Visual about career pathways

Global Careers Month – Shining the spotlight on career guidance

The Inter-Agency Career Guidance Working Group (IAG CGWG) has launched the first Global Careers Month, which will run from 8 November to 13 December 2022. The group, which comprises the European Commission, Cedefop, the European Training Foundation (ETF), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the OECD, UNESCO and the World Bank, kicked off the month with an interactive online opening ceremony hosted by the ETF, which brought together an expert panel and nearly 500 participants from around the world to share their experiences, ideas and objectives for career guidance delivery in the future.

Florian Kadletz, the ETF’s career guidance expert chairing the meeting, set the scene: 'Changes in labour markets caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, digitalisation and the greening of economies has made career-related decision-making so much more challenging for both young people and adults.' He went on: 'Career guidance has never before been so important and needs to have a lifelong perspective that starts in early primary schooling.'  

Early intervention

Recognising the important role of career guidance in enabling access to decent work, supporting the development of relevant skills and facilitating labour market mobility, the meeting highlighted a strategic need for countries to invest more in information and career advice. Anthony Mann from the OECD addressed the theme of the importance of early intervention careers guidance. The data shows that:

‘One in five young people aged 15 do not have a clear idea of what they would like to do as a career…’ Equally, ‘their aspirations [are] distorted’ by gender, class and migrant status. Attention must be placed on the longitudinal data which clearly demonstrates that young people who have early career guidance, ‘earn more, are in work, and are happier'.

Changing labour markets

Changes in the labour market, such as those brought about by the digital transition, can often lead to young people believing that digitalisation will lead to a shortage of all types of work. Antonio Ranieri of Cedefop said: 

'The soundtrack to young people’s lives is that the process of digitalisation will destroy jobs. We cannot imagine future jobs, and our current expertise may be obsolete.' 

Ann Branch of the European Commission emphasised the fundamental role of vocational education in providing people with the skills needed to face the future challenges of work and believes that:

'The misconception that vocational education is a second choice to university' needs to be countered.  Demographic ageing, particularly in Europe, also means that there is a shrinking labour force which means it is all the more important to harness the potential of every working-age adult.

Providing targeted career guidance that matches a young person's interests and skills with the requirements of the local labour market is a constant challenge. Young people need to be informed and career guidance systems need to be coordinated and updated. Equally, skill shifts in the work sector for adults cannot be managed by the education sector and skill shortages are significant. Half of UK businesses report shortages. Across the globe, there are more open job vacancies than there are skills to match them.

We are in a period of rapid labour market change and workers are asked to shift and adapt. Martin Henry, from the International Trade Union Confederation, says: 'It's heartening that education is at the centre of this discussion.' He believes that a lifelong learning guarantee is needed, and this is the focus of the Future of Work Commission. We are in what he calls a situational flux’ and we have to ensure access to career guidance, flexible pathways places for learning, as well as funding – particularly in middle-income countries. Trends data shows that: 

‘We need to be sure we are constructing [guidance] around young people to follow their passions. The view of the worker is critical.’

Murielle Antille, representing the International Organisation of Employers, says that a shift in mindset is needed around the idea of a work-life journey. Thirty percent of the US workforce will change jobs every 12 months, and on average somebody will have five to seven career changes across their lifetime. She says we are currently ‘unprepared and ill-equipped to face this fluidity'.

Getting advice

When it comes to deciding who is best placed to provide advice, it was recognised that there is a lack of a ‘natural hub’ for career guidance in many educational systems, including those in lower-middle income countries. Primary and secondary education levels in many developing countries do not see it as their role to provide information on anything beyond obtaining secondary level education, at best they look ahead to advising how to arrive at tertiary level education. 

As Matteo Morgandi from the World Bank explains: 'There is an institutional gap that needs to be thought through, both in terms of improving the mandate and the capacity of schools to bring up the concept of career guidance and of having more impartial and well-informed places like employment services.'  

He also points to social, economic and racial segregation, meaning that there is a cost to young people who tend to repeat patterns associated with gender or social class. An additional challenge to counter is the quality and consistency of data collected, and a lack of data-sharing protocols across institutions. 

Working together

Governments must develop career guidance strategies based on collaboration and solidarity to build an effective framework for functioning career guidance systems. Tristram Hooley from the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy (ICCDPP) underscored the importance of bringing together all stakeholders, from education and the labour markets, as well as civil society organisations. Estonia and Norway were noted as providing great examples of innovative career guidance systems which continue ‘despite changes in political power'.

When working with partners globally, it is about where there is overlap.

'It's all about solidarity. The power play and aggression that we see [in the world] needs to be countered by "looking over the fence of your own country", and learning from each other,' says Gert van Brussel, International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG).

A shared strategy might be desirable, and countries would need to be strategic in terms of organisation. It must include the public, employers, universities and schools. As Tristram Hooley says: 

‘We don't want to be trading people off against each other – lifelong learning should be on offer for all citizens. We can come together and speak with one voice to government.'

In this inaugural Global Careers Month, there will be many opportunities for all stakeholders involved in career guidance to share experience and best practice. Policymakers, educationalists and employers will have access to a huge range of resources, regional events and community conversations that will extend long beyond the project. The call to action was clear – if we are looking to lead effective transitions towards greener, digital and more equitable societies in the future then we must ensure access to lifelong learning systems that can enable everyone to develop the skills, competences and knowledge necessary to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Visit the Global Careers Month website.

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