International organisations call for digital guidance: BRIDGE+ is more necessary than ever!

The ILO, Cedefop, UNESCO, OECD, the European Commission, ETF and OCCDPP published a report on “Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic” in January 2021. The report’s conclusions demonstrate the utmost relevance of the BRIDGE+ project and its renewed significance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report is based on an international survey led from June to August 2020, designed to provide a snapshot of how career guidance policies, systems and services were adapting and coping to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The survey examined the policy, systems and practice changes that occurred during the first phase of government reactions to the pandemic, the extent to which the pandemic and its social consequences triggered a debate on career guidance reform, and the role for career guidance in pandemic recovery measures.

A high demand for career guidance services was observed worldwide during the first stages of the pandemic; in particular, demands for labour market information, job-search assistance, reskilling opportunities, and education and training opportunities. There was also an important increase demand for psychological supports, particularly for end-year students; low-skilled, low-qualified and low-income workers; the unemployed, and other workers at risk.

The report highlights the type of solutions found for career guidance and the challenges felt by services, practitioners, and clients. The provision and operation of career guidance services was mainly transferred online during the lockdown. The services were successfully adapted, but some individual activities, such as counselling were highly reduced. The respondents of the survey noted that users had a positive attitude towards technology using in career guidance, but they also reported that many vulnerable categories had issues accessing online tools for career guidance.

Respondents also confirmed the importance of career guidance to contribute to the recovery in terms of investment in education, skills development, labour market efficiency and social inclusion. They also highlighted the role of career guidance in supporting and enabling distance and blended learning. However, there is still a need for individualized activities such as career counselling, coaching, mentoring and psychological support. Despite the successful online adaptation of the operations of career guidance, some access issues remain, especially for persons with disabilities, migrants, and refugees.

For the future, access to digital services needs to be guaranteed to all groups and individuals with a sufficient access to digital equipment along with an internet coverage. Furthermore, the use of other distance technologies, such as the telephone, should be prioritized to overcome the digital issues.

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