Every day during Canada Career Week (November 4-8, 2013), the ContactPoint and OrientAction online communities will publish guest blogs on the state of career development around the world. Today’s post was written by Raimo Vuorinen from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research.
In Finland careers information, lifelong guidance and counselling services are provided mainly by two established public systems. Schools have the main responsibility for student counselling, with the guidance and counselling services of the PES complementing school-based services, being mainly targeted at clients outside the education and training institutions. There is a clear division of labour as well as long co-operation between these two systems.
Career education and school counselling were embedded in the Finnish educational system and the core curricula already in 1970 during the first major school reform when the former dual system was changed to a nine-year comprehensive education. The establishment of the counsellor training was a parallel process alongside with the implementation of these major school reforms
In comprehensive and secondary education as well as in the PES guidance and counselling is a citizen entitlement identified in national legislation. In comprehensive education career education is a compulsory element in the curriculum, comprising 76 hours of scheduled activities in students’ timetables during classes 7-9. In addition, there is an entitlement for individual guidance and group counselling, and work-experience periods. In grades 1-6, guidance is embedded in the work of the classroom teachers.
The Finnish National Board of Education draws up the core curricula, which give more comprehensive instructions for the delivery of education and counselling in different school settings locally. The school curriculum must include a description of how co-operation with the local labour market and business community is being implemented within the school. Classroom visits by labour market representatives, visits to workplaces, project work, the use of different sectors’ information materials and introduction-to-working-life periods are central parts of this co-operation. The instruction in the different subjects is to include modules that connect the knowledge and skills provided by the subject to the demands and possibilities of working life. The emphasis is on the promotion of lifelong career management skills, not only on the choice of next school level.
Pupils and their guardians are to have the chance to receive information on the working approaches and possibilities of choice within basic education, and on the implications of these choices for the pupil’s studies and future. School-specific issues concerning the provision of guidance and counselling services, pupil welfare and support services are to be explained to pupils and their parents or guardians. The parent or guardian must be given opportunities to discuss issues related to the pupil’s studies and choices by meeting collectively with the teacher, school counsellor and pupil.
The career education and guidance services in educational settings can be described as a process in which the students get prepared for active transitions and the future’s society from lifelong learning perspective, i.e.the whole study path from comprehensive school to the secondary education, to working life or to further education. These curriculum guidelines emphasize the students’ skills to learn to use different sources of information, especially the Internet.
Finland has a strongly professionalized system of guidance qualified by international standards. The qualifications of the career practitioners in comprehensive and secondary level education as well as of the vocational psychologists are defined in legislation. Beyond the required qualification for teachers (a master’s degree or a special qualification for vocational-school teachers), all school counsellors must have a certificate of the completion of specialist training in guidance and counselling (60 ECTS) or a Master degree in guidance (300 ECTS). However, the qualification requirements for counsellors working in Higher education are not laid down by law. A prerequisite of a vocational guidance psychologist in the public employment services in Finland is a master’s degree in psychology. The Ministry of Employment and the economy organises in-service training for all labour administration staff. As for the other professional groups, no official qualifications prescribed by law are required. Nevertheless, almost everybody in these groups has a vocational qualification or a university degree.
Within educational settings there are about 2000 guidance practitioners. In comprehensive schools and in upper secondary general education school counsellors are responsible for organization and implementation of guidance and counselling services. In addition to career education lessons in the classroom they are in charge of individual guidance and counselling (learning, career and psychosocial support) and group counselling. They organize the co-operation with the local employers and arrange the compulsory introductory periods in working life for the students. Similarly in vocational schools study counsellors bear the main responsibility for counselling, but every teacher is engaged in guidance activities as a part of their teaching duties.
Like in most of the European countries there is a growing need for adult guidance in Finland. The guidance services in adult education institutes vary. However, the legislation on adult education includes student entitlements for support in individual study plans and recognition of prior learning. According to the Finnish integration law the immigrants have also the right to an integration plan. This includes the definition of the individual needs and goals of the immigrant and the services that are needed to gain the goals.
In Higher education institutes (HEIs) guidance and counselling services are delivered vary in quantity and quality. The HEIs have autonomy in designing the services, but they are developing indicators identifying how this process is promoted and supported and monitored as a part of the quality assurance systems of the whole organisation.
The latest development in legislation requires also a municipality-level body to be responsible for cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral local co-operation in meeting the needs of youth under 25 years of old. This was before the introduction in January 2013 of a youth guarantee for young people, requiring that each person younger than 25 years and each recent graduate under 30 years of age be offered work, a traineeship, or a study, workshop or labour market rehabilitation place within three months of becoming unemployed. This requires even stronger collaboration between local organisations, to ensure that guidance services meet the challenges posed by the guarantee.
In order to promote coherence lifelong guidance services the Ministry of Education and culture together with the Ministry of Employment and the economy established in 2011 a national lifelong guidance forum. This forum acts as a steering group which follows up the implementation of a national development programme for adult guidance under the European Social Fund period 2007-2013 and the new national strategy 2011-15 on lifelong guidance. The emphasis is in developing new regional cross-sectoral service delivery modes with a telephone helpline in connection with a new national portal for guidance services.
A more detailed description of the lifelong guidance system and policy development is available at the Finnish Centre for International Mobility, CIMO http://cimo.fi/instancedata/prime_product_julkaisu/cimo/embeds/cimowwwstructure/26710_Lifelong_Guidance_in_Finland_booklet.pdf