A consortium led by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, in partnership with University of Jyväskylä’s Finnish Institute for Educational Research and with support from EY, was commissioned by European Commission DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to undertake a study on lifelong guidance (LLG) policy and practice in the EU focusing on trends, challenges and opportunities.
The study was launched at a time when LLG policies and practices are viewed as crucial parts of current policy initiatives around validation of learning and the Pillar of Social Rights (features 1 and 4). The aim was to:
- Look at how these policies and practices could be promoted by the Commission providing an evidence base for priority-setting;
- Improve organisational knowledge and support dialogue with stakeholders on LLG and, more widely, skills strategies; and
- Identify potential, relevant EU interventions in the area of LLG.
The study has a forward-looking aspect and provides proposals and directions for the new Commission after 2020.
Approach to the study
A mixed methods study was undertaken to gather, analyse and synthesise evidence on LLG policy and practices in the EU. A literature review was undertaken alongside 30 indepth interviews with experts in the field from across the EU. To extend the evidence base, two one-day expert workshops were held to explore current practice and review findings, respectively. Altogether 72 experts from across the EU contributed to this study. Whilst some individuals contributing to the study represented EU level organisations, individuals from 23 EU member states also contributed.
Setting the context
Terms like work and career have undergone significant changes in meaning, reflecting social, technological and economic changes that make the contemporary labour market more dynamic and complex (e.g. Cedefop, 2014, 2016a). Career pathways have become more diverse with individuals experiencing several transitions over the life-course. LLG and career guidance define processes and activities that support individuals to make decisions or informed choices about their education, training and work pathways. Career guidance often takes place at transition points for an individual and can be regarded as reactive. LLG, however, takes a more proactive, lifelong perspective towards career. It is a process that individuals can engage with throughout their lives and encompasses the development of strategies, competences and skills to manage transitions (Cedefop, 2005, 2011; Council of the European Union, 2004, 2008; OECD 2004a, 2004b). A key feature of the process is to ensure that every individual achieves their potential, so a strong social justice element is implicit.
LLG systems in the EU
EU member states have aspirations to develop more comprehensive LLG systems, but are often hampered by divisions between contexts and uncertainties for how to deal with issues of professionalisation and the relationship with more informal guidance support in education, training and employment. Also, institutional path dependence means some institutions which also provide guidance may feel constrained by past decisions, their structures and cultures to act in ways which may be difficult to align fully with the practices of other players.
Based on analysis of the evidence from the literature, interviews and workshop
discussions, 11 key features of LLG systems have been identified. The features were identified through an inductive analysis of the evidence of theory, policy and practice from the last 10 years or so and used to create an analytical framework. This framework enabled each feature to be explored to develop an understanding of how it is implemented or operationalised within different national contexts across the EU.