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Career guidance: current coronavirus challenges and the road ahead

The challenges to career guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the role career guidance might play during the turbulent years ahead, were highlighted on 17 February during a webinar that discussed the recently published report on an international survey.

The flash international survey, with 963 responses from 93 countries, was coordinated by Cedefop and conducted in partnership with six other organisations: the European Commission, European Training Foundation (ETF), the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy (ICCDPP), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UNESCO.

During the webinar, organised by ILO and UNESCO with input from all survey partners, policy-makers, social partners, career guidance practitioners and service managers had the opportunity to exchange knowledge, experiences and practices in an effort to understand how to address issues raised in the report, support recovery efforts and enable long-term system improvements.

Survey findings

Cedefop expert Ernesto Villalba and Jaana Kettunen, Vice-Director, Finnish Institute for Educational Research and CareersNet expert, presented the main survey findings:

  • Respondents were split over whether policy had paid specific attention to career guidance or had just treated it as part of the general response to the pandemic.
  • They reported that cooperation increased among different actors, such as stakeholders and career practitioners in professional and peer networks. In addition, 54% agreed that multi-professional approaches involving different services and relevant professionals were employed more frequently.
  • As expected, the provision and operation of guidance services was already transferred mainly online, and services were adapted with remarkable success to ensure a certain level of operation. Many provisions and activities, however, were reduced or discontinued during the early stages. However, 56% of respondents agreed that support for professionals to cope with the new, changed or adapted delivery modes was lacking.
  • During the first stages of the pandemic demand appeared to have increased in relation to LMI, job-search assistance, education, training, and reskilling opportunities. Uncertainty was reflected in responses pertaining to the needs of students and final-year students (and parents/guardians), apprentices and the newly unemployed. Low-qualified, low-income workers, and workers at risk in vulnerable sectors were noted as groups with lower demand and traditionally lack of access to services, along with platform workers, refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Career guidance can contribute to repairing our societies in specific ways: efficient investment in education, skills development, labour market efficiency and social inclusion. Given the uncertainty created by the pandemic, individualised guidance solutions are in need, while access issues ought to be solved so that people who are at an increased disadvantage can benefit and learn new skills.

The critical nature of these issues at the current juncture was underlined by Borhene Chakroun, Director, UNESCO Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems Division, who pointed to the crucial questions that policy designers should be concerned with: how effective the career guidance initiatives are and how technology is affecting education.

Looking ahead

The panel session included public sector representatives from education and employment, social partners, and the voice of practitioners, guidance professionals and young people. The views heard included those from Estonia, Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, Canada and Lebanon. Panellists discussed challenges and the role of guidance in different policy areas, from their vantage points, oriented to current and future solutions.

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Sangheon Lee, Director, ILO Employment Policy Department, rounded up the discussion on the survey findings with a few pointers on how career guidance services could be improved:

  • The pandemic is an opportunity for governments and stakeholders to pay further attention to and rethink career guidance provision from a systemic perspective and reform.
  • Access and outreach need to be an integral part of policy on career guidance, particularly for those in less favourable positions who need holistic support, with a focus on digital services.
  • Education has been severely disrupted, so there needs to be strong and high-impact youth support. Young people need opportunities to access experiences in the world of work, to understand the benefits of vocational education and training linked to quality, decent employment.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated trends driven by technological change and more workers will need to upskill and reskill to be redeployed in other functions or move jobs. Providing integrated learning pathways and access to financial resources, validation of skills and job-search support can aid careers and transition challenges.
  • International cooperation can play an enabling role in improving what career guidance services and careers learning can offer.