More Swiss seek professional careers advice

A growing number of people are seeking careers advice (Swiss Association of Careers Advisory Services)

More Swiss are turning to careers counselling for help in finding work, according to the Swiss Association of Careers Advisory Services.

This content was published on September 3, 2003 - 12:54

Last year in Switzerland around 125,000 people sought advice – almost a five per cent increase over the previous year.

This week the Swiss capital is playing host to an international conference on careers guidance, with the focus on how professional counselling can help people find work in an ever-changing job market.

More than 750 delegates from 56 countries are expected to attend the three-day gathering in Bern, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Swiss Association of Careers Advisory Services.

The president of the association, Christiane Langenberger, says careers advice has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade and has become a vital tool in meeting the needs of the job market.

Bernhard Jenschke, president of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance, promises that this week’s conference will be more than a talking shop – focusing on the quality of the service careers advisors can provide.

“After four years in development, we have come up with a set of internationally recognised standards for career guidance counsellors,” he told swissinfo.

“This is the first step and in the future we aim to develop training materials and have an international certificate for counsellors,” he added.

No jobs for life

The Swiss association estimates that a young person currently serving an apprenticeship – the traditional route to break in to the job market – will change careers three times before they retire, and their place of work as many as eight times.

Such trends and the uncertainty of the employment market mean that school leavers are no longer guaranteed a job for life, according to careers advisor Bettina Beglinger.

“Economic uncertainty is the biggest challenge we face at the moment,” she told swissinfo.

“The careers advice we give has to provide people with some hope for the future and encourage them to believe they can find a job.”

Another recent trend has been the rise in age of those seeking careers counselling.

Last year 37 per cent of consultations were for those aged over 20.

“It’s not just school leavers we are dealing with,” said Beglinger. “We are also offering guidance to more and more adults who are forced or wish to change careers.”

Regional differences

Although the Swiss Association of Careers Advisory Services is a national organisation staffed by professionals, it is run on a cantonal, or regional, basis.

Differences such as which industries or services are located in a canton, or the number of job openings available, present a major challenge to the association, which Beglinger says it is able to meet by ensuring counsellors have the right training.

“There are regional differences and it is important that they are respected,” she said.

“We can guarantee a quality service because all our advisors have a recognised training that incorporates both a psychological element and a recognition of the needs of the job market.”

Jenschke insists that the high level of counselling offered in Switzerland can only be maintained if the benefits it brings are recognised by both business and government policy.

“Careers guidance in Switzerland is of a very high standard,” he said. “Every Swiss citizen should continue to have the right to free and easy access to counselling.”

But Beglinger is concerned that public spending cuts could threaten the future quality of the service.

“We have to face the fact that there will probably be less money available for us to do what we want to do,” she said.

“There is already a lot of questioning going on as to whether our service should be free or whether we should start charging people for our advice.

swissinfo, Jonathan Summerton

Key facts

There are 149 career counselling offices in Switzerland employing 800 staff.
In 2002 around 125,000 people sought careers guidance in Switzerland – 37 per cent of them were adults.
It is estimated that a young person currently serving an apprenticeship will change careers three times before they retire, and their place of work as many as eight times.
The international conference on careers guidance takes place from September 3-5 in the Swiss capital, Bern.

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