The work of the employment counsellor -mentor, guider, etc.- is always complex in terms of his/her work is developed in a scenario in which different forces or trends converge:
- The legal and administrative framework of the process: regulations and legal implicit restrictions meaning that the destination is the inclusion in the labour market or training route, both regulated by the state.
- Professional development of the profession itself: the methodologies and processes applicable to own itinerary differ in formulas and results.
- The human factor considering that what it is all about is to accompany, guide, advise people in an always personal way and different for each, with the ultimate goal of getting a job, which carries an emotional and vital charge and also a way to stay and participate in society.
On the first point, professional direct intervention is unusual given the breadth of the framework. But as for the next two-capacity action or omission may be decisive in the effectiveness of the orientation process.
With this background, we celebrated in early October a workshop in Santander in which the guidance methodology and performance management proposed in the European project IGMA was reported. The meeting was held at the Training and Employment Centre of Santander City Council. IGMA seeks to develop a methodology for the effective integration of immigrants in training as a gateway to the labour market through case management and the realization of an itinerary tailored to their specific needs.
This project is aimed at all professionals working in the advice and guidance of disadvantaged groups in general and immigrants in particular for integration into the labour market through training (integration agents, social workers, development workers, workers in adult education centres, NGO’s experts, employment public service personnel, social welfare offices, etc.).
The main points discussed during the day were, also the presentation of the project, the exposition of one of the basic concepts collected in IGMA, the notion of ‘distance’ to the Labour Market and its practical application in Sweden and the UK. In the afternoon session, the participants tried to adapt this model to the characteristics and conditions of the Spanish context.
MODEL OF DISTANCE TO THE LABOUR MARKET
Distance Model to the Labour Market seeks to highlight the small steps an individual or specific target group need to achieve their goal. The steps are ordered according to a typical chronological sequence.
The picture that can respond to this idea is a ladder which means, among other things:
- The orientation process is “broken” in small, well-defined steps.
- Achieve something means working on it and the “client” has to be aware of it
- The goals are clear to the person, up to more and more.
- Some people can rise very quickly and other people not.
- As counsellor, you teach your “client” to climb the ladder.
- As counsellor, you always know at what point your “client” is (how high it is).
- A good counsellor knows why a person doubt in a particular step (detects barriers and how to overcome them).
- Clients do not fall between steps.
The development of this methodology responds to the dual need for both to improve performance at work and to measure technical and professional achievements. Also develops shared awareness among organizations, what are the steps of the orientation process each one carrying which allows better coordination between agents in the territory, and should facilitate the sharing of procedures for collecting information and reports that would allow a more efficient management.
APPLICATION TO SPANISH CONTEXT
During the afternoon session, the 10 professional workshop participants belonging to the same number of entities, discussed and reflected on the Distance Model to the Labour Market and its applicability to the Spanish context.
In the process of regional integration we find a stage, with some common features to other European countries, in which
- Appear various organizations and professionals involved. Each with a plan or method.
- Services are overlapped.
- The quality of the relationship with the user depends on the professional and not on the procedure. The information between professionals is shared in an informal and friendly way.
- The procedures, in many cases, are more important than the results.
- Users move from one service to another, looking for a solution and trying to compose a personal puzzle that meets their needs. Whereupon some feel unmotivated.
The groups worked directly on the Swedish model that draws 30 steps, from check in employment services to mediation and entry into the labour market. These organizations share and perform many of the procedures outlined, although in its development there are different shades.
The presentation of the results for each group differs in the number of steps required and the order thereof. Among the contributions and general assessments to be drawn we highlight:
- It showed the different ways of approaching the user and information gathering. The need for the first contact is not simply to fill in a form and the importance of trying to win the confidence as a form of commitment on future appointments.
- The importance that the user formalizes a commitment (contract) and that this document is present throughout the entire process.
- The convenience of evaluation not only of the user and his/her achievements but of the network and the effectiveness of the service provided by the entities.
- Incorporate in the mediation the support for entrepreneurship, self-employment, cooperatives, etc. as a remedy to a paralyzed labour market as it is the Spanish one today.
- Include in the guidance process the learning that is extracted from users (service-learning model). Closer working ties and the relationship between organization / user / community.
The discussion also brought to light the main challenges so that the overall structure of Spanish system allows greater efficiency:
- A more flexible system of recognition of professional qualifications and educational certifications in order to facilitate the access of immigrants to skilled employment or formal education pathways.
- Be able to guide users through a journey in which the training is really useful for employability.
- That the organizations involved have sufficient financial resources to maintain counseling services continuously.
- The amendment of laws that hurt the most vulnerable groups such as immigrants and hindering their integration into the formal process to find work.
As overall conclusion of the workshop was considered that the main aspects of the project methodology seem appropriate to achieve a good result. The rupture of the integration process in small steps and coordination among stakeholders can help to achieve greater efficiency in the management of each client’s case. Similarly, it encourages reflection of professional guiders on key issues in their daily work. Unfortunately, there was no consensus on the steps needed to describe the “ladder” that defines the labor market integration in the Spanish context.