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Policy recommendations for ICT based practices
This Handbook of Transferability Practices was created in the context of a wider study funded and guided by Cedefop (Developing Information Technologies and Labour Market Information in Lifelong Guidance; AO/DLE/PMDFON/ICT_and_LMI_in_Guidance/010/15) that aims to promote knowledge building and exchange on ICT and LMI usage between managers and practitioners in the field of career guidance and counselling across Europe. During the fieldwork research conducted and the synthesis process that followed, several interesting conclusions were drawn, a selection of which is presented hereunder:
- Reaping the benefits of ICT-based innovation in career guidance usually requires a comprehensive innovation strategy, one that encompasses technology innovation and process innovation at the same time. Albeit the positive potentials generally provided by ICT solutions for career guidance delivery are frequently alluded to in the literature, the evidence base on impacts achieved by ICT-based innovation in this field has remained largely rather up to now. Against this background, a challenge for policymaking in this domain is to separate the ‘hype’ from the reality. On the surface at least, many of the innovations in this field appear ‘self-evidently’ to have a high utility value for generally meeting the needs of those seeking guidance and those providing relevant services respectively. This can sometimes lead to a tendency to see the problem as one of only needing to spread the message that the deployment of ICT based tools and services need to take-off. The reality, in fact, seems more complex – even in cases where there has long been awareness of what ICTs can offer, full embedding and mainstreaming of current ICT-based solutions often required a preserving effort over years. The evidence available from the 25 case studies suggests that different aspects deserve attention in this context.
- High level of collaboration with stakeholders is key to initiatives success. The cases that aimed at the support of all primary stakeholders, and most importantly managed to engage them from the conception and design of a tool, achieved to ensure a proper design and promotion of the use of the initiative not only among the end-users but also the intermediaries, i.e. guidance counsellors, school teachers, etc.
- A detailed understanding of the current service processes, priorities and future direction of all stakeholders to be involved in guidance delivery should be obtained prior to decision making on introducing new ICT. Depending on the local context, there may be different motivations for introducing new ICT solutions to existing career guidance processes. In some cases, ICT-based services innovation may be driven by the desire to achieve rationalisation effects, e.g. due to the over-burdening of financial or other resources available for guidance delivery. Or they may be driven by a high-level strategic review of organisational priorities, e.g. suggesting a need for improving the effectiveness of existing guidance practices. The effort required for acquiring a-priory knowledge concerning the ICT-supported guidance interventions envisaged, how these are envisaged to be delivered, and their potential impact on current service delivery should not be underestimated.
- Awareness raising and promotion based on evidence that demonstrate the benefits of ICT in lifelong guidance practices is vital. Lack of awareness and misconceptions about digital career guidance services and tools can hinder their successful adoption and mainstream use in national lifelong guidance systems. To sidestep such potential disablers, efficacious practices of ICT integration in career guidance services utilise evidence-based awareness raising and promotion efforts to spread the word about their benefits, gain the early buy-in of stakeholders and eventually foster their widespread adoption and use in practice.
- Empowerment of career guidance practitioners and, in general, people who provide guidance services or guidance support, such as parents or teachers is also crucial. Comprehensive information on the employability from diverse and alternative pathways together with information on the actual work environments and career development possibilities of several occupations can facilitate, particularly young people, to make informed choices about their future employment and education prospects. Since parents and teachers play a cornerstone role in this process, appropriate information should be communicated to and via them.
- The user-driven design of a practice significantly increases the chances for a successful and effective application of a tool. Portals that did not require advanced IT literacy skills by its end-users, and where characterised by simplicity and user-friendliness were usually largely taken-up by the respective end-users. This element is of importance when the tools aim to address vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, third-age people, etc. A strictly user-centred presentation approach towards presenting digital information and tools can enable clients to make better use of labour market information and related tools generally available to them. This may enable a larger share of the overall client base to rely on a ‘self-service’ approach when it comes to personal career development.
- Going digital requires a sensible strategy towards ensuring inclusive guidance service: The persisting trend towards the increasing use of ICT - particularly among young people - presents opportunities for widening access to LLG services to a broader client population. At the same time, this trend presents opportunities for more flexibly responding to individual client’s needs. The evidence collated for the purposes of the current study suggests that many organisations providing guidance services have therefore started to develop multi-channel strategies, in terms of enabling effective self-service as demanded by the users rather than in terms of pushing everybody online. The wider debate around the digital divide has highlighted different levels of exclusion potentially faced by sections of the overall population as more and more services - be it public ones or commercial ones - are going to be provided by means of online media.
- Further improvement of the European evidence base on impacts of ICT-supported career guidance. The evidence base on impacts achieved by LMI/ICT supported guidance practices has remained largely scatted yet, and robust evaluation data can rarely be found. There may be merit in augmenting the contribution the current study is able to make in building up a European evidence base with further steps into this direction, with a view to supporting evidence based policy development in this field on an ongoing basis. Thus, a European level effort, e.g. driven by Cedefop, could play an important role in supporting what could be termed as ‘informed’ dialogue on the impacts of LMI/ICT supported career guidance. ‘Informed’ in this context refers to discussion and opinion forming that is based on information and concrete experience rather than conjecture. The evidence base and analysis provided by the current study could provide the raw material for this, but a parallel and follow-up line of activity could be pursued to actively support existing dialogue and opinion forming fora and processes.
 The literature review conducted in the framework of this study has for instance revealed that robust evaluation data on impacts of ICT-based service delivery in career guidance can seldomly be found.