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New study on lifelong guidance in the EU helps set the direction for future policy

  • Major study on lifelong guidance provision in EU member states published
  • Study was commissioned by the European Commission to shed light on recent policies and practices in the area.
  • The report also provides proposals and directions for the Commission to take this policy field further.
  • 11 features of lifelong guidance identified and mapped
  • Increasing importance of health and well-being professionals, and data providers is recognised.
  • Report calls for multi-professional and cross-sectoral networks.

A major study mapping the ways European member states organise and provide lifelong careers guidance has been published by a consortium led by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, in partnership with the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä.

diagramThe research team interviewed experts from across Europe and overseas to understand current best practice in national systems, and to find out how innovations such as increased use of technology, and greater integration of labour market information, are being used to help people better manage their careers.

Lifelong guidance (LLG) aims to provide career development support for individuals of all ages, at all career stages, and includes careers information, advice, counselling, assessment of skills and mentoring. It is more proactive than traditional careers guidance and delivered over the life-course.

The report, Lifelong guidance policy and practice in the EU: trends, challenges and opportunities, was commissioned by the European Commission in order to help shape new policy initiatives as member states seek to help citizens adapt to new ways of working and global changes in the labour market.

Its recommendations have become particularly timely given the pandemic, with rising unemployment levels and the need to be innovative to remain employable.

A new framework of eleven key features of lifelong guidance systems was created for the report. These range from legislation and strategic leadership, to the delivery of guidance and embedding labour market information in lifelong guidance provision. The new framework will help inform discussions of how LLG can evolve to meet the different needs of the EU member states.

The report also recognises the increasing role played by health and wellbeing professionals and data providers in the provision of LLG, and calls for the creation of multi-professional and cross-sectoral networks to better support flexible lifelong guidance systems.

Dr Sally-Anne Barnes of Warwick IER said:

This study comes at a very challenging time for everyone involved in careers guidance and counselling policy and service delivery. It was a really exciting project as it highlighted how much interesting and innovative work is going on across the UK and Europe in the sector.

“We found that many countries are facing the same challenges in terms of funding, getting to grips with technology, and working within structures that constrain practice as well trying to align practices with others.

Dr Raimo Vuorinen from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research said:

"As there are differences in how EU members states construct lifelong guidance policies and services, the expert interviews and workshops indicated the need for continued EU support in positioning LLG in wider EU policy developments and sharing member states’ knowledge and experiences as well as strengthening communication between them. This study includes a shared understanding on the importance of career guidance at national level and identifies common reference points for mutual policy learning in the future. For example, how to use citizen entitlement as a policy lever in facilitating the continuity of services across sectors and contexts over the life-span. "

Dr Barnes added: “We have been careful to ensure that we understand the new changes and opportunities available in the post Covid-19 labour market. Whilst there may be new opportunities in the labour market as a result of COVID-19, there is a need to understand where these opportunities are and how to help people access them.

“It will be important to be mindful that some may be out of work for the first time and new measures will help build confidence and resilience. Those that have had to change their role, take on a new role, adapt and innovate will need to help to recognise these skills.

“Post Covid-19, career guidance and counselling will have an important role not only in supporting people back into work, but also helping them adapt to new ways of working and a new type of labour market.”



Lifelong guidance policy and practice in the EU: trends, challenges and opportunities is by Sally-Anne Barnes, Jenny Bimrose and Alan Brown Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick; and Jaana Kettunen and Raimo Vuorinen Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä

Available here.



Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

07876 218166