Brief overview of the closing conference of the Professional support to information and guidance activities and validation of non-formal knowledge 2016–2022 project
On Wednesday, 8 December, the closing conference of the project Guidance for employees 2016–2022, led by the SIAE and funded by EU from ESF and MESS, took place online. Together with invited speakers, 146 participants summarised the results of the project and the activities of the network of the guidance for employees providers in Slovenia, which are carried out according to the Public tender for financing information and guidance and identification and validation of non-formal knowledge 2016–2022.
The project Guidance for employees 2016–2022 will end in March 2022, but we summarised its results six months earlier. One of the reasons is that we have already achieved and exceeded the central goal: to include at least 20,000 employees in guidance and at least 75% of them in one of the forms of education, training or validation of knowledge and skills. Such a good result is possible due to the active pursuit of a common goal by both providers of guidance in ALE in Slovenia, namely the SIAE and the network of the guidance for employees providers.
The conference was opened by Dr Nataša Potočnik, directress of the SIAE, Marko Šiška, MSc, and Lidija Fischinger, both from MESS.
In the first part of the conference, in the plenary contributions of external guests and the SIAE co-workers, we formed a broader view of the importance of adult education, guidance and development of employees’ competencies, as well as the project results.
- Tanja Vilič Klenovšek, MSc, as the project leader at the SIAE, spoke about the challenges of guidance and validation of employees’ knowledge.
- Uwe Gartenschlaeger, president of the EAEA, highlighted the insight into European and global debates in the contribution entitled Adult Learning and Education 2030.
- Dr Eva Boštjančič from the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, discussed the importance and possibilities of creating a culture of learning in working organisations.
- Urška Pavlič of the SIAE presented in detail the project’s target group in the contribution entitled Employees at the heart of change and finding the path to knowledge.
- Nevenka Alja Gladek of the SIAE summarised the most important factors and the structure of a comprehensive and quality guidance process.
The second part took place in four working groups
The first group, entitled Through partnership to greater involvement of employees in guidance and education, was led by Andreja Dobrovoljc, MSc. Alenka Sagadin Mlinarič from Maribor AEC, Janja Bartelj from MOCIS Slovenj Gradec and Mihaela Anclin from Žalec AEC shared their contributions. The group participants agreed that the project partnership brought a lot of good experiences. Therefore, it makes sense to maintain and continue excellent and effective cooperation practices. Counsellors can approach new groups of adult employees by connecting with other organisations, and by organising joint events, consultations and promotional campaigns. They can reach more adults and offer employees more guidance and educational opportunities. Therefore, it makes sense to include new partners in the partnership. Together, they also find it easier to motivate employers. Partners will need to be encouraged to send more employees to guidance and education in the future. They also emphasised the importance of cooperation between educational organisations and counsellors from various organisations providing guidance in the regional environment. Namely, this also enables more successful involvement in international projects.
On the challenges of reaching all employees
Urška Pavlič moderated the second working group. Participants first listened to presentations of examples of good practice in the field of promotion and other activities to reach employees. They were presented by Alojz Sraka from Murska Sobota AEC, Ksenija Petek from Nova Gorica AEC, Maja Rotar from AEC Cene Štupar – CILJ and Tina Polajnar from Zasavje AEC. The counsellors then looked to the future and reflected on the challenges still ahead. They exchanged suggestions with participants on how to deal with them. Among the key challenges, they included awareness-raising among employers and employees about the importance and benefits of lifelong learning, reaching out to the most vulnerable groups and ensuring the integrated, systematic promotion of guidance. And how can we respond to these challenges? Through a national campaign to promote guidance, ongoing financial incentives to enrol in guidance and education, counsellors’ flexibility and the provision of tools for successfully entering businesses. We can also raise awareness through programmes of interest to companies as well as role models and stories of those that enrolled.
The third working group focused on the professional growth of counsellors
Ana Kramperšek from Krško AEC, Erika Švara from Postojna AEC, Matjaž Habjanič from Ptuj AEC and Petra Verbič from Koper AEC presented their experience and professional growth in the third working group entitled Guidance for employees and professional development of counsellors. The discussion moderated by Nevenka Alja Gladek was joined by other experienced counsellors and Marko Šiška, MSc. A common challenge faced by the counsellors at the beginning of the project was a lack of awareness of the importance of lifelong learning among employers and employees. Therefore, establishing cooperation with working organisations required a lot of time, energy and ingenuity, as well as additional training, exchange of experience and mutual support of counsellors. Working with employers requires counsellors to have very different competencies than when providing guidance for individuals. Hence, counsellors had to adopt a new way of thinking and expand and adapt their approaches to employees. The workshop participants’ common finding is that the rapid technological development leaves the most vulnerable employees even further behind, which was even more clearly expressed during the pandemic. Joint promotion and free-of-charge guidance and education activities need to be continued to bridge this gap. The project brought a lot of learning and research to the counsellors and certainly encouraged their professional development. It also raised awareness of the need for high flexibility and perseverance of counsellors and organisations in ALE.
Awareness-raising on validation of employees’ knowledge is passed on through word-of-mouth
In the fourth group, entitled Validation of employees’ knowledge – challenges in discovering one’s own potentials, the participants mainly highlighted their views on the validation results in the period 2016–2022. Vera Mlinar moderated the discussion. Emphasis was placed on previous experience in motivating employees to be included in the validation procedures and looking to the future. The consortia representatives in the group were Ana Marija Blažič from Novo mesto AEC, Biserka Plahuta from Velenje AEC, Irena Bohte from Črnomelj AEC and Lea Zlodej from Jesenice AEC. The approaches used by validation providers to motivate employees to become included in the processes vary according to the target group. Promotional activities through media and social networks are at the forefront. However, sharing the experience of validation through word-of-mouth has proved to be the most effective motivational approach. The best ambassadors of validation are employees who have already joined the procedures. The group also discussed the challenge of how to reach small businesses through validation procedures. These employers, in particular, need to be made aware of the problem of staff shortages and shortage of care for the development of their own employees. One of the effective mechanisms for their development is also the validation of already acquired knowledge. In shaping the way forward, the participants pointed out that it is necessary to go beyond formal knowledge in society and change the attitude towards it. In an ever-changing society, all knowledge counts, regardless of the environment in which it was acquired. In addition, the professional identity of the adult educator needs to be more clearly profiled, and it must include adaptability and willingness for lifelong learning.
The conference was concluded by the project leader Tanja Vilič Klenovšek, MSc, who thanked all those involved and invited them to continue with good cooperation. A video by Vlado Kreslin was the icing on the cake, as it symbolically connected the efforts of counsellors throughout Slovenia: to pave the way to knowledge and new opportunities for all, especially for less educated and older employees, who are all too often overlooked in their working organisations in terms of planning education.
The conference was organised by the entire team of the Guidance and Validation Unit at SIAE, The results of the conference are published on the project website (in Slovenian).
Nevenka Alja Gladek (email@example.com), SIAE