Career development support - a key feature in building resilience

Education, training and labour market systems are facing numerous challenges, from digitalisation and demographic change, to automation and climate change. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the employment market. How to enable individuals, and society at large, to cope with these complex transitions is more pressing than ever before.

The ILO-ETF report ‘Developing national career development support systems’, which was launched in June, draws on substantial international research to help steer policies that are forward looking in anticipating the changing workplace, and in how to develop robust systems for the transitions ahead. 

The report focuses on key support systems: career guidance; career education; career development support for the formally employed; career development support for workers in the informal economy; and services to the self-employed.

There is a pressing need for such broad career support systems to be adopted, as the wider and long-term costs will otherwise be extremely high for society at large. “There are enormous associated costs, from unemployment benefits, to the cost of employment policies, and subsidies. If a country has a proper career development system in place it supports people that are still employed, and enables young people to take the right education and career path, aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in the labour market, so they don’t waste time going down the wrong track,” said Florian Kadletz, a Human Capital Development Expert at the ETF.

The ILO-ETF report proposes a comprehensive methodology to perform national reviews of career development support and to initiate policy enhancements adaptable to any context.

The report draws on extensive research and experience in career development in 55 countries since 2000. A key finding is that career guidance development systems should be customised to local conditions and to wider policy goals. Indeed, the report emphasises that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ model for career development support systems and policies for all countries. This is particularly relevant in low and middle income countries, which have to contend with high rates of informal employment, as well as potential constraints at the social, political and economic levels to develop support systems compared to higher income countries.

National reviews are encouraged as they enhance international cooperation, as well as better dialogue between career guidance practitioners and policy stakeholders, and the wider engagement of social partners, employers and workers.

Improved coordination is considered essential due to the fragmentation that is often prevalent across different ministries and institutions that may hinder the overall development of infrastructure, guidelines, and strategies for career service systems.

“The reality is that insecurity and change are the constant pillars of life, so we need to ensure a strong support system for individuals, and that’s where career development support systems become relevant. It is at the heart of life-long learning systems, which is a key response to that new, volatile economy that is requiring ever changing skills in the labour market,” said Kadletz.

The importance of career guidance was underscored in the latest round of the ETF’s Torino Process, which develops ways to analyse vocational education and training (VET). It showed that there is a rising demand for career development support in the countries involved, while the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for career development support as part of national economic recovery plans.

The career development track, as part of a lifelong learning system, ideally starts in schools with students working on social and personal competences, and ‘learning to learn’. “These personal and socially responsible development skills are key for the career management skills necessary throughout life. And it goes through certain transition points, to more intense learning, job placements, and visits to companies and certain educational institutions that are close to an individual’s potential career choice,” said Kadletz.

Further support is then required for individuals once in the labour market, as well as for those seeking employment. This includes the ability of an individual to manage their life and career while developing social and professional competence to better navigate the transitions ahead.

“In job applications there is increasing demand for employees to be able to work in a stressful environment, or an international environment, and have critical thinking skills, which are all related to career management skills. These skills are bringing together the various personal and social competencies required by employers today,” said Kadletz.

The ILO in conjunction with the ETF is offering an online course, starting 3 November, on career development support in changing labour markets, provided by the International Training Centre (ITC) in Turin, Italy. The course will be taught for five hours a week over a six week period. A limited number of fellowships are to be provided, on a first-come first-serve basis.

“The training is directly building on the ILO-ETF report to support a country’s system and to further develop their system. It will train individuals in charge of career development, from policy-makers, planners and technical staff at ministries, agencies and other educational institutions to union members and NGOs. Our support is focused on giving them very practical tools to assess their system through five key pillars: coordination and cooperation; funding; quality; access; and the use of technology,” said Kadletz.

The training will focus on enhancing and developing career development support systems, how that can be achieved, and how such career development support is linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and wider policy goals.

In line with the report’s findings to not be ‘one size fits all’, Kadletz emphasises that the training provided will not be a simple blueprint for countries to put into action. “It is a context-specific approach which builds on what already exists, draws from international experience and defines building blocks that make these systems successful,” he said.

ILO and ETF international experts in research and practice will lecture and facilitate at the workshops.

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