This guide is intended to provide a detailed description of what is understood as counselling within the Young Service Steward (YSS) project.
The first chapters are there to provide an overall understanding of the project and its processes: Chapter 2 tells you about the project in general, Chapter 3 explains the project’s target group and their overall situation and needs. Chapter 4 elaborates on the rather complex YSS process.
The role and expectations towards YSS counsellors are explained in detail in Chapter 5. Here you will not only find a basic counselling scenario including steps and timing suggestions, but specific tips and solutions as well. These suggestions are organised around the expected challenges and risks a participant might face at the different steps on his/her way when moving forward within the process.
At the end of each chapter you are going to find some reflection tasks and questions. Please take time to think about and reflect on them.
Please take note that the basic scenario of counselling as suggested in this guide already incorporates substantial room for manoeuvre however depending on local situations and requirements there might be need for even more flexibility. In such cases counsellors, in coordination and agreement with the local coordinators, are welcome to further adapt the actual counselling process to the specific needs of the local target group.
2.1 Objectives, outputs, perspective
The Young Service Steward (YSS) project is aimed to prevent the growing competence gap between activation programs and the digital and soft skills needs of the labour market and to mature employment within welfare and environmental services.
The project follows the aims of the EU Youth Strategy and undertakes to offer a 360° competence upgrade to widen young NEETs’ (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) employment and vocational possibilities.
 Funded by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.
The project focuses on two areas of development:
- Support to NEET 25-29 by a 360° competence upgrade in a blend of digital skills, life skills, counselling and employment in a flexible delivery system.
The outputs of the program will come as tools to improve digital skills training, life skills training, counselling and mapping tools to support the NEET Youth to become part of the solution instead of being a problem of weak local communities. This will be in the form of e-learning, webinars, LMS, and virtual tools.
The YSS is a program, which will succeed by the involvement of stable local, and long-term partners who will secure local sustainability. A general capacity building series will ensure sustainability to reach out to similar stakeholder and communities in other parts of the EU.
The following infographic describe key project interventions areas and major outputs.
Infographic about the YSS Program
The following infographic describe key project interventions areas and major outputs.
2.2 Key implementation indicators
During 2023 240 NEETS are going to be involved in a 360° competence upgrade including:
hours long onsite digital competence development (available at 3 levels)
3 x 30
hours long life skills development, onsite training and e-learning combined
months long community service employment supported by 36 hours/NEET mentoring
hours/NEET counselling support during the whole process
An additional 800 NEETS participate in a 30 hour long online digital competence development only.
The 360° competence upgrade of 240 NEETs takes place in 3 countries (Spain (60), Romania (80) and Hungary (100)) at 3 locations in each country.
The 800 NEETs who participate in online digital competence development only are distributed evenly among three countries (Spain, Romania and Hungary).
The digital competence development is based on the principles of the EU Digcomp 2.1. Each NEET participant will get a digital competence assessment, customized training to improve competences, and a development plan to update these competences.
The life skills trainings strengthen life skills, motivation and empowerment to improve each NEETs’ ability to live a selfsustained life.
The community service employment promotes youth engagement in local service needs: it not only activates the target group in employment/service jobs but improves the services-functions in the local community too.
Counselling is focused on specific challenges combined with self-help groups to improve family skills, life skills and household economy.
2.3 Project partners and their background
Progress Consult Danish-Hungarian Development Company (Hungary)
Progress started its operation in Hungary in 1998. In recent years Progress has widened its operations to other countries in the region and participates in several innovative programmes in the field of adult education with partners from all over Europe. Since 2010 Progress has been an active and founding member of the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN), and from 2013 has been acting as the EBSN Secretariat.
Progress implements the Young Service Steward Program in one location in Hungary: Kecskemét.
Modus Foundation (Hungary)
Modus Foundation was established in 2005 as a non-profit organization registered in Hungary. From its start the aim of Modus has been to play an active and professional role in the modernisation and improvement of the Hungarian welfare system.
Modus Foundation implements the Young Service Steward Program in four locations in Hungary: Hodász, Újfehértó, Érpatak, Nagykálló.
ACEFIR Catalan Association for Education, Training &Research (Spain)
ACEFIR, Catalan Association for Education, Training and Research, is a social initiative organization where joint a team of professionals from various disciplines with a common interest in working for education, training and research in the field of young people, adults and the elderly.
ACEFIR is part of the Catalan Organizations with International dimension of the Government, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the European Union.
ACEFIR implements the Young Service Steward Program in three locations in Spain: Catalonia, Girona and Figueres.
Centre For Promoting Lifelong Learning-CPIP (Romania)
CPIP is an NGO built around the idea of lifelong learning as a community development instrument. CPIP has been working since 2006 with different target groups that have in common the need and desire of learning.
CPIP has specialised in developing together with youth and adults, learning games, instruments and European learning experiences, has involved over 200 volunteers across more than 70 implemented projects. CPIP promotes the culture of “lifelong learning” through the active involvement of community members in developing a coherent implementation strategy of the concept and practice of lifelong learning.
CPIP implements the Young Service Steward Program in four locations in Romania: Berzasca, Costeiu, Maciuca, Pietroasa.
Prios Kompetanse AS (Norway)
Prios Kompetanse AS (Prios) is a research-based corporation operating from Steinkjer in Mid-Norway. Main tasks are project management, business consulting, innovation processes, training and software development. Prios is member of both the European Forum of Technical and Vocational Education and training (EfVET) and the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN.
3.1 NEETs in numbers
NEET (‘’Not in Education, Employment, or Training’’) refers to those who are unemployed, not in school or vocational training programmes.
The percentage of NEETs in the age category 15-34 in EU is 13.60%. Their representation in age-subgroups is shown in the following chart.
The project’s specific target group, the NEETs 25-29 is a local – but also a transnational challenge across Europe. Sustainable solutions are needed to ensure, that young people don’t start their working life with extended phases of unemployment and inactivity, and to prevent long-term unstable work conditions.
Addressing the challenge of especially the “older” group of 25-29 years old NEET requires a comprehensive, tailored and partnership-based approach in the actual locations and communities involved.
The proportion of NEETs is higher in rural regions with numbers at 15%, compared to urban areas with 12.9%. This difference is greater in Southern and Eastern European countries.
Research also proves that 30-35% of NEETs are classed as socially isolated, and/or suffer from mental challenges compared with only 14-16% of non-NEETs of the same age.
The Covid19 pandemic has increased the pressure on the NEET target group with growing un-employment. Eurostat data (March 2020) show that while the unemployment rate of the general population increased by 0.1%, from 6.5% to 6.6%, the youth unemployment rate increased by 0.4%, from 14.8% to 15.2%. Eurofound’s survey also confirms that in the initial phase of the crisis young people in the EU have been hit slightly harder than the rest of the population in terms of labour market participation.
 Data is sourced from Youth and Mobility in EU Rural Areas, ECOST Policy Brief https://rnyobservatory.eu/web/policy-brief-youth-and-mobility-in-eu-rural-areas/, and Eurostat.
3.2 What we know about NEETs at the project partners / locations
The target group of the project are the NEETs 25-29 of both genders with diverse challenges in 12 different locations in 3 countries including:
- short- or long-term unemployed young adults
- with low social skills and mental challenges,
- being socially isolated,
- ethnic and immigrant youth too,
- but with an articulated wish to work.
Here are a couple of statements on the local target group members provided by the project partners:
- Roma segregations … in extreme poverty … low level of education … have not been in education for at least 8‐10 years, previous attempts at training and employment have failed” (Hodász, Hungary)
- „young people with different skills, backgrounds, education levels and experiences” (Újfehértó, Hungary)
- „young people, with various social, cultural and economic challenges; ethnic minorities … they are often very busy or with many obligations and people in charge” (Girona, Fundació Ksameu, Spain)
- „unemployed individuals with psychosocial disabilities (mental illness), … particularly stigmatized and rejected collective, … with a strong inclination towards social isolation, … educational level is usually low, with some cases that have almost never been in contact with nowadays digital technologies” (Girona, Fundació Drissa, Spain)
- „people with various social, cultural and economic challenges; ethnic minorities, newcomers and the long‐term unemployed” „a possible learning centre could be the Figueres prison” (Girona, Fundació Gentis, Spain)
- „young people aged 20‐29, including those who are the parents of the children who attend the activities of the NGO, … alphabetisation will be the main component in the implementation” (Costeiu, Romania)
- „young people, belonging to two categories: 16‐18, high school students ‐ they need help to understand the importance of higher education so that we decrease the drop offs numbers, 18‐30 ‐ young adults that have to life vision, no specialisation to rely on for work, therefore no stable future to develop themselves and their families” (Ciocanari, Romania)
4.1 The YSS process the NEETS will go through
The YSS process it a rather complex process both to implement and to participate in it.
From a participant’s point of view key steps of the process are
- Digital competence development
- Life-skills training
- Community service employment.
The life-skills trainings involve three trainings:
- Motivation for an active life
- Self-sustained life
- Empowerment for employment
The process is expected to start early 2023 and last 5-9 moths, depending on local arrangements. Participation in the program however doesn’t mean a fulltime occupation for the participants. The following figure outlines the key steps of the process.
4. Figure: The YSS process from a participant’s point of view
It is to be noted that the digital competence development and the life skills training delivery (step 2 and 3) can be flexible both in terms of timing and schedule to suit local circumstances and opportunities. For example, if there is a need to increase young people’s engagement and motivation in the programme, the competence development might start with the “Motivation for an active life” life-skills training instead of the digital competence development.
The participant isn’t left alone in the process: as the below figures suggests several support functions are there every step of the way to ensure that the process is successfully completed by as many participants as possible.
The responsibilities and tasks are split among these support functions as follows:
- the local coordinator is the manager of the local implementation process, his/her responsibility is to involve participants in the program and to take care that all the program elements are successfully implemented
- the counsellor is responsible for the participants’ “well-being”, the key worry of the counsellor is that participants successfully accomplish the project steps
- trainers are there to deliver the trainings
- the employment service hosts take care of the participants inside the host employment organisations.
5. Figure: Support functions within the YSS process
Depending on local arrangements some of these functions might be undertaken by the same people or these tasks might be shared differently among the support functions however the responsibilities and key tasks to be undertaken remain the same as a whole and must be delivered carefully.
4.2 Resource toolkit
The following table summarizes what resources are available to the YSS support functions to undertake their tasks. Also, some specific tools have been elaborated within the project to be used with the participants.
Counsellors’ tasks and responsibilities are explained in this guide, and a webinar is also available to prepare for the job. During its job a counsellor will use the mapping tools (to map participant’s work interest, preferences etc.), and will have access to the other tools elaborated within the project as well.
6. Figure: Resource toolkit for implementation
5.1 What is expected from a YSS counsellor
As the above infographic (5. Figure: Support functions within the YSS process) suggests the counsellor is a key person supporting the NEETs (participants) to successfully accomplish all the steps of the YSS process:
- The counsellor initiates contacts and offers support to all the participants allocated to him/her based on the minimally required counselling scenario (see further detailed below), and provides additional support based on the participant’s individual needs.
- The KPI (key performance indicator) of a well-done counsellor’s job is a low drop-out rate.
- In addition to contacts initiated by the counsellor, the counsellor is the person a participant can talk to whenever she/he feels it necessary, someone she/he can rely on and who can help manage problems that might prevent him/her from successfully completing the process.
- A counsellor also provides help -to the extent possible- during the learning process both in regard to the digital competence development as to the life skill trainings.
5.2 The YSS counselling scenario
A counsellor’s resources in terms of available time for counselling work is set at 10 hours (600 minutes) of counselling on average for each participant.
The counselling resources are suggested to be used partly according to a standardised counselling scenario which includes a certain number of contact with each participant in diverse forms initiated by the counsellor. These are the minimally required counselling steps. The standardised counselling scenario also includes regular contacts initiated by the counsellor with the other support functions in the YSS process (project coordinator, trainers, employer practice hosts).
Additionally, a substantial part of the counselling resources can be used in form of individually necessary support when and where extra help is needed. The counsellor might encounter individual needs for further assistance and help in case of some participants that are to be taken care of. Some young people might need psychological counselling (including therapy), coaching (for personal life or business-related), career guidance or educational guidance. Depending on the local arrangements some centres might decide to bring additional professionals (eg. psychologists) on board. Eventually some participants will also initiate contacts with, require help from the counsellor. All these efforts are to be accounted for as part of the individually necessary support.
The below figure explains how the standardised counselling scenario in suggested to be undertaken:
7. Figure: Standardised counselling scenario
Once participants have registered to the programs they are allocated to counsellors. The counsellor is expected to initiate at least the following interactions with each participant during the YSS process:
- 2 personal meetings and
- 6 check-ups.
The first personal meeting takes place very soon after registration. Less formal check-ups are to be undertaken each time before a new competence development/training program starts. The second personal meeting is planned for when the trainings have been accomplished but before the employment practice starts. Further check-ups are planned during the employment practice phase as well.
The scope and purpose of these interactions, and practical tips on how to undertake them are detailed in the next chapters.
The time estimation for the minimally required counselling steps with each participant is:
- personal meetings: app. 60-90 minutes each, a total of 120-180 minutes
- check-ups: app. 15 minutes each, a total of 90 minutes.
To our estimation the standardised counselling (interactions with the participants and contact with the other support functions) will use app. 50% of the total counselling resources. The remaining app. 50% of counselling resources can be used in form of individually necessary counselling support.
8. Figure: Allocation of counselling resources
Counselling steps undertaken need to be properly documented using the Counselling diary template (see in Annex 1). This diary is to be kept individually and up to date for each participant during the whole project cycle. All counselling efforts need to be documented.
5.3 General rules for counselling
A counsellor represents stability in the YSS process. It is their job to accompany the participant on its path towards a more competent and fulfilled future. The counsellor is not only there for the participant at the beginning, at the planning of its path through the program but will support him/her every step of the way.
A counsellor relates to the participant with empathy, builds their confidence, holds meaningful discussions with him/her, understands his/her life situations and challenges, and supports him/her in taking decisions. The counsellor encourages the adult revealing his/her life dreams, ideas, expectations, and the recognition of current life situation, including his/her existing resources. The counsellor supports the adult in setting life objectives, help to formulate a plan and identify the necessary steps to reach them, among which competence development and employment experience are of crucial importance.
Counsellors are aware that every adult has a past. They all come to this program with plenty of experiences. They finished school or not. They have had jobs or not. They have had successes but most probably a lot more failures. Sometimes they find it easy to learn something, sometimes it proves to be really difficult. They certainly have fears and suffer from low self-esteem.
The question is how far are they from reaching their goals and what paths can they find to reach them: how much time, what opportunities and which motivation can lead them there? Every goal can be reached through different paths. The counsellor is there to help the participant to get closer to its goal and find the paths that can lead him/her there.
How to make learning plans with participants?
When setting a learning goal remember that a learning plan is always
- specific – it considers the life situation of the adult, his/her existing resources and motivation. It is not overwhelming but represent a proper challenge.
- measurable – once completed it can be clearly stated if the plan was successful or not
- realistic – it only sets achievable goals through affordable efforts
- meaningful – because it will result in usable skills and competences in the adult’s life, and
- timed – it has steps, time allocated to complete the steps and a deadline.
Adults can be invited to and kept in the competence development process if they are convinced that learning fits their purposes, it is meaningful and relevant to them. This can be reached if the individual can -with the necessary support- learn and experience what is personally relevant and necessary to him/her.
Successful learning only takes place if the learner puts his/her heart in it. Motivation for learning can derive from the opportunity to get a job or a promotion, access to regular or higher income, enjoyment of a meaningful occupation. Motivation can also come from life areas outside employment like raising children, fulfilling personal interests and dreams, coping with personal problems etc.
It is important to remember that the lower qualified the adult is the lower the chances are that he/she will be open towards competence development opportunities.
How adults learn best?
Personal counselling proves to be a tool with much higher efficiency (compared to other solutions eg. online services, automated competence and self-discovery test etc.) in case of socially challenged groups, such as the project’s NEET target group.
It is therefore of key importance that the support provided to NEETs includes a personal counselling element.
The counsellor will keep track of the adult both during the competence development and the employment phase. Counselling during the competence development phase can take the form of individualised personal support or support provided in smaller groups addressing learning related, methodological, technical or personal challenges and issues. The content of learning support will always depend on the specific issue and the learning situation.
The counsellor is by the side of the adult and provides guidance and support dominantly with indirect solutions.
The motto of indirect learning counselling is:
The least possible support, exactly as much as needed.
The key idea behind the above motto is that the counsellor must keep in mind as a rule that each and every adult is the creator of his/her own life, he/she needs to make decisions and take responsibility for them.
The counsellor is not there to provide answers, rather to raise questions which encourage adults to endeavour new paths and challenges.
The idea is to encourage self-support and self-directed learning, a higher degree of self-awareness and empowerment.
Depending on the individual needs the scope of counselling can include helping the participant with
- self-identification with the program and its potential personal benefits
- awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses
- future planning
- elaboration of personal learning plan
- learning counselling
- employment support
- problem solving for specific problems (eg. technical difficulties, personal problems, learning difficulties, social challenges etc.).
The counsellor’s “toolbox” includes
- personal availability
- regular follow up
- emotional support
- meaningful discussions
- access to learning (eg. learning programs, material, LMS etc.) and counselling (eg. mapping tools) resources
- activation of further support functions.
It is to be remembered that many people simply don’t take the initiative to ask for help when needed. Therefore the counselling scenario suggests counsellors to reach out to every participant especially those who are distant and silent for too long.
5.4 Tips and solutions for the YSS counsellors
In this chapter you are going to find specific tips and suggestions on how to undertake the different elements of the basic counselling scenario.
5.4.1 1st meeting with the participant
The first meeting between the participant and the counsellor takes place once the participant has registered to the program. This is a personal meeting ideally at the learning centre, or if that is not possible at a location and time suitable for both the participant and the counsellor. The first meeting takes app. 1-1,5 hour.
The first meeting has several purposes
1. Establish confidence: to meet and start building a personal and confidence-based relationship with the participant,
2. Explain the process: explain the key steps of the YSS process to the participant, what is to be expected to happen, and the opportunities this might bring him/her.
3. Get to know the participant: gather as much information as possible that are relevant to the participation in and successful completion of the YSS process,
Confidence is key in any counselling set-up especially in case of the project’s target group. Socially isolated, unemployed young people will certainly not be comfortable at the first meeting with the counsellor. They will probably have second thoughts why they let themselves talked into joining this whole process, will feel lost and vulnerable etc. It is the job of the counsellor to comfort them, make them feel more secure.
The counsellor shall explain the key steps of the YSS process from the participant’s point of view.
During this discussion the following issues are suggested to be covered:
- Why are we having this conversation?
- Who am I (the counsellor), and what is a counsellor for?
- What will happen and when?
- What is a digital competence course? What does it look like?
- What is a life-skill training? Why are there 3 of them?
- Who will be the trainers? What do they look like?
- What are the participant’s expectations with regards to this process?
- When will the trainings take place?
- Where will the trainings take place?
Tips to the counsellor on how to explain the process
- When explaining something to the participant use practical, real-life examples, demonstrate with visuals, if possible. Use the project materials (flyers for example) to visualize the steps.
- If the participant has a calendar (on- or offline), it is good to register the key dates or periods in it together. Register (or note on paper) at least the date and place of the first training the participant must attend to.
- Share relevant access information (phone number, email, social media etc.) with the participant, and discuss when should / could he / she contact the counsellor.
- Offer the participant that he / she can turn to the counsellor whenever he/she feels it necessary or needs any help.
- At the same time confirm that the counsellor will check on the participant a couple of times. Agree on the form how regular check-ups by the counsellor shall take place (over the phone, social media etc.).
Get to know the participant
Anything can be important that might influence the successful participation in the YSS process. This part of the conversation shall especially take place as a nonformal discussion.
The conversation might cover the participant’s
- areas of interest, self-image, motivation, life-objectives
- regular daily activities
- key personal characteristics, strengths, and challenges
- family status, social relationships
- life environment
- skills and competences, cognitive competences
- scholar and work experiences
- learning experiences
- counselling needs
Tips to the counsellor on getting to know the participant
- Asking about the participant’s regular daily activities can be a rich source of information. If for example it turns out that spending time in social media is a favourite daily activity, this might provide an opportunity to discover the participant’s digital competences etc.
- Be aware that
- on one hand adults don’t credit themselves enough for and don’t consider as “real” achievements their abilities that are part of their daily routines. They consider it “nothing special” that they can do this or that just because they do it every day.
- on the other hand, they sometimes tend to overvalue themselves in certain areas (eg. adults will typically consider themselves as digital pros based on their frequent use of the internet etc.).
- The counsellor can get information, insights over the participant from indirect sources as well: his/her appearance, handshake, attitude when it comes to filling in a form (at registration for example), handwriting etc.). It is however to be remembered to consider these impressions as mere observations instead of jumping to conclusions.
- Ask about participants’ view on the type of counselling (psychological, educational, career related etc.) or which area of their lives they feel most support is needed.
- Take note and keep a close eye on any area, sign that is discovered that later might endanger the participation in the program and its successful completion (eg. insufficient basic skills etc.).
The counsellor has several tools (Mapping of preferences, Wheel of life, Work interest test) at hand to use when getting to know the participant. All these tools are available among the project resources including an on-line guide to the counsellors as well.
The counsellor has different options of using any of these tools: either can invite the participant to fill in the test as part of the first meeting and discuss its results together. Or the counsellor and the participant can fill in the test together and reflect on the results.
Mapping of preferences
This self-assessment tool can be used to better get to know the participant. It is designed to identify a person’s personality type, strengths, and preferences.
The mapping of preferences is available in form of an online test in full or simplified versions (52 or 28 questions to be answered). Each question is answered by choosing between to options.
Wheel of life
This tool is developed to be used in individual conversations with the participants to better understand the life situation, the challenges and give direction for improvements. It offers the opportunity to examine how balanced the participant is across different spheres or roles in life.
It provides a visual representation of the participant’s life as it is today compared to what they ideally would like it to be.
The Wheel of life comes in form of three standardised questions to be answered in eight different life spheres.
Work interest test
This self-assessment tool is based on the idea that people can be categorised as one of 6 occupational personality types, and that different types of occupations can be categorised on the same system – as one of 6 occupational types. The work interest test allows participants to discover which occupational type they belong to. This tool can be used in career counselling too.
When completing the test participants will be asked to grade 48 questions on a 5-point Likert scale.
Tips to the counsellor on the use of the mapping tools
- Using a mapping tool is optional for the counsellor however can provide a well-structured solution to get to know the participant.
- The choice of the appropriate tool must be decided based on local and the participants’ individual needs and characteristics.
- Make sure however not to overburden participants with these tools: filling in a test doesn’t make sense, only if the results are properly reflected upon. As a rule: don’t use more than one mapping tool with a participant at the first meeting. Eventually you might want to use a second tool at a later stage (eg. the Work interest test on the second personal meeting with the participants before they enter employment).
- Recognise that the self-reflection involved in the mapping activity can also be considered as a preparatory step, a mind-opener towards the life-skill trainings.
- If and when any of the mapping tools is used, make sure that the results are properly registered as they are a relevant source of information for the local coordinator, the trainers of life-skills programs as well, and the participants themselves.
- When deciding on how to fill in the test (the participant alone or together with the counsellor) don’t forget that some participants might feel unsecure to fill in online tests, and might not feel confident sharing information about themselves, especially in formal settings. Also completing the test together might give further opportunities for discussion and getting closer to the participant.
5.4.2 Check-up before the Digital competence development
This check-up takes place within one week before the digital competence development starts. A check-up is a short (about 15-20 minutes) discussion with the participant.
The purpose of this check-up is
- How are you these days?: to find out what is going on with the participant, if anything has happened in his/her life that might be relevant to his/her participation in the program.
- Get ready for the training: to remind the participant on the starting of the training, discuss what will happen during the training.
How are you these days?
Probably some time have elapsed since the first meeting with the counsellor, eventually the participant might have (almost) forgotten about the program.
The counsellor can ask bout
- How is it going for the participant these days?
- What he/she has been doing since their meeting?
- Has anything major happened since then?
- How the participant feels about the starting of the training: what is he/she excited about, what he/she is anxious about?
Get ready for the training
The counsellor can discuss all aspects, and eventual challenges of the starting of the training phase:
- when and where the training will start (date and place of the first session)
- what to bring to the training (smart phone, laptop, some beverage, food etc.)
- how he/she will get there and get back home (how much time is needed, what transportation he/she will use etc.)
- are there any difficulties which might prevent him/her from joining the training (eg. missing childcare etc.)
Tips to the counsellor on preparing the participant for training
- This check-up can take place informally the way it has been agreed during the first meeting with the participant.
- The counsellor must keep in mind that entering a training situation, restarting learning, joining a learning group can all be major challenges for socially distanced people. Initiate a discussion where the participant can express his/her feelings about it.
- Don’t overlook practical details (eg. how the participant will get to the training, what time does he/she need to leave home, how long the first session will last etc.) as these might easily grow into insurmountable obstacles and might lead to fall-outs. Getting to the first training session is a key step both for the participant and the project itself. Make sure it happens as expected.
5.4.3 Check-ups during the Life-skills trainings
In the minimally required counselling scenario there are three check-ups planned for this phase. The first check-up takes place once the digital competence development has been accomplished and within one week before the first life skills training starts. The next two check-ups take place within one week before each of the next life-skills trainings start.
A check-up is a short (about 15-20 minutes) discussion with the participant.
The purpose of these check-ups is:
- Ventilation: to ask about the participant’s overall feeling and experience on the recently accomplished training
- Transfer: to encourage participants to put in use what has been learnt
- Get ready for the next training: to prepare participants to continue the training process.
The counsellor can ask about:
- How did you feel at the previous training?
- What did you find enjoyable?
- Have you made new friends?
- If you were asked to make a motto for this last training, what would it be?
- How much learning was a new experience?
- How would you compare it to your earlier experience with learning?
- How difficult was it to make time for the training?
- Were there any special arrangements you had to make because of the training (eg. ask a ride from someone, ask someone to look after the children etc.)? If yes, how difficult was it? Who helped you?
Transfer is a key element in a successful learning process. It however doesn’t necessarily happen spontaneously; counsellors have to chip in to encourage it. To trigger transfer, ask participants about:
- Which training topics seemed the most important/interesting to you?
- Did you talk about the training with your family members, friends when the training was going on (eg. what happens there, who go there, what you do there etc.)?
- Have you shared anything from the training with your family members, friends (eg. played the same game, explained how to do this or that etc.)?
- What are the three most important things you have learnt?
- Have you used theme ever since? If yes, how? Can you give some examples? If not, do you see any opportunities where/when you could?
Get ready for the next training
Participants have successfully completed the previous training, now it is time to prepare for the next one. Make participants remember:
- when and where the next training will start (date and place of the first session)
- what to bring to the training (smart phone, laptop, some beverage, food etc.)
- what were the difficulties they eventually had to cope with during the previous training, and how they could be avoided the next time
Tips to the counsellor on enhancing transfer
- These check-ups can take place informally the way it has been agreed during the first meeting with the participant.
- To enhance transfer share good examples of transfer of ones with others. However always make sure not to share sensible personal data and information.
- By this time some participants and the counsellor will have a good personal relationship. These participants will feel confident to turn to the counsellor with any eventual issue they might have. Some other participants won’t feel comfortable enough to ask for help even if they are struggling. Keep an eye on all participants, especially those who are strikingly silent.
5.4.4 2nd meeting with the participant
By this time participants have gone through all the trainings, will probably feel more confident socially with the learning groups, and the support team (local coordinator, counsellor, trainer(s)). However, the next step will bring them to the outer world, into a working environment where they not only will have to meet plenty of new people but represent themselves, put forward their values and last but not least cope will all the expectations and requirements that having a job might mean.
This second personal meeting between the participant and the counsellor takes place ideally at the learning centre, or if that is not possible at a location and time suitable for both the participant and the counsellor. The meeting takes app. 1-1,5 hour.
The purpose of the meeting is:
- Feedback: to ask about the participant’s overall feeling and experience on the trainings
- Get ready for employment: to prepare participants to enter the employment phase of the project.
In this discussion the counsellor can
- reassure participant how big an achievement it is that he/she has accomplished four trainings in a row
- ask about his/her overall feeling and experience on the training phase
- ask about his/her key take-aways from this phase
- ask the participant to show his/her CV
- take a look at the CV and discuss what are his/her skills, capabilities an employer would appreciate.
Tips to the counsellor on reflecting on participant’s CV
- Having a properly finalised CV is a key output of the training phase. If the participant is unable to show it, or it is not yet finalised, make time to complete it with the participant.
- Use the discussion of his/her CV as an opportunity to further boost participant’s awareness of and confidence in own capabilities.
Get ready for employment
At this time participants and the counsellor will know where the employment will take place and the practical arrangements will have been finalised (how many days a week, how many hours a day, for how long etc. will the participant work).
Participants must get as ready as possible to this new, eventually first experience of having a job.
It is suggested to discuss with the participant all aspects and challenges of starting employment:
- what do we know about the company (what is its field of activity, how many people work there, does the participant know anybody who works there etc.)
- what do we know about the job (what will the participant have to do, what will be his/her tasks, how many days/hours is he/she going to work etc.)
- make a plan for the first day (what time the participant needs to be there, when he/she should get up, how he/she should dress, what he/she needs to bring along, how to travel, how to get home, how to rest at home etc.)
- who is an employer practice host and what is he/she there for
Tips to the counsellor on preparing the participant for employment
- To get better acquainted with the company, search the internet together with the participant. Familiarise with the company as much as possible. Try to identify key facts about the company.
- When planning the first day, make a very specific plan. If the participant has a smart phone, put its steps into his/her diary. If not, ask him/her to take notes on paper.
- Explain the role of the employer practice host to the participant (read about it in the next text box). Make sure he/she understands that this person is there to help him/her succeed.
- Encourage participant to vent about his/her feelings on employment. Most of them will probably experience some anxiety or even fear. Reassure participants that nobody expects him/her to know everything at the first day, and that the first day is the most challenging, he/she will feel much better later.
- Reassure participants that he/she can count on you (the counsellor) during the employment phase as well. Offer a check-up soon after (ideally on) his/her first day in work.
Who are employer practice hosts and what do they do?
- Employer practice host are well experienced employees at the hosting companies whose task will be to follow up participants during the employment. Participants can turn to their hosts for professional help, social advice, etc.
- The employer practice host can initiate contact with the counsellor through the local coordinator as well in case additional support is necessary.
5.4.5 Check-ups during the Community service employment
There are at least two check-ups planned for this phase. The first check-up happens ideally on (or very soon after) the very first day of employment. The second check-up is to be delivered as it seems appropriate, during or towards the end of employment. Further check-ups might be necessary if the employment is organised over a longer period of time (4 months for example).
The purpose of these check-ups are:
- Emotional support: to provide emotional support and ventilation opportunity to participants
- Self-reflection: to encourage participant’s self-reflection on employment experience
- Feedback on counselling: to discuss participant’s experience regarding counselling.
Some participants can feel positive and confident about their entering into employment. Others might find it uncomfortable or stressful. However, it is very important for their own sake and for the project’s as well that all of them are able to accomplish what they had engaged themselves to.
Discuss with the participant:
- How was the first (previous) day(s) at work?
- What has been easy, what has been difficult?
- How tired he/she gets by the end of the day?
- How are the people at work?
- How helpful the employer practice host is?
- Is there anything uncomfortable, any challenge that must be taken care of?
Encourage participant’s self-reflection on his/her experience with regards to having a job:
- How satisfied he/she is with this job and him/herself?
- Can he/she tell a couple of examples that he/she is proud of (a successfully accomplished task, a problem solved, a conflict avoided etc.)?
- What kind of feedbacks did he/she receive from colleagues, the employer practice host, and the boss? How did he/she react?
- What does he/she think his/her strengths are for this job? How would he/she like his/her next job to look like?
- What does he/she plan to make happen when this program ends (employment, learning)?
Feedback on counselling
Initiate a short informal discussion with the participants at the end of the counselling programme. It should capture the participant’s experience with counselling:
- What helped?
- What type of support they would further need in the programme?
- What type of support they would further need later in life?
Don’t forget to register participants’ feedbacks in the counselling diary.
Tips to the counsellor on turning employment into success
- Don’t forget to check up on the participant on his/her very first day at work!
- Let participants express their feelings during this discussion.
- When it comes to eventual challenges (conflicts, problems etc.) be as specific as possible. Show interest, ask questions, and bring it down to practical level: who does what, what exactly the problem is, how it can be managed etc.
- Make participants remember that they practiced a lot during the life-skills trainings how to communicate, how to ask for and react to feedback, how to represent themselves. Encourage them to open the learning resources in the LMS, check them again and apply those tips and solutions they had worked out in these real-life situations at work!
- Discuss as much as possible in detail what the participant plans to do once this program will have been finished. It is best if he/she finishes the program with a specific plan in place on how to stay employed / continue learning.
- Don’t forget to congratulate participants for keeping up and coping with these challenges!
5.5 Cooperation among support functions
The counsellor closely follows participants during the whole process. It falls within the counsellor’s responsibility to liaise with the different support functions and alert when extra intervention is necessary with regards to one or some participants.
Regular contact with the local coordinator
The counsellor needs to keep regular contact with the local coordinator:
- After the initial meetings with the participants the counsellor is expected to report to the local coordinator on the anticipated needs for counselling with special regards to the individually necessary counselling support.
- During the further project steps (trainings, employment) the counsellor regularly reports to the local coordinator how the process is going with the participants.
- Also, the counsellor can ask for help from the coordinator for any “technical” issues (eg. issues regarding the learning site, learning environment, time schedule etc.).
Regular contact with the trainers (digital competence, life skills)
Ideally trainers and the counsellor have a small talk (eg. on the phone) after each learning session. The discussion shall cover
- attendance issues (are there participants who don’t show up, or are regularly late?)
- learning progress (how the group/individuals advance, is learning appreciated?)
- learning difficulties (is there any participant falling behind?)
- social challenges (how the group works together, are there any participant with outlier behaviour?)
The counsellor shall closely monitor the attendance and performance of those participants who earlier showed any sign of potential risk of difficulties to keep up with the groups (eg. learning difficulties because of lower or lacking skills, weak participation because of familial duties etc.).
It may also happen that some participants aren’t able to accomplish certain learning activities which are crucial for the successful completion of the training (eg. some might need help to complete his/her CV started in the Empowerment for Employment life-skills training). In such case counsellors can be invited to step in and help those participants.
The support strategy and solutions need to be discussed and agreed to with the trainer. This support can be delivered in diverse forms: from individual support to encouraging learning pairs, small groups where peers can support each other as well.
The counsellor shall undertake these activities on the account of the individually necessary support resources (altogether 50% of counselling resources).
Special care for those with low basic skills
Participants with low basic skills must be followed meticulously during the learning process. They might feel especially difficult to keep up with learning, which increases the risk of potential fallouts.
Low basic skills can be detected either by the counsellor but more importantly by the trainer during learning activities. Warning signs for low basic skills can be if a participant:
- often finds excuses to read material at home
- has difficulty pronouncing long or complex words
- has a limited vocabulary
- has difficulty expressing simple ideas or abstract concepts
- prefers to memorize information rather than write it down
- regularly asks someone to write for them
- submits documents with several spelling errors
- forgets to show up for meetings despite written confirmation.
Counsellors and trainers must keep in mind that a person with low basic skills
- Rarely admits to having reading and writing difficulties. They are ashamed and believe they are alone in this situation.
- Generally has low self-esteem and easily feels vulnerable when in the presence of anyone they consider more “educated” than themselves. They may act submissive or aggressive when faced with a situation they do not fully understand.
- Has learned to use many tricks to hide their difficulties.
- Often has trouble with pronunciation as they do not have the knowledge needed to discern the syllables in a word; therefore, they will often pronounce a word as they hear it.
- Often lacks the vocabulary required to explain their thinking.
- Often has difficulty with the perception of time and space.
What are basic skills?
Basic skills are the key skills adults need in study and life. They include literacy (reading, writing), numeracy and digital skills. We use basic skills every day.
Globally more than 796 million people, in Europe one in five adults (16-65-year-olds) have insufficient basic skills. Not only does this make it hard for them to find or keep a job, but it also increases their risk of poverty and social exclusion, limits opportunities for cultural and political participation, lifelong learning and personal growth.
Regular contact with the employer practice host
The counsellor shall regularly ask for feedback on the workplace performance of participants from the employer practice host(s) or the local coordinator, depending on the local arrangement. Keeping track of the employment can prove to be a rather challenging task for the counsellor as employment takes place
- at different companies
- during a longer period of time (2-4 months)
- under different time schedules
- simultaneously for all the participants.
Probably it is best to share contact details with the employer practice hosts and ask them to initiate contact directly with the counsellor (or through the local coordinator) at the slightest sign of problem (especially regarding attendance, performance, social challenges, signs of poor behaviour etc.).