No Choice – No Guidance? The Rising Demand for Career Guidance in EU Neighbouring Countries and Its Potential Implications for Apprenticeships
While countries neighbouring to the European Union (EU) are not isolated from the international trend towards rediscovering apprenticeships as a vocational education and training (VET) pathway, provision of career guidance services to support this development remains still underdeveloped – both prior and within VET careers. A study of the European Training Foundation (ETF) revealed contextual features that act as barriers to career guidance development, such as the informal economy, the tradition of informal guidance and in general more limited choices (no choice – no guidance?). Simultaneously, the need and demand for such services is huge and seems to be on the rise. This chapter identifies push and pull factors shaping the demand for career guidance and introduces emerging examples of policies and practices. Widening the access and shifting the mode of delivery towards a combination of the new career guidance paradigm (emphasis on career management skills, work ‘tasting’ and work experience) with resource-efficient approaches (career information, self-help) would likely contribute to improve school-to-work transitions. It might also help to overcome stereotypes and barriers for choosing VET and apprenticeships as viable career options.
KeywordsEuropean Union Career Guidance Private Tutoring Public Employment Service Guidance Service
Apprenticeships and Career Guidance
Plenty of research findings confirm that apprenticeships as the oldest type of vocational education and training have experienced a revival in recent years (Rauner and Smith 2009). This international trend has also affected a number of low- and middle-income countries neighbouring to the EU, though to a different extent; for example, in Northern Africa and the Middle East (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt), in Eastern European and Central Asian countries (i.e. Ukraine, Kazakhstan) and in candidate countries (i.e. Turkey, Croatia) or potential candidate countries to the EU (i.e. Albania), a similar trend can be observed (Zelloth 2010a). In parallel, in most of these countries also career guidance services are being introduced or further shaped where they already exist. However, the relationship between the two parallel phenomena of expansion of apprenticeships and career guidance still needs to be researched. While this chapter attempts some reflections on this relationship, it mainly looks at the overall demand for career guidance as well as at the obstacles and reasons why career guidance services are still largely underdeveloped in many countries. It reveals that the level of policy profile varies between countries and that a distinction can be made between ‘donor-driven’ and ‘home-grown’ developmental patterns. The most frequent delivery models being adopted are the ‘centre model’ and the individual specialist model, whereas the ‘curriculum model’ and ‘virtual model’ are under-represented. The delivery method is often psychological oriented, but a more pedagogical and labour market-oriented mode is gaining ground.
This chapter is based on research by the author (Zelloth 2009) which had covered a sample of nine low- and middle-income countries neighbouring to the European Union (Egypt, Georgia, Ukraine, Montenegro, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Jordan, Russia). In the majority of these countries, a questionnaire developed and administered by the author in field visits was applied during interviews with policymakers and practitioners in career guidance from both the education and employment sectors. This chapter additionally draws on information and analysis provided by 28 country reviews and three major comparative analyses undertaken by the ETF: a cross-country analysis of career guidance policies in 11 acceding and candidate countries (Sultana 2003), in 7 Western Balkan countries (Sweet 2006) and in 10 Mediterranean (MEDA) countries/territories (Sultana and Watts 2007). It also takes into account information from policy papers (Akkok and Zelloth 2009; Zelloth 2008, 2010b, 2011) the author prepared for several Governments (i.e. Serbia, Kosovo, Turkey and Jordan) and from reflected experience in working with countries neighbouring the EU.
State-of-the-Art Definition and Distinction from Other Concepts
The chapter relies on the international definition of career guidance as covering services (career information, guidance and counselling) intended to assist people of any age and at any point in their lives, to make education, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers (OECD 2004; European Union Council 2004, 2008; ILO 2006). For the sake of analysis, it is important to distinguish career guidance from other related concepts and processes, which are different although partly overlapping, such as (a) induction (supporting entrants in managing their transition into a new learning or work environment), (b) promotion (attempting to persuade individuals to make particular choices at the expense of others, e.g. vocational education and apprenticeship), (c) selection (making decisions about individuals) and (d) placement (matching individuals to specific jobs).
While some of these concepts are primarily designed to serve the interests of opportunity providers (education and training institutions and employers), career guidance by contrast is addressed specifically to the interests of individuals within their social context (Sultana and Watts 2007). It is concerned with helping individuals to choose between the full range of available opportunities, in relation to optimally utilising their abilities and addressing their interests and values, and thereby leading to better performance, greater fulfilment and satisfaction.
In Demand but Not Yet Sufficiently There: Career Guidance in EU Neighbouring Countries
Career Guidance Is Moving Up the Policy Agenda
Despite that career guidance hardly was a policy priority in the education and employment agendas in the past, there are clear indications that it is moving up the policy agenda in the last decade and that guidance services are developing in many countries neighbouring to the EU. This phenomenon takes place in the Mediterranean region, such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and the occupied Palestinian territory, in countries in the Western Balkans and Southeast European area (Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Turkey), as well as in countries of the former Soviet Union (e.g. Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan). The reasons for this trend are manifold and can be largely explained by economic and labour market developments, as a result of ongoing education and training reforms and by other policy-induced drivers, such as the increasing awareness of and involvement in EU employment education/training policies. The latter argument is particularly relevant for candidate and potential candidate countries to the EU.
The Level of Policy Profile Varies Across Countries
Until quite recently, in a group of countries (Albania, Georgia, Egypt, Syria, occupied Palestinian territory, Azerbaijan), career guidance has not been on the policy agenda at all. This ‘policy absenteeism’ in career guidance is now being gradually replaced by a remedial policy model or in some cases even by a first comprehensive strategic approach (‘embryonic policy profile’).
Other countries, such as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Lebanon or Jordan, had some policies on career guidance in place, but they tended to be rhetorical, fragmented and not to be significantly enforced (‘low-policy-profile’ countries). In another group of countries (e.g. Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco), career guidance has been featuring high on the policy agenda already for some time, and in some cases, policies have been recently reinforced, or implementation is characterised by action plans, innovative approaches or large-scale projects (‘high-policy-profile’ countries).
Strategic Policy Frameworks Are Emerging
In the last years, a couple of countries have been preparing policy frameworks for career guidance as a response to specific challenges of education and labour market reforms. Countries aspiring to join the EU were to a certain extent also influenced by new lifelong learning policies and the general ambition to comply with the body of EU policies, including on lifelong guidance. Kosovo has approved an ambitious 10-year career guidance strategy (2006–2015), initiated by the three major ministries involved in guidance (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports).
The strategy views career guidance as an essential component of lifelong learning and aims to establish all-age guidance services for Kosovo in the long term. As part of this strategy, a curriculum framework for career education concerning the grades 6–13 has been prepared. In 2010, Serbia has adopted a comprehensive career guidance policy framework, titled National Career Guidance and Counseling Strategy, along with a detailed action plan covering the period 2010–2014. Montenegro followed a similar path in 2011, and in the same year in Jordan, the Employment, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (E-TVET) Council has adopted a career guidance strategy for the period 2011–2014.
Some countries have started to prepare similar policy frameworks for career guidance but did not yet reach the stage of approval or implementation (Egypt, occupied Palestinian territory), while others opted for introducing references to career guidance in specific legislation (e.g. Georgia in the VET Law 2007) or sector policies (in Lebanon as part of the priorities in the National Education Strategy). However, in many countries, implementation of career guidance practice is far lagging behind policy development, or it is still at a too early stage that outcomes can be assessed.
Policy Coordination Is Increasingly Viewed as Essential
Policy coordination within the education sector as well as at cross-sector level between education and the labour and employment administration remains a challenge (Sweet 2006). As a result of a ‘segmented’ approach to policymaking in career guidance, nearly all countries have developed separate structures in the education and employment sectors, with policies and operations not effectively coordinated. This ‘fault line’ that divides the career development field like a ‘tectonic plate’ (Fretwell and Plant 2001) seems to be true for the vast majority of EU neighbouring countries, irrespective of their size.
Some countries acknowledge this problem and attempted to find policy responses by developing coordination mechanisms, others not yet. In Ukraine, for example, the vice prime minister has issued a special edict on guidance in 2007, in which the Ministries concerned, key stakeholders, providers and universities were called to improve synergies, cooperation and coordination in career guidance. In Morocco, coordination between different ministries has been regulated by a ministerial note, though the process tends to be top heavy and bureaucratic (Sultana and Watts 2007). Egypt has created a ‘Voluntary National Task Force’ on career guidance in 2007, initiated jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Manpower and Migration, in order to prepare a concept paper and strategic document on career guidance (Badawi et al. 2008). This task force broadened its membership to other ministries and stakeholders in 2009.
Kosovo has set up a national policy forum in 2006, based on a memorandum of understanding signed by the three line ministries. The composition of this policy forum is somewhat remarkable, as it managed to get high-level officials committed to be members of this body (directors/head of departments from three ministries and few other stakeholders). In Turkey, the Ministries of National Education, Labour and Social Security, the public employment services and social partners, as well as the State Planning Agency, the Higher Education Board and statistical institute, have agreed on a renewed ‘Protocol for Cooperation in Career Information, Guidance and Counseling Services’ in 2004, which was further specified in a new ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ in 2009. The Serbian government has assigned the coordination role related to the career guidance strategy and its implementation to a new ministry, the Ministry of Youth and Sport, while Jordan is planning to establish a career guidance implementation unit funded under the umbrella of the E-TVET Council. Thus, a great variety of cooperation and coordination mechanisms can be found in EU neighbouring countries; however, not all of them are fully operational or sustained solutions. What often is needed is a clear strategic leadership, capacities assigned for cooperation and mutual trust in order to become a successful approach.
The Context of Demand for Career Guidance
The issue of demand for career guidance services in EU neighbouring countries – as well as other low- and middle-income countries (Watts and Fretwell 2004) – is not well researched. In general, direct empirical evidence of demand is either lacking or too weak to support an approach called ‘evidence-based policymaking’. For the majority of countries, in particular the smaller states, this has to be seen in a wider context where science and research are largely carried out under modest conditions and with minimum funding. Consequently, overall research in education, training and labour market institutions is very limited. Some research on career guidance that can be found in larger countries (i.e. in Ukraine within the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences) are often focused on supply issues and its research results tend to remain rather institutionally isolated and not linked to policymaking or being used by it.
Empirical Evidence of Demand for Career Guidance
A labour market assessment in Turkey revealed amongst the most important challenges identified by youth in the transition from school to work ‘the lack of information about job availability’ (19% of respondents) and the ‘lack of jobs’ (25%). Inadequate or irrelevant school preparation was cited by 43% as the most serious challenge (World Bank 2008). A tracer study in Kosovo revealed that almost 88% of VET graduates were currently not employed in the profession they were trained for but that 92% would like to work most in the same profession for which they were trained. Ninety-three percent intended to change their job as soon as they found something else, and 85% did not make any contact with institutions assisting to find a job (Swisscontact 2008).
One of the few demand-focused surveys was undertaken in Montenegro by the newly established Centre for Career Information and Professional Counseling in 2007. A basic questionnaire on demand for career guidance (sample of 800 primary school students) showed us results that around 1/3 of pupils in the last grade were still undecided on the type of educational progression and around 30% expressed lack of information. A needs assessment survey done in Kosovo (LINK Student Services 2007), based on a random sample of 726 university students, prior to the opening of a student service centre demonstrated that almost 90% of students find it relevant to have a centre at the university giving information and advising on issues regarding not only academic studies but also careers.
Indirect and ‘Non-evidential’ Sources of Demand for Career Guidance
In view of the weak direct empirical ‘evidence’ of demand for career guidance, potential demand largely needs to be argued and derived ‘indirectly’ from wider development patterns and ‘non-evidential’ sources. A number of drivers of demand can be identified through analysis of the inner logic and development features of the labour market and education systems as well as other contextual specificities of EU neighbouring countries. As the main push and pull factors shaping and fostering the demand for career guidance in these countries, the following can be considered:
Economic Transition and Accelerated Growth
In many of the EU neighbouring countries (in particular Eastern Europe, Western Balkans), the early phase of transition from planned to market economies was characterised by economic downturn, and labour markets became highly volatile and non-transparent. In the last decade, nearly all the countries have shown higher growth rates and greater economic dynamism compared to EU and OECD countries, and labour demand has been growing to a certain extent. Whereas in the context of early transition the scope for guidance was limited, potential demand has been increasing in the context of more stable and then fast expanding economies. In a few countries, a direct link between economic development and the raised importance of career guidance on the policy agenda can be observed. In Ukraine, when two major career guidance initiatives ‘failed’ in the mid-1990s, this was explained by local experts and stakeholders as being due to the ‘non-readiness’ of the economy and labour market at that time.
Labour Market Mismatch and Structural Unemployment
A number of countries show a significant mismatch between demand and supply of the labour force, as one of the factors attributed to high unemployment rates. This is true for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as acknowledged by its national employment strategy 2010, as well as for Montenegro, where the tourism and construction sectors hire tens of thousands seasonal workers from foreign countries, despite high unemployment. In Egypt, unemployment is increasing and is comparatively high for intermediate and higher qualifications rather than for the low skilled (phenomenon of ‘educated unemployment’), in particular for youth. Ukraine is facing severe labour market supply deficiencies and a major mismatch in terms of ‘undersupply’ of skilled and manual workers in almost all sectors to satisfy the needs of the ‘booming’ economy. One of the traditional functions of career guidance, to contribute to a better ‘matching’ of supply and demand of labour, seems to be especially relevant for the neighbouring countries of the EU.
Growing Emphasis on Preventive Labour Market Policy and Social Inclusion
Active labour market policies as well as employment services have been traditionally poorly developed in a number of countries but have been gaining ground in recent years. Egypt, with bilateral donor support from Canada (CIDA), has attempted to reform its employment services, for the first time introducing active measures, including guidance. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has introduced an individual approach (individual action plan) towards the unemployed in 2007, and guidance and training are considered part of it. Montenegro, which has introduced individual action plans already in 2001, fuels demand for career guidance services through specific objectives and targets in the national employment strategy and its action plans, when aiming to increase the number of clients or the accessibility of information, for example. A ‘paradoxical’ exception is Georgia, which abolished public employment services and both active measures and unemployment benefits to the unemployed in 2006.
Modernisation of the Education System and Increasing Diversity and Flexibility of Learning Opportunities
Changing the structure of the education system by introducing two- or three-tier cycles in traditionally monolithic primary education, as it happened both in Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, can also boost demand for career guidance. So can the introduction of an ‘orientation year’ as in Kosovo, Albania and Turkey. In Egypt, a new study plan for VET was adopted and started its gradual implementation in 2008/2009. It aims to postpone the decision for specialisation in VET from the 1st to the 2nd year, thus creating potential demand for the provision of orientation programmes and other guidance activities. Before, in general secondary education, elective subject matters were introduced in Egypt, and as a result, ‘academic counsellors’ were appointed to assist students in selecting the academic subjects that would match their career aspirations (Badawi 2006). In principle, this initiative can be considered an example of response to a demand created by education reform. However, in reality, these counsellors never became fully operational because both framework conditions to support implementation and a critical mass of well-trained career guidance practitioners were lacking.
In Ukraine, similar demand can be detected as secondary education has been extended from 11 to 12 years (the first school leavers of the 12th year will graduate in 2013), and the Confederation of Employers has started to promote a system of flexible and short-term labour market-oriented VET. In Montenegro, policymakers are thinking about making secondary education compulsory and VET more modular on the midterm.
Policies to Reduce Dropout
Preventing wrong choices and reducing or eliminating the number of dropouts at various stages of the education system, with a view to minimise the ‘waste’ or wrong use of educational investments, is one of the functions career guidance can contribute to in principle. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had a comparatively high dropout rate during primary education and at the stage of transition from primary to secondary schools, with a substantial number of pupils not continuing education, thus ‘reproducing’ the low educational level of the population. In Kosovo, dropout levels are known to be very high too, particularly in upper secondary education (ETF 2008).
Push Factors from the Supply Side
The supply-driven introduction of (pilot) career guidance services, if successfully implemented, can have the effect of stimulating and fuelling further demand for guidance. For example, the establishment of ‘career centres’ in some VET schools in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has further stimulated demand in other VET schools (meanwhile, all 57 schools established such centres) and could trigger higher demand beyond students of VET schools, for example, students in gymnasia, which are often located in the same building as VET schools. In the long term – and in combination with the new two- or three-tier primary education cycles – this could also place peer pressure on primary education to start or enhance its provision of services. Much the same might happen in Georgia, with the recent introduction of career managers and consultants in VET centres. In Kosovo, the piloting of career education in the 9th grade (‘orientation year’) in 2008 has triggered off additional demand by other classes located in the same 35 schools in which the pilot took place. Due to this strong demand, the question is, however, if sufficient capacities for career guidance can be built in the short- or midterm. A severe limitation is that a career guidance profession practically does not yet exist in the country and that sound training schemes for teachers who got assigned a career guidance function still need to be further developed.
In Montenegro, there are signs that the foundation of a CIPS (Centre for Information and Professional Counselling) in the capital of Montenegro (Podgorica) has created further demand in the regions, via information, surveys and awareness rising on the topic. This new demand is currently being addressed through a project supported by the EU.
Policy-Induced Drivers of Demand
Other drivers seem to steer additional demand and supply for career guidance, such as ‘policy beliefs’ (e.g. it is believed or hoped that career guidance contributes to increase employability and educational efficiency), ‘intuitive policy statements’ and ‘policy activism’ (e.g. ‘It is the right time now to start with career guidance’). These phenomena can be observed in some countries. The EU integration process functions in particular for candidate countries but also for potential candidates, as an important driver of demand. Through gradually increasing involvement in the EU policy developments in employment and education, but also through the attitude of policymakers to anticipate EU expectations and demand in the hope of getting earlier to accession, the likelihood is high that some countries will take into account sooner rather than later the EU Council Resolution on Lifelong Guidance of 2004 and the new Council Resolution on ‘Better integrating lifelong guidance into lifelong learning strategies’ adopted by the Ministers of Education of 27 EU member states in 2008.
Barriers to Meeting the Demand for Career Guidance
In parallel to the manifold ‘drivers’ of demand for career guidance as argued above, there need to be considered a number of specific limitations, which tend to undermine the potential demand and effectiveness of current guidance services. Such factors and barriers arise from the different stages of economic development, the nature of labour markets and the countries’ education and training systems as well as sociocultural specificities. They all tend to limit individual choices of students and citizens (no choice – no guidance?). A few of these features can be further elaborated as follows:
High Share of Informal Economy
A distinctive feature of nearly all countries concerned is the comparatively high share of the informal or ‘shadow’ economy. Estimates of informal employment in Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Egypt range between 50 and 55% for each of the countries. The shadow economy in Georgia is estimated to constitute more than 2/3 of the GDP and in Ukraine some 30–50% of total economic activities (Zelloth 2009).
As a result, the official employment rates tend to be very low in a number of countries, limiting the potential scope for career guidance. Moreover, the informal sector by definition does not fall within the conventional purview of formal guidance services. Therefore, in countries with a high share of informal economy, formal guidance services are challenged by and need to consider both the informal labour market and the ‘informal guidance’ provision (often based on ‘social capital’), when shaping formal structures and systems.
Social Capital Versus Human Capital
As a result of the large share of the ‘informal’ and ‘survival economy’ but also due to different sociocultural features, such as the important role of the family and informal networking in such societies, there are other labour allocation mechanisms involved or even prevalent than those based on merit and performance in order to get access to interesting, well-paid and/or secure jobs and careers.
An earlier ETF study (Sultana and Watts 2007) confirms such features for the Mediterranean region: ‘Whom you know tends to be more important than what you know’. Connections with and through (wider) family, friends and other non-transparent forms are crucial for ‘managing a career’. An extreme case – although not necessarily transferable to other EU neighbouring countries – stems from the before-mentioned tracer study on VET graduates in Kosovo who entered the labour market. Its results showed that almost everybody in recent employment (97%) got their job through ‘personal relations’ and 50% saw ‘to migrate abroad’ as the best alternative to finding a job (Swisscontact 2008).
Dominance of ‘Informal Guidance’
Hand in hand with informal labour allocation mechanisms goes the phenomenon of ‘informal guidance’, which is ‘delivered’ through parents, family, friends and other peers. It represents another major obstacle for formal guidance provision to get established or to become more effective. However, the fact that ‘informal’ guidance exists also indicates that there is potential demand for ‘formal’ and professional guidance services. The rationale of ‘informal guidance’ also may be questioned since it often seems to be neither effective from the individual nor from the labour market perspective and may lead to individual disappointment, waste of human resources and fostering labour market mismatch.
Affordability of Career Guidance
Despite of the fact that most EU neighbouring countries are developing their economies and even showed higher growth rates than the EU in recent years, their economies still remain at a considerably lower developmental level than the EU average. This poses the question of affordability of career guidance as in many countries, overall resources (public and private) are limited, and in the fierce competition for resources, ‘hardware’ investments tend to come first before ‘software’.
The lack of resources is partly compensated by the permanent and sometimes high inflow of funds from multilateral and bilateral donors, including the EU, towards their education and labour market sectors. Some of these funding portions have been allocated to career guidance development, and there is still more potential to un-tap. In principle, low- and middle-income countries will need to embark on cost-efficient approaches, such as putting the emphasis on career information, career education, self-help and web-based approaches. But, if the costs of the ‘wrong choices’ of young people were calculated, these would by far outnumber the magnitude of any investments in career guidance.
‘Shadow’ Education System and Private Tutoring
In a number of countries, the phenomenon of private tutoring is so enormous that one could almost speak about a ‘shadow education system’. This is particularly true for Turkey, Egypt and other Mediterranean countries. Estimates show that the large majority of students attend private courses in the evenings or weekends, mainly in order to have higher chances to manage successfully the university entrance exam, which in turn decides about the future careers. In general, this private tutoring system does not only compensate learning which did not take place in schools, but tutoring institutes are particularly specialised to prepare students on those techniques which are required to manage or navigate through the exam and its complicated scoring system. Teachers of private tutoring companies often have an important ‘informal’ or even formal guidance role. It is known from Egypt that even poor families are ready to pay for their kids’ private tutoring out of their last resources.
Academic Orientation and Low Status of Vocational Education and Apprenticeships
Due to the overall ‘gear’ towards academic and higher education largely steered by prestige, social status, beliefs and often unrealistic expectations, in many countries, VET has been developed into a low-status alternative to higher and general secondary education. For the Mediterranean countries, it was found that the problem of low status for work-based forms of VET can be compounded by segmented VET systems in which work-based programmes lead to lower-level qualifications than do other schemes; for example, in Morocco and Israel, apprenticeships have been designed largely for school dropouts (Sweet and Zelloth 2009).
Negative stereotyping of vocational careers, VET or apprenticeships as well as gender stereotypes poses an additional challenge for career guidance as it tends to keep away young people from pursuing such careers and limits overall choices. Also, the culture of elitism and selectivity or current assessment strategies tends to affect negatively the scope for career guidance, jeopardising the very notion of educational guidance (Sultana and Watts 2007).
Rigid and Inflexible Allocation System in Education
The current allocation system of students to educational pathways (i.e. Jordan, Egypt) seriously undermines the potential demand for career guidance in schools. According to their final achievement in school, measured solely by grades, students are allocated either to the general secondary education stream, the vocational education stream (for lowest achievers) or to higher education (Mryyan 2006).
In some cases, the grades even predetermine the study field young people can ‘choose’. It is obvious that such a system does not allocate human capital properly and is therefore criticised as ‘unsuccessful’, ‘undemocratic’ and ‘interfering with students’ free will to choose what they want to study’ (Prisma Marketing & Communication 2010). As it is likely that the pressure to change and open up this allocation system will increase in the near future, as a result, the potential demand for career guidance can be expected to grow as well (Zelloth 2011).
A specific feature more typical for post-communist EU neighbouring countries is the historical legacy of a dualistic pattern of state (reliance/obedience) versus individual (empowerment), emphasising the first pattern. Individualistic notions as well as the term ‘career’ were long time regarded as a social vice and might still act as ‘mental barriers’ against career guidance. Similar experience was identified in new member states of the EU such as Romania or Bulgaria that previously belonged to the ‘Eastern bloc’ but where historical legacies and negative connotations with the terms ‘career guidance’ or ‘professional orientation’ were still present a few years ago (Zelloth et al. 2007).
Different Delivery Models of Career Guidance in EU Neighbouring Countries
Home-Grown Versus Donor-Driven Career Guidance Development
Apparently, some countries seem to follow a rather ‘donor-driven’ developmental approach, and other countries more tend to follow a ‘home-grown’ pattern of career guidance development. To the first group belongs the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which had received support to career guidance as a component of two subsequent EU-funded VET projects (2000–2003). However, major innovations, amongst them the development of a ‘Model for Professional Counseling and Mediation for Employment’, did not prove to be sustainable after external funding is finished.
To the group of countries with ‘home-grown’ pattern of (policy) development would belong Ukraine and Montenegro. Both countries have not been subject of tangible donor support on career guidance in the last decade and have been following their own development paths, drawing at best on some experience from their ‘neighbours’ (Russia, Slovenia/Serbia). Although the level of ownership might be higher in the home-grown model, its sustainability is not necessarily guaranteed. In Ukraine, for example, career guidance policy has been quite volatile in the last decade, establishing and then abolishing centres in public employment and at university, recently now possibly reintroducing again such centres. Although a donor-driven approach bears a certain higher risk of non-sustainability as well as of a certain ‘bias’ in ‘policy and practice borrowing’, often shaped by the geographical origin of the donor or the implementing consultants, external funding is highly necessary or even inevitably for most EU neighbouring countries.
In reality, there are a number of examples of sustainable donor-support projects as well as of mixed models where home-grown development is complemented by donor funding (i.e. Turkey).
Different Approaches and Delivery Models of Career Guidance
The most frequent delivery models being adopted in EU neighbouring countries are the ‘centre model’ (both in educational and labour market settings) and the ‘individual specialist model’. In reality, sometimes two models are combined and the curriculum model seems to be on the rise. Virtual or web-based models are not yet common, and the potential benefit of a semi-specialist model is not yet un-tapped. Both would offer cost-efficient approaches in a context of scarce resources in low- and middle-income countries Watts and Fretwell 2004.
Regarding the delivery methods, the ‘psychological mode’ appears to be still dominant, but the emerging ‘pedagogical mode’ or a ‘hybrid mode’ gain ground, both being more labour market oriented.
As a preferred method of introducing and gradually developing guidance services, piloting has been used in many countries. The ways how basic development patterns (home-grown versus donor-driven) influence and are interrelated with the different types of models and methods that are being adopted still needs to be further explored.
The ‘Centre’ Model
In a number of countries, a model is being applied in both educational and labour market settings that could be classified as the ‘centre model’. Hereby, the notion, meaning and magnitude of a ‘centre’ can vary substantially, from a ‘virtual centre’ up to a centre in a classical understanding, staffed with several professionals. For example, in Serbia and in Montenegro, centres for information and professional counselling have been set up in public employment services. One to four psychologist, counsellors and information specialists are there to support visitors with a variety of materials, occupational profiles and tests. In Kosovo, the National Guidance and Resource Centre has no full-time staff but ‘staff-loans’ and temporary staff assignments from three ministries who are rather ‘semi-specialists’. In Jordan, career advisory centres exist at universities and are run by one to several staff, including graduates and students from various backgrounds.
In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, career centres have been established at vocational schools, but they are ‘unmanned’. There, access to internet and information materials is provided in one room. Students, in cooperation with a teacher or school psychologist, look after the facility and organise career workshops from time to time. In Georgia, the professional cadre of the ‘Information, Job Counseling and Referral Center’ (IJCRC) is composed of a mix of specialists of the labour market and career guidance (labour economists, sociologists and psychologists) who are working in an interdisciplinary approach.
The ‘Curriculum’ Model
A few countries have introduced or started to introduce career education and/or curricular principles related to guidance. The most pronounced example can be found in Turkey, and the most recent developments are taking place in Kosovo and Albania. In Turkey, career guidance is included as part of class guidance programmes in all types of school, integrated with personal and social education. A few years ago, the duration of all secondary education programmes was increased to 4 years, and VET and general secondary education programmes got a common base in the 9th grade (‘orientation year’), allowing for higher flexibility. In this context, an ‘Information and Guidance’ class has been implemented recently (supported by the EU project MEGEP/SVET – Strengthening Vocational Education and Instruction Project) to inform students about the different types of education, occupations, sectors and working life (Akkok 2006). In Kosovo, career education has been introduced as a pilot in the 9th grade (orientation year) in 34 schools all over the country in 2007/2008. This EU-supported initiative was based on an earlier National Curriculum Framework, which referred to career guidance as being relevant for all levels of education (Zelloth 2008). First evaluation results on the career education pilot are promising, and the Ministry of Education and Science has declared to expand this approach. In the Egyptian basic education, a subject matter named ‘Practical fields’ (2 h per week) is part of the education plan and compulsory from grade seven to grade nine. It aims at giving students a glance about fields other than the academic ones and to help them assess their own interest and capabilities as well as knowing about possible work opportunities. However, shortage of qualified teachers for this subject and the fact that many schools work in two daily shifts usually results in using these teaching hours for other purposes and academic classes (Badawi 2006). In Ukraine, ‘labour lessons’, in a separate subject ‘Occupations of Today’ from the 5th grade onwards and continuing from 9th to 11th grade (and 12th grade when the new structure of the school system becomes operational), may contain some elements of career guidance. However, the extent it is being applied in practice is not sufficient. Moreover, it is doubtful if the approach corresponds to a modern concept of empowering the individual by learning ‘career management skills’.
As the curriculum model or ‘career education’ is a relatively new but attractive concept for EU neighbouring countries, it is on the one hand on the rise, but on the other hand, it is too early to assess its impact on students and their future careers.
Like in many other countries, the curriculum model is complemented by other career guidance activities, such as invitations by universities to learn about their study offers and invitations by the public employment services to visit job placement or career fairs.
Conclusions and Implications for Apprenticeships
Demand Outweighs the Barriers
Overall, the drivers of demand for career guidance seem to outweigh the barriers and factors that speak against career guidance development. However, policymakers and policy designers are well advised to take into account the typical barriers and obstacles when shaping the career guidance services of their country. In particular they need to consider the specificities of the informal labour market (when developing career information) and the phenomenon of informal guidance (involving parents, peers). But they also need to pay more attention to transform policy into practice and to ensure sustainability of pilots and innovation in the system. One effective way is to integrate career guidance within wider reforms in education, VET and labour market as it can make these reforms more effective. For example, an education, VET or apprenticeships reform project could include the development of a career information system and the training of teachers and in-company trainers to include career guidance functions in their roles. Curriculum reform could go hand in hand with the piloting or introduction of career education or career management skills.
At the end, an approach which fosters demand-driven career guidance provision (through more systematic analysis of the real demand for services) instead of supply driven and an approach which aims to fit to the size and sociocultural circumstances of a country will be more likely successful.
A Common Set of Challenges: Access and Change of Delivery Model
Despite the different stages of development of EU neighbouring countries, they all face a set of common challenges in career guidance policy and practice. Amongst the most prominent ones are (a) to manage a substantial increase in the access to career guidance services for students and young people, in particular at key transition points between educational/training pathways and in the transition from school to work, and (b) to change the mode of delivery from the traditional psychological model to a rather pedagogical model (or at least ‘hybrid’ one) which takes better into account the labour market in general and its specificities in those countries.
If access levels do not reach a critical mass, it is likely that career guidance services will have little impact on the educational and occupational choices of entire generations of young people. A recent survey, conducted on behalf of City & Guilds (The Guardian 2011), showed that almost one in four young people in England gets no career advice and that this share is even higher for those taking apprenticeships (almost 30%). Despite that empirical research findings are not available for EU neighbouring countries, it is safe to say that access levels in these countries are even much lower. If the mode and models of delivery are not changed or adapted, it is likely that career guidance services will not be as relevant as they could be. This concerns also the policy options whether to choose a specialist solution or to allow as well for semi-specialists to become career guidance practitioners. Findings from an OECD paper (Watts 2009), for example, indicated that the academic background of guidance practitioners tends to favour academic over vocational options, despite the ‘impartiality’ principle of career guidance. This issue is reiterated by the OECD (2010) which recommends to ‘develop a coherent career guidance profession, independent from psychological counseling and well-informed by labor market information’. In many EU neighbouring countries, the traditional delivery mode, emphasising a psychological approach (‘testing and telling’), still prevails in career guidance practice. A more pedagogical approach which is closer to labour market reality (instead of ‘testing’ the individual to opt for ‘tasting’ the world of work and emphasis on career information provision) would be more relevant and powerful. The wordplay from ‘testing to tasting’ invented by the author some years ago even entered the EU’s latest policy on VET (European Commission 2010). The EU Communication on VET stressed that guidance should be redirected from a ‘testing to a tasting approach’, providing young people with an opportunity to get acquainted with different vocational trades and career possibilities. In this context, special attention needs to be paid to the issues of transitions, learning and gender equality.
Career Guidance Prior and Within Apprenticeships
As outlined before, there is a certain academic bias in society which is not supportive for VET options in general and for apprenticeships in particular. A study from Jordan revealed that parents are even discouraging their children from considering VET opportunities (Prisma Marketing & Communication 2010). The societal perception and bias that VET and apprenticeships is a pathway for not well-performing students and those in a particular economic situation is difficult to tackle. Therefore, the scope to expand and improve service provision both within apprenticeships and prior to apprenticeships is huge. The latter is even more important for the following reasons: If career guidance services prior to apprenticeships are not sufficiently developed, the potential for take-up of apprenticeship is likely more limited. At the same time, the trend of rediscovering apprenticeship is not adequately supported or even meets additional barriers through lack of information and career guidance services. If career guidance services within apprenticeships are not developed or even missing, the risk is higher that apprenticeships are implemented less efficiently in general. More specifically, that learning as well as mobility in apprenticeships is less supported. This can have a negative impact on both the quality of learning outcomes and the transition from apprenticeships to work. The double role career guidance can play as ‘change agent’ to improve current apprenticeships supply and as ‘eye opener’ to stimulate apprenticeships demand is not to be underestimated. Concluding, widening the access and shifting the mode of delivery towards a combination of the new career guidance paradigm (emphasis on career management skills, work ‘tasting’ and work experience) with resource-efficient approaches (career information, self-help) would likely contribute to improve school-to-work transitions. It might also better help to overcome stereotypes and barriers for choosing VET and apprenticeships as viable career options.
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