Supporting lifelong career guidance in the EU neighbourhood
Today, labour markets are increasingly more complex given the digital and green transition, demographic shifts, and disruptions due to the pandemic and conflicts. In reaction to these global developments, there has been a paradigm shift away from matching an individual’s skills to jobs at an e...
Today, labour markets are increasingly more complex given the digital and green transition, demographic shifts, and disruptions due to the pandemic and conflicts. 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 lifetime. Relevant education and skills development, upskilling and reskilling are essential for individuals’ employability and career management allowing them to manage complex transitions and navigate challenges.
Highlighting the importance of the topic, the Inter-Agency Career Guidance Working Group (which includes the ILO, OECD, the World Bank, UNESCO, the European Commission, Cedefop and the ETF) is organising the first Global Careers Month in November. A series of global and regional events will be held to raise awareness about the role and importance of effective career guidance, identify shared challenges in the field, and showcase high-quality, innovative solutions.
The ETF’s Torino Process, in its analysis of vocational education and training systems in the EU's neighbouring regions, highlights a growing demand for career development support from participating countries and increasing recognition of its contribution to economic recovery and societal transition, as highlighted in a recent report Investing in Career Guidanceprepared by six international organisations, including the ETF.
Career guidance is the services provided to individuals, groups and their families, typically as part of, or following, mandatory education. It can help to open up the world of work, especially to those who might be excluded, such as young people, migrants, women, and other vulnerable groups, as well as to opportunities offered by new sectors arising from the digital and green transition. Career development, on the other hand, is a lifelong process of managing learning, work and leisure, as well as the transition from education to work in order to achieve a personally determined and evolving future.
One of the key challenges to improving the system is to increase access for adult learners to help them navigate evolving labour markets, with career guidance having been traditionally focused on young people. SMEs are the largest employer, and their competitiveness depends on the skills of their workers. Access to career guidance and continuing vocational training for workers in SMEs plays a crucial role in tackling unemployment, providing employment opportunities, and boosting the productivity of SMEs.
How best to implement career development guidance and support raises some difficult questions, such as the need to diversify funding if budgets cannot be increased. Frameworks may also have to be hybrid to support both students and workers, as well as the way in which skills are obtained, either through workplace learning and/or traditional education. Career guidance and development is a key priority of the EU Skills Agenda in Member States, neighbouring regions and beyond through its external relations, supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
These reviews build on a joint ETF and International Labour Organisation report (2021) Developing national career development support systems which discusses how career development support systems can be developed. The approach relies on the assessment of key reference points, with strong contextual analysis, avoiding universal solutions for existing challenges. National stakeholder engagement is recommended to develop effective reviews and work towards a shared vision, priorities and planning for system development.
Lifelong career guidance is an integral part of many ETF activities in partner countries. The European Framework for Quality And Effective Apprenticeships puts ‘career guidance and awareness raising’ as an essential framework condition. The ETF supports partner countries in its development for work-based learning and apprenticeshipschemes(includingthrough membership of the European Alliance for Apprenticeship),which are essential for the implementation of the Youth Guarantee in the Western Balkans. Lifelong career guidance is key to building Centres of Vocational Excellence and therefore a priority area of the ETF’s Network for Excellence(ENE). Moreover, it features strongly in sectoral skills development and implementation of smart specialisation strategies. In 2022 the ETF launched a regional project ‘Skilling up Western Balkans agri-food sector: digitalising, greening’ which includes an analysis of the role of career education and career guidance offered by public employment services, educational institutions, and social partners – which will inform peer learning activities from 2023 onwards.
The ETF works to strengthen knowledge exchange and the building of professional networks across its partner countries in the EU's neighbouring regions and connects them with EU networks such as Careersnet. Open-source materials and tools from the EU are readily available and shared with partner countries to support individuals making career decisions and the professional development of career guidance counsellors, such as Europass.
Navigating changing times with careers advice
This month, from 8 November to 12 December, various partner organisations – the European Commission, ETF, ILO, OECD, UNESCO, Cedefop and World B...
This month, from 8 November to 12 December, various partner organisations – the European Commission, ETF, ILO, OECD, UNESCO, Cedefop and World Bank – are organising a Global Careers Month. It comes at a time when most people's employment paths, and the advice necessary to guide workers towards and along those paths, are almost unrecognisable from previous decades.
Until recently, there was a notion that a job would last a lifetime and career guidance was only received when someone found themselves on the cusp between education and employment: it was one-off counsel, offering little more than information about salaries and what qualifications were necessary for which eventual job.
Now, however, careers advisors are, in some ways, more akin to life coaches. Because a job-for-life is now a rarity, and because traditional workplaces are facing almost constant instability due to digitalisation, globalisation, mass migration, demographic and climate changes, and public health crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, careers guidance is necessarily ongoing and, often, about far more than a mere 'career'.
'Traditional careers guidance, says Florian Kadletz, a Human Capital Development Expert at the European Training Foundation, used to be simply about what occupations were out there and how one might apply. But with all the changes in the labour market, people now need to be adaptable, to take on new tasks or responsibilities within a company or to change job completely. And so the focus is far more on skills rather than qualifications because skills are transferable, qualifications are static.'
It leads to a much more holistic, rounded notion of careers advice. In the same way that, because of Covid, the home-workplace boundary is being dissolved, careers advice is no longer about finding a job, but, in some ways, about finding your place in the world.
'Careers support is life-wide and life-long. It's not defined solely around work, but includes leisure, the life-work balance, and non-work related activities, like volunteering...,' says Kadletz.
That change has come about not only because nimbleness is necessary in unpredictable times, but due to an increasing awareness that, in an age of automation, it's human skills – communication, creativity, empathy, emotional intelligence and so on – that machines and robots can't replace. Soft skills are suddenly at a premium and the conceptual framework for a workplace is no longer only about output, but also – according to the EU’s LifeComp competence model – about flexibility, self-regulation, well-being, communication, collaboration and so on.
It might sound hazy to hard-headed businesses simply looking to recruit someone who will get on with the job, but research shows that the smooth functioning and productivity of a company greatly increase if such skills are prized. When workers are treated as unemotional automatons, they have lower commitment levels, less job satisfaction, disappointing performance, more job-related stress and higher absences. The reverse is equally true, that workplaces which value relationships and well-being are more able to retain workers and that productivity, morale and creativity, rather than decline, all increase.
That's why many who work on the frontline of careers advice centre their work not only on the eventual workplace but also on the individual. Elias Geagea is a Guidance and Employment Officer (GEO) at Edde Technical Institute in Jbeil (Lebanon).
'In my opinion, our role as GEOs is to help our students to choose the right career according to their passion. That’s why my first question to the student is always "what do you love?" Once I trigger the real passion inside the student, education becomes his or her pleasure which leads to success in their career. This passion generates the will to learn', he says.
This more nuanced understanding of careers guidance not only deepens workers' connection to their eventual workplace, with all the associated benefits, but also means that careers mentors have a vital, mediating role between aspiring workers and wider society.
'When it comes to career guidance', says Simona Rinaldi, ETF Country Liaison for Lebanon, 'you have to start from the local level and always consider the context as an important level to orient people.'
Rinaldi suggests that careers guidance is often about being a bridge with the footings placed in vastly different settings: it's about offering bespoke links between individuals and communities, between local markets and international ones and so on.
'It's a negotiation role, especially with, say, aspiring women who come from more conservative communities. You have to increase understanding on all sides.'
That empathic, mediator role means that, rather than being simply a traditional signpost to a job, a careers advisor now has a pivotal role to play in inclusion, social justice and the creation of a fairer society.
That intermediary role is also paramount in improving the fit between labour demand and labour supply. In many societies, there are both horizontal and vertical mismatches, the former implying employment at the right level of qualification but outside the educational expertise, and the latter employment within the correct field of expertise but at an ill-fitting level. The horizontal skills mismatch rate in Tunisia, for example, is 74.2%, whilst within the EU's 27 countries in 2019 the over-education rate was around 22%. In Türkiye it was around 35%. Well-informed and well-funded career guidance can reduce the vast inefficiencies and frustrations that such mismatches inevitably cause.
Given that career guidance is now so multi-faceted, it no longer only occurs in small back-offices of schools and colleges or in nation states' back-to-work kiosks.
'Public employment services', says Kadletz, 'are insufficient to cater for all. They focus on the unemployed, but increasingly we're seeing the importance of NGOs, chambers of commerce, unions and civil society organisations in reaching the vulnerable and offering pathways to work and changes of direction once in it.'
What underpins many of these changes is the realisation that employment isn't only about work, but about relationships: work gets done through people and the ways in which they interact. That means that employers are increasingly looking not merely at CVs and qualifications, but at the very human qualities of emotional intelligence, resilience, passion, empathy, listening skills, flexibility and so on. It makes career guidance more complicated, but also far more subtle and profound.
How do young people feel about their career preparation?
A joint collaboration between the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF) i...
A joint collaboration between the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF) in 2021 explored the views of young people on the career guidance they had received as part of a wider study on their views on lifelong learning, inclusion, and the green transition. The information was collected through U-Report polls conducted by UNICEF in April and May 2021 with young people aged 15–24 from six countries in Europe and Central Asia, with an average of approximately 8,800 respondents participating in each poll; focus groups, and insights and analysis from previous polls and studies from 19 different countries.
Do young people have enough information and support to navigate school to-work transitions?
Notwithstanding the importance of career guidance and orientation for young people’s transition from school to working life, only a third (33.8%) of the U-Report respondents felt they had enough information to choose their future studies or careers. Participants in focus groups (15 participants (11 females, 6 males) aged 15-24 years from Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Ukraine) were almost unanimous in that schools were not preparing them sufficiently for the future. They expressed the desire for information about different types of jobs and what people do in them.
How prepared do young people feel about their future careers by their schools?
U-Report polls conducted in three countries (Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine) asked young people about the support they received from their schools in preparing them for their future careers. The majority of respondents (56.1%) said they feel their schools have prepared them only ‘a little’ or ‘not at all’ for such opportunities.
Where do young people get information on career options?
Since most participants did not have access to information about future career options through their school, they turned to the internet. This is reflected in the poll, as the internet and social media were the most popular information source (41.8%), followed by parents/family (27.1%). Only 4.5% of respondents said that they get this information from their teachers.
Social media, including Reddit and TikTok, were valuable sources of information for focus group participants. They could interact directly with other people or institutions, such as people who had a job they were interested in, or universities that could answer questions about their programmes.
Parents and caregivers can sometimes help guide young people towards a future career, but it rarely matches what young people might want. Very few participants had a career counsellor in their school, and while school psychologists were more common, they did not provide much career counselling. Many mentioned that they never considered going to a job centre or public employment agency, as they think they are old-fashioned.
What do young people feel are the biggest obstacles to starting a career?
Focus group participants identified getting their first job as the biggest hurdle to starting a career. Most jobs require practical experience, and even though volunteering can be a way to gain this experience, this does not apply to all types of jobs, such as technical ones, nor can everyone afford to work without pay.
Participants also signalled job shortages as a significant issue in the region, where there are more young people graduating from university than there are jobs available. As a result, getting a job depends on personal or family connections, to which not everyone has access.
What other support would young people like to have?
Creating counselling centres where people can meet with others, network, exchange ideas, and learn from one another was one suggestion as to how governments could help young people. Such places could act as improved job centres where people could make the personal connections needed for a job and receive career advice.
The above is an excerpt from the regional report ‘Building a resilient generation in Europe and Central Asia: Youth views on lifelong learning, inclusion, and the green transition’ which is a joint collaboration between the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO) and the European Training Foundation (ETF). The full report is available on the ETF website Building a resilient generation in Central Asia and Europe | ETF (europa.eu)
The research was governed by a strict ethical and child safeguarding protocol. The data collection process was fully adolescent- and youth-centred in its approach. Participatory gender- and age- appropriate activities were used in the process of formulating the U-Report questions and for the focus group discussions.
Global Careers Month
The Inter-Agency Working Group on Career Guidance (IAG WGCG), composed by Cedefop, the European Commission, ETF, ILO, OE...
Global Careers Month
The Inter-Agency Working Group on Career Guidance (IAG WGCG), composed by Cedefop, the European Commission, ETF, ILO, OECD, UNESCO and World Bank is organising a Global Careers Month where the international organisations will promote a series of global and regional events, in partnership with national and regional professional associations operating in the area of career development as it relates to both young people and adults. Find out more on the dedicated website.
The Global Careers Month will be organised during the period 8 November–13 December 2022. There will be an Opening Ceremony for the launching of the Global Careers Month, on 8 November, from 12.00 to 13.30 CET. The registration link for the Zoom webinar will be available shortly on the ETF website.
Big Data for Labour Market Intelligence, Online capacity development programme (November–December 2022)
A hands-on ETF learning programme with a multidisciplinary team of data scientists, labour market experts, statisticians. Simultaneous interpretation: English, French and Ukrainian languages. More information here on the ETF website.
ETF Podcast #21 – From school to work: what can we do to help young people succeed?
When we talk about the transition from school to work, we refer to an important and hopefully exciting time in all young people’s lives – the moment when they can find a job that enables them to put into practice all the skills they have acquired throughout their education and training. But how can we ensure young people leave education with the right skills to succeed in today’s labour market?
What do we really know about the transition from school to work?
Are new graduates equipped with the skills they need for the world of work?
What tools can we use to assess the relevance of today’s training programmes?
We discuss all these issues and more with Martino Rubal Maseda, an expert involved with Palestinian tracer studies, and Eva Jansova, an expert from the European Training Foundation.
Innovative teaching and learning, 28-29 November 2022, Turin, Italy
In July 2022, the European Training Foundation (ETF) opened a call to collect examples of good practice in the area of innovative teaching and learning. The call aimed at identifying teaching practice that supports new learning and that can serve as inspiration for teachers, trainers and policymakers in the EU neighbourhood and beyond.
Around 800 applications were received from 50 countries all over the world.
The 2022 ETF New Learning event on 28-29 November will gather a number of grassroots innovators, including the ten finalists, together with innovation experts and supporters such as the ILO, Cedefop and UNESCO, to engage in discussions on how teaching and learning innovation can be successfully mainstreamed and scaled-up.
The award winners will be announced on 29 November at 16.00 CET during a LIVE broadcast from ETF Headquarters. Watch our social media channels for details: @etfeuropa