Implications of policy
Policy actors, programme staff and partners acknowledged that the current adult guidance system is rather fragmented, with underdeveloped mutual links and exchange of information. This fragmentation has potentially negative impacts on service quality. Because of competition for learners amongst education institutions and the lack of targeted funding for counselling services, counselling appears to have a strong focus on attracting potential learners to particular education institutions. Counselling thus runs the risk of being institution-centered rather than client-centered. The neutral and independent character of the service should be regarded as one of the important quality criteria.
It can also be noted, that availability of guidance services currently depends on the person’s labour market status – i.e. if a person is unemployed he may participate in active labour market policy measures and receive guidance services. The Ministry of Education and Science does not distinguish particular target groups in its adults education policy measures, nevertheless the target group of low-skilled/ low educated persons should receive more special attention in education policy.
Implications and recommendations for policy
The interviews and field research point out that the current adult guidance and orientation system tends to be fragmented and not accessible for every adult in need for such services. Policymakers admitted that there is a low level of cooperation in general among different ministries and other stakeholders in the field of adult guidance. Policy actors agreed that although Ministry of Education and Science is responsible in theory for improving a low level of lifelong learning, adult education governance framework lacks clarity. This is also true about many current initiatives for adult education and training implemented by different ministries (Economy, Education and Science, Social Security and Labour, Agriculture and others) with European structural support. Interventions are being implemented but there is a lack of their coordination and vision in this process. A possible solution might be the establishment of a central focal institution (or delegating this function to an existing institution) for adult education and adult guidance initiatives. According to the Law on Adult Non-formal and Continuing Education (2014), in each municipality adult education coordinator institutions were assigned. On the policy level, it can be recommended that the development of adult guidance and orientation services at the local level should be included into their agendas, and monitoring of their implementation should be performed.
It can be surmised from this evaluation study that guidance is insufficiently integrated into adult education. It would be beneficial to have an agreement for a long-term vision in adult education, including the agreement on the position of guidance services, so as to avoid fluctuations in policy priorities depending on the change of Ministers’ cabinet.
It is also very important to guarantee regular funding (either from national or municipal budgets) for the provision of adult guidance services. Generally speaking, guidance initiatives are funded on a project basis; this decreases the sustainability of results and impedes further development of partnerships, tools and counsellors’ competences.
The GOAL experience, especially speaking about VJLTMC, showed a mutual benefit gained from partnership with Public Employment Services where PES acted both as a service contracting authority and as a referring institution. Due to the fragmented nature of guidance services in GOAL sites it was challenging to establish new partnerships, especially with municipal level institutions (e.g. municipal welfare services). The GOAL experience also showed under-exploited opportunities for partnerships with the NGO sector. Policy actors confirmed that NGOs could play a major role in referring clients to counselling staff in educational institutions, if educational institutions were motivated and supported to provide this type of service. Another possibility would be exploring the potential of NGOs in outreach and guidance services. NGOs work with population groups at social risk, and they have a good reputation within local communities. It is likely that investment in the services provided by NGOs would be more cost-efficient than funding regular VET or adult education institutions, which do not have such good access to low-skilled and low-motivated adults. This hypothesis could be tested by future GOAL-type services.
At the moment, data about guidance for unemployed persons is collected only within the employment services system. In adult education institutions, system-level data is not collected and monitored. The experience from GOAL, including the positive reaction of programme staff to quantitative data collection instruments, suggests that it would not be an extra burden to collect client data (e.g. about the background of clients, referring institution, session duration and number of sessions, session outcomes). It would also be worthwhile to collect feedback about clients’ satisfaction with the sessions and their destinations after guidance (not necessarily from every client), or to promote the importance of such data collection, e.g. to include the indicator about guidance services provision into the annual indicators list that is reported to stakeholders. A simple data collection system could be worked out nationally to collect data for the purpose of service quality evaluation and improvement. However, an observation from the employment office has to be taken into account: only the most necessary and useful data should be collected, because entering data into the system takes a considerable amount of time, as does data analysis.