‘Can collaboration widen participation?

Examining the evidence’, 10th Anniversary Conference of the European Access Network, University of Glasgow, Scotland, 24-27 June 2001

Opening doors: European collaboration in enhancing guidance and counselling for groups under-represented in higher education Dr Pamela M Clayton, Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Glasgow Summary
This paper demonstrates the role of a number of related projects, funded through the Leonardo da Vinci Programme of the European Communities and involving Partner organisations from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, in attempting to improve participation in education for under-represented groups through research and pilot projects on: • provision of vocational guidance and counselling for women returners • access issues for people at risk of social exclusion • key elements of guidance for people at risk of social exclusion • labour market insertion of young long-term unemployed graduate women • women’s career development • an on-line course for guidance para-professionals • criteria for the correct placement in education of women immigrants • the role of the social Partners (employers and trade unions) in guidance for low-paid workers Brief descriptions of these projects are found in the Appendix to this paper. The target groups include: • women • ethnic minorities • refugees • people with disabilities • people in rural areas and outlying housing estates • homeless people • low-paid workers and workers with precarious work futures • guidance para-professionals who need to gain qualifications and intensify their knowledge I shall briefly describe the projects and focus on the ways in which European collaboration added value through: • an appreciation of the differences and commonalities between different European states • the development of European concepts and a shared ethos concerning people at risk of marginalisation • the exchange, transfer and dissemination of ideas and initiatives


When I use the word ‘we’ I am speaking on behalf of the many Partnerships in which I have been involved, either as a member or as project co-ordinator. I must confess at the outset that the ultimate aim of our projects is to encourage people into lifelong learning in general, and not only into higher education. We have focused on vocational guidance as the key to unlocking the potential that we believe every individual possesses, whatever their personal, social or health difficulties. What we have explored are the barriers to such self-fulfilment and ways in which these can be overcome. Learning in its widest, truest sense can raise self-confidence and provide an enjoyable, interesting experience and enhance life. It can also be devastating for adults to return to learning, perhaps after an unfortunate first experience, and then to fail again. The guidance process itself provides ‘learning experiences to enable clients to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies related to making personal, educational and career decisions’ (Clark, 1999, p. 10), including the best choice of course for them. Furthermore, for those who do choose to return to learning, good quality guidance is extremely important in the negotiation of the maze of learning opportunities currently on offer and their costs. For people at risk of social exclusion such guidance may be indispensable. The general format for the project in which I have been involved includes: • face-to-face Partner meetings in as many of the Partner countries as possible, generally three per year, for team-building as well as task co-ordination • visits to each country by the project co-ordinator, for monitoring and evaluation, plus support, consultation and learning at first hand about the local situation • team negotiation and agreement on the detailed tasks of the project • initial fact-finding in each country • generation of case studies and so on in each country • joint work on conclusions and recommendations

The value of European collaboration
An appreciation of the differences and commonalities between different European states The starting point for the project is for the team to explore in which ways their countries differ from other European countries and what they have in common. This exploration brings to light not only different administrative arrangements, systems, policies, histories and so on, but also different cultures, academic traditions, prevailing philosophies and conceptual frameworks and approaches. The difference between the stereotypically ‘pragmatic’ approaches of the British and Irish and the ‘theoretical’ approaches of almost everyone else is probably one well-known example. In terms of Lewin’s learning cycle, however, these approaches are not opposed but basically start at different points. Whereas the pragmatic approach might start with concrete experience before going on to observation and reflection, then ‘the formation of abstract concepts and generalisations’, and then the ‘testing of the implications of the concepts in new situations’ leading to further concrete experience etc. (Kolb 1993 p. 139), the theoretical approach might start with the formation of theory and abstract concepts and continue from there. Over time, we have learnt to incorporate the methodological approaches of, say, the Italians, into the pragmatic approach of my projects, and both parties appear to be learning from this process. These different approaches also add a richness and diversity to our end results. Thus, by learning from each other, we can develop mutual understanding and capitalise on these 2

differences rather than allowing them to become barriers; and the revelation of differences adds to our historical, political, cultural and sociological knowledge of the complex area known as Europe. In practice, in our field, we generally find more commonalities than differences. For example, groups most at risk of social exclusion are more-or-less the same everywhere (there are exceptions - for example, Finns see no disadvantage in living in rural areas), and this means that many ideas can be transferred from one country to another, albeit with modifications to take into account the differences. Both the differences and the commonalities are useful and interesting to those of us who are academic researchers; they are also important for engendering European solidarity and a common identity based on a knowledge and appreciation of our rich diversity as well as our shared history and culture. The development of European concepts and a shared ethos concerning people at risk of marginalisation Through full discussion of concepts we arrive at common working definitions for use in the project and in this sense we develop European concepts. This involves a certain amount of compromise, a lot of learning and sometimes a little controversy - but never, so far, conflict. This is avoided in a variety of ways of which I shall give only three examples. The first lies in choice of partners. It helps if the co-ordinator knows all the partners beforehand or has recommendations from a trusted source. Before the project it is the job of the co-ordinator to develop good personal relations with future partners even if this can be conducted only through email. For practical reasons, it is preferable for the team to have a single common language and for all members to have a reasonable degree of competence in that language. The team should be constructed principally, however, on the basis of what different members can bring to it, and these attributes can be very different. For example, my current project team, which aims to enhance vocational guidance for low-paid employees, includes a trade union official, the head of a private enterprise, a human resource development project manager with a multinational company, employees of a state employment service, a university guidance officer and a number of academic researchers from universities and labour market research centres. They represent, on the face of it, rather different interests. The second way of avoiding conflict is through building on a common ethos. Whatever the employment backgrounds of the team members, it is important that they all know from the time of developing the project proposal whose interests are principally to be served by the project. In the case of my projects, this means people at risk of social exclusion. Although in our dissemination we might give different emphases to different targets (for example, when speaking to employers we focus on the interests of the company, whereas for trade unions we emphasise the interests of their members), we cannot be two-faced in the partnership. This ethos is reinforced throughout the project through meetings and other discussions. The third way is through team-building. The bringing together of people from different backgrounds, countries and languages is also, in my view, the job of the co-ordinator and one that I take very seriously. Part of my method includes the simple expedient of us all staying in the same hotel and taking all our meals together! It is also important that the culture of partner meetings should be egalitarian, mutually supportive and respective of persons. Every voice must be heard and decisions as far as possible negotiated. The exchange, transfer and dissemination of ideas and initiatives Our partnerships have undoubtedly exchanged ideas, information and examples of good practice, and dissemination has always been an important part of our strategy (see below for list of publications arising out of projects - many of these are in widely-read journals rather than academic articles). Dissemination is carried out not only through publishing but also through conferences, either project conferences or conferences like this one; through delivering workshops; through distributing publicity leaflets through networks; through the Internet to listserves and mailbases; and through direct contact with, for example, guidance services, educational providers, voluntary organisations, policy-makers, employers and trade unions. 3

But what of transfer? This is the crux of my answer to the conference question, Can collaboration widen participation? Our aim is to affect policy and practice, with the ultimate aim of benefiting people at risk of social exclusion. Since our projects aim to improve practice in vocational guidance, we begin at two removes from individuals entering lifelong learning: with the exception of two projects, we do not deliver courses and we do not even deliver guidance. So I do not know in general if the projects in which I have been involved have had concrete results in terms of individuals entering education who would not otherwise have done so. One exception is the Socrates project described below; another will be, we hope, a proposal submitted this year to the European Commission. I do not even know if guidance practitioners have adopted any of our ideas, although I have sometimes discovered that people in related fields such as community development have done so. We do appear to have contributed to raising the profile of guidance and the issues of access and good practice in reaching people who are hard to reach. Other than that, the effects of our efforts are unknown or perhaps even non-existent. The hardest task for us is to influence policy at national level. At our recent United Kingdom conference on women immigrants no policy-makers accepted our invitation. I have, however, found the British Leonardo unit very helpful, and we have good relations with the Scottish Executive. Regarding my current project, the Czech partner has close relations with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Labour. The Icelandic and Danish partners are important members of official bodies. The Spanish partner is itself a regional body. The Italian and German partners work for labour market research institutes which carry out commissions for, among others, their respective regions. The Swedish partner is a state employment office. I think there are two lessons to be drawn from this: • efforts to influence policy are best rewarded in countries with small populations or at regional level • partnerships need to include members who are working in the field or have a high regional or national profile Despite the difficulties of actually making much of a difference, I firmly believe that European collaboration is extremely fruitful, very important and, I have to say, thoroughly enjoyable!

APPENDIX Brief descriptions of the projects
The origin of most of these projects lies in the work done by Eurocounsel, a large-scale European project on vocational guidance for adults. All of the following projects were funded by the European Commission through what used to be Directorate 22, now the Directorate for Education and Youth. From 1996 onwards the funding has been from the Leonardo da Vinci Programme of the European Communities, which focuses on education, training and vocational guidance. Just one of these projects was funded through the Socrates programme.

Vocational guidance and counselling for women returners, 1994 This was a pilot research project, Vocational Guidance and Counselling for Women Returners, headed by CIRCE, a German research network. Partners in France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom reviewed labour market issues for women returners and made case studies of provision in each country. The outcomes were a report, a book (Chisholm 1997), an article to disseminate the project (Clayton 1996) and an academic article which drew upon this research (Clayton & Slowey 1996). 4

The Insertion of Young Graduate Women into the Labour Market, 1995 This pilot project was headed by INREP, a French training institute, with Partners in Finland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. The outcomes were a very innovative jobsearch method, a report (unpublished and only in French) and the insertion of a dozen long-term unemployed women with ethnic minority backgrounds into good-quality employment.

Access to Vocational Guidance for People at Risk of Social Exclusion, 1996 - 1998 A Survey and Analysis co-ordinated by myself, this had Partners from Finland, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom, with the addition of observers from the Czech Republic for part of the project. This project was conceived with quite a depth of detail and all Partners did essentially the same research for each country. We looked at social exclusion and made case studies of guidance services which were notable for their efforts to enhance access. There was scope for negotiation on methodology and of necessity on content. For example, there was little on lifelong learning for the Italian Partner to contribute, and few conventional guidance services in Ireland. This diversity led to a richness. The outcome was a report, in English (Clayton, 1999a) which was circulated not only in Europe but in many other countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA, by email and download from a website. There is also an Italian version. Other articles were published for dissemination purposes (Clayton 1998a, 1998b, 1999b, 1999c). There were also academic articles which drew on this research (Clayton 2000, Clayton et al. 1999, and Clayton & McGill 2000). The legal status of women in the European Union, 1996 - 1999 This project was co-ordinated by Université Paris VIII, with partners from the Universities of Cordoba, Glasgow, Helsinki, Lleida and Roma. The University of Glasgow was represented by myself, Professor Maria Slowey of the Department of Adult and Continuing Education and Professor Noreen Burrows of the School of Law. The outputs were a publication in print (Azzoug & Demichel 1999) and on the web. FIND URL. From the point of view of this presentation, the most interesting outcome was the delivery of a university-level course based on the material we all generated. The students were women with low educational qualifications, recruited through a women’s group in the east of Scotland, and the feedback from them was extremely positive - the main complaint was that the course finished!

Bridging the Gap: the role of vocational guidance in women’s career development, 1997 - 1999 This Survey and Analysis was led by University College Cork, with Partners in Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom. It reviewed the ways in which women do - or do not advance their careers, and included case studies of both individual women and of guidance services which aimed to help them. It is not yet published but the writer of this paper intends to publish an academic article on the findings.

Access to Vocational Guidance for People at Risk of Social Exclusion: an on-line module 1998 2001 This arose out of the previous project and had Partners from Denmark, Finland, Italy, Scotland and the Czech Republic, with co-ordination by myself. The Danish Partner, an expert both in guidance and in curriculum development, drafted the curriculum; the Scottish Partner developed the website; the Czech Partner generated most of the Czech data; the other Partners edited their contributions to the original Survey and Analysis. The output was an in-service, on-line module for guidance practitioners and para-professionals, in Czech, English, Finnish and Italian, piloted in Spring 2000 5

(Clayton & Plant 2000, Plant 1999a, 1999b, 1999c, 2000a, 2000b). This is being launched on a regular basis in all the countries which took part in the project. It is intended that the English-language version will be delivered globally.

Development of European Concepts Concerning the Qualifications and Competencies of Women Immigrants Useful for their Vocational Training, 1999 - 2001 This was a pilot project, led by GATE in Hamburg, Germany, with Partners in Denmark, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. We made case studies of over a hundred immigrant women and recommendations to educational providers concerning their insertion at the correct level and the validation of their prior experiential learning and competences. The outputs were conferences in the four Partner countries (the conference proceedings of the United Kingdom conference are available from the author of this paper and will shortly appear on the Web on the University of Glasgow site, Department of Adult and Continuing Education) and a website owned by GATE. Maria Slowey and I intend to publish an academic article on it and I shall publish an article for dissemination purposes, probably in Adults Learning. A follow-up project delivering training is under consideration by the European Commission. The social Partners and vocational guidance for low-paid workers, 2000 - 2002 This is my latest project, with Partners in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The output will be an informational website (www.gla.ac.uk/wg - currently under construction), which will include the results of pilot projects in each country, and a variety of articles and news items from the different Partners. All the material will be translated into English, but material pertaining to, say, Iceland, will generally be only in Icelandic and English. The amount of cross-translation depends on the budget. The aim for most Partners is to institute and evaluate vocational guidance for low-paid workers in co-operation with employers and trade unions; in countries where examples of good practice already exist a limited number of full evaluations will be carried out, together with a series of descriptive case studies.

Bibliography (with apologies for large numbers of my own publications - but dissemination and, we hope, transfer, are extremely important aspects of our projects)
Azzoug, M. & Demichel, T. (Eds) (1999). The Legal Status of Women in the European Union, in Le fil d’Ariane, Special issue Spring 1999. Publication of the Institute of European Studies, University of Paris 8 (also on the Web through the University of Helsikni) Chisholm, L. (1997). Getting In, Climbing Up and Breaking Through: vocational guidance and counselling for women returners. Bristol: The Policy Press Clark, J. (1999). ‘Adult guidance: not just a signpost’, Concept, vol. 9, no. 1, pp 10-12 Clayton, P (1996). ‘A transnational study of vocational guidance and counselling provision for women returners’, Adults Learning October 1996, pp 40-41 Clayton, P. (1998a). ‘Access issues in vocational guidance and counselling’, Adults Learning, September 1998 Clayton, P. (1998b). ‘Social exclusion, education and training’, Ad-Lib: Journal for Continuing Liberal Adult Education, Issue 10, November 1998, pp 3-4 Clayton, P. (1999a). Access to Vocational Guidance for People at Risk of Social Exclusion. Glasgow: Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Glasgow, available in print (380 pp) and freely downloadable from http://www.gla.ac.uk/Acad/AdultEd/Research/Leonardo.html Also in Italian. Clayton, P. (1999b). ‘Access issues in adult vocational guidance and counselling’, Newscheck, 6

Jan/Feb 1999, p. 11 Clayton, P. (1999c). ‘Access, adult vocational guidance and social exclusion’, International Careers Journal Jan/Feb 1999 Clayton, P. (2000). ‘Was it worth it? A comparison of the role of adult education and training in the labour market insertion and progress of men and women in the West of Scotland: results of qualitative research’, International Journal of Lifelong Learning 2000 Clayton, P. & Slowey, M. (1996). ‘Toward the ‘flexible’ workforce? Implications for gender and the education and training of adults’, Scottish Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 3(1), pp 45-62 Clayton, P., Greco, S., Mäkelä, E., & Ward, M. (1999) ‘Provision of vocational guidance and counselling for disadvantaged adults in four European countries: a critical review’, Widening Participation in Lifelong Learning December 1999 Clayton, P. & McGill, P. (2000). ‘Access issues in adult vocational guidance and counselling for people at risk of social exclusion: perspectives from two qualitative research projects’, Journal of Access and Credit Studies 2000 Clayton, P. & Plant, P. (2000). Opening Doors: Social Exclusion, Adult Vocational Guidance and Access, an on-line course for vocational guidance practitioners at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/avg/ (site now password-protected pending updating) Kolb, D. A. (1993). ‘The process of experiential learning’, in Thorpe, M. et al (eds), Culture and Processes of Adult Learning, London and New York, Routledge in association with the Open University, pp 138-156 Plant, P. (1999a). 'Internet Guidance Training Course in 4 European Countries', International Careers Journal www.careers-journal.com (net-based) Plant, P. (1999b). 'Internet Guidance Training Course in 4 European Countries', Careers Adviser, Stourbridge: Institute of Careers Guidance Plant, P. (1999c). 'Virtuel vejlederuddannelse: Internet baseret kvalificering af vejledere i 4 lande' RUE-REVUE 4/1999. Copenhagen: Danish National Council for Educational and Vocational Guidance, RUE Plant, P. (2000a). 'Internet Guidance Training Course in 4 European Countries', IAEVG Newsletter # 37, 2000. Berlin: International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (worldwide circulation). Plant, P. (2000b). 'Virtuel vejlederuddannelse: Internet baseret kvalificering af vejledere i 4 lande' Vägledaren, Njurunda: Sveriges Vägledarförening


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