In mid March, the life and work of all of the people living in Slovenia and the broader surroundings changed dramatically. We were faced with an as yet unseen situation when all of the educational institutions closed down and work moved into the home environment. The same happened to the guidance activity in adult education. All of a sudden, neither guidance in guidance centres or at companies was possible and the educators and guidance counsellors began working remotely.
The colleagues at the Guidance and Validation Centre of the SIAE continued to provide support to the guidance counsellors at IGAE and Guidance for employees. In the first week we had formulated proposals for the remote work of IGAE centres. We recommended to the guidance counsellors that they carry out activities for their professional development which they can perform in times when personal contact with clients is not possible. They were able to receive support in the form of professional materials on the IGAE website. It quickly turned out that working from home would last for an extended period of time, which is why we encouraged the guidance practitioners to organise and implement distance guidance activities. Whether conducted by telephone or online, they differ from guidance in person.
The SIAE prepared the materials entitled Guidance Activity Via Modern Media (in Slovenian) already in 2017. The document was not often used in practice over the following two years, but the opportunity has now come and guidance counsellors are using it now. The times of the epidemic were used by many adults for independent and organised distance education and learning. It is only right for the guidance counsellors to support them in the selection and decision-making. Some adults used this time to think about their further education associated with career development. Guidance counsellors in adult education can help them with this aspect as well.
We started sending news to the guidance centres on a weekly basis. We provided them with reading materials for their professional development (e.g. learning about new professional materials and tools for the validation of key competences), useful links for guidance in distance education, recommendations for the animation and motivation of adults to take part in the programmes and other innovations in the adult education guidance activity and in a broader domain. We are also inviting all addressees to share their materials, knowledge and news with other guidance counsellors. We wished to use the conditions, in which we have found ourselves, to strengthen contacts between guidance counsellors. Some linked up using the Zoom app. This allowed them to share experience and examples of good practice in the distance guidance activity.
Associates of the Guidance for Employees (in Slovenian) project have invited guidance practitioners to test the new guidance tools, e.g. tools from the Guidance for Career Development collection that were created in 2019 as well as the Questionnaires and Guidelines for the Validation of the Key Competence of Cultural Awareness and Expression. Using the template Digital Competences – Self-Assessment Grid, this year we prepared an electronic questionnaire for the validation of the digital competence as well as a supporting tool in the Digital Competence Evaluation Procedure. Both were tested by the group of guidance counsellors who have sent us positive feedback.
All guidance counsellors in the Guidance for Employees project were invited to take part in an online poll on the results and effects of the guidance activity. We will use the information obtained in our further development work. We invited the consortium or all implementing organisations in the project to submit promotional materials, mainly the latest statements by guidance practitioners and employers, which we then included in the Za znanje portal (in Slovenian). We upgraded and freshened up the portal, adding pictorial and video materials with a motivational charge. We invite both employees and employers to take the time during the epidemic to plan their education and offer them support of the guidance counsellors from 15 consortia across Slovenia. In the 2016–2019 period, 14,660 employees (of the planned 20,000 by the end of March 2022) were engaged in guidance activities, and some participated in distance guidance activities from the middle of March to the end of April.
The SIAE experts were available to all guidance counsellors throughout, both via e-mail and telephone.
After the end of the epidemic in Slovenia, we continue to develop professional support for guidance counsellors in these changed circumstances. The continuation of the materials on the options for online guidance provision is currently being created. We are aware that guidance in person, both individual and group, will in the future be joined by distance guidance, the need for which is certain to increase. In doing so, we are preparing for the implementation of other forms of education for guidance counsellors. We are preparing video workshops and training courses that demand different technical, organisational and content-related preparations.
We are facing new challenges that we are tackling with great success both in the guidance and educational portions of the work with adults as well as in the professional and development work for the support of guidance counsellors.
Remote work is proving to be an interesting experience. We have learned the details of both its advantages and weaknesses. The benefits will certainly be easier and faster to transpose into practice as the guidance activity will develop in line with the IT trends. Guidance counsellors used the time to plan their work, animation and the promotion of activities.
Andreja Dobrovoljc, MSc (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Urška Pavlič (email@example.com), SIAE