As the demand for career guidance in the rapidly changing labour market is increasing, many countries are currently developing mechanisms for quality assurance – Slovakia, Czech Republic and Norway are just some of them. The Erasmus + funded project “Qual-IM-G” builds on the experience of different projects, initiatives and existing mechanisms in the field of quality assurance for career guidance and proposes a set of tools that optimize the implementation of existing mechanisms or facilitate the development of new ones: a mentoring programme and a certification toolbox for careers practitioners, a quality development framework and a model audit process for service providers.
What were the motivations behind the project? “It is important to understand the success factors and real-life usage of different quality assurance systems already in place in other countries, while respecting the specificities and tradition of the career guidance system in your country,” explains Tomáš Šprlák from the Slovak Association for Career Guidance and Career Development.
The development of these tools was based on an in-depth research that analysed 21 existing quality assurance mechanisms in several European countries. “We found out that most of the quality systems examined were national standards and were voluntary and development-focused. However, only a few provide mentoring as part of the support resources for organisations and individuals,” says Siobhan Neary from the International Centre for Guidance Studies, whose team together with Erik Haug from the Inland Norway University of Applied Science lead the research.
The mentoring program provides 7 core and 14 supplementary modules that help practitioners prepare for the quality certification. Andrea Csirke from the Czech Association for Career Guidance and Career Development continues: “We looked at the quality areas that are present in most standards and are considered as most sensible by careers professionals who want to achieve a certification.” Modules focus on areas such as networking and partnerships, evidence-based practice, outcomes of guidance, vision and mission and other areas relevant for the quality of the services provided by careers practitioners. The modules were optimized by ABIF (Austria), an independent social science research and consulting institute.
A model process and toolbox for the certification of practitioners was developed through extensive cooperation with NOLOC – the Dutch national association of careers professionals. “Throughout our history we certified thousands of professionals. We wanted to share our experience and propose a checklist that hopefully covers most of the aspects of this complex process,” explains Jeroen Bregman, NOLOCs treasurer and project manager.
In terms of organizations, the quality development framework was developed based on the BeQu-Concept of the German National Guidance Forum in Education, Career and Employment. “Through our model and tools, practitioners and the management of guidance providers can jointly evaluate their strengths, identify developmental goals and initiate activities for improvement,” affirms Karen Schober, who lead the development and testing of this output.
According to Pavol Kmet, quality auditor and director of BKS Uspech (Slovakia), who lead the development of the toolbox for the certification of service providers, reconciling the ISO quality management system with the specificities of the guidance sector is not an easy task. “Providers usually work in a much more flexible, agile manner and traceability of processes, uniformity of products do not necessarily mean quality.” The product contains a self-assessment checklist, a process diagram and model documentation for an audit process for service providers.
“We are excited to share the work of our partnership with the wider community of practitioners, providers and stakeholders and look forward to their feedback,” concludes Tomáš Šprlák. All the outputs are freely available for download on the website www.guidancequality.eu