OVERVIEW

Lifelong guidance has been practiced in Estonia for years. Services have been provided for different target groups by different service providers and have also been known by different names – the latest version being karjääriteenused (direct translation in English career services). Content-wise, both lifelong guidance and career guidance are used meaning “A range of activities that enable citizens of any age, and at any point in their lives, to identify their capacities, competences and interests; to make meaningful educational, training and occupational decisions; and to manage their individual life paths in learning, work and other settings in which these capacities and competences are learned and/or used” as agreed by the ELGPN members in 2013 (see on-line Glossary).

Career guidance, standing in three pillars – career education, career counselling and career information provision, is provided by both education and employment systems. Career education is integrated in curricula at different education levels and has a long tradition. However, career information provision and career counselling outside school has been organised differently over the years and been often influenced by resources available.

POLICY

The Education Strategy 2021-2035, which sets out the key educational goals for the next 15 years, is the follow-up to the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020. The strategy focuses on the key strengths and challenges that need to be addressed to be able to keep pace with changes both in Estonia and worldwide and to prepare the education system and its participants for the future in the best way possible. The general objective of the strategy is to equip the population of Estonia with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that prepare people to fulfil their potential in their personal, occupational and social life and contribute to promoting quality of life in Estonia as well as global sustainable development. To ensure supported learning, we need to continue the development of the career services system and career education at school, including the development of a comprehensive system to discover and develop individuals’ capabilities. We also need to improve continuing training and retraining opportunities to respond swiftly to labour market changes and ensure that people are equipped with the right knowledge and skills for employment. 

The strategic goals of the employment policy are covered in the Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023. As the strategy covers a wide area of social issues, the new strategy has been under preparation since 2021. The strategic goals of the plan include achieving an inclusive labour market, a high employment rate among the entire population and high compliance between the supply and demand of the workforce.

In 2018, the Estonian government acknowledged that there was room for improvement regarding both access to and the quality of the career services and a reform concerning the provision of the services was launched. Accordingly, starting from 2019, career counselling and career information have been provided by public employment offices under the Ministry of Social Affairs. The role of general education, vocational education and higher education institutions is to ensure access to lifelong guidance for their students and support them in reaching the learning outcomes set in curricula.

SERVICES AND PRACTICE

In the education sector, guidance is provided as both a part of youth work and a part of formal education. The development of general skills, including career management skills, begins in pre-school education. Children start to discover education, their parents' workplaces and the concept of work and the labour market in general. Children are supported to develop general skills, such as cognitive and learning skills, social skills and self-management skills, which are all essential for coping in education, the labour market and society at large. The development of such skills and competencies is supported throughout the period of study – at all levels of education. 

The provision of active and passive labour market measures, including the career information service and career counselling and the payment of labour market benefits, is available through the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (Eesti Töötukassa, the PES) free of charge all over Estonia.

For more information please see  the publication on Lifelong Guidance in Estonia 2022. It was published by the Estonian Euroguidance Centre administered by the Education and Youth Board, the Estonian Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps.

TRAINING

The majority of Estonian career guidance practitioners work in the public employment service (the PES) as career counsellors or career information specialists or in educational institutions as teachers or career counsellors. No full academic qualification is obtainable for the practitioners – most have a higher education degree in social or educational sciences (e.g. psychology, teacher training, youth work and personnel management). However, the occupational qualification system is established to ensure the professional development of practitioners in the field of career guidance. Occupational activities and competency requirements for occupational qualifications are identified in the national standard, which is the central framework for both the competence development and the awarding of qualifications.

The occupational qualifications system connects the labour market and the lifelong learning system by enhancing the development, assessment and recognition of a person’s occupational competence. The system is developed and administered by the Estonian Qualifications Authority. According to the Occupational Qualifications Act, the Estonian Qualification Framework has eight levels (level one being the lowest and level eight the highest). The descriptions of the qualification levels are identical with the European Qualifications Framework.

The occupational qualification standard describes occupational activities and provides the competency requirements for occupational qualifications and their levels. Part A of the standard provides an overview of the nature of work, major parts of work and tasks, necessary tools, work environment, including the specificities of work and describes the personal characteristics and skills enhancing occupational activities. This is a source of information for a person upon selection of an occupation and shaping his or her career path. This also contains useful information for career guidance professionals, labour market consultants, human resources managers and trainers.

The competence requirements presented in part B of the standard serve as a basis for the assessment of the applicant for the occupational qualification. These requirements are presented as descriptions of mandatory and optional competences. Competence is an ability to perform a specific part of work or a task together with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for that. Proceeding from the nature of the occupation, its specificity and traditions, attesting competences related to a specialization or optional competences may be the prerequisite for being awarded the occupational qualification.

In the field of lifelong guidance, the occupational qualification standards are available on two levels, including career specialist on EQF level 6 and level 7. The current standards were defined and the requirements on knowledge, skills, experience, values and personal characteristics necessary for the career specialists were established in close co-operation with the main stakeholders in the field in 2017. The Association of Estonian Career Counsellors is the authorised organisation for accreditation. 

It is not yet possible in Estonia to acquire a career specialist qualification in a concise manner. However, higher education institutions offer a variety of subjects. For example: introduction to career counselling, career counselling and coordination, career counselling methods, multiculturalism, learning and job mobility in the context of career development; a career counselling module as an elective subject in human resource management and development, organisational behaviour, a career information module in the Master’s curriculum of information management). The most comprehensive programme for career counsellors is offered by the Institute of Psychology of the University of Tartu (Master’s level; 60 ECTS).

Continuous professional training as well as peer-coaching are available by national agencies and private providers to ensure the development of the practitioners’ professional competencies on the basis of the requirements. The range of training topics is broad, for example, characteristic features of teenagers with special educational needs, psychological evaluation tools, personality and career testing, personal branding, motivational interviewing, ICT skills, career education in schools. To ensure international exposure, speakers and trainers from other countries are invited and practitioners have opportunities for learning mobility and exchanging practices with colleagues abroad.

A recent study confirms that international learning mobility enables career professionals to improve their professional language skills, expand their professional network and adopt new guidance practices1 .

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Guidance research in Estonia is procurement based i.e. there is no sustainable funding allocated for any national research units and there are several organisations including universities and private companies, which have experience in the field.

A major guidance study implemented in 2021 looked at the demand for career services, their accessibility and current usage in Estonia. The study objectives were defined as follows: to determine the level of career management skills in the target groups of career services, plus their expectations and requirements to career services; to assess how helpful career services are in aiding different target groups in making and pursuing their career decisions; to describe how collaboration works in the provision of career services and how the parties rate the career services system and organisation after the career services reform; to put forward recommendations on how to improve and develop career services and impact assessments, based on international practices. See more here.

ETHICS

In May 2014 the Association of Estonian Career Counsellors published the Code of Ethics for Career Guidance (available in Estonian).

Last updated at: February 2022