The Importance of Guidance: Part 2.

Part 2 continues to reinforce the importance of guidance in education and training especially during the current recession and for technical and vocational subjects. Some key factors that need to be considered when formulating a policy include the following:
As usual, resources whether human, physical and financial will play an important part in developing and implementing a more effective strategy. One of the key challenges is to realise value for money for the service and economy of scale. This is a fact that has to be addressed particularly during a period of financial austerity and massive cuts that education and training budgets are now experiencing. One critical issue that must be considered is the number and proportion of specialist and non-specialist guidance advisers involved both within education/training institutions and in other agencies. Professionally qualified specialist advisers will need to move between the various education and training centres to support the staff based within schools, colleges and training providers. Clearly team working and cross departmental cooperation will be even more essential for the operation of a successful and cost effective service in order to maximise the expertise.  The reforms over the past few years have not been particularly successful e.g. Connections and the focusing on specific age groups and an urgent and major set of reform s are long overdue.
Labour Market Intelligence (LMI)
Critical to this is that there must be a comprehensive, up to date labour market intelligence system that identifies and informs education and training providers as accurately as possible the current and future needs of employers. (See other articles on this website). The issues associated with the supply and demand equation of appropriately skilled labour are both challenging and complex but must be managed in an economic, effective and efficient manner (the 3 E’s). The critical factor is how one achieves the balance of the supply and demand equation and any guidance system must be fully aware of the needs of the employers currently and in the future and crucially what the government’s employment intentions are. This is particularly important when inward investment developments are being explored by the government. Effective partnerships and ongoing communications are essential between the guidance service, the government and its relevant departments, employers and education and training providers. New employment opportunities and structures and industries/occupations are appearing rapidly and challenge traditional assumptions about career choices and ways of operating information, guidance and advice systems. The nature and patterns of work for individuals are changing rapidly and more so in the current volatile global financial climate. This will require well informed guidance professionals who are aware of these external transitions who can provide impartial information, advice and guidance. People are likely to have more jobs over a lifetime i.e. to have a portfolio work style and equally importantly people have to be more flexible and realistic in their career aspirations. Knowledge and skill bases are expanding and developing at an exponential rate and in some industries the knowledge half life is now six months. The future profile of employment will comprise the so-called knowledge economy and a mix of essential traditional industries and the challenge is to achieve a realistic balance between these two that reflects the needs and aspirations of the islands.  This country must create an economy that requires a wide range of competences, skills and knowledge bases. The qualifications offered by education and training centres must match and provide these skills etc. Equally importantly the providers must prepare their learners to enter employment by offering impartial, relevant and up to date guidance, advice and information.
The Guidance Process and Lifelong Learning
Impartial and well informed guidance is essential as part 1 identified and the lack of information about education and training opportunities and not knowing what is available and what the benefits are must be addressed through universal access to impartial and comprehensive information, guidance, support and advice. Information about the potential education, training and employment opportunities is essential but even this may not be enough. People need to learn but sadly a number are reluctant to engage in learning. One solution is to stimulate demand for lifelong learning as well as reviewing and reforming the current ways of supply; focusing on the possible barriers to learning and remove these in order to motivate people to learn.
After all lifelong learning has to compete for people’s time and attention. The labour market tends to reward higher levels of knowledge and skills, so there is a personal financial incentive, as well as the reward of business performance and growth. The employment profile for the country is still changing and it is imperative that it achieves that difficult balance across and between a range of competences and skills that will be required in future employment.  Education and training providers must offer programmes that prepare learners of all ages to enter these new and emerging occupational areas ensuring they are more fully informed of the nature of their chosen employment. The guidance process must also stress the importance of continuing professional development in order to create a culture of lifelong learning.
One other important factor in addition to the information, guidance and advice giving is that a number of people will require support with their literacy, computer and numeracy skills i.e. basic skills. Education and training providers will have such facilities that could be used by the wider community using a referral system from the guidance advisers. These days basic and employability skills coupled with specific specialised skills are becoming essential in preparing a well educated/trained workforce for the future.
Work Experience/Placement
If resources allow programmes of work experience/placement are invaluable enhancements in the curriculum for employment preparation particularly for post-16 students. This is particularly true whether or not the learners have focused or unfocused career intentions. Many people often have unrealistic attitudes towards particular occupations and a period of work experience/placement can help confirm or refute that intention.
Specific needs
One of the real challenges of developing a comprehensive guidance system is managing the heterogeneous populations requiring guidance whether young or adult and particularly those with specific/special needs.
In order to maintain high quality guidance systems which engenders confidence and respect among users regular monitoring and inspection regimes will need to be developed. In order to recognise the importance of guidance within education and training the staff involved will need to be supported by programmes of CPD and accepted as equals in what will become an even more important activity. The development of a guidance system is a very challenging task but an essential one if the economy of this country is to thrive and compete with other countries.
Final observation
To develop and maintain a guidance process is both a very difficult and challenging task as it is different from formal teaching and learning* but if an effective, impartial, open and objective system is established it pays dividends for both the learner, the institution, employer and ultimately the country.
·         See the elements in part 1 that differentiates and defines the guidance process from teaching formal subjects.
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