Background and aims
There is no national competence standard for adult guidance counsellors in Lithuania and no specific country-wide support measures for counsellors are currently available. Until 2015 there was a project for guidance in the general education system during which specialist training was organised and guidance materials were prepared. The tools from the project can be adapted for work with adults. The project also funded the work of guidance counsellors and, for example, VAEC gained its expertise in large degree thanks to this project. There is a competence profile for counsellors working in local employment offices adopted by a national employment office (Lithuanian Labour Exchange), but this applies only to the network of employment offices
For all GOAL counsellors, their main job role was something other than counselling. Only a small share of their working time was spent on guidance (from eight to 50%). They had to combine counselling activities with teaching, administrative task, job interviews. Programme staff did not receive additional support from other staff.
For discussing the competences of counsellors, a General Competence profile for Educational Guidance & Counselling to low educated adults produced within GOAL was used. The counsellors complemented it with knowledge on labour market trends/ forecasts and employers’ needs, knowledge on psychology and managing of conflict situations skills. During interviews programme staff underlined guidance and psychological counselling skills, and knowledge of guidance methods and tools, as the most important competences. They also stressed the importance of knowledge of labour market situation, labour market forecasts, about training programmes and their offer and admitted that as guidance specialists they lacked systemised information and profound understanding. Self-reflection and learning to learn were identified as the competences that need to be strengthened.
Achieving high standards of counselling competence
The clients very positively assessed the work of counsellor with the absolute majority (94%) of clients being satisfied with their contact with a counsellor. Only two of 31 clients in follow-up survey did not agree that counselling helped them to be more confident about achieving their goals. No obvious areas for improvements in terms of work or competences of counsellors were detected from data monitoring or interviews with clients. According to staff, a professional relationship with a good distribution of roles is a key to achieving good quality counselling. When comparing Wave 1 and Wave 2 the staff felt more effective because of increased number sessions.
Challenges and barriers
The main challenge in terms of staff competence development is an underdeveloped offer of training courses. There is no systemic training for adult guidance specialists and their professional development depends very much on personal initiative. The data from programme staff reveal that staff spend a very small proportion of their time on guidance for adults learners because this is not the main function of their job. Staff feel that this is a weakness of service. Since there is no special funding available for adult guidance, it is up to each institution’s management to prioritise this area and dedicate resources to it.