Developing and sustaining partnerships and networks
Implications for future programme development
Programme partners discussed the problems of the social exclusion of their clients, their lack of motivation and the need for more thorough counselling (for which partners sometimes did not have enough time and staff), and more sessions for the guidance of single clients. Counsellors are aware of this need and stressed that low-skilled adults (unemployed, employed), migrants and the over-50s tended to need deeper counselling, more personal contact, a lot of additional motivation, and support for further education and training. Counsellors feel that partners could support them in many ways, e.g. by sharing information about the characteristics and the needs of the clients, sharing tools, information and databases, and perhaps even providing training workshops to upgrade the competences needed for guidance work with vulnerable target groups.
Policy actors emphasised that local partnerships were also important, alongside national ones. The challenge is how to connect existing human resources at the local level, meaning human resources within companies, counsellors at community colleges and secondary schools, and counsellors at employment services. Time and financial resources are needed to make and sustain these connections. Therefore, the Ministry of Education is looking for suitable solutions within the framework of legal regulations: for example, an amendment has been prepared to an article of the ZOFVI (the Organisation and Financing of Education Act) that defines the activity of public adult education services, and a new adult education act is also being drafted. This solution will make guidance activities more stable within the system; the goal is also to increase the number of counsellors. However, the state and government funding are not enough: other sources of financing will also be important, e.g. from local communities and industry.
The partnership worked well at the local level. The partners were very satisfied with the operations of both networks and all of them were of the opinion that partnership should continue. The objectives will have to be specified, as will the degree of formality of operation, the number of partners, the methods of operation (number of meetings, information support) and the target groups addressed.
While it would certainly make sense to include companies in the network, one of the findings from the GOAL project is that most partners from companies expected more concrete cooperation within the network, e.g. direct referral for education and training. Consideration should therefore be given to the method and content by which companies might be motivated to take an active part in the partnership.
GOAL partnerships at the local level currently seem to work well; however, local partners argue that the system should do more to support cross-organisational collaboration. This is a challenge for the national level and it has been decided that a GOAL sub-group will be formed within the national expert group for lifelong career guidance to monitor the results and formulate systemic recommendations.
One aspect of project sustainability is better connection between guidance providers. Adult education is now organised within secondary schools, which ensures guidance within the education process, and we should connect with counsellors at ISIO centres and other counsellors, for example at the Employment Service, to improve connections between different counsellors.
Implications of policy
Policy actors identified possible key obstacles to GOAL project objectives: the lack of financing of guidance in adult education, a lack of networking at policy level and a lack of integration of the entire local community for the effective development of adult education. It will be important to develop suggestions and potential guidelines through GOAL on how to overcome those obstacles and strengthen the role of guidance as a key component of lifelong learning for low-skilled adults. They have also emphasised the requirement to split counsellors’ guidance tasks between different guidance providers.
Policy actors hope that GOAL will be sustainable and that the outputs and outcomes of the project will be integrated into policies at the national and local levels. When planning the development of national and local institutions, it will be important for the results to be included in annual plans. For example, training programmes will be designed in accordance with an understanding of the competences required by counsellors. However, funding must be allocated for this purpose. Policy actors believe that the results should be implemented through policies. For this purpose, the work of the national coordinating body for lifelong career guidance can be used, as it is a good example of connecting guidance for youth and adults, and for the employed and unemployed.
Implications for policy
One good current example of partnership at the national level is the Coordinating Body for Adult Education (operating within the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport). In this partnership, different sectors search for common solutions and information flow is reciprocal. It will be important to inform this partnership, on a continuous basis, of the GOAL project results both in Slovenia and other countries.
The task of policy actors must be to draw up proposals for systemic solutions in the field of guidance for adults: the proposed number of counsellors, a definition of the financial resources required and the establishment of a training system for counsellors.
We also propose the systemic insertion of a regional partner network into the field of adult guidance. The results of the evaluation process point to the positive effects brought about by the network and a desire for further cooperation. At the same time, it is vital for the operations of the network to be supported by various direct measures for different vulnerable groups, e.g. the possibility of involvement in guidance activities, education and training. We should not overlook measures aimed at motivating employers to encourage their employees to join education and training programmes.