weeks. Someone who could demonstrate they have the skills and the competencies that match all five courses in the diploma, for example, would be granted the diploma.
Find out more about Concordia Continuing Education.