The international conference on lifelong guidance policy and practice, jointly organised by the Estonian EU Presidency, Foundation Innove and Cedefop as part of the first European guidance week (#EGW2017), brought over 200 experts in career services from 35 countries to Tallinn on 27 and 28 September.
Speaking on the first day, Cedefop Director James Calleja argued that ‘guidance, which is like oxygen to learners, must leave its natural home, the school, and penetrate workplaces; it must ride on the potential of ICT and must not lose its humanistic approach dealing with individuals on a one-to-one basis.'
In an age of technology and automation, career guidance is indispensable to the employability of both young people and older workers, said Mr Calleja.
He added that the Presidency theme ‘unity through balance’ when applied to career guidance assumes a worrying reality faced with at least three common imbalances: the imbalance between the weight of technology and the burden of unskilled potential, the weight of success against the burden of school failure or early leaving, and the potential of ICT and the burden of inaccessibility to information, especially on trends to future jobs and skills.
‘No skills equals no jobs,’ Mr Calleja affirmed. Therefore Cedefop’s contribution to career guidance is not only significant but also developing through various initiatives that provide policy-makers with valuable information and policies, such as Skills Panorama, the online toolkit for early leaving and the recently launched CareersNet, a new network to share best practice support in career guidance.
In his welcome speech, Estonian Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Education Mart Laidmets said that guidance plays an important role in reaching the Europe 2020 benchmarks. He added that, as all communication is moving to the internet, relevant services to the citizens, such as lifelong guidance, must make the most of this new reality.
Over 40 experts, researchers, hands-on specialists and policy-makers from across Europe made presentations and participated in discussions at the conference. Both days also featured workshops, aimed at identifying the most important lines of action.
Cedefop expert Stelina Chatzichistou presented Skills Panorama, the skills portal set up by the European Commission and powered by Cedefop, at the session on better career mobility and labour market functioning.
Call for action
In the conclusions presented by Mr Laidmets at the final session, which included six recommendations, it was stressed that 'development of ICT in guidance and e-governance provides an opportunity for the Member States and the EU to provide better access and coherence of the services to all citizens. Lifelong guidance needs to be repositioned across the policy fields at national and EU levels, in particular taking into account the future of work and in preparing citizens for scenarios of employment, underemployment or no employment in a segmented labour market.'
There was a call to the European Commission to 'take the lead in such repositioning and in developing an implementation strategy, taking into account the six recommendations of this Estonian Presidency conference, and using the EU guidelines for policies and systems development for lifelong guidance.'
According to Foundation Innove’s Margit Rammo, within the scope of the Presidency, this was another great opportunity for Estonia to draw more attention to e-solutions for career guidance because international cooperation is key and a source of inspiration for generating innovative solutions. ‘This entire event is one of the outcomes of international cooperation: although Estonia is presiding in the EU, it would not have been doable without our partners and counterparts from European networks,’ Ms Rammo said and listed the European Commission, Cedefop and University of Jyväskylä in Finland as major partners.
Cedefop guidance expert Pedro Moreno da Fonseca, who was in charge of the project on behalf of the agency, said of the need to organise a European guidance week: ‘This week of activities provided a unique opportunity for the guidance community to discuss ways to increase the relevance of its work to the ones who need it the most, such as the unemployed and the educationally disengaged. The potential of labour market intelligence (LMI) and ICT as elements to improve services to the citizen were key discussions. Cedefop’s tools to support the integration of LMI and ICT in guidance practices were piloted and results allow foreseeing good uptake and development. We also had positive reactions to CareersNet and the indication that its role in supporting peer learning and innovation will be successively achieved.’
In the framework of the week, Mr Moreno da Fonseca organised the first meeting of Cedefop’s new CareersNet network in Tallinn. EU Member States experts had the chance to exchange best practice in career guidance and come up with new ideas for cooperation. Addressing the participants, Cedefop Head of Department for Learning and Employability Antonio Ranieri underlined the fundamental role of experts in the network in increasing the quality of Cedefop’s research in lifelong guidance. He noted that CareersNet will decisively contribute to widening the contribution of this work in informing developments in other policy fields such as validation and adult learning.
The European guidance week events are part of the 2017 European vocational skills week (#EUVocationalSkils), which is organised by the European Commission with Cedefop as a partner.