A major policy and social challenge in the European Union is the ageing of the population, and the need to ensure quality Long Term Care for the increasing numbers of dependent young and older citizens. A family caregiver is “anyone, women or men, who is not a professional caregiver but, by default or choice, cares for a dependent person in his/her immediate circle” (European Charter for Family Carers). Family carers across the EU provide over 80% of all care, with women providing approximately two thirds of care, often at the expense of their own personal, family and/or work life (European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Vienna, 2010).

“Adult learning: it is never too late to learn” communication from the EC outlined that adult learning is a key issue to handle as the “essential contribution of adult learning, through the acquisition of key competences by all, to employability and mobility. Aligned with this idea, Eurostat recent data1 on “Adult Learning Statistics” remarks the fact that “adults with a low level of educational attainment and a lack of skills are more likely to earn lower than average wages and are more vulnerable to the precarious nature of the labour market. These individuals often suffer from a lack of basic skills that are increasingly considered as essential for a modern-day economy: literacy, numeracy and technological skills (‘digital literacy’).”

Within this context, the App4Skills project was designed to contribute to the development of adult learners´ basic skills (mainly numeracy, literacy and digital skills) through the implementation of a set of proposed activities. The core approach of App4Skills has to do with the use of a webapp that offers adult learners the opportunity to engage on leisure activities in three specific areas: cooking, gardening and environment protection, and DIY – “do it yourself” and handcraft.

More than 60 activities on those areas are published, based on 3 levels of difficulty. Each activity is explained in a step-by-step format, and includes reference to the specific area, competence(s) addressed, language, difficulty level, additional examples and estimated implementation time. Users can select the preferred area, language and activity, and respond to the proposed challenges to gain points in an international competition. The best performers are listed in the leaderboard section. But App4Skills counts on also with some interesting features. Users can rate activities, share them through the social media, take the challenge or add their own activities. The webapp is a very versatile tool that can be used both by the professionals that work in adult education, who can use it to reinforce in a playful way the knowledge and competences they work with in their classes; as well as for those adults who wish to improve their basic skills on their own. App4Skills webapp contributes to:

  • Improve creativity, solve real problems in different contexts and develop in students the ability to create new activities and share relevant ideas.
  • Improve the perception of adults towards the learning of math, improve their literacy skills and promote their digital skills.
  • Prepare adults for continuous and autonomous learning, developing critical thinking, and promoting equity, social cohesion and an active citizenship.

The tool, which is free, was tested by more than 30 adult trainers and more than 120 adult learners in the project partners´ countries. This testing phase provided very useful feedback, so improvements are implemented in the final version. App4skills final webapp is available in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Italian, Finish, Turkish and Polish) at http://app4skills.fundacionjuandelostoyos.org from August 2019.

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One of the priorities of ET2020 is the professional development of staff working in the adult education sector, with a view to improve the quality and efficiency of adult learning. Following this priority in 2010 a framework for “Key Competences for Adult Learning Staff” has been launched, which defines the generic and specific competency profile for professional staff working in adult education.

Starting from the Education and Training 2020 strategy whose objective is the improvement of quality and efficiency in education and training among professional staffs, five organizations with valuable experience in the field of adult education from five different countries (Germany, Greece, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria), representing both private and public as also profit and non-profit sectors, have created a partnership to launch DEMAL project.

The “Designing, monitoring and evaluating adult learning classes – Supporting quality in adult learning” (acronym DEMAL) project is funded by the European Commission through the ERASMUS+ K2 Programme which enhances and promotes cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices. DEMAL intends to implement two key competences which, according to the 2010 “Key Competences for Adult Learning Professionals” framework, should advance adult training staffs and improve quality in adult learning. These two competences are:

  • be able to design the learning process
  • be able to monitor and evaluate the learning process

The Erasmus+ partnership ON THE MOVE just released a best practice guide on how to reach out to and include persons from vulnerable groups in the world of Lifelong Learning. The publication is based on reviews of more than 100 European projects, providing outreach educational guidance and low-threshold learning opportunities.

A major aim of the project is to make staff in counselling and educational institutions in Europe aware of "alternative approaches (predominantly of the outreach kind) bringing educationally remote and low-qualified people to further education and will implement these in their countries".

Work-based and work-related learning in higher education for adult learners is seen as crucial to address labour market skills gaps predicted in European policy documents. It is also relevant to debates on work-related learning and upskilling that were identified in the Leitch Report produced in the UK.

The LETAE project funded by the EU under its Lifelong Learning Programme is concerned to identify good practice in partnerships and collaborations between enterprises, work organisations and employer groups and higher education institutions. It builds on the THEMP (Tertiary Higher Education for Mid-life People) project which concentrated on pedagogical issues related to adult learners in higher education; while in LETAE we are more interested in the work-based/-related elements of such programmes with a focus on partnerships and collaborations.