LearningConnects: Developing career guidance

What is career guidance, why it is crucial to support it, and how will countries be supported in improving their education systems was the focus of this Wednesday’s LearningConnect session, which was broadcast live on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The webinar, hosted by the ETF and ILO Employment Policies, was titled “Developing career guidance: Let’s discuss!” The speakers were Florian Kadletz, Human Capital Development Expert, ETF; Pedro Moreno Da Fonseca, Technical Specialist on Lifelong Learning, ILO; and Raimo Vuorinen, Adjunct associate professor, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä; Chair of the Board of International Centre for Career Development and Public Policies (ICCDPP).

The three speakers were the lead authors (along with Jaana Kettunen, also of the University of Jyväskylä), of a ILO-ETF joint report, ‘Developing national career development support systems’, that was released on Wednesday.

Kadletz explained the difference between career guidance and career development. Career guidance is about the services provided to individuals, groups and their families, typically following mandatory education.

Career development on the other hand is a life-long process of “managing learning, and managing work, leisure and the transitions between education and work to achieve a personally determined and evolving future.”

Such support is for formal and informal workers, and new forms of self-employment, including freelancers and contract workers. “Life-long career guidance describes services that helps individuals make educational and training choices meaningful for them,” says Kadletz.

Managing learning, work and life transitions is a dynamic and complex thing, influenced by numerous factors, from politics and economics, to technological change and demographics. With life increasingly complex, there is a need to develop career management skills to navigate the challenges.

“In reaction to these global developments, there has been a paradigm shift away from matching an individual’s skills to jobs at an early stage, and from guidance at transition points only, towards supporting individuals over a life time. By developing skills it allows people to manage the complex transitions they face and will face,” says Kadletz.

The latest round of the ETF’s Torino Process, which develops ways to analyse vocational education and training (VET), has shown that there is a rising demand for career development support in the countries involved. International agencies have also highlighted the role that career guidance will play in the economic recovery plans from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Career guidance itself has developed significantly over the past two decades, says Moreno Da Fonseca. At the turn of the century there was a general acknowledgement that it was important for individuals and their careers. Then over the next decade, the focus was on a more consistent policy approach and coordination to develop career guidance.

“Now there’s a more organic integration and deeper understanding of what is career development and the role it can play in deeper processes and more complex policies,” says Moreno Da Fonseca.

Labour policies are not just focused on providing guidance to the unemployed, but for other groups that also need career activities to be developed.

“Systems are advancing all over the globe to enhance life-long learning, and of learning opportunities,” says Moreno Da Fonseca. “Career guidance and career education will play a strong role for individuals to navigate this more complex universe that is now appearing.”

One of the key impacts in recent years is enabling access to life-long learning. “It is improving labour market outcomes, supporting transitions within the labour market, and from informal to formal working sectors, improving work-life balance, and also contributing to gender equity,” says Moreno Da Fonseca.  

Pining down the best way to provide career development support is not an easy task however, says Vuorinen.

“After over 20 years of international cooperation there is not one single model that can be exported or imported without contextualisation. Instead of saying which is the best, we have identified good functioning systems. These are questions countries need to solve regardless of context, one way or the other,” he adds.

The new report draws on experience with 55 countries since 2000. “We were able to identify a number of countries with good practices but none had developed a coherent life-long learning system. We found that career guidance development systems need to be customised for local conditions, and to wider policy goals. They also need to be acknowledged as a private and public good,” says Vuorinen.

The report, ETF country fact sheets, and ILO policy reviews can act as catalysts for dialogue about the next steps to be taken. “That is why its important to bring together stakeholders for a common understanding of joint outcomes, and commit to goals. We need strategic thinking,” says Vuorinen.

Kadletz says the ‘Developing national career development support systems’ report provides an entry point for deep policy dialogue. “It proposes a concrete process for evidence based on national systems development that is context sensitive and adaptable.”

The aim is for a shared vision on what actions to take, and to create monitoring and evaluation systems for undertaken actions. “The ILO and ETF are available to mediate this process, and to allow countries to achieve their own theory of change,” says Kadletz.

One of the key challenges to improving the system is to increase access for learners, with career guidance having been traditionally focused on the youth. This raises tough questions, such as the need to diversify funding if budgets cannot be increased. Frameworks may also have to be hybrids to support students and workers, and how skills are obtained, whether through workplace learning and/or education.

Changes may also have to be made in how higher education institutions approach career guidance, which is usually focused on how students can find a job upon graduation. “My quick answer is they should talk to students before they sign up for a programme. Career guidance is too often neglected,” says Kadletz.

There is to be deeper policy dialogue around the content of the report at an upcoming ILO-ETF event in October, while there will be practical training courses in November and December.

if you want to watch the full event, here:  

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