As the monarchy was largely less industrialised and urbanised than Western Europe, the need for vocational guidance became viable around the third part of the 19th century in response to growing unemployment among workers in industries and the mass inflow of unskilled agricultural workers to towns. The common denominator of institutionalisation of vocational guidance at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was the changing views of work—and, hence, also unemployment. Jobs provided not only for the individual (including their family) but were also a kind of goods subject to the laws of supply and demand. Unemployment was therefore not a symptom of individual (ir)responsibility, guilt, or bad mores; it became a mass phenomenon connected with poverty, petty crime, alcoholism, and several other negative social phenomena. The unemployed, and hence the poor, were not only vagabonds, idlers, or people incapable of work, but their numbers were growing by encompassing until-then obedient citizens who had become unemployed due to hard-to-predict economic crises (Rákosník, 2008).
The history of the first big economic crisis of 1873 showed that mass unemployment could not be handled by tools intended to take care of the poor based on charity or in corrective institutions (Rákosník, 2008). Problems experienced by the growing numbers of unemployed as well as young apprentices facing difficulties finding a job were gradually claiming the attention of public care, based in this period on the assumption that the interests of people in a society should be satisfied in ways benefiting the whole (Hlavačka et al., 2015).
Due to the differing contexts, vocational guidance services were developing differently in the so-called Cisleithania (the historical lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia among those under analysis in this paper) in contrast with the so-called Transleithania, namely in the Hungarian Kingdom (modern-day Hungary and Slovakia).
The real institutionalisation of vocational guidance services had been started at the turn of the 20th century. It followed the abolition of the guild system in 1872 and the first act on home servants passed in the Hungarian Parliament in 1876. At that time, only one-tenth of the active population was engaged in industry and mining. Food, milling and rail industries were the forerunners of modernisation, and these economic sectors magnetised the new workforce.
It is not by accident that the first institutionalised sign of vocational guidance dates to 1899 when Pál Ranschburg established his first vocational psychological laboratory in Budapest. A few years later, the first law on vocational training/industrial apprenticeship was passed by the Hungarian Parliament (1884, p. XVII). The first vocational guidance institution named the Special Education Laboratory of the Hungarian Kingdom was set up in Budapest by Lipót Szondi in 1906 as vocational training became more relevant to industry and specialised education gained more visibility. In Budapest, the vice-mayor opened a city institute for vocational guidance in 1912. The institute was supervised by László Nagy, a pedagogic psychologist.
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the first special education institute, called the Education and Vocational Guidance National Institute, was established in 1929, founded by Dr János Schall, a neuropathist. Just as Hungary entered World War II, a new vocational guidance institution was opened in Budapest, chaired by Ferenc Mérei, and it was operational until the Soviet occupation of the country in 1947 (Gebauer, 2017).
One of the blanket solutions used by Cisleithanian public administration to address unemployment was the integration of employment services in the legal system. Fundamentals of systematic organisation of public employment offices—established to provide information for free, to mediate between employers and people seeking employment, and advise all who might be seeking a job—were set by Law no. 57/1903, applicable only to Czech nationals (Janák, 1997, p. 101). Before public employment offices were established and in parallel with them, advice was given, and jobs were mediated by associations of traders, alliances, private persons, and, in some cases, municipalities themselves (Janák, 1997).
Other impulses shaping vocational guidance services at the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy can be found in the first counselling centres (e.g. the network of counselling centres for children set up by Adler) and psychological clinics (Pech, 1937).
During the relative rapid modernisation of the monarchy before World War I, Gross National Product (GNP) progress was 1.73% between 1870 and 1913; during the same period, Britain had 1%, France 1.06% and Germany 1.53% GNP growth per a year. This was still not enough to cover the gap between Western and Central and Eastern Europe (Cipolla, 1973).
At the end of World War I, the state borders of CEE changed drastically. New states and structures were established between 1918 and 1920. Austria and the Hungarian Kingdom were split after a long joint history under the Habsburgs. In the north, newly independent countries, Hungary and Austria, and a new country, Czechoslovakia, were created; in the south, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later known as Yugoslavia, was established. The Habsburg Empire at the heart of Europe was dead.
The German-Austrian roots of significant psychologists were still very important for the new-born or geographically and ethnically reshaped countries. Names such as that of Wilhelm Maximilan Wundt and his individual psychology theories, Alfred Adler, Viktor Frankl, Sigmund Freud, or psychotechnics by Münsterberg had a long heritage in this region as German remained the language of science until the end of World War II. But after 1920, national languages (Czech and Slovak, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Romanian and Austria-German) became the official languages of the new states as well as the languages of science and state-run services, including vocational guidance.
The Czechoslovakia was established in 1918. In the same year, the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic approved the guidelines for establishing guidance centres designed to help children and adults choose appropriate jobs and employment (Rákosník, 2008). Experts started to influence the process of job selection, which had been an exclusively private-run business until then.
The first vocational guidance institution—including an office to find jobs for apprentices—was established by Land’s Trade Board of Brno in 1919. In Moravia, guidance institutions were established as a part of district services for the young, and this practice gradually spread to Bohemia as well. A guidance centre was founded in Prague in 1920, which was became part of the Central Psychotechnic Institute of Masaryk Academy of Work in 1921 (Klímová, 1987; Kohoutek, 1998; Pech, 1937). The main mission of the Psychotechnic Institute was “research in human efficiency, psychic and physical, as a basis for selecting individuals for diverse vocations” (Průcha, 2019, p. 36), which created a significant link between guidance practised in the district centres and research studies (Kohoutek 1998; Pech 1937) and provided a basis for establishing the psychology of work as an independent field (Letovancová & Lišková, 2009).
The situation in Slovakia was similar: the first guidance centre was established there in 1928 as a part of the Psychotechnics Institute of Bratislava. The Psychotechnics Institute in Bratislava continued to operate during WW II as a part of the Slovak State (1939–1945) and was made a part of the Institute of Human Work in 1947, a research institution for the psychology of work and partly also career guidance and counselling until its abolition in 1951.
The main purpose of these centres was to recommend a vocation or career choice to an individual and help them find a job and/or employ apprentices based on the results of comprehensive psychotechnics testing and, in some cases, also medical testing. It is interesting to note in this context that the staff of these centres mostly consisted of non-psychologists, often teachers trained in using individual techniques (Klímová, 1987; Kohoutek, 1998). Counselling work was dominated by individual (case-study) approach in line with the social philosophy of the time: “if the whole [authors: society] is to be apt, attention must be given to its members in the first place” (Stejskal, 1925, p. 295).
Besides these guidance centres in the districts, there were also other types of counselling centres such as those run by regional government centres for social care in secondary education, academic centres, army counselling centres, or psychotechnics counselling offices in big factories (Pech, 1937).
In addition to guidance centres in Bohemia, Moravia and partly also Silesia, there were public job recruitment offices. In Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia, the network of public job recruitment offices was only being built (Janák, 1998; Rákosník, 2008). Incorporation of job recruitment including vocational guidance services, i.e. institutionalising the link between job recruitment offices and guidance centres governed by the then Ministry of Social Care, however, did not happen during the so-called First Republic (1918–1938). However, according to the governmental decree of July 7, 1936, no. 217 Sb., at least one job recruitment office with an appropriate number of vocational guidance centres was to be set up in each district (Rákosník, 2008).
After World War II, the development of vocational guidance services in Czechslovakia was influenced by the fact that it was included in the zone occupied by the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and from February 1948 the country was ruled by the Communist Party, slavishly copying policies of the Communist Party of the USSR. The principal problem of the early post-war years was the lack of a labour force and low work efficiency. The high demand for labour and the stipulations of Law no. 146/1946 Sb. that the state provide each of its citizens with a right to work and rightful remuneration (Kalinová, 2007) shifted the interpretation of the right to work (United Nations General Assembly, 1948) to an obligation of being employed which was required and monitored by the state.
Job recruitment was transformed into deployment of individuals in prioritised fields of the economy according to an economic plan (Kalinová, 2007). Deployment of apprentices and later graduates of all types of secondary schools and institutions of tertiary education became an administrative agenda entrusted to the governing bodies of the communist administration. The information activities necessary for an adequate choice of occupation turned into recruitment initiatives benefiting employers, especially those in heavy industry (Klímová, 1969; Kohoutek 1998). In fact, these steps, together with the closing down of most social welfare institutions including the Ministry of Work Protection and Social Care in 1951 (Kalinová, 2007), eliminated vocational guidance services.
The application of the Soviet model of society in 1948–1953 proved to be unsustainable for further development in Czechoslovakia at the political, economic as well as social levels. Specific changes which created space for a “comeback” of vocational guidance services started to be implemented only after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of USSR in February 1956 (Kalinová, 2007; Klímová, 1969). From a professional perspective, the ratification of the Forced Labour Convention (ILO, 1930) in 1958 was just as important for restoring the system of vocational guidance as was the signing of Law no. 70 of 17 October 1958 (Národní, 1958), which made it compulsory for district people’s committees to provide guidance services e.g. establishing psychological centres and psychological–educational clinics to handle, among other things, support for career choices.
The constitution of 1960 (Národní, 1960), which changed the federal structure of Czechoslovakia, and the adoption of the new Educational Act in 1960 (Klímová, 1987) created conditions for a search for new forms of guidance services in education. Within the new concept of “educational counselling”, career choice was to be “an organic climax of a purposeful career education” (Bárta, 1962, p. 191) and, together with other counselling activities, was “to contribute to optimum development and socially productive use of all capacities and abilities in each individual and to become a part of a broad educational–psychological counselling” (Bárta, 1962, p. 191). When the new concept of educational counselling was being created, attention shifted to the worldwide trend embracing the educational model in psychological counselling (Drapela, 1971), combining career education with services of educational counsellors and/or psychologist-guidance educators.
In 1960, experimental testing of career education was launched in schools, and after the experiment was evaluated as successful (Kohoutek, 1998), basic schools (up to 9th grade) and grammar schools started to introduce the post of educational counsellor (teacher) (Klímová, 1987). In Slovakia, from the end of the 1960s, experimental testing of the position of school psychologist was under way as an alternative to the “Prague concept of educational counselling”, but these activities faded away after 1975 (Kopčanová, 2000; Štech & Zapletalová, 2013).
Since 1967, career education was extended by services of regional specialised psychological centres, which diversified into district and regional pedagogical–psychological counselling centres in the early 1970s (Kohoutek, 1998). This created a basis for the provision of counselling services in the educational system, dominated by the topic of career choice, which, among other things, provided an argument for adopting ILO Convention no. 142 on professional orientation and vocational training for human resources development in 1975. The concept of educational counselling was fully authorised in 1984 (Klímová, 1987; Koščo et al., 1987).
The counsellors working in pedagogical–psychological counselling centres focused primarily on students requiring specific attention, which, in turn, necessitated comprehensive diagnostics (diagnostic for abilities, interests, and partly health status). In the long term, this process produced a significant group of psychologists acting as career counsellors, whose work was based on diagnostics.
The role of educational counsellors among teachers from all types of secondary schools and in special schools was to organise and provide information, to co-ordinate information activities with form teachers, and to provide methodological support to other teachers in the long-term professional orientation of students (MŠ ČSR 1980). A key part of implementing the concept of educational counselling was that teachers were responsible for career education (Maydlová, 1968), their task being “long-term observation of the development of the student’s personality traits with focus on their future engagement with study or an occupation, and identifying and shaping individual interest in occupational choice” (Kohoutek, 1998, p. 43).
While in the period 1960–1992, the structure of services in educational counselling was uniform for all Czechoslovakia, there were some minor conceptual differences between the Czech and Slovak Republics (Kohoutek, 1998; Kopčanová, 2000) when comparing the Czech concept of educational counselling (represented by Marta Klímová) and the Slovak concept of educational–psychological counselling (represented by Jozef Koščo). The Czech concept of educational counselling stemmed from research by the Institute of Social Research of the Young and Educational Counselling of the Faculty of Education, Charles University and emerged in parallel with the development and current situation in other so-called capitalist and socialist countries. It emphasised career guidance as a part of child and youth education, with support for career development being one of the issues for attention. A key role was played by teachers and other pedagogical staff who were to influence all children and youth, and only in cases of difficulties, to proceed as indicated according to the results of comprehensive pedagogical–psychological diagnostics provided by pedagogical–psychological counselling centres (Klímová, 1974, 1987).
The Slovak concept of educational–psychological counselling which was based on the findings of the Research Institute of Child Psychology and Psychopathology in Bratislava and supported also by many psychologists based in Brno, emphasised the continuity of the psychic development of an individual to be supported in coping with developmental tasks by a system of psychological counselling institutions (Kohoutek, 1998). Thus the approach to issues of career selection by students was dominated by developmental psychology, grounded in the career development theory of Super (1957). Considering the comprehensive diagnostics provided by pedagogica–psychological counselling centres, this approach was intended to govern the follow-up pedagogical activities in schools as well (Koščo et al., 1987).
This architecture of guidance and counselling services, however, led to career choice being perceived as a matter of education provided jointly by the family and the school, and only in serious cases was the help of pedagogical–psychological counselling centres to be sought. It promoted the view among lay people that counselling services were only for those who “had a problem”.
What proved to be a big drawback of this period in the long run was the connection between counselling practice and research. By its focus on research work, personality formation, and care for employees (Štech & Zapletalová, 2013), the Czechoslovak Research Institute created an empirical basis for the psychology of work but not for career guidance. Research in career guidance practices was entrusted to regional pedagogical–psychological counselling centres (Kohoutek, 1998), which led to a chronic lack of experts able and willing to develop this field as a branch of counselling psychology in universities (Vendel, 2011).
Further development of vocational guidance services (in moving to career guidance services) was influenced not only by the fragmentation of the so-called “socialist block” but also by the split of Czechoslovakia. The change in the political life of Czechoslovakia after the so-called Velvet Revolution in November 1989 launched economic and social transformation, but after the election of 1992, in which advocates of reforms won in the Czech Republic, while opponents of reforms were more numerous in Slovakia, Czechoslovakia was heading for a split. Thanks to political negotiations, on January 1 1993, two new countries emerged in the heart of Europe, each of them following their own path, even in career guidance services.