- linked to the target group's characteristics
- linked to the development of the service and its methodology
- related to partnerships, networks and outreach
- regarding tools
- regarding counsellors' competences
- regarding quality of guidance to improve outcomes
Although there are many similarities amongst the GOAL clients (age, employment status), counsellors face a diverse group of people that require a tailor made approach. There is a strong diversity in languages and cultural and social background as well as in learning barriers that clients face. The multiple barriers make clear that educational guidance is more complex than only bringing different educational possibilities to the attention of clients and that a client-centred and a solution-focused approach is necessary.
Clients, however, show a positive learning attitude and a high level of learning objectives as the clients who are referred to the service have shown a learning need in previous services based on which they were referred. It is important that referral partners systematically focus on recognizing this learning need and developing a habit to refer persons with a learning need to the GOAL service. The counsellor can further explore the learning need, further develop the learning intention and finally translate this into a learning demand which leads to an educational choice and participation in education or learning. Future programme development should focus explicitly on older low educated adults and low educated adults who are employed. The GOAL project has proven that if there is no explicit focus on this target group (by for example approaching right partners to reach them) they are hardly reached.
Despite the high percentage of clients who achieved their goals (fully, or partially), there was still a minority that struggled with certain barriers. It’s important to develop strategies to help clients to overcome those barriers, so that they can keep up with educational guidance and, after that, achieve their educational aims.
When developing high quality service in educational guidance, the following key characteristics of the service must be guarded:
- independency of the service
- the non-mandatory character
- a customised and tailor-fit approach
- a step by step approach
- the focus on personal empowerment
- ability to oversee complex domain of education, locate and retrieve relevant information
Although the approach is individually customised, the guidance can be differentiated in different phases. These phases are outlined in the flow chart: Guidance Flow Chart Flanders (pdf, 1 p.) (316 kB)
In order to achieve the above described quality characteristics and guidance model for a future guidance service we propose an organisational structure of the service that is based on the principle of a central back-office at Flemish level and locally embedded service points, according to following model:
1. Local embedment of a GOAL service that is easy accessible and approachable for the target groups of low educated adults: Networks should be established, developed and maintained in a way that they optimally support the GOAL service by reaching out to the target groups and by systematically leading adults with learning demands and/or needs to the GOAL service. Complementarity with existing services should be clear: the GOAL service distinguishes itself from other services by focusing on learning demands and learning needs. If clients have other demands such as support to get employed, counsellors refer them to their partners.
2. Service points are locally available based on the need: Service points should be available at locations that are easy to be reached by the target groups. The amount of service points could be based on the actual need based on indicators such as number of unqualified school leavers in a region, municipality or city and availability of public transport.
3. Locally embedded service points need a back office: a back office plays an important role in providing support to ensure quality services and monitoring the quality. A back office should support local offices in:
- Collecting and disclosing the whole educational provision in formal and non-formal adult education, and keeping this information up-to-date
- Collecting and developing counselling tools and methodologies
- Developing and maintaining a client registration system
- Ensuring data exchange with other service providers and education providers
- Promotion of the service both to target groups and stakeholders
- Developing supra-local partnerships between policy makers (different policy domains) and supra-local institutions of local networks (PES, Agency of Integration, Umbrella organisations of education providers, …)
- Human Resources Development
- Monitoring and quality assurance (based on clearly defined quality criteria) both for policy purposes and quality purposes of the local services
4. Local services and back office have a shared responsibility in:
Developing partnerships: back-office arranges supra-local agreements and formal partnerships but collaboration has to be developed and established locally (depending on local needs and context)
Educational offer: back-office is responsible for mapping and updating the educational provision and availability of courses, but local service points can play an important role in signalling gaps in the provision.
Promotion of the service: local service points should promote the service locally through their network partners or by direct outreach to target groups; Back-office can provide promotional tools.
As many clients of de Stap and de Leerwinkel are referred to educational guidance by partner organisations that operate in different domains (labour market related organisations, educational partners, organisations from the domain of welfare, integration offices) and as – vice versa – educational guidance services must be able to refer clients to those partner organisations, it is a necessity that continuous collaboration between those partner organisations is strictly guarded. A common shared vision on an educational guidance service must help all possible partners to be correctly informed about GOAL and to recognize the service as complementary to other forms of support. GOAL has shown a number of strengths with regard to partnership working, but also faces a number of hurdles. GOAL would be strengthened if more organisations saw guidance to training and education as valuable to their clients, e.g. in the process of finding a sustainable job. Strong partnerships will remain essential, even if structural embeddedness is no longer a problem. Working with strict framework agreements and protocols to exchange client information could make the collaboration between partner services easier.
The development of partnerships and networks is predicated on interplay between local and central processes. The policy and framework agreements have to be developed, monitored and improved at central level, while the operationalization of partnerships is a responsibility of local GOAL services, in order to fit the local needs (cf. above: shared responsibility of local services and back office).
Partnerships have to be developed in order to reach all target groups that are in need of education or further training. Future programme development should therefore focus in particular on reaching out to groups such as NEETs, older low educated adults and low educated employed people.
3 outreach strategies have proven to be successful in the experience of GOAL Flanders:
- Networking and partnerships in order to reach the target group through referrals
- Outreach locations for guidance sessions within the premises of partner organisations
- Information sessions (group sessions) directly to target group as part of the programmes of partner organisations.
The central back office in future programmes should play an important role in mapping existing tools, evaluating their quality and introduce them to counsellors.
A professional back office could also be useful in analysing data derived from the data-monitoring system. In the context of the micro-contacts and use of social media it will be necessary to develop an ethical framework for guarding certain boundaries.
When the GOAL service will be structurally developed, a central database system for both client data for monitoring purposes as well as support for counsellors to follow up progress and steps taken with clients should be developed based on following criteria:
- Text fields should be avoided and only be used as support for the counsellor, as the quantification of data is difficult in text fields. All information relevant for statistics should be entered in drop down lists.
- There should be a link with the database of the Ministry related to educational routes in the past and obtained qualifications by a person.
- Ideally there should be a link with other databases (integration, welfare and labour) in order to have an overview of the statutes of the clients (E.g. integration program, employment guidance, social welfare support, etc.) and the contact persons in other guidance programs to exchange information with
- The system should be web based and be accessible from every computer
- It should be possible to include relevant documents of clients in the system
- Alert system should be included to support counsellors in following up on actions
For counselling, a broad range of competences are needed. Currently the career guidance sector, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, has developed a formal competence profile for career counsellors. Many of the competences in this profile are applicable to the GOAL counsellors. This profile could serve as the basis for a formal competence profile for educational counsellors in the future, in case the service will be structurally established, taking into account the formal processes of competence profile development in Flanders.
As counsellors have a different background (no specific educational programs for career or educational counsellors are in place in Flanders) and as clients have all kinds of different backgrounds and personal problems more or less related to educational issues, the role of informal learning and peer learning has proved to be very important to the counsellors. There are no training institutions that provide adapted training based on the specific training needs of the counsellors. In case of the structural development of the GOAL service, a back office should take up the task of facilitating exchange of client cases between counsellors in a more structural way but also to encourage informal learning and exchange on daily basis as it is done in the GOAL experimentation. Furthermore, a structural service with a back office could support more structural staff development plans and organize tailor made training (by own experts or external trainers).
GOAL-counselling implies a lot more than individual contact sessions with clients. In case of the structural development of the GOAL service, those back office-tasks (client registration, networking, interaction with colleagues and professionals of partner organisations, …) must be taken into account.
The neutral and independent character of the service came out as one of the important quality criteria: especially in Flanders, where the educational landscape is very much divided into different educational networks (within the formal system) and additionally providers in the non-formal system are available, it is difficult to get independent advice on the best study options. Advice that is given by providers can be in the interest of the provider. The neutrality of the service is a strong added value that can be used to convince political policy makers on the necessity of the service.
Other key characteristics that guarantee high standard guidance are:
- the non-mandatory character
- a customised and tailor-fit approach
- a step by step approach
- the focus on personal empowerment
As mentioned earlier in the report and in this chapter, a back office should play an important role in ensuring and monitoring the quality of the goal services and the outcomes. Most tasks of such a back office should be related to quality assurance. The back-office should facilitate quality services by:
- providing a complete and up-to-date overview of the educational offer
- providing and developing methodologies and tools for counsellors to improve guidance sessions
- providing relevant training to counsellors and facilitating peer learning
- developing and maintaining supra-local partnerships to facilitate the local partnerships
- Collecting and analysing research, policy initiatives and other developments related to Lifelong Learning and educational guidance
- Providing quality monitoring tools to local services
- Support local services in quality control and improvement plans (quality assurance methodologies, formulating quality indicators, etc.) focusing on inputs, processes and outputs/outcomes
- Supporting external quality control