Department of Education and Skills
The Importance of Effective Career Guidance Tools and Information
An independent review of offerings in the education and training system
This article provides an insight into aspects of career guidance in the Irish education and training system, in order to improve the existing career guidance tools and information and to enhance engagement with enterprise.
The National Skills Strategy 2025 and the Action Plan for Education 2016–2019 provided for a career guidance review that would include recommendations on changes to improve the existing career guidance tools and career information for students and adults in post-primary, further, and higher education that are currently in place across the education and training system in Ireland.
The objective of this review was to examine aspects of career guidance in the Irish education and training system, in order to improve the existing tools and information and to enhance engagement with enterprise. Indecon International Consultants carried out the review, which was guided by an expert steering group chaired by Professor Tom Collins, current chairperson of Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and the Technological Higher Education Association.
The terms of reference for the report are as follows:
- Describe and review existing career guidance tools and career information for students and adults in post-primary, further, and higher education that are currently in place across the education and training system in Ireland. The review will specifically consider the existing policy framework for such tools and information, information sources (including online tools), and organisational structures.
- Assess how learners form their opinions on career choice, including when, who, and what influences these choices.
- Review the quality, quantity, and sources of career information available and assess which mechanisms and what formats have the greatest impact on students’ and adults’ career choices.
- Outline what measures could be designed and what framework created to enhance enterprise engagement with the education and training system in relation to providing information on career pathways for students and adults.
- Recommend changes to improve the existing career guidance tools and career information for students and adults in post-primary, further, and higher education that are currently in place across the education and training system in Ireland.
- Review to begin in Q1, 2018, and a report to be completed and published by the end of Q2, 2018.
Summary of the Report
While the review is focused on elements of career guidance in the education and training system, there are wider requirements for career guidance outside of this sector for those wishing to return to paid work, whether from home or from unemployment. People seeking to move from one employment to another or to progress within a company also need information and advice. This reflects the fact that career guidance, in the EU Council’s definition, is ‘a continuous process that enables citizens at any age and at any point in their lives to identify their capacities, competences and interests, to make educational, training and occupational decisions and to manage their individual life paths in learning, work and other settings’.
There is a need for a major initiative to enhance employer engagement and to extend supports for special education schools.
The report’s findings suggest that Ireland has a number of features of effective career-support systems, but some areas require urgent attention, such as the need to improve career information and advice, including on labour market opportunities and apprenticeship options. There is also a need for a major initiative to enhance employer engagement and to extend supports for special education schools. Changes to organisational structures are required. There is also a need to intensify the potential role of career guidance in reducing economic and social disadvantage.
Launch of the Report
The Report of the Independent Review of Career Guidance Tools and Information was launched on 24 April 2019 by the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, together with the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, and the Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD.
Launching the report, Minister McHugh said:
The world is changing rapidly, and part of our job is to respond to the constantly evolving needs of pupils in schools, students, and graduates. The role of guidance professionals and counsellors in schools is a challenge – to support young people so that they can fulfil their full potential in life and in work. I am committed to ensuring that we prioritise high-quality, relevant career guidance support and the promotion of well-being for all. It is essential that the assistance we provide is valuable, that it prepares people for work and life so that they are equipped to make the choices that are right for them. We want to put people in a position to realise their full potential.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor stated:
The choices that young people and people deciding on career changes make can have a huge impact on their future. It is essential that our students and prospective students get access to the very best advice and support to help them with these choices. As Minister of State for Higher Education, I know that both the student experience in college and life after higher education can be enhanced greatly by stakeholders including learners, parents, guidance counsellors, and professionals having access to the information they need to support people to make informed choices. Listening to the student voice is essential to understanding the needs of our young people and those in our institutions, and I am pleased to note that as part of the review, Indecon had extensive consultation with stakeholders to gather their views on the key issues to be considered. I believe the recommendations in the review reflect the challenges that exist in the area of career guidance but also provide a framework to ensure that we can tackle these challenges head on.
Minister Halligan said:
There are many different options across the Irish education and training system that provide a pathway for individuals to pursue a career in their chosen profession. The review highlights the fact that having access to the best-quality career guidance tools and information is a must. I am confident that the recommendations in the review provide a foundation for promoting engagement amongst all stakeholders, including employers, to ensure that we have a career guidance system with the right tools and information to meet the needs of all concerned.
The review highlights the fact that having access to the best-quality career guidance tools and information is a must – Minister Halligan.
One of the key recommendations of the report is for the Department of Education and Skills to set up an implementation task force to drive the proposed reforms. As a first task, the group will look at the options for establishing the support organisation which is to oversee technology-facilitated guidance services. In doing so the group will consult with key stakeholders. The report makes eighteen recommendations under four headings:
- Reforms to governance and delivery arrangements
- Improvement in career guidance tools and career information
- Enhancement of enterprise engagement
- Promotion of inclusion.
Recommended reforms under each heading are summarised below.
Reforms to governance and delivery arrangements:
- Appoint a national policy group to develop a coherent, long-term strategy for lifelong career guidance.
- Place ongoing emphasis on evidence-based policy, including through organisation of a biennial stakeholder forum.
- Establish a support organisation to oversee technology-facilitated guidance services, funded in part from the NTF.
- Department of Education and Skills to set up an implementation task force to drive the proposed reforms.
- Integrate a consistent learner guidance and support service across FET.
Improvement in career guidance tools and career information:
- Provide multi-channel, blended career guidance supports, including online tools with telephone and internet access to experienced guidance practitioners.
- Strengthen and promote a user-friendly centralised careers portal.
- Allocate specialised guidance practitioners to groups of schools on a regional basis.
- Invest in providing accessible labour market intelligence.
Enhancement of enterprise engagement:
- Implement a programme with the enterprise sector to highlight the benefits to enterprise of participating in career guidance.
- Initiate supports for employers to facilitate career guidance inputs and quality work experience.
- Introduce measures to increase participation of students, parents, and teachers at an expanded number of regional career fairs and workshops.
- Widen access to work experience programmes and apprenticeships using online matching services.
- Encourage cooperation among groups of schools for joint enterprise engagements.
Promotion of inclusion:
- Introduce a specific module on career guidance as part of training for teachers in special schools.
- Provide access for special education and adult learners to the proposed enhanced central career support services, including information on labour market opportunities.
- Provide additional specialised ongoing CPD supports for teachers in special schools.
- Prioritise resource allocation, including guidance teachers for learners most in need of assistance.
In order to begin considering and implementing the recommendations, the Department of Education and Skills has established a task force that is chaired by the secretary general and includes senior officials from those units in the department responsible for elements of guidance. The Indecon Review of Career Guidance: Final Report can be accessed at: www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/indecon-review-of-career-guidance.pdf.