[Translation (French-English) : EPALE France]
Examining career guidance today requires more general consideration of the effects of the current environment on people’s circumstances and career paths: increased transitions or terminations, non-linearity, unpredictability. Navigating a career path is no longer a one-time deed, but rather an ongoing process that must be analysed in all its facets to build the most relevant services and practices; This first article covers issues of access to reliable and operational information on the world of work.
1. Issues of access to reliable and operational information on the world of work
Decree No. 2019-218 of March 21, 2019, on the New Competences of Regions Concerning Information on Professions and Training formalises the transfer of information on professions and training to regions, planned within the framework of the law of September 5, 2018, “on the freedom to choose one's professional future”. This transfer and focus on information raises a number of questions about the prospects and modes of developing SPROs (Services Publics régionaux d’orientation – Regional Public Career Guidance Services). At the same time, a note from France Stratégie looks at issues in terms of guiding access to quality information on employment opportunities.
The issue of information
This question is not new but it needs to clarify the links between the choice of career guidance and the information made available. Several registers can be distinguished:
- Access to information sources: this concerns the diversity of access modes (physical, digital, etc.), as well as the modalities of this information (written, visual, experiential, virtual immersion, etc.). In this regard, the prospects are numerous in terms of possible variations.
- Quality of information sources: this concerns the need to distinguish the nature of information: some relate to objective, factual, non-contestable elements (e.g., legal elements); other information forms part of more strategic elements concerning an interpretation of trends (recruitment prospects, updating content, etc.), which are valuable but open to debate. So it is less the objective character in the strict sense of the term that is central, but rather the reliability. This leads us to consider the quality of sources, and to verify that the information provided is based on and supported by analyses cross-referenced from multiple sources. Moreover, it is the operational capability of information (does it help me to decide?) more than its scientific quality, which will attract users. Hence the reluctance to use statistical data that is difficult to understand by non-specialists and the retreat to social and local networks that provide information that is often questionable and very subjective, but at the same time is easily accessible and usable. We must also be wary of knowledge that is too academic or sanitised data when users are looking for “stories”, as they are more interested in career paths and lives than business records! If access to reliable information is a factor of decision support and equity, we have many projects before us that are both technical (how do we provide access to reliable and up-to-date information?) and educational (how do we develop critical thinking?).
The question of representation
To reduce the question of career guidance only to the reliability of the information made available seems to us to overlook the fact that people’s decision-making processes are sometimes not very rational. What we think of careers and the professional world is information like no other. First and foremost, it is a representation of what could be suitable for us. However, these representations are complex and difficult to change for at least three reasons. The first concerns the nature of this information. The professional information held by everyone is not simply copied and pasted. It is both a social and personal construction, combining objective elements and more subjective perceptions, and is developed by people in their interactions with their environment. The second concerns the difficulty in changing these specific social representations related to professions and the world of work. Why? Because they are developed very early on and resistant to discordant information. Data is often selected that is supportive and in line with general beliefs. So criteria such as attractiveness (related to social prestige) or gender (so-called “female” or “male” professions) are not going to change much with simple information campaigns or promotions. They gradually create stereotypes (which by definition are generally accepted) that are not so easy to change with simple discourse. Thirdly, the gap is widening between the reality of the world of work, the professions that unfold and develop there, the variety and richness of environments found there and the hierarchy of professions that spontaneously attract the public. For an activity to be chosen, it must first be visible, identifiable and distinguishable from other activities. In the end, a sort of reputational capital of professions is examined.
An educational question
If career guidance questions cannot be reduced to a simple information process centred on the quality and reliability of the information made available (and left for everyone to process), then we must consider educational methods that allow the collection and analysis of multiple types of information to devise one's own point of view and build a strategy. We must then commit (and in this regard, many initiatives demonstrate this within the framework of SPROs) to multi-modal processes that are closer to the domains where information is not only literal and academic knowledge, but living data that allows everyone to discover content and prospects, as well as the human dimension of work.
And so the challenge not only lies in developing reliable information stocks, but also in the ability of professionals and resource designers to build and manage a dynamic of ownership where all parties involved are stakeholders. It is therefore an educational issue.
Upcoming Article 2: Decision support in uncertain times
Upcoming Article 3: Develop the ability to navigate your lifelong journey: how and under what conditions?