Historical archive

Summary NOU 2016:7 Career Guidance for Individuals and Society

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher: Ministry of Education and Research

To improve the adult population’s access to professional career guidance, the committee believes that career centres with sufficient capacity should be established in all counties.

1       Introduction and summary

Norwegian society will face many significant challenges in the coming years. Access to high-quality career guidance services is crucial in times when change is necessary and transitions are ongoing. Most people will have to make multiple educational and career choices in the course of their lives. Career guidance has an impact for the individual in a situation where he or she has to make a choice, and is also a tool for directing society’s use of available labour.

The Norwegian economy is undergoing restructuring, accompanied among other things by a rise in unemployment. Career guidance is an effective tool in restructuring processes. There are many who will need information and guidance to varying degrees in order to deal successfully with restructuring. It can be difficult for individuals to figure out what they should do if they are unable to continue doing what they did before. There are many questions to answer: What are my options? What qualifications do I need to find a job in a certain industry? Can I use the skills I already have obtained or do I need more education to gain new skills? What kind of educational programmes are available and how can I finance my studies?

The potential role of career guidance in integration processes for immigrants is highly relevant, especially given the increasing proportion of refugees in Europe today. Many immigrants bring skills from their home countries, both formal and non-formal qualifications. Career guidance can be an important instrument for ensuring that individuals are able to use their skills so that society can take advantage of the resource that immigrants represent. Participation in working life has an integrating effect.

Career guidance has traditionally been viewed as part of a societal aim to create growth through better utilisation of the labour force. The slogan has been “the right man for the job”. However, this concept of growth has been challenged, in part by the EU, whose Europe 2020 strategy calls for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This highlights the need to develop a more unified form of career guidance which also views careers in a sustainability perspective.[1]

Norwegian researchers estimate that one in four jobs will be replaced by technology within 20 years’ time.[2] But while some jobs will disappear, technological development will also lead to the creation of new types of jobs. During the next 10 to 30 years, hundreds of thousands of workers will therefore have to acquire new skills and find new jobs or change their work duties and methods in the jobs they already have. Young people will have to make educational choices in a situation widely characterised by uncertainty, and cannot necessarily assume that the education they choose will lead to a job that will exist later in their career.

Traditionally, and not surprisingly, career guidance has focused on young people who are making their first educational choices. Good choices, educational progress and a lower drop-out rate have been viewed as important career guidance objectives for young people in educational programmes. Much of the resources used on career guidance are allocated precisely to this, e.g. education and career counselling in the schools.

Recent graduates, however, comprise only 2.7 per cent of the labour force at any given point in time. For many members of the labour force, a long time has elapsed since completion of their education. Many adults must expect to obtain more or a different type of education during the course of their careers in order to have the relevant, up-to-date competence that enables them to stay affiliated with a working life in transition. Some people enhance their competency through courses, continuing education or retraining offered by their employers. Others must take responsibility for this themselves, either to avoid losing their jobs or because they have lost their job and need to find a new career. For adult immigrants, this may entail documenting their qualifications from their home country and being able to communicate this, having their qualifications recognised, and possibly pursuing new or supplementary education.

An increasingly pressurised economy, restructuring and changing skills needs, new technology, the green transition and demographic changes will together bring about changes in working life to which society and its inhabitants must respond. The Productivity Commission has pointed to a number of changes in the Norwegian economy and demographics that require restructuring and adaptability on the part of society and individuals alike.[3] In this regard, access to information and high-quality career guidance services is essential. The committee has performed an economic analysis showing the potential gains for society of using career guidance to reduce periods of unemployment, thereby reducing loss in value creation as well as use of public benefits.

While some people will actively seek changes in working life, others will have changes forced upon them. Individuals may need career guidance for shorter or longer periods of time. Some may need several different types of services simultaneously – information, self-help tools and contact with a career counsellor. Some prefer to meet in person, while others are most comfortable with more anonymous contact.

One way to meet these needs is to develop a comprehensive lifelong guidance system in which various services complement each other and which provides access to both individual, face-to-face career guidance and group services as well as various types of online services. A review of knowledge and research on impact of career guidance concludes that the best system for lifelong career guidance consists of a combination of several components working together: “Lifelong guidance is not one intervention, but many, and works most effectively when a range of interventions are combined.”[4]

High-quality career guidance can help to lower the drop-out rates and reduce the number of times people change their minds about their chosen path in primary and secondary education and training and higher education. It also helps to ensure that adults experiencing a transitional phase have a much higher degree of adaptability. Of course this is important for individuals on a personal level, but it is also positive from a socioeconomic perspective to utilise the resources found in the labour force. When the OECD points out that Norway does not sufficiently utilise and develop the competence found within the population, and Norwegian working life is seeking skilled workers, career guidance may in many cases hold the key.[5] This is also reflected in the fact that the social partners have actively provided input to the committee’s efforts and clearly expressed how important it is to establish a more comprehensive system – and to increase access to career guidance – for both employers’ and employees’ organisations. A more comprehensive system would comprise the services within sectors, sector-independent services, and the quality of the career guidance services offered. It is essential that everyone with a need for career guidance has adequate access to services. It is equally important to establish a common understanding of and framework for quality and competence in an integrated system of services.

1.1      Main recommendations from the committee

The committee will give its recommendations in each of the chapters, and a complete summary of the recommendations is provided in Chapter 15. The committee nonetheless wishes to highlight some of its recommendations for developing a better, more comprehensive system of lifelong guidance here:

To ensure that the services are integrated and cohesive with regard to quality, it is important to establish a quality framework based on an understanding that all involved parties have a different role to play in a comprehensive lifelong guidance system. This should include national competency standards – both common standards and actor-specific standards. Educational programmes in keeping with the competency standards must be established for career counsellors. These must be flexible programmes encompassing both basic and further education courses. A framework for career management skills should also be designed as part of a quality framework.

To strengthen career guidance in the schools, the committee believes that the career guidance services in primary and secondary education must be more clearly separated from the social pedagogical guidance. To emphasise this, what is today called “education and career advising” should be called “career guidance”. The position of being a career counsellor in schools should be classified as a separate and defined position, independent of agreements related to teaching positions. In the committee’s view, the positions should in principle be full-time, but with room for flexibility at the local level. To enhance the quality of career guidance and of the specific subjects in career guidance, the committee recommends introducing competency requirements for career counsellors in primary and secondary education. Particular focus should also be placed on further education for teachers who will be teaching the courses called “Educational choice”. Competency requirements for teaching this subject should therefore be introduced on a par with other subjects. A specific class in career guidance for pupils in the Programme for General Studies in upper secondary school should also be developed. In addition, the committee believes that apprentices should be entitled to receive career guidance on the same footing as ordinary pupils.

To improve the adult population’s access to professional career guidance, the committee believes that career centres with sufficient capacity should be established in all counties. In the committee’s view, it will be necessary to establish this by law, and the committee recommends that counties are legally required to ensure that adequate career guidance services are made available to everyone over the age of 19. Central government funding will be targeted towards what the committee believes to be the core activity of the career centres – providing career guidance to the adult population. A significant increase in funding will be required to ensure that services are equally available in all parts of the country.

The committee believes that cooperation and coordination in the field of career guidance is crucial for achieving optimum use of the resources at the career centres. The partnerships for career guidance should therefore be continued in a new form and be funded through a state grant scheme. Cooperation between the career centres and other actors, such as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the municipalities, should take place within the framework of the partnerships. If local organisations wish to use the career centres’ resources, this must be financed separately and through local agreements. When necessary, such as in connection with special initiatives, state-level actors may provide funding to the centres, in consultation with the county administration.

To improve the population’s access to neutral, quality-assured information and to increase access to professional career guidance, the committee recommends establishing an online career guidance service consisting of a website with information and self-help resources and online counselling (e-guidance). The services as a whole will represent a significant increase in the availability of career guidance for the population at large.

A segment of the population currently receives, and will receive in the future, some career guidance through NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration). In the committee’s view, it is important to clarify the parameters set out for this more limited type of career guidance within a system and design competency standards for this as well. In addition, the committee believes it is crucial that the users of NAV are also given information about the career guidance services for the population at large, which will be provided via the career centres.

Career guidance should be an important tool in the field of integration. Newly arrived immigrants who receive career guidance should be able to use their qualifications from their home country and adapt to work or education in Norway more quickly. Like the career guidance provided through NAV, the parameters for career guidance in the introduction programme and Norwegian language training and social studies should be clarified, as well as the competency standards that should apply to this. This means that the skills that the programme advisers should possess should be specified. Participants in the introduction programme should also be made aware of the career guidance services offered to the general population through the career centres.

Greater awareness of the importance of career guidance in higher education is called for, and the Ministry of Education and Research should take greater responsibility for this. The committee recommends that all educational institutions are required to offer career guidance services.

Education and employment are key topics in career guidance. The transition from school to working life often entails looking for a job in order to become an employee, but it may also involve starting one’s own business. This may be of interest to many people, regardless of their level of education. Establishing and running a business requires a variety of skills that fall under the umbrella of entrepreneurship. The non-profit organisation Junior Achievement Young Enterprise works within the educational system to provide training in entrepreneurship, and many dedicated educational programmes are available in this area as well. In the committee’s view, all career counsellors should be familiar with and have an awareness of self-employment as a career path, as well as understand the significance of this from a societal perspective. The committee believes, however, that guidance and training in entrepreneurship lie outside what would be the career counsellors’ core area of expertise and that this topic would be best addressed by others with specific expertise in the field. Consequently, the committee does not discuss entrepreneurship as a separate topic in this report.

The committee regards career guidance as a key policy instrument for lifelong learning. Measures at the local level should be viewed in connection with national priorities and strategies. Thus, it is important to establish more effective forms of dialogue mechanisms at the national level for lifelong learning policy in general and career guidance in particular. The committee therefore recommends the establishment of a lifelong learning policy partnership at the national level, as a follow-up to the efforts on the national strategy for lifelong learning.

1.2      Structure and form of the report

The first two chapters of the report describe the membership, mandate and activities of the committee. Then, in Chapter 3, the committee provides its interpretation of the mandate and definitions of some key concepts. The background and historical development of career guidance is described in Chapter 4.

Chapter 5 presents the committee’s assessments and recommendations regarding quality and the professionalisation of career guidance in Norway, and discusses how these aspects comprise an important part of a unified system. Some general assessments of the system of career guidance in Norway are presented here as well.

Chapters 6 and 7 describe the general services for adults over 19 years of age (county career centres) and for the entire population (a national, online career guidance service). Chapters 8 through 14 describe the sector-specific services.

Chapters 15 and 16 summarise the committee’s recommendations and the economic and administrative ramifications.

[1] Plant, P. (2014). Green Guidance. I Arulmani, G. & Watts, A.G. (eds.), Handbook of Career Development: International Perspectives. London: Spring and Plant, Peter (2015): Guia verde: Una guia para el futuro, REOP. Vol. 26, nº1, 1º Cuatrimestre, 2015.

[2] Ådne Cappelen to the online finance newspaper E24 on 16 September 2014. Based on Cappelen, Å, H. Gjefsen, M. Gjelsvik, I. Holm and N. Stølen (2013): Forecasting demand and supply of labour by education. SSB Rapport 48/2013.

[3] NOU 2016: 3 Ved et vendepunkt: Fra ressursøkonomi til kunnskapsøkonomi (“Official Norwegian Report 2016: 3 At a turning point: From a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy”).

[4] ELGPN (2014a): The Evidence Base on Lifelong Guidance. A Guide to Key Findings for Effective Policy and Practice. ELGPN Tools No 3. Jyväskylä: ELGPN. Page 8.

[5] OECD (2014a): Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report Norway. Paris: OECD, OECD (2014b): Skills Strategy Action Report Norway. Paris: OECD.