E-Guidance and the Rise of Digital Services in IAG

In March 2020, when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and lockdown measures were put in place in the majority of countries worldwide, it became clear that the health crisis would also cause a severe economic crisis. The economic crisis especially hit the branches of tourism, leisure and gastronomy but also many others. Individuals who were most affected were those employed in these branches, low skilled workers and also young people or graduates who were about to enter the labour market.  In general, the economic crisis and the major changes in the way of working, have changed the career expectation and employment situation of many people drastically while at the same time the structures that usually offer Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to persons in situations of reorientation or job loss were equally affected by the social distancing measures and not able to offer the services as they usually did. 

Before the pandemic, in most countries IAG services were offered in person and in the premises of the organisation while structures for remote or e-guidance were very rare or not well developed. So, at a time when it became very important for many people to have easy access to get career support, information about finding jobs or guidance on upskilling and retraining, many services needed to improvise and worked hard to respond to the needs and find new ways of service provision. In the beginning this meant an increased use of telephone and e-mail, but later on also online one-to-one counselling, webinars, online job fairs or YouTube tutorials related to career guidance and others.

 The successful implementation of these new digital services was highly dependent on the digital skills or readiness of practitioners to work and learn with the new tools, having the capacity to clarify consequences for data protection of these new measures and having financial resources available to introduce new tools or produce content.

The table below shows the results of an international survey from June-August 2020, published by Cedefop, giving an orientation which kind of career guidance activities were adapted remotely and which were discontinued:

Graphic Source: Cedefop; European Commission; ETF; ICCDPP; ILO; OECD; UNESCO (2020). Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic: results of a joint international survey –June to August 2020.Luxembourg. Page 47

After about one year of offering IAG remotely and often online in different and new formats it is clear that there were steep learning curves of services and practitioners on digital skills and valuable experiences were gained. But so far little can be said in which way the online environment impacts the effectiveness of guidance or how ‘good practice’ of guidance is defined in an online environment and research will need to be done. An obvious risk seems that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on effective-guidance practice, self-reflection of practitioners and collegial advice is falling short as already before the crisis this was expressed as a lack by many practitioners and with all the new challenges time dedicated to learning and training will be quickly filled with gaining further digital competences.

Another challenge that many practitioners faced already before the crisis, was the very high number of clients, they accompanied and not enough time to provide everyone with the support needed. With the ongoing economic crisis these numbers will stay high or even increase. 

The Erasmus+ Policy Experimentation project Good E-Guidance Stories which started in March 2021 wants to respond the current challenges in several ways. It will work with the Artificial Intelligence powered platform Jobiri that for example provides training modules and advice for job searchers, it can match CVs with job postings and also support practitioners in having up to date labour market analysis available. Ideally, this will free up practitioners’ time for actual counselling and personal exchange with clients. Additionally, the same awareness is given to high quality training for practitioners on digital competences as well as on practitioner competences for effective guidance and the building of a transnational Community of Practice. 

Young people and graduates are strongly affected by the crisis losing jobs or struggling to enter the labour market, the need of career guidance rises in many aspects and its form of delivery changed completely. E-guidance and digital IAG services are the key to keep contact with the target group and give hope and relevant, useful guidance. Job coaches have then to be equipped with appropriate tools and a skillset that allow for an accurate online offer.

Eventually, the SYMPATIC project is offering first of all an innovative and Continuing Professional Development courses for practitioners. In the first week of May 2021 practitioners will come together for a three-day training for Job Coaches with a focus on how to best support and accompany young adults that will go on an international mobility and after their return in their professional orientation or finding a job or training. It answers a need for youth practitioners to be more trained on professional possibilities and opportunities for young people and that need is even more an emergency nowadays when the crisis is causing many difficulties to fulfill a professional project. Later, SYMPATIC Connect Platform will allow for a first step into the digitalization of the relations and IAG services between job coaches, young people and mentors in Cyprus, Germany, Italy and France. 

 

Sources:

OECD (2021), Career Guidance for Adults in a Changing World of Work. Getting Skills Right. OECD Publishing, Paris. https://doi.org/10.1787/25206125

Cedefop; European Commission; ETF; ICCDPP; ILO; OECD; UNESCO (2020). Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic: results of a joint international survey – June to August 2020.Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. http://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2801/318103 

Good Guidance Stories 2.0, Methodological Concept (2019): https://goodguidancestories.org/index.php/project/resources/methodological-concept/ 

Good E-Guidance Stories. Erasmus+ Results Platform: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/projects/eplus-project-details/#project/626152-EPP-1-2020-2-DE-EPPKA3-PI-POLICY

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