Today everybody needs relevant competences to manage their working lives. Making informed choices and taking important decisions on education and employment is important not only in a transition phase (if moving from one education level to another or moving from school to the labour market) but throughout life.
In 2011, a national survey on career services was conducted in Estonia. Results showed that a large proportion of the population does not plan their careers consciously and consistently. Based on these conclusions, development of career services received new impetus to support better people’s readiness for making work and education-related choices. It is important to help those with insufficient education and those who have lost their jobs, as well as those facing difficulties in the labour market.
Survey results also confirm there is a significant need to put more emphasis on developing career planning skills during vocational education and training studies.
National vocational training curricula have been modernised over the past few years. Among other innovations, it is foreseen to support achievement of the learning outcome ‘the student understands his/her responsibility to make informed decisions in a lifelong career planning process.’ This means that career management is becoming an integral part of vocational education and training. In developing career planning skills in VET, focus is on self-analysis, how best to use professional skills in the labour market, how to keep and raise professional qualifications through continuous self-improvement, how to combine family life and work, and how to value health, etc. Currently, some VET schools are focusing on developing career studies, looking for answers to the following questions: how to plan career studies efficiently and effectively as part of the learning process, what methods to use, and how to assess acquisition and level of career competence. Development activities are coordinated by the national resource centre for guidance at Foundation Innove.
Many other vocational schools have also taken the initiative by implementing projects to ensure appropriate training for teachers who will be teaching career planning. Several Estonian vocational schools are looking for ways to include career studies as an elective module in school curricula. In addition, regional youth information and counselling centres are offering support to VET schools. Since 2009, youth information and counselling centres are obliged to provide career services for VET students. As the number of career consultants is currently very low, centres mainly provide counselling for school graduates. In 2011, career services were offered about 50 000 times (for about 10% of vocational school students). The number of participants from vocational schools is expected to increase in coming years.
In summary, vocational schools are steadily changing to become learning environments that, in addition to professional skills, also offer support in developing skills for career planning for an increasing number of people.