We monitored the results of the GOAL programme in three ways: a monitoring questionnaire completed by programme staff; a client satisfaction survey, which clients completed at the end of the first session; and interviews (follow-up survey) with 33 clients upon completion of the guidance process in Wave 2.
A large majority of the clients were satisfied with the guidance provided. Most clients entered the guidance process with clearly defined objectives, and for the majority (90%) it was clear what their next steps would be after guidance and what they had to do to achieve their objective. Eighty-seven per cent of clients believed that guidance had helped them arrive at this realisation. In addition, 90% said that they were more aware of their options after guidance and 87% that they were more motivated to achieve their objectives.
Within the GOAL programme, all clients took part in at least two guidance sessions. The guidance process was most often brought to a close (in 38% of cases) because the planned or envisaged number of GOAL sessions had been completed. However, it should be emphasised that the GOAL programme was incorporated into regular guidance activities, which in Slovenia are not limited to a set number of sessions: clients may turn to a counsellor for help whenever they wish. Other reasons for bringing guidance to a close were the completion of or enrolment in an education or training programme.
A large majority of clients (95%) had at least partly taken the steps they had hoped to take when they sought guidance, while the remaining 5% did not manage to move in this direction. Clients most frequently (in 99% of cases) set themselves the objective of exploring their educational options. Other objectives were far less frequent, e.g. recognition of prior learning (22%) and finding a link between interests and employment options (12%). We can attribute this to the fact that the long-term unemployed and low-educated adults in employment made up the bulk of the clients. The former most commonly wished to raise their education level, undertake additional training or develop new skills to increase their employability, while the latter were interested in improving their career prospects (promotion to a better position, getting a new job, etc.).
Clients who failed to achieve their objectives had also set themselves the above objectives (two clients chose “Other”). Most clients who failed to achieve their objectives had completed primary education (43%) or completed general upper secondary education or secondary technical education (29%). This raises the question of whether a more general education meant that their objectives were less clearly defined or that they were less focused on them. This also emerged in the self-efficacy assessment: both groups registered the clearest increase and reduction in the self-efficacy score between the first and last sessions. Clients most frequently felt that their progress was being held back by a lack of motivation (15%), language barriers (12%) and a lack of time because of work commitments (12%). We can attribute this to the fact that most (54%) of the clients involved in the GOAL programme belonged to the target group of unemployed persons (they also mentioned the largest number of obstacles), followed by low-educated adults (29%). The high ranking given to language barriers can be attributed to the fact that 21% of clients did not speak Slovenian at home. Language barriers were most often mentioned by the target group of migrants and by clients with secondary vocational education. Obstacles were most often encountered by those who had sought guidance in order to explore their educational options.
Eighty-two per cent of clients obtained information on educational options in the course of the guidance process and 60% enrolled in a course or an education or training programme. Forty-five per cent of clients had become more self-confident and 19% had improved their job-specific skills. Only 2% of clients had experienced no change to their situation. Information on educational options was chiefly obtained by those with lower secondary education, primary education and vocational education. Clients from these three groups also enrolled to the greatest extent in education or training programmes. Clients with lower secondary education more often saw an increase in their self-confidence. The majority of those who at least partly achieved their objectives saw the greatest increase in their self-efficacy score. Given that clients stated that guidance had helped them achieve their objectives, we can assume that it was guidance that had improved the way they saw their ability to achieve their objectives. The self-efficacy score improved among those clients who had enrolled in an education or training programme, those who had attended at least two sessions and those who had successfully completed an education programme.
With regard to attitude to learning, a large majority (97%) of clients involved in the guidance process enjoyed learning new things. Their educational objectives changed slightly between the first and last sessions. In most cases the objectives selected remained largely the same at the final session, although the proportion of clients who mentioned them changed. Most clients still wished to improve their skills in a specific area, with an even higher proportion wishing to obtain a specific qualification, improve their general skills and undergo training to make it easier to find work. A majority of cases involved a more specific orientation or focus on the part of clients, which we can sum up with the response that 90% felt that guidance had made it clearer to them what their next steps towards their objective should be.
The interviews conducted with clients at the end of the guidance process also provided us with a similar picture to that provided by the data, as clients had mostly come with questions relating to education or training. Guidance helped them to become more self-confident, which had a positive impact on the achievement of their objectives. Almost all (97%) of clients enrolled in an education or training programme and 40% of them had been told about the programme by their counsellor. There were more unsuccessful clients among those who had sought guidance for employment-related purposes or in order to improve their career prospects; we can attribute this to the fact that finding employment or being promoted are often connected with completion of training or the acquisition of a higher level of education than the one the client currently holds. Such cases have to be addressed in a longer-term process that exceeds the duration of the GOAL project. We cannot therefore record any great success in this area.
The issue of drawing a distinction between educational and career objectives should be highlighted at this juncture: the division of clients by reason for seeking guidance into those with education-related issues and those with employment-related issues emerged as problematic for counsellors when completing the monitoring questionnaire and for the evaluation team when conducting interviews at the end of the guidance process. It is difficult to draw a line between these two areas because a client might have been referred to an education programme by their employer or had to raise their education level in order to occupy a certain post or be promoted to another post. In this case, we cannot say whether the client sought guidance because of employment or because of education and training. Therefore, in most cases clients discussed both education and employment with their counsellor, as well as the recognition of prior learning.
Strengths and achievements
On the basis of the findings, however, we can say that GOAL guidance did help clients identify their own wishes and interests, formulate their objectives and sketch out a path to these objectives. After attending at least two sessions, clients were more self-confident, more sure of themselves and more motivated to achieve their objectives. To achieve these outcomes, counsellors must have a high level of professional competence, the ability to build a personal relationship with clients through structured and targeted interviews, and the desire to devote as much time to the process as the clients need. Counsellors have a variety of tools available to them. The GOAL questionnaire was highlighted by counsellors as being a particularly welcome tool for conducting structured guidance sessions, and some have already incorporated it into their regular guidance work in an adapted form.
It is important for adult education guidance to be available to everyone, and it is particularly important that efforts be made to include the (vulnerable) target groups addressed by the GOAL project in education and guidance to the greatest possible extent. New approaches must be introduced if this goal is to be achieved. The establishment of regional partner networks containing organisations whose activities cover these target groups has shown itself to be an extremely important measure. Partners within the network have also acknowledged the benefits that cooperation within a network has brought to their organisations. Employers have clearly also recognised the need to provide educational opportunities to low-educated employees, and the referral of such clients increased in Wave 2. We do not know why this was the case, but we may presume that once the networks were up and running (despite the fact that not all partners were active), they got to know other institutions in the region and began to refer their employees to education programmes. One possible positive effect of the increase in the involvement of the selected target groups not only in free-of-charge but also fee-paying adult education programmes can also be attributed to the fact that providers in both regions were involved in the project for acquiring basic and vocational skills for those in employment, those with lower levels of training and the over-45s. The economic situation has also improved in Slovenia, which might also be one of the reasons why enterprises became economically more active and began to invest in the education of their low-educated staff.
Challenges and barriers
A large variety of factors affect all target groups’ readiness to become involved in education or learning. Lack of motivation (32%) and education and training costs (31%) emerged as the two biggest obstacles preventing clients from enrolling in education, improving their education level or taking a new step in their career.
One third of the clients involved in the GOAL programme belonged to the 46–55 age group. Findings from studies abroad (Merriam et al., 2007; Cross, 1981; Scala, 1996; Sargant et al., 1997; Sargant et al., 2000; McGivney, 1999; McGivney, 2001 and Kump and Jelenc 2009, p. 23), as well as statistics provided by the SURS, indicate that the over-50s are less involved in lifelong learning and education. Previous experiences with education, which might make some clients feel that they will not succeed this time round, and a personal need to learn and to grow (Kump and Jelenc Krašovec, 2009) have a strong impact on the involvement of the over-50s in further education, as does the level of education they have already achieved. The over-50s only have a few years to go before retirement and might not feel the need to enrol in an education programme or “learn for learning’s sake”. While learning for its own sake might not be seen as valuable, learning is necessary to the extent necessary for employment, or might bring certain other benefits. Low-educated and older adults (who also often have low levels of education) are most exposed to the risk of long-term unemployment and employment-related problems, which is why the non-involvement of older adults in lifelong learning and education is causing such concern at the national level. Despite an increase in the work activity rate of older adults in Slovenia, it is still lower than that of the EU as a whole. The development challenge facing Slovenia is therefore how to motivate low-educated and older adults to take part in formal and informal education (Čelebič, 2009, pp. 1, 11, 16, 22).
Moreover, the target groups addressed by the GOAL project are also being prevented from making progress by economic obstacles and the unsuitability of the programmes available to them. Education costs are an important factor when deciding whether to participate in education. One third of clients would like to learn but are unable to enrol in the selected programmes because the education and training costs are too high for them. Free-of-charge programmes are being developed at the national level with the aim of resolving specific developmental challenges, and designed so that they reach specific underserved groups. However, adult education guidance also includes other vulnerable groups, such as the working disabled, who are excluded from these programmes or for whom these programmes are unsuitable. These programmes pursue other objectives that do not necessarily coincide with clients’ interests, while it is vital that guidance be conducted exclusively in line with these objectives and that it proceeds from the client him or herself.