A second important field of work at the moment is on “Upskilling Pathways”, where Member States have committed to reaching out to the lowest skilled adults, those who don’t have an upper secondary qualification, to give them the opportunity to develop three basic skills: literacy, numeracy, and digital. Guidance plays a crucial role; based on an assessment of what a person knows and can do, a tailored learning offer can be made. And in many cases, an opportunity to have the skills recognised and to take them further on the learning pathway. All Member States have reported on measures so far, and the Commission in the first quarter of next year will draw those experiences together in a synthesis report.
Finally, guidance is of course essential to integrating refugees and migrants into the labour market and indeed society more widely. Professional guidance is a key to successful integration. The Commission has designed an online “skills profile tool for third country nationals”, for use by guidance practitioners, reception centres, or any other body in dialogue with refugees and migrants. It’s based on very practical questions, to get behind the typical lack of formal qualifications: have you cared for older people or children, can you drive a vehicle, do you have cooking skills? One small part of the pathway towards integration, but we hope a useful and practical tool in the hands of guidance practitioners.
All of this is helping to put into practice what we call the European Pillar of Social Rights, a set of 20 principles for fair and well-functioning labour markets and social protection systems, proclaimed by Heads of State and Government last year at the EU Social Summit. For the guidance community, it’s interesting to see that the very first of these 20 principles is the right to access good quality lifelong learning, education and training. Another principle clearly states that people have the right to active assistance, support and advice during labour market transitions. That’s one of our headline topics today: whether you’re low, medium or high skilled, guidance helps find the best step forward.
So on the policy front we can see that guidance is a red thread running through EU employment and social initiatives. But how far are we with guidance in practice? Here the picture is more nuanced. My second message would be that guidance still has some way to go to reach its potential. To put into action the principles of the Social Pillar, there’s still some path to cover.
In a recent Eurobarometer survey, more than 60% of people agreed that guidance is definitely useful for finding a job, and 70% thought useful for identifying further learning. But only one in four people had actually used a guidance service, typically those on a higher education pathway and usually while they were still in formal education and training. And that really is the challenge to crack: bringing guidance out of the classroom into all life stages and places.
So what can we do to move forward? I would highlight three fields of work, all of which are underway, and in which we have scope to do more:
- One is information, a better understanding of policies and practices both nationally and at European level.
- Another is collaboration, opportunities to understand, adapt and adopt policies and practices for different circumstances.
- And thirdly, practical tools, ideally with funding attached, which make a difference in building up guidance practices and reaching out to different communities.
Guidance is clearly a field of national competence, where responsibility is in the hands of Member State governments and stakeholders. But at EU level we have solid experience of how we can work together to move things forward.
- Last year we celebrated 25 years of the Euroguidance network supporting learning mobility and developing cooperation across Europe.
- The ELGPN, the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network, has generated very practical guidelines based on deep expertise and exchange between experts.
- The Commission will next year launch a study looking specifically at how guidance can evolve to support labour market transitions. We want to better understand some of the new trends and technologies which are being used and draw conclusions for future cooperation at European level.
- CEDEFOP colleagues are facilitating a new network of national guidance experts, “CareersNet”, with a view to gathering up-to-date data.
- And we are discussing and designing with Member States and stakeholders the new Europass. Europass is already a well visited site, with 2 million visitors per month. But technology has dramatically evolved since its launch. By the end of next year, we aim to launch a new Europass with more modern tools, including links which steer users to guidance services at national level. We also want to better integrate skills intelligence into Europass. Guidance practitioners and citizens should be able to understand the latest skills trends and forecasts in their field of interest.
- Finally, we are looking forward to the next generation of Erasmus. In the Commission’s proposal for the future EU budget, the new “investing in people” strand brings together programmes including Erasmus and the European Social Fund, accompanied by ambitious budgets. The Commission’s proposal for the future ESF budget is around 100 billion, and for Erasmus around 30 billion: a doubling compared to today. Whether mobility actions, policy experimentation, or partnerships across borders, you will find opportunities to test out and develop new approaches and learn across borders.
In conclusion, I very much welcome the thematic focus of this conference. This is an interesting time to be thinking about the role of guidance in a fluid labour market and fast-changing society. Technology brings challenges, but also a lot of opportunities in terms of how we design and deliver guidance, the way that we can reach people and tailor information to their specific needs.
So that is the challenge and the opportunity that we face: designing a guidance offer for very diverse citizens at very different stages of their lives, both lifelong and lifewide. Together with my Commission colleagues, I’m looking forward to continuing our work together on that. Thank you again to the Euroguidance and Austrian hosts and organisers, it is always a pleasure to work with you whether Brussels or here in Vienna!
Alison Crabb, working in the European Commission since 1999, currently heads the Skills and Qualifications Unit in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Her team is working with Member States, social partners and other stakeholders to improve skills development and skills intelligence for better career choices, and to make skills and qualifications more visible and comparable.