The COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on counselling in career guidance, on the respective institutions as well as on counsellors and counselling clients across Europe. They have been forced to convert their mostly face-to-face services to a digital setting quasi overnight. Unfortunately, online career guidance was not integrated as a natural part in the range of services before the crisis. Reasons were manifold, e. g. lack of technical equipment, lack of digital literacy, lack of appropriate data protection or worries to violate them.
After being in emergency procedures for more than a year, the necessity of its application has considerably changed. Standard tools made their way into the counselling, but are sometimes missing an integrated and demand-orientated career counselling profile. Nonetheless, institutions and individuals collected some positive experiences in mostly unstructured and unguided circumstances through a more flexible service design in distance career guidance. Now, institutions and individuals look for guidance, appropriate tools and structured vocational education and training providing transparency and transferability in application for a hybrid career counselling concept.
At the conference “VET Internationalisation in 2021: beyond mobilities”, keynote speaker João Santos, DG Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion from the European Commission said: “Career counsellors play a critical role for skills development to support the green and digital transitions. Change is happening at such a pace that people have difficulties targeting future skills and capacities. Here, career counsellors can provide […] guidance and opportunities for quality qualifications, as well as […] information on upskilling and reskilling.” Now, the pandemic is slowly passing, and a simple return to former face-to-face approaches is not an answer to the outlined demand (CEDEFOP Report: Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic, 2020; OECD Report: Career Guidance for Adults in a Changing World of Work, 2021).
Therefore, it is time to structurally integrate the latest experiences and take career guidance to the next level: an umbrella strategy to upskill digital skills on processes and tools is needed. Facing the variety of challenges, OCCAY attempts therefore to be an inclusive and modular offer at the same time.
OCCAY creates digital tools for labour market counselling which enable knowledge transfer & exchange and are applicable to all counselling fields. The project’s goals coincide with the Digital Education Action Plan of the European Commission as it is offering inclusive and modular instruments for career counsellors and institutions working in this field. It combines the self-assessment of digital competences with the possibility to enhance them through the OCCAY Hybrid Flexi Course. At the same time, OCCAY offers educational and career counselors a freely accessible online tool and for institutions working in this field a manual on how to systematically and structurally implement digital counseling in their organization.
In addition, the project promotes European networking and is preparing a policy recommendation for decision-makers on the EU institutional and agency level.
With OCCAY, for the first time, a project is pursuing a common European understanding within the vocational education of career counsellors and is offering a common digital platform for mutual education and training