Strategies for Vocational Guidance in the
Twenty-first Century

International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG)
The Mount, 41 Rowden Hill, Chippenham
Wiltshire SN15 2AQ, United Kingdom



Guidance helps people accomplish the following goals whether they are learners planning their education, training and careers, or adults planning their careers or further training, or preparing to become more employable.

  • Identify own talents, strengths and weaknesses, family expectations and national requirements to sort out the personal relevance of the educational and vocational options available;
  • Understand the available education and training options and the requirements for admission and success, and select an appropriate field of study;
  • Understand the work options that are available, the qualifications required, the means of gaining entry, the life of the worker and the rewards of the jobs;
  • Translate information about self, educational opportunities and the world of work into short-range and long-range career goals;
  • Learn effective job-search procedures;
  • Develop career adaptability to be able to take advantage of opportunities as they occur;
  • Overcome self-defeating behaviors, gain self-confidence and learn life skills;
  • Cope with the reactions to job loss of anger, depression, frustration and apathy, and learn to take continuing positive action to become employed again;
  • Identify alternative occupations when current employment is in jeopardy.

Guidance is more than giving information. It is a blend of self-development and of the learning and assimilation of career, providing educational and labour market information. The development of self-confidence is often a prerequisite for taking action for one's career. The goals of guidance may be achieved via individual counselling, self-preparation, career development courses, computer-assisted guidance and Internet-based guidance systems.



As the third millennium approaches, there is a growing recognition that guidance contributes to the personal, educational, economic and social development of individuals and nations.


State of the Economy

The first seven years of the 1990s were years of economic expansion in significant parts of Europe, North America and Asia, yet many countries worried about how well they could compete in the face of the globalization of trade. They examined their economic and educational policies and programmes to ensure that they would have competent, competitive and even entrepreneurial work forces. Typically, their recipes for future economic success included strengthening the career guidance services for learners and for workers in the labour force. As the international economy grew more worrisome and as economic management became a priority within an increasing range of countries, the development of competent labour forces was seen as increasingly important to the future economic well being of countries.

In the past a number of countries have followed policies that did not particularly welcome the private sector as an important part of society, but now as some governments downsize they look more and more to the private sector to provide growth in employment and to be good 'corporate citizens'. The years of neglect of the private sector is reflected in the lack of knowledge about basic labour market information (e.g., occupational descriptions, occupational classification system, job requirements, pay rates, hiring practices and job forecasts). The lack of this information and the lack of occupational structures for the gathering and classification of the information have presented problems to technical and vocational educators in deciding what programmes to offer. It also presents a problem to counsellors to provide vocational guidance when very little vocational information is available.



Guidance was first conducted through group talks and individual interviews with students, but increasingly it has been recognized that adults are in need of guidance as much as youth. It has also been accepted that career development is a cumulative learning often requiring more than an interview or two at significant transition points such as school leaving, preparation for higher education or at the time of job loss. Several current innovations are briefly described below.

Several countries are formulating career development guidelines to specify the characteristics of vocational maturity that people should be able to exhibit at each level of education and employment. These guidelines are then used as specifications for guidance programmes and for the evaluation of programmes. (Australian Education Council, 1992; National Occupational Information and Co-ordinating Committee; National Life Work Centre, 1998.)

Career and personal development courses typically address the following goals:

  • Understand the importance of values, work, friends, family, income and self-fulfilment to personal and career development;
  • Develop a sense of control over one's own life and work and explore one's own abilities, potential, needs, aspirations, self-monitoring, self-defeating behaviours, self-help skills and use of resources;
  • Strengthen one's orientation to the future and identify steps to be taken, anticipate opportunities and barriers, timetable steps to the future, seek and identify opportunities, and take action;
  • Examine a variety of occupations, learn about the education and training, licensing, certification or registration, working conditions and work-life style of the occupations;
  • Learn decision-making and apply it to one's own career decisions including setting specific targets;
  • Examine own self-awareness and tendency to analyse past experience, including what one has and has not accomplished and the reasons for successes and disappointments;
  • Learn the job-search skills of preparing résumés, completing application forms, seeking interviews and being interviewed; and,
  • Develop the transition skills of continuously developing one's competencies in the face of adversity and opportunity, obtain information on the transferability of one's skills to new opportunities, and of engage in continuous learning. Guidance courses are often taught by regular teachers with but a few days specialized training in the subject. (See Ministry of Education, n.d.)

Career education, the infusion of career and labour market information into the regular subjects of the curriculum helps make the course material more relevant to everyday life and also instills the skills of research, thinking and questioning into education (rather than teaching them separately).

The past two decades have witnessed the growth of computer-assisted educational and career guidance systems that use: interest, aptitude and preference surveys; ed educational and occupational information; person-occupation matching systems; and educational and vocational planning systems. A requirement of such systems is a classification and description of occupations in a jurisdiction.

To make guidance available to adult populations, a number of governments established career centres providing a full range of guidance services including individual and group counselling, labour market information, and job search training. In addition, an increasing number of major employers have career centres for the use of their own staff. The companies actively encourage and assist their employees to acquire advanced skills to make them more promotable. Part of this service often includes personal career planning offered on a confidential basis.

Equity has become an increasingly important focus of career guidance and promises to continue to be more and more evident in career education and guidance. UNESCO is a major international influence in this movement (UNESCO, 1987; Bingham and Martin, 1989; Miller and Vetter, 1996) particularly as it relates to girls and women. Guidance programmes for persons with disabilities (Conger, 1997) and for aboriginals (Peavy, 1994, Charter et al., 1994) are becoming more and more important.

Peer helping is becoming very popular in some school systems because it has been demonstrated to be effective in creating a positive peer pressure in contrast to negative peer pressure. Peers help each other in learning, social activities and career planning.

Life-skills training to inculcate problem-solving abilities and their appropriate and responsible use in the management of one's life in such areas as personal, family, education, work and leisure is becoming a feature of many programmes for youth and adults. People who feel that they can influence their own lives, communicate better, have good relationships in the home and community, and exhibit social skills appropriate to the learning and workplaces are more employable and more likely to create opportunities for self-employment. (Allen et al., 1995.)

School guidance programmes in a number of countries now include the preparation by each student of a personal portfolio (National Occupational Information and Coordinating Committee that contains a record of achievement and action plans. These documents are drawn up by students as a basis for self-assessment and future planning. They also provide a medium for the recording of significant career information and relating it to one's plans.

Simulations of working life prompt the participants to obtain knowledge of themselves, occupations, education and training, pay and working conditions, living costs and other factors and integrate them into alternative career plans. Simulations are popular with learners and counsellors alike because they provide a realistic opportunity to test out expectations for the future (e.g. Barry, 1998).

Visits to work sites students in the ninth year are invited to spend the day in the workplace with either a parent, friend, relative or volunteer host. A true 'show and tell' experience for adults, in a multitude of different workplace settings including airports, police departments, civic centres, industrial enterprises, banks, restaurants, universities, radio stations, machine shops and hospitals. The initiative provides opportunities for students to see workers in different roles and responsibilities, and aims to enhance students' understanding of individual jobs in the context of the working community, while linking classroom and workplace experiences directly. The programme aims to create opportunities for students to see the realities of the workplace.



In an effort to make guidance available to all, and noting the increasing popularity of the Internet, a few affluent countries provide a full range of career, educational and labour-market information, and also career and personal planning courses, via the World Wide Web. In addition to information, some systems include inventories of interests and aptitudes, occupational choice systems, instructions on job search techniques, a resume generator, and even simulated job interviews. These countries like the idea of "self-serve" career guidance. The information provided by governments is often supplemented by information offered by educational institutions, employers, professional and trade associations, and other groups. In a few jurisdictions the Internet guidance programmes are supplemented with electronic mail communication with a counsellor and, in some cases, with other users through open discussion forums. Some experimentation is now underway to provide vocational counselling via interactive video conferencing on the Internet.

A by-product of Internet-based systems is that people in any country with access to the Internet can see the educational and occupational structures and opportunities in other countries and also use the guidance instruments (interest inventories, etc.) on-line. It is relevant to note that some of the users of Canadian Internet-based career systems access them from outside that country. A more planned effort to provide international guidance on the Internet is found in the European ESTIA project ( which provides information about education, work and the labour market in four countries, soon to expand to fourteen countries. Internet connections are far from being available to most people in most countries. However, the Internet delivery of career guidance will be increasingly common in the next century. On-line counseling has some distinct advantages: to reach people in rural and remote areas; to serve persons with disabilities that make it difficult for them to attend an office; and to accommodate people who are apprehensive about receiving counseling face to face.


Educational Reform

Some ministries of education are in the process of major educational reform because the emergence of a more 'learning-intensive' economy poses new challenges. Employment is becoming increasingly fluid, work is increasingly complex, occupational boundaries are changing or dissolving, and more jobs are temporary. For these reasons, continual learning is a more important part of work. Five main elements characterize an education system that is likely to prepare students effectively for this new environment:

  • emphasis on science and technology;
  • skill standards;
  • close connection between vocational and academic education to meet the requirements of learning-intensive work;
  • links between employers and school, and;
  • workplace learning.

These changes present difficulties for the learners and many students (and their parents) are in need of a better understanding of the changes, the implications in terms of career prospects, the skills to adjust to a scientific mode of thinking and the cultures of new industrial working life. This situation calls for a special version of the guidance curriculum and programme generally to provide the orientation and to teach the learning skills.


School Dropouts

Students who prematurely discontinue their studies represent a major potential loss to themselves, the economy and the society. In some countries there is considerable pressure on students to quit school and help with the farm-work or otherwise bring supplemental income into their parents' household. Recently some countries have become increasingly active in attempting to lessen the number of dropouts - and this is quite feasible because dropping out is seldom done without prior notice on the part of the student's behaviour.

A number of mechanisms have been put in place: guidance curriculum; diagnostic surveys intended to help identify students likely to drop out so that remedial steps may be taken; remedial programmes for students falling behind in their studies; teaching of study skills; the implementation of peer helping programmes to make use of positive peer pressure and to combat negative peer pressure; combined work and study programmes; and changes in school management practices to give students the same rights of grievance and appeal that is common in the workplace. Guidance counsellors are often at the heart of these programmes.


School-to-work Transition

The articulation of school-based learning and work-based learning follows significantly different patterns from country to country. In some jurisdictions there is an almost seamless transition from the school to apprenticeship programmes. In other jurisdictions there is a complete separation between school and work. The role of guidance varies significantly according to the system. In the former it is the task of counsellors to assist students to select the appropriate types of work-based training programme and to prepare them for entry. In jurisdictions without this articulation, the school guidance programme has often been more geared to preparing the most academically inclined students for university than to help students who will go immediately into the labour force. Frequently in cultures that separate secondary education and apprenticeship programmes parents want their children to go to university and not to prepare for the trades even though the children have indicated a preference for a trade. Counsellors have a particular responsibility to explain to parents the many favourable aspects of a career in the trades.

Increasingly in jurisdictions that do not articulate school and work-based learning, schools integrate work experience assignments as an integral part of the curriculum and seek the co-operation of local employers, unions and professional associations. According to Stasz (1998) "the power of the work based learning is that authentic work experiences give learners opportunities to apply knowledge in useful contexts. They thereby can gain a deeper understanding of both their abilities and the opportunities they can create for themselves through experience and/or education. In the end, learning is a personal, developmental transformation, so it is crucial to pay attention to whether that transformation occurs, as well as to the context that will enable such a transformation. It is this context that teachers and counsellors, in and out of school, have the most ability to shape".


Guidance for Unemployed Workers

The following practices have been found (Bysshe, 1998 and others) to be helpful in preparing unemployed workers for new employment:

  • Identify the "employability skills" that employers expect of workers and train workers in these skills;
  • Use income-support programmes to train unemployed workers and to get them appropriate work experience to qualify for new employment;
  • Teach job search techniques;
  • Identify the information, assessment, guidance and training needs of individuals to help them become employed with-in a realistic time;
  • Use an action plan, where the responsibilities of the client and the counsellor are clear;
  • Provide ongoing help so that agreed plans are reviewed in the light of progress made and that necessary support can be given to deal with inevitable disappointments and failures;
  • Address issues such as bolstering confidence and self-esteem, through appropriate measures;
  • Develop and foster self-help to maximize the learning for the individual and ensure that all barriers to effective transition are being addressed; and,
  • Act as the link between the individual, and learning and employment opportunities they wish to enter, including advocating on behalf of the individual.



Although there are common elements in vocational guidance wherever practised, there are also important differences in terms of culture, education, employment practices and occupational structures from country to country. Consequently, guidance practitioners generally need to be trained in the country in which they will practise.

As has been already mentioned, when guidance is conducted by a course in career development, it is not unusual to have the course taught by regular classroom teachers who have had special preparation to teach the course. Whether it is to teach a career development curriculum or to conduct courses infused with career education the professional development of teachers should give them a basic framework for career planning and how to connect activities in the classroom to the events unfolding in the labour market. As early as 1974 UNESCO recommended that teachers have "an introduction to educational and occupational guidance methods"(Revised Recommendations for Vocational and Technical Education, Paris, UNESCO, art. 84 g; see also art. 92).

When guidance is provided through individual counselling, however, the counsellor is expected to have specialized training in such areas as: counselling techniques; career, educational and labour market information; assessment techniques to measure skills, abilities, aptitudes, interests, values, and personality; needs assessment techniques; computer and Internet systems of guidance; organizing career development programmes; teaching job search techniques; establishing linkages with community-based organizations; and, public relations techniques to promote career development activities and services. Some training for counsellors is beginning to appear on the Internet and may be expected to become increasingly available through that means. Currently there are no internationally accepted standards for guidance counsellors but the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) is in the process of establishing a committee to draft such a standard. International standards are increasingly important as on-line career counselling can be provided across national boundaries and therefore be immune from regulation by most, if not all, countries.

Guidance consultants in ministries usually have the same training as counsellors plus competencies in programme planning and adoption strategies; guidance curriculum development; differing cultural values and their relationship to work values; unique career planning needs of minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and older persons; and alternative approaches to career planning for learners with specific needs.

Many countries do not have "counsellors" although they do have psychologists, sociologists or others performing some of the functions of a counsellor. The unique training of educational and vocational counsellors typically is instruction in: the functioning of the labour market; the structure of the educational and training systems; how to use labour market information in the counselling interview; employability skills; and, job-search techniques. In some countries, training in these areas is needed by those who otherwise have relevant competencies.



Ministries of education, labour and social affairs that deal with different aspects of career guidance are expected to provide leadership in the development of policy, programmes, methods and materials, organization structure for delivery, counsellor training and procedures for evaluation. The guidance materials often include classification and description of occupations; brochures describing various educational options and occupations; and computer-assisted guidance systems.

In countries where the private sector has been traditionally ignored by the government, counsellors in the ministries have a particular responsibility to establish collaborative contacts with firms to learn about their occupations, required training, pay structures, employment practices (for example the use of application forms by international companies represents an unexpected innovation in many locations), working conditions, work culture, etc. in order to prepare relevant and useful guidance programmes.

Lifelong learning is important as a means to personal, social and economic development. In many communities there is a variety of formal and non-formal education opportunities for part-time learners. Perhaps the majority of both formal and non-formal learning projects undertaken by adults relates to work. This, it appears, is the prime motive for adult learning. Governments that want their citizens to enrol in learning projects to increase their employability might take this notion and promote a career development culture emphasizing personal achievement. A career development culture would be characterized by elements such as widespread publicity about future job opportunities and the knowledge and skills that they will require; promotion of learning opportunities; and promotion of career guidance services. Increasingly, governments are involving the voluntary and private sectors in promoting the creation of a culture of competence.



A number of recommendations can be made on the basis of the forgoing. In some cases the responsibility for action is that of government, in other cases technical and vocational education and training institutions and associations of counsellors could initiate action. Government support for guidance is important because:

  • Economic development is fast becoming the overarching concern of most governments;
  • Economic growth is based increasingly on the availability of highly skilled workers;
  • Technical and vocational education and training are very important means to developing a skilled labour force;
  • Guidance helps individuals develop their full potential, identify the most appropriate training, and succeed in their education and placement in the labour market. A British study (Killeen, White and Watts, 1992.) indicated that the "learning outcomes" of guidance (self-awareness, opportunity awareness, decision-making skills and transition skills) have been demonstrated to be the precursors of socio-economic outcomes of guidance; and,
  • guidance supports the UNESCO values of increasing the educational and labour market accomplishments of girls and women, of people of all cultures and regions, and of persons with disabilities, and thereby promotes the use of the full talents of a country.


National Action

It is recommended that governments implement the following steps:

1. Establish an office with responsibility to:

  • provide funding for vocational guidance programmes and services;
  • develop and provide methods and materials for guidance;
  • prepare the career guidance curriculum;
  • provide training and continuing education for guidance counsellors and teachers;
  • conduct research and development to create new, more comprehensive and better ways of conducting educational and vocational guidance;
  • design promotional campaigns to interest learners, including girls and women, in science and technology;
  • develop programmes to increase the retention of learners by schools and thus reduce the numbers of drop-outs;
  • design campaigns to develop a career development culture that encourages all people to participate in lifelong learning; and,
  • promote the infusion of career development concepts into academic subjects to help learners understand how the course work fits together and forms a body of knowledge and skills related to performance in work and other aspects of life.

2. Enact legislation that defines the goals of guidance describes the range of services to be provided and stipulates the level of resourcing. The legislation should apply to the services to be provided to learners in educational institutions and to adults in the labour market.

3. Provide employment counselling and placement services for learners completing their studies and for all people in the labour force.

4 Adopt policies on guidance that include the following requirements:

  • all learners receive curriculum-based guidance;
  • learners who require individual counselling for satisfactory achievement shall receive it;
  • individual counselling is a specialized function which must be performed by staff members who possess the required competencies;
  • the responsibilities of school principals, teachers and counsellors in respect of the guidance programme development and delivery are specified;
  • qualifications that teachers and counsellors in guidance should have; and, provision of guidance services to unemployed workers.

5. Enact legislation to authorize the collection, classification and publishing of labour market information that is useful to economic development efforts, technical and vocational training programmes, and educational and vocational guidance.


Associations of Counsellors

 Counsellor's associations have an important part to play in the development of guidance by:

  • advocating that all citizens who need and want educational and vocational guidance and counselling can receive it from a competent professional;
  • recommending the basic nature and quality of service to be provided to students and adults;
  • recommending the essential training and other qualifications that all counsellors in educational and vocational guidance should have;
  • organizing continuing education programmes for counsellors;
  • requiring all members to adhere to a code of ethics; and,
  • certifying or licensing counsellors.


Technical and Vocational Education Institutions

In some jurisdictions, ministries of education observe the innovations undertaken by leading institutions and in time adopt or recommend the more successful ones to other schools in the system. There is, therefore, an important role to be played by institutions themselves in leading the way for national improvement. There are several steps that technical and education and training institutions can undertake in providing guidance to learners:

Hire a counsellor. The tasks of the counsellor include:

  • Conduct a needs assessment to determine what needs to be addressed, the characteristics of the learners and how they can be reached and served;
  • Build partnerships within the school and community of educators, administrators, business and industry representatives, parents and post-secondary officials to work as a team to effectively assist the learners in realizing their educational and career aspirations;
  • Design comprehensive programmes that include integrating guidance activities within the regular curriculum;
  • Organize and supervise work-based learning activities, including job shadowing, internships, career simulations and on-the-job training;
  • Tap available services and seek assistance (e.g., funding, equipment);
  • Plan professional development activities for school staff to orient them to their roles of successfully assisting learners in educational and career planning; and,
  • Conduct an ongoing evaluation of the programme (adapted from Stern, Bailey and Merritt, 1996.) The counsellor should endeavour to meet with every potential student to help him/her select the most appropriate programme, and to meet with every student at least once every three months to discuss their education and career plans;
  • Prepare descriptions of occupations related to the training being offered. The descriptions might include: brief description of the work, working conditions, education and training required, registration, certification or licensing requirements, average pay, and future outlook. These may be printed. They may also be entered into computers for learners to search. A consortium of technical and vocational education and training institutions in collaboration with UNESCO might prepare a standard format for computerized information;
  • Prepare descriptions of the courses and programmes available in the technical and vocational education and training institutions. These may be printed. They may also be entered into computers for students in more junior levels of education to search. As suggested in the previous recommendation, a consortium of technical and vocational education and training institutions in collaboration with UNESCO might prepare a standard format for computer information;
  • Approach companies or other organizations with Internet connections to provide access to career guidance resources on the Internet through their connections. Corporate assistance in translating the material might also be obtained, if necessary;
  • Adopt or adapt a career development curriculum and ensure that teachers are competent to conduct the course;
  • Organize relevant work experience assignments with local employers.



Guidance assists learners in planning their education and training and adults to become more employable by helping them to: understand and appreciate their talents; relate effectively to others; explore career alternatives; develop appropriate educational and voca-tional train-ing plans; implement and complete their plans; and integrate successfully in society and the labour market. Guidance is important to education and training institutions because it helps to ensure that students make the best use of the learning opportunities. In helping citizens to appreciate their talents and to develop them, guidance helps to increase the skills of the labour force and therefore the economic potential of the country.



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