Project GOAL

This website presents the project GOAL evaluation results. GOAL stands for Guidance and Orientation for Adult Learners. It is an Erasmus+ funded project that sought to develop new models or expand existing models of guidance and orientation for low-educated adults in six countries: Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Iceland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Slovenia. Project GOAL ran from February 2015 to January 2018, and was coordinated by the Flemish Government’s Department of Education and Training. The evaluation was carried out by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with local evaluation teams in each country. Details about the project set-up and implementation can be found on the project website.

Key Implications

outreach strategies

The final section of this chapter draws out the main implications in respect of future programme development and policy from the evaluation findings presented above. In terms of programme development it offers some lessons that may prove helpful to those seeking to establish similar services. The policy implications section summarises the influences of policy issues and factors on the GOAL programmes, and the messages for policy from the GOAL project’s experiences.

Implications for future programme development

As the evaluation findings in this chapter make clear, the most effective strategy the six guidance services used in recruiting low-educated adults was the strategy of “reaching in” to other organisations serving the GOAL target groups.

When considering this strategy for future programmes, developers should bear in mind that the costs of this type of outreach activity – both financially and in terms of staff resources – can be high. Successful outreach to generate referrals involves the investment of considerable staff time to build relationships of trust between organisations and between the guidance service and potential clients. What the GOAL experience suggests is the efforts and costs associated with outreach are likely to be higher the more vulnerable or hard-to-reach the potential client is.

One consequence for future programmes is that in being realistic about the resources that are available for this type of activity, developers may need to focus on target groups which are characterised by more active demand for the service or which present fewer outreach challenges (for instance by being in geographic proximity to the service, thus reducing travel costs). In other words, it may be more financially viable and more sensible for educational counselling programmes to target “low hanging fruit” than to use their finite resources to target marginalised people, although these people may be the most in need. Where the decision is made to allocate valuable programme resources to attracting those who are hardest to reach, the quality of the guidance on offer could be negatively affected for some or all clients. Targeting services to less hard-to-reach adults may be a better compromise given the nascent state of educational guidance for low-educated adults and the possible need for pilot programmes to justify their costs to funders and policy makers. Programmes need to have a clear understanding of the trade-offs inherent in this type of outreach work.

As experiences on project GOAL demonstrate, in developing guidance services for low-educated adults, reaching in to other organisations is likely to involve identifying and working with new types of partners, such as NGOs and municipal welfare services, outside the spheres of education and employment from which clients are traditionally drawn. The Lithuanian report argues that a comprehensive national level analysis of the institutional networks dealing with low-motivated disadvantaged clients should be performed at the pre-programme stage, identifying the barriers that clients face in reaching services and duplications and the gaps in institutional frameworks.

The barriers that teams faced in getting client referrals from employers suggest that national and/or local analyses should include a survey of existing workplace learning initiatives. Future needs analysis activity should include a focus on the workplace learning policy environment, as this could give valuable clues as to the potential inability of employers to engage with programmes. Future programmes would want to fit into workplace learning policies in a complementary way, if such policies even exist. Programme developers might also consider talking to employers as an initial step, before including employees as a target group. When doing so, it would be useful to get insights from senior managers. As shown in the GOAL pilot, these staff members are likely to be less open to involvement in projects such as GOAL than, for example, HR managers. Getting the approval only of the former may lead to disappointment – and wasted resources – further down the line.

Direct outreach to potential clients may also be beneficial. In Slovenia, where there was a relatively high level of direct outreach, key recommendations in this regard were:

  • the preparation of short professional guidelines on how to plan and carry out outreach activities for vulnerable target groups more effectively
  • training for counsellors on the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences for the planning and implementation of more effective outreach activities for vulnerable target groups.

Policy implications

Influences of policy

A number of the GOAL programmes experienced challenges in bringing low-educated adults in employment to the service, in large measure because employers and company directors – the decision-makers – were not interested in the initiative (although human resource departments were). Most countries have policy targets for participation in adult learning in line with the European Commission’s European Agenda for Adult Learning, which also identifies low-skilled adults as particularly unlikely to be engaged in learning, but this is not always accompanied by support (including financial incentives) for workplace learning. Without this backing employers are less likely to support the education and training needs of their employees; thus without incentives for employers, outreach activities with employers are likely to prove fruitless and thus a waste of resources.

Employers have justifiable concerns about upskilling their workforce; not only is there a risk that employees will change jobs, there are practical concerns about time release for counselling and training. Findings from GOAL suggest that with policy support there would have been more of a case to be made for guidance services to operate with flexible opening hours, for example, so that they were more easily accessible to people in employment and more acceptable to employers.

Messages for policy

The benefits of participation and collaboration can be very vague when it comes to company managers and their staff members, but according to programme staff the benefits of participation for the management need to be very clear. The implications of the employer challenge seem to be that interesting companies and managers is sometimes too much of a challenge for the counsellor and extra effort is needed from higher levels, including the policy level.

The policy environment should be one that creates a climate where guidance and orientation is normalised and supported. In the Czech Republic, programme staff felt that if the national government was to introduce career guidance as a regular service provided to students and pupils within initial education (for the purposes of dropout prevention, change of programme, choice of suitable career patch), people would become more familiar with the possibiilites and advantages of career guidance. In other words, there should be, at the policy level, a drive to raise awareness of the benefits of career counselling, thus reducing the need for individual programmes, and outreach networks, to devote substantial resource to this. Moreover, this awareness raising should be multidirectional: upwards towards policymakers and the policy environment, downwards towards individuals, and laterally towards other organisations serving the target groups.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A COUNSELLOR

Iceland
Iceland

"GOAL interview: a client came to discuss a program for validation of employability skills, in which she is going to participate."

"In-house discussions with other counsellors and project managers on an unexpected issue with a student. We tried to solve the issue together. We had to contact another school."

Lithuania
Lithuania

“Presentation for unemployed people about possibilities to get involved into the Goal project and get free of charge orientation and guidance.”

“Orientation and guidance of adult people. 2 clients are consulted: they are unemployed and have plans for learning a new profession in order to find a job.“

Netherlands
Netherlands

“The prison population and educational needs of the detainees are far from homogeneous.”

 “Usually, there are 6 to 8 detainees at a time, each with an individual program. I guide them. The guidance can be focused on basic education, vocational education or specific courses detainees are taking at that time”

Slovenia
Slovenia

"Working with clients gives me energy and brings me joy, because between individual sessions I can see progress, changes, new beliefs, enrolment in education programmes and I can build good relationships with my clients."

 

"The feeling that I do a lot of good for my clients is priceless."

Czech Republic
Czech Republic

“At the start of every session, counsellors try to gather information about the client, his or her position within the family and wider friendship circles, and his or her health. They also explore the client’s feelings, ideas and motivation.”

“Based on the client’s answers, the counsellor selects ways to proceed in order to meet the client’s needs and goals.”

Flanders
Flanders

"All information, agreements made and steps taken during sessions are written down in the registration system"

“Even the names of persons clients have been talking about are registered in order to remember the whole communication line and, more importantly, to avoid them having to say things twice. It creates a sense of trust with our clients.”

TESTIMONIALS

from clients, counsellors and stakeholders

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