Conclusions of European Study on Vocational Guidance Provision in the Republic of Ireland
‘In preparing this study, we looked in particular at the City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee schools. The Committee responsible for these schools is considered to be amongst the most enlightened within the Republic: in fact it pioneered the provision of a psychological and counselling service for schools in the Republic. In total it caters for 10,309 full-time day students, and yet the entire counselling staff consists of 17 counsellors with a back-up service of four psychologists, who are also responsible for the six third-level colleges of the Dublin Institute of Technology. The total budget for this service comprises the salaries of the staff of 17 counsellors and an additional £4,000 for materials etc. This lack of human and financial resources is experienced by the guidance counselling service in all second level schools - secondary, community, vocational and comprehensive - in the Republic of Ireland.
The inadequacy of guidance and counselling in all our second level schools, where it can be properly rooted in the context of the on-going developmental processes of the individual, is a cause of major concern. A proper investment of resources at this level would greatly increase the possibility of siudents leaving second level education more prepared for the world and more competent. This is especially true of early school leavers. The recent N.E.S.C. report states:
“Our view is that the long-term solution to the serious early school leaver problem shall be sought in the first instance inside the educational system, by introducing fundamental changes in second-level education particularly in the vocational sector. It does not make a great deal of sense that one long-term approach to this issue should be based on the policy of ‘recapturing’ young people by means of special more expensive schemes after they have left the educational system”.
It is our conclusion that a redirection into second-level education of some-even a small amount-of the very substantial resources allocated to some of the state agencies working with young people would ensure a much more fruitful use of funds. Second level schools are not only conscious of the developmental processes of adolescence, but are also an integral part of the Irish community both rural and urban. It is necessary, in our opinion, that they receive more support that at present.
1. Third Level Institutions
Not all third level colleges provide a careers guidance service. Of those which do, some have well developed services. University College Dublin indeed claims to provide one of the most comprehensive careers guidance services in Europe. The teacher training colleges provide no formal service as they consider that their students have already selected their vocation; however, a support system for students does exist within the colleges. The six colleges of the Dublin Institute of Technology have no guidance service: although they have some support from the four psychologists of the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee, they say that they would welcome the provision of a guidance service within the colleges themselves. Clearly in this case, as in second level education, a re-allocation of funds is necessary. This is also true of the nine regional technical colleges. Overall, most third level college suffer from inadequate resources of staffing and money devoted to guidance purposes.
2. State Agencies and Boards
Guidance provision for those who have left full-time education is very patchy. For some groups, it is largely satisfactory. Thus, the services to the handicapped provided by both the Rehabilitation Institute and the National Rehabilitation Board are very comprehensive and provide disabled people with the help they need in order to gain access to employment. Other groups, however, are less well served. A notable feature of the existing manpower situation is the growing multiplicity of unco-ordinated schemes: ‘In operational terms the whole manpower area has become a more complex minefield of inter related and criss-crossing functions, without a proper sense of direction, and there is now an urgent need for a new mechanism for ensuring real co-ordination. The present postion constitutes a most confusing situation for young persons entering the labour market’.
(National Economic and Social Council: Manpower Policy in Ireland December, 1985.)
Our study totally concurs with this view. Like the N.E.S.C. report, we consider that all existing agencies should be reconstituted into one executive body, a state manpower agency, and that the Department of Labour should become the main policy formation force of this executive body.
Some of the state agencies were set up to provide relevant skill-training to meet the needs for economic growth, but since their formation have diversified into non-skill or social areas. In some cases, as in AnCo training programmes, this aspect has become very substantial and should be reviewed. In particular, the life and social skills, personality development and vocational guidance elements of training course s should be developed and implemented by suitably trained personnel. Currently, within some state agencies (notably AnCo and CERT), many of the personnel responsible for these elements have had no significant training in vocational guidance and counselling. Attention is also needed to the guidance needs of those exiting from these programmes.
It is clear from this report that an important area of emerging need in Ireland is for the development of improved guidance provision for young people who have left full-time education, and for effective linkages to be established between such services and the education-based services. At present, however, effective collaboration between school-based guidance services and post-school services is hampered by the fact that the school-based guidance services are based on a more professional model, built around guidance counsellors who have completed a one year training course, and yet that-as suggested in the foregoing sections-the resources made available to them often seem much more limited than those made available for guidance-related programmes within state agencies like AnCo.
There is though increasing questioning of whether an adequate supply of guidance services can be established even in schools if they are exclusively run by trained guidance counsellors. The growth of pastoral-care programmes is one response to this situation. Where guidance counsellors have a co-ordinating and consultant role to such programmes, there would seem to be potential for delivering more extensive guidance to a larger number of pupils, while also maintaining a concern for professional standards and quality.
Similarly, there are some signs that within the National Manpower Service, there is increasing interest in realigning the roles of guidance counsellors so that they offer co-ordination and support to placement officers. The guidance officers have all attended a one-year course and it should be noted are all members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
It may be that if these two trends continue alongside one another, the models on which the two services are based could come closer together. This could make it much easier for stronger linkages to be established between the two services. Indeed, the setting-up of the COMTECS could facilitate such linkages at the level of the local community where they are most likely to be effective. At present the COMTECS are operating at the level of co-ordination of provision, especially for young people who have left school. It would not however be an unnatural extension of their role for them to attend to the co-ordination of guidance too. If, at the same time they were to seek the more active involvement of schools-which in many cases are now themselves seeking deeper and wider contacts with their surrounding communities-they might yet play a significant role in helping to produce more integrated and continuous guidance provision for young people. It should be emphasised that this possibility has not yet been publicly addressed. The potential, however, is there’.