Implications for future programme development
In the GOAL project we proceeded from the assumption that the advantage of outreach work with target groups that were less frequently or never involved in lifelong learning was in the flexible approach taken to adapting information- and guidance-provision to specific target groups and to their needs and circumstances, in a better understanding of their needs and the easier establishment of contacts with them, thereby making it easier to motivate and encourage clients to become involved in lifelong learning.
Flexible adaptation means new knowledge for such approaches, and new forms and locations of information- and guidance provision outside the organisations in which counsellors are employed.
One important factor in improving the outreach process is effective promotional activities that can be directed towards raising awareness of the importance of lifelong learning, and promoting guidance options and the information resources available on educational opportunities for adults. Modern media, social networks and local media such as radio and television should be included and used in these activities, along with the new mobile formats to increase the profile of guidance in the local environment, which might also come in the form of occasional information booths at employment services, social work centres, in the local community, in libraries and at local events.
One challenge that was not tested within the GOAL project but which we discussed with counsellors at the end of the project (e.g. the inclusion of immigrants in guidance processes) could be the inclusion of volunteers in activities for reaching adults more effectively, i.e. people who themselves come from the vulnerable groups we wish to involve in guidance and whom we wish to encourage to become involved in education. This type of volunteer is more familiar with the characteristics and needs of the selected groups of adults and those adults trust them more. In the case of immigrants, such volunteers could help with translation, interpreting, etc.
Counsellors are able to develop and carry out these activities more easily if:
- the activities are planned in advance and included in the annual work plans;
- they are supported with an adequate number of staff providing guidance within the organisation and their working hours are planned in advance;
- funds are provided to secure the conditions for the performance of these activities, such as the preparation and printing of promotional materials, adequate equipment, ICT support, tools and aids, etc.;
- they are trained to carry out these activities;
- they have support within the partner network.
To make it easier to introduce new outreach activities, we recommend:
- the preparation of short professional guidelines on how to plan and carry out outreach activities for vulnerable target groups more effectively;
- the inclusion in additional training programmes for counsellors of content on the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences for the planning and implementation of more effective outreach activities for vulnerable target groups.
Another important factor is the monitoring, by counsellors, of the effectiveness of different outreach approaches for the selected target groups and, based on which are found to be more effective, the planning of activities for future implementation, the retention of effective approaches, the modification of less effective approaches and the introduction of new approaches. Clients are different, they change, and the same approach is not always equally effective. Counsellors must make sure that operations outside the walls of an organisation are not carried out in an intrusive manner, but, rather, that guidance and educational options are presented in a friendly, interesting and tailored manner.
Implications of policy
Outreach for target groups that are rarely or less frequently involved in lifelong learning is a challenge for Slovenia from the point of view of two of the strategic objectives we set for adult education and outlined in the Resolution on the National Adult Education Programme (ReNPIO 2013–2020):
- to provide every adult in Slovenia with equal opportunities for high-quality education at all stages of life;
- to have 19% of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 involved in lifelong learning by 2020,
as involvement in lifelong learning programmes has declined in recent years (only 11.6% of adults between 25 and 64 in lifelong learning in 2016, down from 15.9% in 2011) (Eurostat 2016).
One important measure for achieving the objectives set is to provide adults with comprehensive, high-quality information on their educational options and comprehensive guidance support prior to involvement in and during the education and learning process. High-quality guidance support includes the incorporation of new approaches to the provision of information and guidance in order to make outreach for vulnerable target groups easier and more effective, particularly low-skilled adults (fewer than four years of secondary education). As already mentioned, the data shows that adults from this group are less frequently involved in continuing education and training (and some members of this group are never involved), that they achieve poorer results when their basic skills are measured (PIAAC results for Slovenia, OECD 2016), and are most often socially excluded and on the poverty line. Data for Slovenia shows that the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate is increasing. In 2015 the at-risk-of-poverty rate was 14.3% (287,000 people were below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold) and the social exclusion rate was 19.2% (SURS, 2016).
Implications for policy
These aspects were also highlighted by stakeholders and policy actors involved in GOAL project evaluation during discussions in the Wave 1 and Wave 2 focus groups. They believed it was crucial for approaches to be developed in guidance that increased access to lifelong learning for low-skilled adults. They particularly highlighted, in the Wave 2 focus group, the need for a counsellor to go out into environments in which they felt safe. They expressed the opinion that these activities could be even more effective if they included “counsellors” from the same background, or motivate informal heads of these groups to become ambassadors and promoters of the importance of lifelong learning.
They believed that it was therefore important for counsellors to be well-versed in different approaches to the guidance of different target groups, and that, just as the cooperation of partners at the regional and local levels was important, so was inter-departmental cooperation at the national level so that these types of activity could be given systemic and financial support. One of the stakeholders underlined this by saying that it was “[...] absolutely vital to bring together different policies. In Slovenia we are on the path to becoming successful in this regard. The national programme or the systemically and strategically established resolution on adult education is a good basis for this.”
Concrete measures that would make these objectives easier to accomplish are still lacking at the implementation level. Programmes and projects co-financed by European Social Fund resources and the Erasmus+ programme (as well as the GOAL project) could, in the stakeholders’ opinion, provide support to these activities as well.
They believed that even more needed to be done to improve promotional activities and disseminate examples of good practice at the national, regional and local levels.
 These recommendations also include the renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning, European Commission, 2011.
 One objective of the GOAL project in Slovenia was to prepare, at the end of the project, professional guidelines for adult education counsellors on how to plan and carry out more effective outreach activities for low skilled adults.
 On average, adults in Slovenia achieve lower results than the OECD average (literacy, numeracy, problem-solving in technology-rich environments), with one in four adults possessing lower-level skills (Dr Petra Javrh, SIAE, 2016).