This work identifies the difficulties in establishing equivalence of occupational qualifications across the European Union (EU). It has had a significant impact on EU and national vocational, education and training (VET) policy and it has been widely disseminated to reach major stakeholders.

Workers on a building site


This case study is underpinned by research projects on VET carried out in the Westminster Business School over the past 15 years under Professor Linda Clarke.

In particular, there were two projects since 2006: Bricklaying qualifications, work and VET in Europe (EC) was concerned with the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework EQF in the construction sector (completed in 2011), and cross-national equivalence of vocational skills and qualifications in Europe (Nuffield Foundation) completed in 2009.

The Nuffield project compared skills and qualifications in Europe, explored how key VET concepts are understood within different national contexts, and assessed the value and difficulties in applying the EQF.

The aim of the Bricklaying project was to further the recognition of bricklaying qualifications and competences by enhancing their transparency and comparability, thereby increasing the effectiveness of mobility and the quality of labour.

The case has impacted on VET policy in Britain and on European policy-making, including influencing adjustments to the EQF and stakeholders’ approach to its implementation.

The case represents a rare transnational study of occupational qualifications within the EU. The impact has been evident in all the participating countries where the outputs have been intensively disseminated. The Bricklayer project engaged users at all stages, including employers and trade unions. Its conclusions have been endorsed by CEDEFOP, the European vocational training authority, and the project has been commended to the EQF advisory board and identified by the European Commission Education and Training Directorate General as one of the 10 most successful and valuable learning and development projects over the last five years. It facilitates understanding of competences across Europe and provides detailed recommendations on EQF implementation within the labour market.

The impact of the case is further evident in:

  • invitations to present to policy makers, practitioners, government bodies and trade unions at European conferences
  • wide dissemination as an international dimension to the Nuffield 14-19 Review
  • use of the Bricklayer template to further work on sectoral and occupational qualifications, including in the European furniture industry


The impact has been to contribute to the modification of policy on EQF, both in Germany and the European Union. The seriousness with which the work has been taken by the German government in this respect was evident in their invitation to present the findings.

Hermann Nehls, of the Confederation of German Trade Unions and Chair of CEDEFOP

Supported by: Nuffield