Implications for future programme development
Monitoring full exit-data is necessary in understanding the most common barriers that clients struggle with while trying to achieve their goals, even after guidance. Programme makers should also keep in mind how to encourage increase of self-efficacy and independence among the clients. The data show a limited progress in self-efficacy. Perhaps a less intensive follow-up of clients could be beneficial. Investing in strong guidance techniques through training could also be helpful.
A structural collaboration between different services that support a client, which implies relevant data exchange and ‘warm transfer’ between different services, is necessary to keep better track of different types of barriers and motivational issues. However, measuring soft outcomes will stay challenging, therefore future programme development should include other criteria such as number of clients reached and type of clients reached (to verify if target groups most in need of education are reached). Furthermore, quality management systems should be available in a structural service with a focus on assuring that the counselling methodology ensures tailor made counselling, ownership of the client and generates empowerment.
Implications of policy
Due to the fact that achieving qualifications and diplomas is a long-term process, the data that show how many clients have achieved a qualification is likely to be incomplete, and to underestimate positive outcomes. As policy makers are most interested in hard outcomes, which are in this case represented by incomplete and likely underestimated numbers, gaining political support for the realisation of a structural embedded guidance services will not be easy. However, it should be noted that the importance of the service cannot be measured with quantitative data alone. The importance of ‘soft’ client outcomes such as increased self-confidence and self-awareness cannot be neglected.
Implications for policy
It became evident from the evaluation that even quite straight forward monitoring data such as ‘enrolment’ as a result of guidance are difficult to measure as there are no connected databases between guidance services, different adult education providers and central data. For monitoring purposes, this should be included in future programme development. However, the enrolment as such shouldn’t be used as the only quality indicator, as non-enrolment can be a positive outcome as well (starting a course is not the right option for everyone).
It was clear that, from the policy makers’ point of view, the success of the service should be measured based on achievement of qualifications or even getting a sustainable job. Yet, as policy makers willingly agree, it is obvious that there are some serious challenges linked to this way of measuring: Who will be held accountable for the outcomes? Obtaining a qualification is a successful outcome of a process to which many actors and/or circumstances contribute: in first instance, the adult learner himself, but the guidance service also plays a crucial role together with the educational institutions. Furthermore, the client’s ability to continue studying depends on a variety of contextual conditions, which are partly facilitated by other services, such financial support from social welfare sector, exemption from job searching requirement, health, family support, etc.
If the guidance service will be held accountable for the success indicator of qualifications, they need to have as much as possible control over these conditions. This would imply a collaboration with policy domains, such as Employment and Welfare, to work together in aligning regulation in order to facilitate clients paths towards a qualification: for instance, exemption from job seeking, continued social support, feasible combination work-study, study guidance support, scholarships, etc.).
The exchange of information and data to follow up on the educational achievements of the clients is also needed: at this moment no automatic exchange is allowed between guidance services, other services (employment, social welfare) and educational institutions due to privacy restrictions. Information management systems to follow up on the progress of a person need to be integrated, which will involve radical policy reformations as well as a strong collaboration between different policy domains to align all regulations and implementation systems. This can only be a long term ambition.
As indicated above, the strong focus on the customised service and intensive guidance (not only face-to-face but also by follow-up micro-contacts) requires a considerable financial investment in the service. It will be a challenging ambition to find policy support for this investment. The policy recommendations should also include options for less intensive processes and ‘light’ guidance services (while focusing on the possible consequences as well).