Seminar 'the tailor-made approach': Lifelong Learning stays relevant

On June 7, Learning Shop (De Leerwinkel) West-Flanders organised a seminar for local stakeholders in the province of West-Flanders. The seminar provided a complete view of the activities of the Learning Shop, with a focus on the realisations under the GOAL project.

The seminar was a mix of plenary presentations and workshops. Jeroen Backs, head of the section Strategic Policy Support from the Ministry of Education, focused on the importance of Lifelong Learning and guidance in European perspective. To many participants his presentation was an eye-opener on the urgency for Flemish policy makers to prioritise Lifelong Learning and Adult Guidance in Flemish education policy.

Different aspects of educational guidance were explored in 5 workshops: clients, guidance and learning pathways, educational landscape, tools and recognizing talents and competences.

Both presentations and workshops brought forward 5 conclusions and recommendations:
1) Focus on Lifelong Learning stays relevant
2) Educational guidance is the key to Lifelong Learning
3) The adult learner takes the lead
4) ‘Tailor made’ doesn’t mean ‘chaos’
5) Work remains to be done!

studiedag13 image 21

image 23 image 29

Workshops

  • ‘Learning Shop and learning champions’: participants were taken behind the scene of the Learning Shop to discover what the guidance entails and how diverse clients’ trajectories are. Three clients were invited to tell their story and enter into direct dialogue with the participants. During the session participants learnt what role Learning Shop can play in their professional network, both for themselves and for their organisations.
  • ‘Upskilling Pathways’: Participants discovered the most important factors in referrals between relevant organisations based on different client cases and profiles. The workshop focused on overcoming barriers in upskilling pathways and challenged participants to lay down the most ideal pathways for different client types.
  • ‘A guide through the educational landscape’: the landscape of education and training for adults in Flanders is surprisingly complex. Different pathways, highways as well as curvy back roads, can lead to one destination, though without the risks of hitting a dead end. The workshop explored this educational landscape in detail.
  • ‘Focus on the client with the right tool’: Participants were introduced to the different tools that can support and optimise educational guidance to adults.
  • ‘Recognized talents’: participants learnt how to discover the talents of the adults they work with in order to build on these during their guidance. The workshop demonstrated how to map the adult’s competences and explained what role recognition of skills, competences and qualification can play in this.

Among the participants were staff from different stakeholder organisations, including social services, employment services, integration services, educational institutes, educational support services and local policy makers. Both people familiar with the Learning shop and newcomers to the network attended the seminar.

Conclusions

  1. Focus on Lifelong Learning stays relevant…
    …Today more than ever before. Flexibility and employability are becoming ever more imperative in times of fast technological change. In this context, Lifelong Learning gains importance as a policy priority.
  2. Educational guidance is the key to Lifelong Learning
    Finding one’s way to an educational course is not evident for all. Not everyone succeeds in overcoming potential barriers and entering a course that turns out to be the right one. For some, even the lowest rung on the ladder is too high. To these people, educational guidance is crucial, though it can also help others to find the most suitable educational pathway.
  3. The adult learner takes the lead
    Learning Champions’ stories on their personal experience with the guidance of the Learning Shop prove that the tailor made approach of educational guidance is key for the adult to define his own educational pathway. Self-responsibility and the taking of informed decisions keep the learner motivated.
  4. ‘Tailor-made’ doesn’t mean ‘chaos’
    A tailor-made approach means expertise: expertise in the complex and constantly changing educational landscape together with coaching skills, listening skills and empathy. A guidance coach has to be a social chameleon who puts the needs, talents and interests of the learner first, while taking into account the context of the client and possible obstacles. He needs to know the client’s supporting network and other supporting institutions and organizations that can help the client overcome potential barriers to learning. Tools can help in the process: not only traditional guidance tools such as interest tests, personality tests or informative websites, but also communication tools such as What’s App, Facebook and SMS that support the interaction with the client, leading to improved motivation and personal support.
  5. Work remains to be done!
    Even if there is perspective to continue the work of Learning Shop in other future projects, a big group of potential clients remains unserved both in West-Flanders and, even more so, in the rest of Flanders. Today, the need for a structural educational guidance service is obvious. Inspiration and evidence on what the service should look like are already there. Now is the time to take the next step by using all these existing experiences and stories in order to convince policy makers to structurally invest in a learning shop operating Flanders-wide.