The idea of organising and providing comprehensive guidance support in Slovenia to adults in their education and learning has been maturing for a long time. In the late 1990s, the experts at SIAE asked practitioners working in ALE if there was a need for guidance for adults. The analysis showed that adults need the support of guidance both when choosing the education and during it. In addition, we also examined European practices of organised guidance activities in ALE. All this and our professional considerations contributed to designing the model of adult education guidance centres (ISIO model).
A public tender for establishing the first five ISIO centres was published in 2000 by the then MESS. Under the criteria defined in the public tender, five AECs were selected: Koper AEC, RIC Novo mesto, Maribor AEC, Murska Sobota AEC and Žalec AEC, all of which opened the doors of ISIO centres in 2001. The network has expanded to 34 centres, and they also have their own dislocated units. Thus, guidance in ALE is available in all Slovenian regions.
In the 20 years of the ISIO centres’ operation, at least 200,000 adult individuals have used guidance for education and learning. In addition, 4,500 groups (more than 40,000 participants) used information and guidance activities at the centres. And who were these adults?
The average of the data for the last few years shows that women (60%) received guidance more often than men (40%). Both were middle-aged (50% in the 30-54 age group) with a vocational or secondary technical education (50%). Most of them came from vulnerable groups: the unemployed (especially the long-term unemployed), the elderly, the less educated, migrants, the disabled, prisoners and Roma. The data is extracted from the online application for monitoring the guidance activities, in which the counsellors record their work.
The story of guidance activities in ALE at ISIO centres is successfully co-created by almost 400 partners. The goal of the information and guidance activity is “… to connect as many providers of adult education and guidance services in the local environment as possible and thus ensure a coordinated operation and provide a user-friendly and quality service”.
In its 20 years of operation, it has been confirmed that the cooperation of partners is essential to ensure the quality, professional and comprehensive implementation of guidance for adults.
Partners in the local environment have recognised ISIO centres as important organisations that contribute to the information of adults, their participation in education and thus have a significant impact on positive development policy. When the partnerships started to be formed, some may have been somewhat sceptical about how they operated and the independence of the ISIO centres. Still, scepticism dissipated after several years of operation.
The support of SIAE
SIAE provides professional and development support to ISIO centres in all aspects of operation, from the development of new approaches, new guidance tools to the operation of partnership networks. SIAE employees participate in various professional events and meetings in the ISIO centres’ network and prepare professional materials. We also develop and carry out additional professional training for counsellors. We are also active in partnerships at the national level. We are a member of the National Lifelong Career Orientation Expert Group. We work with all key social partners (ministries, trade unions, employers’ associations and other NGOs).
Let us look into the future
In the development so far, counsellors have been and will continue to be a critical factor in realising the goals and mission of guidance activities in ISIO centres and the quality of guidance. Therefore, we are pleased that the Adult Education Act (2018) explicitly defines a counsellor as a professional in ALE. On this basis, their professionalism and career development will be built even more substantial.
The guidance activities in ALE will continue to be aimed at all adults, especially vulnerable groups. To reach them, boosting the promotion of guidance in the future will be essential. We will also try to reach adults with mobile guidance points, dislocated units and other forms of outreach, as well as informing various partners at the local and national levels.
Partnership in guidance activities in ALE will be crucial for its development in the future, which was also recognised at the highest professional level. An essential part of the organisation of guidance activities is also covered in the key document, Guidelines for implementing adult education guidance as public service. It proposes the establishment of a Strategic Council, which includes organisations that provide various guidance and educational activities for adults in the local or regional environment, decide on human resources development strategies, participate in the planning and implementation of regional development policy and other social partners.