The aim of the Erasmus+ CARMA project is to empower vocational school teachers to deliver career choice and career planning guidance to their students in order to enable them to choose a profession more purposefully relying on the new skills acquired. This improves their motivation and reduces absenteeism and the number of early school leavers; consequently, graduated students start with better chances on the labour market. In order to reach this, under the leadership of Raabe Klett Ltd (Hungary) a 5-member international consortium representing 3 countries – Hungary (Budapest University of Technology, Faculty of Pedagogy; Manfred Weiss Vet School of the Budapest Complex Center of Vocational Training),Finland (Raahe VET Institute, Raahenkoulutuskuntayhtymä) and Bulgaria (Selfinvest Ltd) – undertook to compile, during the 18 months of the project, a comprehensive Career Management Manual for vocational school teachers. On the basis of the Manual, 5–5 teachers from two partner schools (Manfred Weiss VET School from Csepel, and Raahe VET Institute from Finland) attended a 5-day training in the capital city of Bulgaria. Subsequently, the trained teachers conducted career guidance pilot sessions in their respective schools for a total of 100 students. The experiences of the pilot sessions – i.e. the practical use of the Manual – were presented and discussed with experts, institution leaders and decision-makers working in the field of vocational education and training on two multiplier events, on a workshop in Sofia in March 2018 and at an international conference in Budapest in April 2018. Our project heavily relied on the profound knowledge base and policy recommendations of the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (ELGPN). In 2007–2015 the network assisted EU Member States (and other countries outside of the EU eligible to participate in the Erasmus+ Programme) and the European Commission in strengthening European cooperation in lifelong guidance both in the field of education and in employment.
In a recently issued document the network pointed out that the promotion of career managements skills is a key element for high-quality VET systems. In addition, the policy forum underpinned that career guidance at schools should focus on the transition to the labour market and be responsive to classroom diversity. It is also important to consider that recent labour market changes as well as the incessant transformation of work performance, positions and professions necessitate continuous personal, professional and scientific development. In the project we developed a comprehensive Manual, which can be used by VET school teachers – also fulfilling their new teaching role – to provide career guidance to students and advise them on how to plan and manage their careers independently and develop their skills. Containing 44 structured activities, the Manual is available in four languages (English, Hungarian, Finnish, Bulgarian). In addition, based on the experiences collected during the project, we crafted a policy recommendation in which we highlighted the important role of teachers in delivering career management skills and stressed the importance of ensuring that teachers’ education and further training prepare them for this task and that career guidance is adapted to the operation of the school.
Context of good practice
In recent times, increasing numbers of students are at risk of dropping out from VET schools and falling victim to early school leaving across Europe. The purpose of the CARMA project was to prepare teachers of participating countries (Hungary, Finland and Bulgaria) – and hopefully teachers of as many European countries as possible – for giving advice on career planning and management to students enrolled in vocational school who, with the new skills under their belt, can make better career choices. This will make them more motivated, reduce the number of absences and early school leavers and as a result, graduates will have more opportunities in the workforce. Numerous skills are needed to manage a successful career. These skills are also listed in the European reference framework on the key competencies for lifelong learning, highlighting, among others, the principle of “learning to learn”, digital competences (such as employees’ self-advertising in the social media and in general, their online presence) as well as social competences (e.g. the ability to efficiently present our strengths relevant to the labour market).
Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group
In the three participating countries of the project (Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria),there is a stable trend –albeit for different reasons –in the number of VET students that fail to obtain their certificates of qualification. In Finland, this is linked to migrant and disadvantaged students; in Hungary and Bulgaria – up until very recently – the lack of employment prospects for VET graduates exerted a negative impact on students’ level of motivation. National[S1] governments generally employ long-term strategies to alleviate the negative effects of early school leaving, focusing primarily on improving the quality of work-based learning at VET schools. However, a more active involvement of VET teachers is required to enable students to make independent and informed career decisions. Currently, VET focuses predominantly on developing competences for a specific profession and is not offering enough guidance for learners to yield the so-called horizontal skills that increase adaptability to different occupational settings. Career guidance services at VET schools can be a bridge between school and the business world and may ease the transition from school to the workforce. In Hungary, over a quarter of vocational secondary students and over a third of vocational training students indicate that they would choose a different occupation if they were given a choice to start again. It is therefore important to insert career guidance into the training process in order to help students to review their career options and to find jobs that meet their interests and goals. Therefore, career guidance should also be available earlier in courses for any students that are thinking of, or at risk of, dropping out, to ensure that they are able to transfer as easily as possible to a more appropriate programme (Field et al.; Kuczera et al.). Early school leaving can be explained by a number of reasons. Uncovering and understanding the reasons is a must to take the right measures in order to alleviate the problem. One of the main targets of the European Union is to reduce the average share of early school leavers under 10 per cent by 2020. (Europe 2020 Target: Early Leavers from Education and Training) To reach this goal, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy, and it is necessary to uncover the reasons and to find the right instruments of prevention and intervention. These steps will ultimately improve the quality of vocational education and training as well. We reached VET students in the framework of pilot sessions and VET teachers in the framework of continuing VET training and pilot sessions. It was in the context of our extensive dissemination activity that we reached centres for VET training, key actors of teacher training, adult training experts and experts from chambers, i.e. decision-makers who may have an influence in promoting the integration of career management skills into VET training.
Success factors and processes
In the project we compiled a comprehensive Manual, which can be used by VET school teachers – also fulfilling their new teaching role – to provide career guidance to students and advise them on how to plan and manage their careers independently. We developed and held a structured training session that prepared VET teachers to provide guidance to their students in relation to career choices and career planning. We provided pilot training to a total of 100 students delivered by teachers participating in the training to students of their respective schools (5–5 teachers from Manfred Weiss VET School from Budapest, and Raahe VET Institute from Finland). We formulated policy recommendations. Participants of the project summarised the experiences collected during the project and in light of their conclusions, they made recommendations for policymakers in EU Member States and the relevant EU bodies.
Impact of measures taken
Students involved in the pilot sessions have become more purposeful about their skills and career choices and now have a better understanding of the requirements of the labour market. Teachers’ career guidance skills and preparedness have improved, they have become more aware of the topic and the importance thereof. Institutions providing training have gained access to a new methodology. For professional policymakers we were able to list even more arguments for the need for a comprehensive reform both in teacher training and in curricula.
During the testing phase we concluded that it is extremely important to make Hungarian secondary vocational education recognise the need for classes dedicated to the development of career management skills (CMS),as is the case in Finland where it is already part of the curriculum. Experiences show that in Hungary students have scarce knowledge about the skills, information and methods required in the world of work; indeed, no one starts out with experience and these skills are not taught in regular classes properly.
- Although some aspects are included in the National Curriculum (writing CVs, understanding job listings, etc.),these are not practical enough and, in many cases, are not flexible enough. They are generally introduced in an outdated way. It would be necessary to apply a business-oriented or HR-oriented approach to make it more relevant, up-to-date and interesting for teenagers.
- It would also be important to put emphasis on the difference between high-social-standard CMS methods and “everyday” or “real-life” CMS methods, as – based on the experience of students – some skills, abilities and methods are not relevant in the latter. For example, in many cases job interview do not take place at all, and instead of digital skills and search methods, informal ways of finding jobs are preferred (ad in the shop window, job through a friend, etc.).
- Hungarian VET schools gravely lack ICT opportunities and it makes teaching/presenting/using superb digital skills virtually impossible. Most schools do not have wireless internet connection and access to computers outside IT lessons, and not all – or not many – students have computers at home in any event.
- Hungarian educators have little time and vague knowledge to properly work on the self-knowledge of their students. Our schools have social workers or psychologists, but they cannot join this work as their competence and capacity are fully exploited already.
- Students usually keep their distance from the school and the teachers (sometimes even from peers); they have a rather negative (or neutral at best) attitude to the school and school work, which makes it very hard for them to open up and work on more personal topics. The exercises, however, helped to identify areas where improvement and intervention are needed.
- Such areas include, just to give a few examples, the development of communication skills, providing space and ways to express themselves, their opinion and thoughts on certain topics, providing an opportunity to think somewhat more deeply about themselves and their career choices, the development of self-knowledge, providing an opportunity for personal engagement, active work and action in a classroom setting. There should be space for personal guidance as needed.
- Re-setting the age limit for compulsory education to 18 years would support the acquisition of these skills, among many other benefits.
- Lessons described in the Manual needed additional preparation and there is also a need for follow-up, which underpins the need for the provision of formal training to teachers on how to deliver these activities in an efficient, professional manner.
- Teachers participating in the project are on the opinion that Hungarian schools would be better places with regular and thorough CMS education as it would help students to become more versatile employees and adults who are capable of tackling changes and challenges. It could be incorporated into specific subjects or inserted as a separate course, but in any case, the training should be regular and purposeful.
- As VET students already face more than 35 – closer to 40 – classes per week, we suggest that possible changes in the curriculum do not raise the number of school hours – thus we suggest a sensible curriculum reform.
- VET training should respond more swiftly to changes in the world of work and in the operating environment, and it should adapt to individual competence needs. This means that career counselling will become more important in the future. The bigger part of teaching will take place outside of school buildings: work will be carried out in various teaching environments and teachers will go to the workplace to provide guidance. Guiding and coaching will be given more emphasis in teachers’ work, and the CARMA Manual will offer some new ideas to VET teachers and materials for their needs.
Time and tools/equipment required for the professional and methodological preparation of teachers Classes dedicated to the project (including stationery, markers, post-its) Computers, internet
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