Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach
Apart from courses provided by private agencies, the main providers of adult education in Ireland are post-primary schools through their adult education and further education programmes, and the higher education institutions through their departments of adult and continuing education. In the case of schools providing further education, known as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, the courses are a development of the Vocational Preparation and Training Programme (VPTP1 and VPTP2). PLC courses are of one or two year’s duration and cater for the educational needs of the majority of learners who do not enter higher education. These courses are accredited, and their standards determined and monitored, by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).
Most PLC courses include modules related to Guidance, such as Personal Development, Work Experience and Communication and should include appropriate inputs from the guidance counsellor. In December 2011, as part of its budgetary strategy, the Government announced the cessation of the ex-quota allocation for Guidance from September 2012. Circular 0009/2012 outlines the revised staffing arrangements in post-primary schools. In essence, guidance provision is now managed by schools from within their standard staffing schedule allocation. The circular reiterates the requirement of the Education Act 1998 that schools develop a whole-school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of students.
In the case of other providers, such as the institutions of higher education, the availability of academic guidance for adult learners is determined by the individual institutions. In some instances, this includes access to the institution’s careers and counselling services. The Adult Educational Guidance Initiative (AEGI) provides guidance services to those attending adult and community training programmes and to those on the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) eligible list. Adult education information is available to the general public.
A new National Employment and Entitlements Service (INTREO) has been developed so that all employment and benefit support services will be integrated in a single delivery unit managed by the Department of Social Protection. This integrated service would provide a ‘one stop shop’ for people seeking to establish their benefit entitlements; looking for a job; and seeking advice about their training options. This service will offer users a higher level of personalised employment advice, with more frequent face-to-face interviews.
The availability of psychological counselling for adult learners is largely determined by sector. Because guidance counsellors employed under the Adult Educational Guidance Initiative (AEGI) and in post-primary schools have, at least, basic training in counselling, learners enrolled in Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses or who avail of the services of the AEGI have access to basic personal counselling. Established referral systems to external agencies, such as the Health Service Executive (HSE) and private counselling services, are used in cases beyond the remit of the guidance counsellor.
In the case of other providers, such as the institutions of higher education, access to psychological guidance for adult learners is determined by the individual institutions. In some instances, this includes access to the institution’s counselling services, where available.
The Adult Educational Guidance Initiative (AEGI) was established in 2000. The AEGI is a Department of Education and Skills funded initiative, co-ordinated by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). The AEGI provides quality educational guidance services for adults. Forty AEGI services in local centres have been developed nationally by the Vocational Education Committees and Waterford Institute of Technology. Staff in the local centres includes adult education guidance co-ordinators/counsellors and adult guidance information officers. The AEGI offers a guidance service to adults that includes impartial adult education information, one-to-one guidance and group guidance, and aims to help people to make informed educational, career and life choices.
SOLAS, is the further education and training authority. Its functions have been split between the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Its mandate is to ensure the provision of high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners.