Slovenia joined the process of implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) at the end of 2012. At first we developed a promotional campaign, called the Learning Parade – Days of learning communities (external link) (2013-2015), which drew significant attention to 21 Slovenian cities. Now, this approach has become a component of the Lifelong Learning Week (LLW (external link)). In 2015 we systematically introduced the EAAL E Promoting Adult Skills (PAS) events (external link) for promoting the development of basic skills and key competences of adults with educational disadvantages. We discussed these efforts in the On the work for vulnerable groups (and with them) and Each end is the beginning of something new blog.
In the new phase of the EAAL project (2015-2017) we continue with the organisation of these events (now called PASS events) which are still dedicated to the same four target groups. However, we have added three events on the key competencies for improved employability. All 2016 EAAL PASS events (link na http://llw.acs.si/learningparade/pas_events/2016) will be held between 11 and 31 May 2016. Although they are attended by smaller groups of stakeholders, we believe that the reach of their messages will be high, since we are trying to build foundations for broad(er) cooperation
The findings and recommendations from these events will be presented at the international conference (external link) entitled “National Policy – Local Implementation”. This is the final (closing) event of the EAAL project and the annual conference of the (European Basic Skills Network (external link) – EBSN), which will be held from 2 to 3 June 2016 in Ljubljana. I, the author of this blog will share my impressions on a specific event with EPALE users on a regular basis. The first in line is the PASS event, which was held on 11 May in Celje by the Inter-Entrepreneurial Education Centre of the Celje School Centre (IEEC of the Celje SC). The event programme is available here (in Slovenian)(external link).
Long-term unemployment is a difficult problem for all involved
At the event the IEEC of the Celje SC gathered the local politicians, representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, representatives of the Celje branch of the Slovenian Public Employment Service (PES), IEEC Kranj, IEEC Nova Gorica and the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education. The discussion was focused on the role of non-nformal education and training in the resolution of the problem of long-term unemployed persons, while it was based on experience acquired during the 3-year implementation of the 104-hour Education of the Unemployed programme, as well as plans for future activities.
The starting point of the discussion was the thesis that with respect to work with long-term employees the trilateral partnership among employers, services of the PES and educators is essential. Unemployment in Slovenia is slightly decreasing, however, decreasing of the share of the long-term unemployed remains a great challenge, which calls for broader and coordinated action of the above-specified stakeholders. Below are some points and findings of the discussion.
Integration in education can lead to socialisation, a regular activity and new drive of the long-term unemployed. Participants come from very different backgrounds and the groups are thus heterogeneous, both from the aspect of the attained level of qualifications, as well as their psycho-social characteristics. The present teachers, however, believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it can lead to the development of mutual learning, encouragement and following of examples. The continuity of education and training is also essential, however, primarily subject to the available funding), or the unemployed return to the never ending cycle of isolation and helplessness. Nevertheless, we all agreed that in most cases “education on stock” is not a good option.
Employers require a consistently qualified workforce (not only professional qualifications, but also soft skills), while the immediate response of educators and participants to the opportunities offered by the labour market are also important. For employer flexibility is a priority, however, the processes for implementation of political measures are often slow and rigid, since they are bound by legal basis. We concluded that we must set up the cooperation of all stakeholders in the planning phase. At other similar meetings the attendance of employers would be very precious.
The PES directly or indirectly provides training for lifelong career guidance and organises opportunities for meetings between employers and qualified unemployed persons (example of good practice: mini employment fair). In different ways and in tight cooperation with both ministries the PES tries to attain a high level of employability of the relevant target group. IEECs are identifying the players, who should be open to the environment, sensitive to the needs of the labour market and equipped with the ability to set up good forms of cooperation with the businesses. The share of long-term unemployed persons in Slovenia is significantly excessive. Therefore, the measures of the Active Employment Policy for 2015-2020 dedicates a lot of attention to this issue. The efforts of the PES are illustrated in, e.g. the recently published programme entitled “I can, because I know how”, which will be first implemented at IEECs and followed by two months of co-funded placement. The introduction of the apprenticeship system will also open new possibilities.
Educators – in this case the IEECs or adult education centres face the challenge to set up links with the business sector and together determine the demand for specific vocational and professional competencies on one hand, while they are expected to develop non-nformal education and training programmes for the unemployed and motivate the teachers/adult educators for work with this sensitive group on the other. With respect to the latter (as well as mentors within companies) we highlighted that the mentors require not only professional qualifications, but also a feeling of empathy, the ability to animate and motivate, as well as other adult education competencies. The guidance activities and identifying of prior acquired knowledge are also very useful in the process.
A few challenges
An important source of funding for remedying long-term unemployment is the European Social Fund. After a longer interim period there are now new possibilities for the acquisition of funding, although this funding is allocated by the Ministry of Education to the target group of the employed, esp. low-skilled workers. However, the Ministry of Labour could use the ESF funding, available to employers and the PES, to develop slightly longer programmes leading to additional qualifications.
We all agreed that key competencies and soft content must be added to professional content and systematically developed in connection therewith. Nevertheless, the share of hours allocated to professional training should not be decreased as a result. We should provide training not only for the needs of employers, but also for the (potentially) self-employed.
We concluded that there are already several positive stories of the long-term unemployed, which should be set as an example to the broader public. The participants should be involved in these processes (and this type of events) as ambassadors of lifelong learning, since they best know what they need and they serve as an inspiration to others. It would be important to monitor them, not only during their training, but on a continuous basis.
The PAS event in Celje fascinated the attendants, who committed themselves to carefully monitor the developments on the topic and strengthen mutual dissemination of information and cooperation. The next event will be held on 20 May in Slovenska Bistrica on the topic of “With youth for the youth: on participation, employment and policy”.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (email@example.com(link sends e-mail)), Slovenian Institute for Adult Education
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik works at the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the field of promotional and information activities. She is the national coordinator for the implementation of the European Agenda on Adult Learning. She is interested in effective promotional approaches and promotion of cooperation and connecting of stakeholders in adult education.