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close this bookTechnical and Vocational Education and Training in the 21st Century: New Roles and Challenges for Guidance and Counselling (IAC - IAEVG - UNESCO, 2002, 149 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction: Counselling and Guidance: International Perspectives, Hans Hoxte
View the documentChapter 1: Understanding the Context of Technical and Vocational Education and Training - William Borgen, Bryan Hiebert
View the documentChapter 2: Building Community Capacity - Diana Aisensen, Lynne Bezanson, Flo Frank, Phyllis Reardon*
View the documentChapter 3: Career Guidance and Counselling for Lifelong Learning in a Global Economy - Raoul Van Esbroeck
View the documentChapter 4: Basic Education and TVET - Howard B. Esbin, PhD
View the documentChapter 5: Reaching Marginalized People: Linking Skills Training and the World of Work - John Grierson, James Schnurr, Craig Young
View the documentChapter 6: Workplace Wellness and Worker Well-Being - Norman Amundson, Jeff Morley
View the documentChapter 7: Building Positive Work Habits and Attitudes - Mary McMahon, Wendy Patton
View the documentChapter 8: Where to from Here? Guidance and Counselling Connecting with TVET - Bryan Hiebert, William Borgen
View the documentBack Cover

Chapter 3: Career Guidance and Counselling for Lifelong Learning in a Global Economy - Raoul Van Esbroeck

Economic globalization has led to a process of creation and migration of new products and service organizations which knows no boundaries, often bringing in its wake new organizational cultures and managerial styles that differ markedly from local traditions. Frequently the indigenous culture moulds the new organization to bring it closer to local practices, creating in the process a business culture that differs from that of the parent organization. Sometimes the local organizational cultures can find themselves changing in order to accommodate the business practices of their new players.

Regardless of the direction these adaptations take, economic globalization often results in significant changes to local business practices, with ripple effects in society at large. For instance, the increased participation of women in the labour market can effect fundamental changes in gender interactions and traditional gender roles. In some cultures, the fact that women can earn money, have more economic independence than previously, and perhaps even hold more stable jobs than men will change the relationship between the sexes. This may lead to tensions and confrontations, especially in the initial stages of the adaptation process.

Economic globalization is often also accompanied by considerable emigration and immigration of workers at regional and international levels. This often leads to new minority cultures appearing alongside a majority culture. In some cases the minority cultures belong to the dominant economic power, in other cases the minority culture is itself dominant. In either case, there is a potential for further confrontations, tensions, and conflicts. Though openness to and recognition and respect for different cultures are growing, many individuals find dealing with new cultures, with all their differences, quite a challenge. Interactions with new cultures often trigger a process of cultural identity development: some people will identify with the new culture and reject their own origins, while others will identify more strongly with their origins and respond negatively to the other culture.

These different types of cultural identity development will influence the career behaviour of individuals (Leong & Serafica, 2001). Indeed, the conflict of cultures triggered by economic development, changed work environments, and human and organizational immigration produces a need to re-examine interests, values and expectations, which although individually defined are strongly influenced by cultural environments. The values and expectations of individuals having been reviewed, new values, new interests and new expectations will develop. Although these developments may occur first in the work environment, they will quickly begin to influence non-work-related life-roles, such as family roles and gender interactions.

In order to prepare individuals for this more diverse society, many efforts are being made to expose adolescents and young adults to new cultures. Modern audio-visual technologies provide increased awareness of different cultures with different value systems. In some countries, programmes organizing study or work abroad provide first-hand experience of other cultures. At the moment such opportunities are available to a very small proportion of the world’s population. But there is increasing awareness among policy-makers, and those population groups that will provide the leaders of the future, that economic globalization is a fast-growing process, which will result in large parts of the world population coming into contact with new cultures in the coming years and being strongly influenced by those encounters.

Lifelong learning

Globalization is taking place in a new economic and social context (Grantham, 2000; Mayor, 1999). New technologies are being introduced, changing traditional production processes and labour relations. New communication and transport systems offer the possibility of locating production processes in different environments and spreading new skills and knowledge all over the world. These changes frequently lead to the disappearance of traditional economic patterns and social relations. Stability and predictability are decreasing and to some extent even disappearing.

Many facing these changes as they build their lives may have acquired skills and knowledge that are no longer adequate to deal with the new situations in which they find themselves. Adults may also need to update their skills and knowledge. One persistent problem, however, is to make people aware of this situation and of the need for change. In traditional environments, there may not be many precedents for a need for change or incentives to engage in the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge. Young people may be more open to the idea of change, because they have more opportunity, through schooling and other communication systems, to become aware of the changes and of the need to adapt.

The problem for young people remains the unpredictability of the type of adjustment required to address the changes. Short-and medium-term changes may be somewhat predictable. Schools may even be helping prepare young people for such changes. But long-term changes are more unpredictable, except for the fact that they will occur. Schools, and even institutions of higher education, are unable to give adolescents skills and knowledge that they will need for the rest of their lives. The only solution is to help make young people aware that life will be full of changes and that all of them will require preparation. Preparing to take these changes in one’s stride is only possible through lifelong learning.

The changing nature of society today will require a constant updating of skills and knowledge through a flexible process of lifelong learning. The learning system must mirror the flexibility of economic and societal developments. Flexible lifelong learning will take place not only within the education system, but also elsewhere. Learning on the job and in other forms of work (including non-remunerated work activities), should count towards qualifications and be recognized as part of the lifelong learning process.

Every individual will need not just to realize the necessity of lifelong learning, but also to have access to it. Local, national and international authorities must motivate all citizens to participate in the process of lifelong learning and make it available to all, without exception. Lifelong learning must become a fundamental right for all, in exactly the same way as basic education is a fundamental right for all.

Special attention needs to be given to those population groups that are most at risk. In particular, those whose experience of basic education was not successful should receive special attention in order to facilitate their engagement with the lifelong learning process. The increasing need for updating and improvement of skills and knowledge in a global economy means that no country or region can afford to ignore the special attention those most at risk required without jeopardizing its overall level of development. All will need a lifelong learning perspective in order to deal with the changes they will face successfully. Lifelong learning thus needs to be accessible to all, regardless of individual circumstances.

Lifelong career guidance for lifelong learning

Making people aware of the necessity of lifelong learning and making a flexible lifelong learning system available are important. However, lifelong career guidance and counselling will be essential in order to make the system work. Without lifelong career counselling and guidance, there is a risk that many individuals will respond in a reactive rather than a proactive way to the changes they face. They will focus on survival and overcoming narrowly-targeted problems, rather than on development and planning for the future. The main focus of a lifelong learning process is not to overcome particular problems, but to help individuals develop in a manner that allows them to set developmental tracks that can respond to changes and new developments.

The concept of lifelong development is the key to a lifelong learning system. The lifelong development of an individual is now generally recognized (Levinson, 1978, 1996; Super, Savickas & Super, 1996). In industrialized countries, this development is frequently divided into stages, which are each characterized by specific interests, values, activities and behaviours. In adulthood these stages are often related to work roles, and in the context of a growing global economy, work roles cannot be separated from learning roles.

Adult development can be characterized by periods of transition preceded by an unstable growth period and followed by a period of stability, the length of both of which will differ from one country to another. The content of, and issues to be addressed in, these periods of instability and stability will also differ from one culture to another. For example, in some cultures children move very quickly from childhood into early adulthood and their career entry stage starts earlier in their chronological development than in other cultures. Similarly, in some regions elderly people continue to live an active life and to hold leading positions in their work place and their communities. For these people, it makes little sense to talk about retirement in the usual sense of the word.

This more fluid view of the lifelong developmental process will have an important impact on career development. Career development cannot be predicted in general. It will become a more individual process, influenced by environmental developments, but forged to a large extent by individuals who have been empowered with the necessary skills and knowledge. This is exactly the role that career guidance and counselling must play. Their main role is not just to help people to acquire the skills and knowledge required to deal with change, but first to help them to discover what skills and knowledge are needed and then to help them determine how, where and when they can be acquired and also how to implement them in a proactive and well-planned manner.

At each stage of their development, individuals may need support. Some may need assistance to cope with the challenges of that particular stage. Others may need support to overcome the barriers preventing them from bringing one developmental stage to a successful conclusion and entering the next. Some will need extensive individual career guidance or counselling, which in some situations will need to go beyond personal support to include intervention with the family, extended family, workplace or the broader community. Some periods, such as childhood and adolescence, are recognized world-wide as stages which are crucial to later career development and during which most people might benefit from career guidance (Isaacson & Brown, 2000). For children and adolescents in the education system, career development support systems are available in most countries, though considerable discrepancies exist in the type of services available. However, for those not in the formal education system, and for adults in a work force fraught with rapid and often unpredictable change, assistance is often sparse. Although more facilities to give support to these groups are being developed, they are in general less widely available than support systems for young people still in the education system.

When career guidance and counselling services are available for adults, they are often geared to particular groups. For example, services for people with disabilities, socio-economically deprived groups, minority groups, and particular age groups are far more readily available than services for middle class groups belonging to a majority culture. This reflects beyond any doubt a rightful priority, because the former have problems that are more serious and more obvious, and they often do not possess the necessary resources and skills to surmount barriers on their own. Also, members of the kind of group cited above often have less access to information on changes and are less able to understand and predict future developments. In a context of global economic development, these groups may need even more support than is available at the moment.

This situation becomes problematic when one considers that resources for career guidance and counselling are often limited and sometimes even declining. Pressure on resources may tempt decision-makers to restrict support for some special populations and discontinue the already meagre services provided for the rest of the population. In a predictable and stable society this could be more or less accepted. Indeed, in modern society there often were people with enough insight into societal trends to develop an informal support system that was adequate to help people cope with career concerns. However, in post-modern society this is no longer the case. New global developments are leading to rapid and unexpected changes which are unpredictable even for those who formerly had the experience, knowledge and insight to cope adequately. Informal systems that worked in the past may no longer be adequate, in fact, they may even be counterproductive, as informal career support and guidance is often based on experience acquired in an outdated environment. The new situation may not be understood, still less accepted, by those who have traditionally held influential positions in communities.

In order to facilitate the development of all citizens, lifelong learning must be available to all, and in particular to those most at risk. Lifelong career guidance and counselling must also be available to all, to those in the mainstream culture as well as to those who belong to special groups. To limit access to, and the availability of, career counselling and guidance would be disastrous for large segments of society. More than ever before, large groups of citizens, and not just limited target populations, will need support throughout their career development. Countries that make high-quality career guidance and counselling services available to all, and have clear structures for receiving feedback from those services, are the only ones likely to be able to deal successfully with a rapidly changing future.

Lifelong career guidance and counselling: A segmented support system

In many countries, career guidance and counselling support is frequently organized for specific groups (the socio-economically deprived, the unemployed, minorities), related to specific life roles (worker, learner, leisured), or for specific purposes (e.g., personal problems, career choice, studies). The usefulness of this approach is debatable because people tend not to divide their problems into categories that match this way of organizing services. For example, membership of a group is often temporary. People who are unemployed may find work and, when they do, discover that the agency providing guidance and counselling while they were unemployed can no longer offer support to help them integrate into their new work environment, even though they are still experiencing many of the same problems. Similarly, a person may present a career choice problem, but upon examination it becomes clear that the problem is connected to personality issues. The agency that helps with career choice problems may not have the expertise or the mandate to help this person with their personality problem. In both examples, a more integrated type of service would be useful.

Currently, career guidance and counselling is more readily available at specific times of transition (for example the end of the schooling period) or in crisis situations (for example during a long period of unemployment). But a host of other situations also require services. In many countries a homemaker wishing to re-enter the labour market would have difficulty accessing services to assist with that transition. Similarly, people with a normal career path who have no serious problem but who wish to rethink their career/life project may have difficulty accessing services to assist them in that situation. The French system of the bilan de compétences (skills review) remains an exception, although even in its country of origin fewer people have recourse to it than one would expect.

The segregation of guidance and counselling services can be traced back to several historical factors. Typically, services were developed in response to needs that arose at a given moment for specific groups and related to specific economic or general social situations. These services were created and financed by government departments, trade unions, private enterprise or voluntary welfare organizations. Their mission was narrowly defined, often in relation to the presenting problem and the organization that created it. For example, departments of employment saw it as their role to help the unemployed to find an appropriate job. Education ministries considered it their responsibility to give educational and vocational guidance and counselling to those in the school system, and sometimes even helping them with the transition to the labour market. Public health departments considered personal guidance and counselling to be their responsibility. This led to a situation where all these services typically existed independently from each other, each dealing with just one part of the larger problem the individual was facing.

One major problem with segregated approaches to service delivery is thus that agencies do not deal with the client’s problem as a whole. Client problems tend to be complex these days, and to receive assistance clients may need to commute between services, with little assurance that they will receive appropriate support. Some might argue that lifelong career guidance and counselling can be obtained through a wide range of specialized services, each of them targeting specific population groups. If they are taken together, they can cover any problem that any individual can face at any stage. However, even in such a system, the problems people face during their development will not always match the services available in every situation and development stage. This often makes it impossible for people to receive the services they need.

Lifelong learning is one of the areas that may require a single support system that can deal with a complex mix of influences rather than a highly segregated system. This is precisely why it is an essential focus for those providing career development services. An adult worker realizing that it may be necessary to re-enter a learning situation will be facing a complex process before a decision can be made. This person may need support with self-assessment or with the exploration of educational options and labour market requirements. He or she may need help in understanding how to cope with the different life roles that will be created by the transition or how to deal with the financial aspects of the various options being considered. The kind of support needed may require the intervention of a whole series of specialists, which, in a fragmented career guidance and counselling system, is not likely to be found in one service. There is a need for a new approach to provide clients with the services they require.

A holistic guidance and counselling system for lifelong learning

A holistic career guidance and counselling model (Van Esbroeck, 1997) is needed to satisfy the need for lifelong guidance. This model would put the person, rather than the presenting problem, at the centre of the support provided. The problem would be seen as one aspect of the person, in conjunction with other aspects and the environments in which the person is operating. Rather than limiting career guidance and counselling to narrow interventions such as career choice or job placement, a holistic career guidance and counselling approach is open to other fields, such as personal guidance and counselling (for personal, health, and social issues) and educational guidance and counselling (for learner support and educational choice). All service providers in the support system should be aware of the possible connections between career issues and other aspects of the person or the environment that may require input from other fields of guidance and counselling.

Within this holistic service model, three levels of services might be offered. The first level would be offered by people who have close, regular contact with the person seeking assistance, for example teachers in a school system or supervisors in a work environment. These persons are easily accessible and often hold positions of confidence. They should have the insight to detect possible problems and their role would consist of clarifying the nature of the problem and referring to appropriate services. Their intervention should be limited to information-giving, advising, teaching, and referral, although in some cases advocacy and follow-up could be included. People working at this level should be able to deal with problems requiring personal, career, and educational guidance, and must approach the person seeking assistance in a holistic manner, taking into account the totality of the person and his or her situation.

The second level of service would be a structured guidance and counselling system, operating within, or closely related to, the organization or environment to which the person seeking assistance belongs. The service providers at this level would be considered as internal specialists who may be, to some extent, involved in other activities within the organization. This level of support would still be easily accessible by those seeking assistance. The service providers at this level may specialize in a specific field of counselling or guidance, but they should have an open mind to, and understanding of, other fields of guidance and counselling pertinent to presenting problems that frequently occur. The key concerns at this level of service would be: prevention and developmental programmes, diagnosis, and individual or group guidance or counselling to address the concerns of those seeking assistance.

The third level of service would involve highly specialized service providers who would most often have no direct contact with the person seeking assistance but work in specialized services independent of the environment of the person seeking assistance, for example a person specializing in working with schoolchildren who is totally independent of the schooling system. Referrals to this level would be made by those operating at the first or second level of service. The key components of service at this level would involve a differentiated diagnosis followed by counselling and/or therapeutic interventions. Support to other guidance service providers would also be included in this level of service. Service providers at this level could limit their activity to a narrow field, addressing only those aspects of the total situation that were connected to, or affected, the problem they are trying to address.

A holistic approach to guidance and counselling services has the potential to resolve many of the problems associated with the fragmented approach. However, it only addresses part of the structural problems. For example, a service working according to the holistic model could still labour under restrictions imposed by a funding authority.

A one-stop-shop for lifelong career guidance and counselling

One question remaining is how to avoid fragmenting lifelong guidance and counselling services. One possibility could be to create “one-stop-shops” for career guidance and counselling services. Watts, Guichard, Plant and Rodriguez (1994) refer in their survey report to what they call “joint bases” as a system of cross-fertilization and integration “where different guidance professionals can work together” (p. 77). One-stop services could be defined, on this basis, as services offering career guidance and counselling support with a holistic approach throughout the entire life span.

To ensure maximum usefulness, a general framework for the development of such services would need to take several guiding principles into account.

1. The creation of career guidance and counselling centres could be a community service, adopting a holistic approach and open to all. These services could be set up in two ways. New services could be developed if no other services already exist. Alternatively, existing services could be encouraged to amalgamate into a one-stop system or, as an intermediate step, to develop networks of related personal and educational guidance services. The goal of this operation would be the pooling of expertise and resources.

2. These community services could be non-profit agencies, subsidized by public authorities at the national, regional and/or local level.

3. The development of “one-stop-shop” services would require cooperation between several public authorities, such as ministries/departments of education, employment, welfare and health, as well as cooperation between national and other levels of government. The services would work for all public departments, including educational institutions, at all levels.

4. These services would be able to contract specific support activities out to the private sector, at competitive rates. This could include the development of guidance programmes for employees of private sector organizations, or support for employees in their individual career management.

5. All stakeholders (employers, employees, the unemployed, public authorities, and the community in general) should be involved in the creation and management of these services.

6. Recognizing that a good deal of support is sought and found through informal channels, the one-stop centres should connect with local associations, volunteer groups and traditional extended family structures, and help them to become key agents in developing and implementing comprehensive career guidance services. Guidance and counselling services should be linked to these familiar settings, which could make it easier to seek assistance and improve access for disadvantaged groups.

One difficulty in developing comprehensive one-stop services would be the effectiveness of communication between existing services and the measures required to motivate them to work together in a new framework. Funding authorities could also be a major obstacle if they saw themselves as having exclusive control over the mission and the day-to-day process of service delivery. For the system to work well, agencies and funding authorities would need to be able to see themselves as partners in a larger consortium that represents the entire community, working together to address the needs of the people they serve more successfully.


Economic globalization is having a major impact, changing work environments, undermining certainties, and creating a more culturally diverse work world that makes flexibility and openness a condition of success. To respond appropriately to this transition, large groups of the population will need to receive preparation different from that currently on offer. A process of developing awareness and motivating people to prepare for these changes may be needed. A system of re-schooling and continuing education, as part of a process of lifelong learning, is the only possible answer to this new situation. To support and steer the lifelong learning process, lifelong career guidance and counselling will be needed. Present support systems do not meet these needs because they are too fragmented, too narrowly focused on certain specific problems, and in general too problem-oriented. A new career guidance approach, based on a holistic model and a “one-stop-shop” delivery system, could be an effective way of dealing with the needs of the community.

This approach, however, will require a fundamental revision of the present system. The authorities in charge of organizing and financing career guidance and counselling services will need to revise their strategic thinking. The existence of a traditional approach, and of the system that supports it, will be a major barrier to the introduction of a new system. National, regional and local authorities may need incentives and support from international organizations in order to revise their traditional approaches. The role of international organizations such as UNESCO, ILO and the World Bank could be decisive in stimulating these new developments. They should, however, always bear in mind that their role should remain complementary and supportive, and that they should work with local infrastructures and respect existing national educational and guidance and counselling systems in order to produce an implementation plan that makes sense and is workable.

How important their role could be, but also how difficult it is for it to reach a successful conclusion, is illustrated by what has already been achieved by the European Commission (see Hodgson, 2000). In 1992 the European Commission began to create transnational programmes to stimulate and finance the development of a number of training activities. The resources allotted to these programmes were considerable. For example, the first Leonardo da Vinci programme, which ran from 1995 to 1999, was allocated 620 million euro of available funding, and is funding some 750 transnational projects relating to lifelong learning. The European Year of Lifelong Learning in 1996 was one of the more visible actions taken to encourage understanding and recognition of the importance of lifelong learning. Though it is difficult to assess the precise impact of these programmes - and in fact little effort has been made to do so - it seems that the idea of lifelong learning has been accepted by European public opinion and its importance recognized. In almost all Member States of the European Union, national models and policies for lifelong learning have been developed. Obviously there is still a substantial degree of national diversity. Some of the models were strongly market-driven (as in the United Kingdom) while others continued to adopt a social partnership approach (as in Germany). All these efforts, however, were concentrated on three main areas: initial vocational training, continuing vocational training, and lifelong learning.

Career guidance and counselling was only a peripheral concern in most of these European Union programmes. However, some projects relating to the provision of information were carried out under the Leonardo programme. One such project concerned the European network of National Resource Centres for Vocational Guidance (NRCVG). This network aims to create a channel for information and advice on education within each of the participating countries (which include European Union Member States and also States which have applied for membership) and on possibilities for study abroad. These centres play a leading role in the development of educational guidance, particularly in the countries of Eastern Europe. Other national initiatives, such as the Liaison Offices (Grafia Diasindesis) in Greece, which were intended to strengthen national guidance provision, also received European Union support.

There was little mention of guidance and counselling in the EU’s Council Decision of 26 April 1999 (1999/382/EC) concerning the second phase of the Leonardo programme. However, this is changing. The importance of guidance and counselling was recognized in October 2000 in the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning (European Commission, 2000). One of the five key messages of the Memorandum was entitled Rethinking guidance and counselling. The fundamental ideas behind the key message in this section of the memorandum are inspired by:

· a holistic guidance and counselling model, suggesting that guidance services should abandon the distinction between educational, vocational and personal guidance and counselling, and move to a “holistic” style of service provision; and

· a lifelong guidance and counselling model, reflected in the idea that guidance and counselling must be continuously accessible to accompany individuals on their journey through life.

The concept of a “one-stop-shop” approach is supported in the recommended model, which involves locally accessible and firmly linked networks of services and the pooling of expertise. The message on guidance and counselling contained in the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning is being followed up by making resources available in 2001 to set up experimental local guidance and counselling networks that would adopt a holistic, one-stop approach. This project should be implemented from 2002 onwards.

Similar examples of good practice in relation to lifelong learning and lifelong guidance and counselling are certainly to be found in other regions. Reference could be made, for example, to the National Program on Non-collegiate Sponsored Instruction and Credit (PONSI), a project in the United States on the crediting of nontraditional learning and in Canada, which serves as a one-stop-shopping site for jobs and career information. The main characteristic of all these projects is that they involve many actors at local, national and international level who come from a variety of economic and social backgrounds


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