The 2022 edition of the EAEA Younger Staff Training, held on 12-16 September in Brussels, brought together 15 professionals working in guidance and adult education. The overarching theme of the training was guidance for learning and career.
The group participating in the training was geographically very diverse as the participants came from different corners of Europe: Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Georgia and Ukraine. This provided the opportunity for interesting exchanges of experiences and perspectives on adult education and guidance systems.
Peer learning has always been a central part of the Younger Staff Training and this week was no different. The methods used during the training week were very interactive. Every day we took part in various group exercises and discussions on guidance and adult learning. For example, we reflected on the competences of a good guidance counsellor and analysed gaps in adult learning policies in our countries. We also learned about guidance methods, advocacy work and writing project applications in hands-on workshops.
Prior to my current job at the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation I have worked in various jobs in the field of guidance, so the topics of the training week were very interesting to me. I had a chance to compare the guidance systems between Finland, Belgium and the countries of the other participants. Meeting European colleagues face to face and having the time and opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas about our work was the best part of the training for me.
One stop shop for lifelong guidance
Guidance services for vulnerable adults was a topic that interested all the participants. During the training week we visited two guidance centres which offer low-threshold guidance and counselling services. Both centres offer services free of charge and are neutral in their orientation towards different options.
Leerwinkel offers guidance and information on study opportunities in Flemish language and has several guidance centres in Belgium. Leerwinkel is also active in projects. We heard about a European Social Fund project which helps ex-prisoners to achieve high-quality and humane re-integration into society after their prison term.
“Study orientation, customised action plan and motivational coaching are some of the methods we use in the project”, Eva Raymaekers from Leerwinkel told us.
We also visited Cité des métiers, which provides guidance and information on job, study and entrepreneurship opportunities. It was interesting to hear that the guidance and counselling services are provided anonymously, and there is no register of the clients.
“Many people don’t want to be associated with the employment office, so we don’t really have statistics of the clients”, Joost Barclay from Cité des métiers explained.
As we reflected on the study visits and discussed how we could develop the guidance systems in our countries, many of the Younger Staff Training participants agreed that “one stop shop” for guidance for adults would be the best way forward. As the example of Cité des métiers showed us, people from different organisations can work together as one team to provide the services.
To truly foster lifelong learning, we need lifelong guidance. Too often, guidance and counselling for adults is project-based and there are no stable funding structures.
One of the study visits was to the European Parliament. Pictures from left to right: Station Europe. Upper row right: How high can we jump? Left: Younger Staff Training participants showing solidarity with Ukraine in front of the European Parliament as Victoria Furhalo from Lviv unfurled the Ukrainian flag.
The week in Brussels reminded me why it’s important to meet people physically. In a time of many crises in Europe, the discussions and exchanges strengthened the feeling of kinship, collegiality and solidarity between the people who took part in the training.
This year, we have talked a lot about transformative learning at EAEA. At the EAEA annual conference in May, it was suggested that transformative learning can happen when conflicts about ideas are raised. Questioning and self-reflection are key to transformative learning.
In my opinion, international experiences, like living in another country, offer favourable circumstances for transformative learning. By fostering dialogue among people from diverse backgrounds, EAEA Younger Staff Training provides an excellent opportunity for transformative learning experiences.
The writer is employed by the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation and works as EAEA Communications Officer with funding from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. She is based in Helsinki, Finland.
In the words of the participants
Mohammed, Finland: This course gave me a great opportunity to learn new methodologies in the field of adult education. I got a chance to set up a network with colleagues from different European countries. I also had a chance to see different career counselling methods and get to know guidance centres in Brussels.
Victoria, Ukraine: I really liked this training because I learned how to apply guidance system in each city. I want to bring it to my city (Lviv) and adopt it in our situation. I believe a lifelong learning approach is really necessary for Ukraine now.
Kalianne, Ireland: I really enjoyed the experience being in Brussels. I loved meeting my European colleagues and peers and learning more about their work, learning more about the work of EAEA and learning more about guidance from an international perspective.
Roberto, Italy: In particular I appreciated the study visits, as I had a chance to compare the way we in Italy and people here in Belgium deal with communities and how we reach adults with low skills and try to engage them in studying.
EAEA Younger Staff Training is organised annually in Brussels. Read more about the Younger Staff Training