Quality in Career Guidance – Preparing Guidance Practitioners for Quality Assurance

This article was co-authored by Andrea Csirke, Claudia Liebeswar, Alice Müllerová, Karen Schober and Tomáš Šprlák and was published in the proceedings of the 2019 IAEVG International Conference

In the article, the development of a Mentoring Programme supporting career guidance practitioner’s (CGP) certification is presented, together with specific examples of designed tools and activities including a certification framework and self-assessment tools. A goal of the mentoring programme is to support experienced career guidance practitioners to comply with the requirements of a quality standard and quality assurance systems and to prepare them for an individual certification process as CGP.

The project started with data collection in an analytical paper about quality assurance systems and their implementation in the European partner countries who participated in the project followed by the design of a preliminary version of the programme that underwent two phases of testing. The final version of the Mentoring Programme contains 21 different modules including teaching guidelines together with worksheets for participants and guidelines for mentors. It is designed as a flexible “cafeteria model” in order to best fit the needs of the different target groups. Feedback from Austrian, Czech, German, and Slovak practitioners will be presented.

The Mentoring Programme and the tools for a certification framework were developed within the ERASMUS+ Strategic Partnership “Improving the implementation of quality assurance in career guidance (QUAL-IM-G)”. Nine partner organisations from seven European countries were involved in the project (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, UK) coordinated by Slovakia.

Full-text article available on this link.

Report on the Testing of the Quality Development Framework in Brno

The German National Guidance Forum (nfb) who has the lead for the Intellectual Output IO4 had agreed with the Czech and Slovakian partner organizations during the project meeting in s’Hertogenbosch to organize a joint workshop with guidance practitioners, providers, and responsible staff  from public authorities to test the QDF model that was developed in Germany (BeQu-Concept) and to discuss its usefulness and transferability in career guidance systems in other European countries with different social and political contexts.

The workshop was jointly organized by the Czech and Slovakian partner organizations

  • SKPRK, CZE (Andrea Csirke)
  • BKS Úspech, s.r.o. (Pavol Kmet)
  • ZKPRK, SK (Tomas Sprlak)

and took place in the “Centre Education for All” in Brno.

The preparation of the programme and the implementation were in the responsibility of the trainers from the German National Guidance Forum (nfb), Susanne Schmidtpott and Karen Schober. The workshop was held in English language with some simultaneous translation facilities if necessary. The PowerPoint presentations and the workshop materials were available both in English and in Czech/Slovakian language which was quite helpful for mutual understanding and discussion. An introduction to the aims and objectives of the workshop, a preliminary programme and some excerpts of the QDF-Manual as well as the Czech/Slovakian Quality Standards for career guidance provider organizations were sent to the participants 1 – 2 weeks ahead of time.

The workshop was carried out with 22 participants from different backgrounds like for instance from a school authority, from labour offices, from an NGO, from professional career guidance associations, from self-employed career professionals, from Institutes offering “bilan de competence” etc. Following organizations participated on the workshop:

  • Labour office, Zlín, Czech republic (PES)
  • Labour office, Kroměříž, Czech republic (PES)
  • Labour office, Rožňava, Slovakia (PES)
  • Labour office, Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia (PES)
  • National Institute for Education, Czech republic (policymaking and funding body)
  • Centre “Education for all”, Brno, Czech republic (non-profit guidance provider)
  • Association for career guidance and career development (Czech and Slovak associations)
  • Municipality of Brno (policymaking and funding body)
  • Centre “Kariéra Info”, Pilsen, Czech republic (non-profit guidance provider)
  • Teamwork for better future, Veľký Meder, Slovakia (non-profit guidance provider)
  • A.B.A., Slovakia (non-profit guidance provider)
  • AGAPO, Czech republic (non-profit guidance provider)
  • NOVA Training, Czech republic (commercial guidance provider)
  • BKS Uspech, Slovakia (commercial guidance provider)

The workshop had two main goals:

  1. Presenting the German BeQu-Concept and its Quality Development Framework (QDF) as a tool for systematic and continuous quality development in career guidance provider organizations and making participants familiar with the different phases of quality development through practical exercises in group work during the workshop.
  2. Testing the transferability and application of the QDF in a wider European context and under the condition of different quality standards and quality assurance systems as a tool to prepare the organization for an external certification or auditing process. For this reason, we worked in phase 2 and 3 with the Czech/Slovakian Quality Standards.

Feedback from participants

The majority of participants thought that the QDF is a useful and reliable tool for continuous quality development because it systemizes the different steps and tasks to be carried out and provides a “backbone” for the process. Several participants articulated that they had already worked that way but on an intuitive basis and they find it helpful to rely on a recognized and acknowledged tool.

Some participants expressed their concern that they felt that their own organization is not yet ready for the implementation of such a quality development process. Nevertheless, they thought that the QDF is applicable for them individually. Others, especially employees of large organizations (e.g. labour offices, PES) felt that in their organization obstacles against such a participative and non-directive process were too high.

People from very small providers or self-employed career professionals said that they just lack time and resources to set up a QDF-process. Several participants admitted that they have learned that quality development needs time and cannot be implemented in a few weeks or months. This applies in particular to phases 1 and 2 of the QDF in order to really get involved all staff members, the management and also external partners and stakeholders. In general, it seems that there was a lot of information which made it sometimes hard to concentrate and keep track of what was going on.

Quantitative feedback also confirms a very positive reception of the QDF by the participants:

Summarizing the quantitative and qualitative results and feedbacks from the participants the workshop and the testing of the QDF turned out to be successful and of great value for most of the participants. From our point of view as trainers there was a very high level of involvement and engagement from the participants in the topic as such and also in the group work and discussions. and the plenary discussions.

Thinking of the QDF as a transversal tool which can be used by career guidance provider organizations to improve the quality of their service the feedback from the workshop indicates that the QDF can very well support such processes if the management of the organization are ready to engage in such a participative and non-directive process. This however depends largely on the type and size of the organization.

Regarding the usefulness for preparing for an external certification or auditing process the feedback was not so unanimous because in a certification process the organization has to follow prescribed procedures and react to prescribed quality criteria which does not leave it to the judgement of the staff members to identify the areas where improvement is needed most urgently. Nevertheless, the well-structured processes and procedures of the QDF were appreciated by all participants in the workshop.

Quality Assurance Standards: A synthesis of quality standards across partner countries

This report presents an analysis a range of transnational and national quality assurance (QA) practices in career guidance within partner countries, 21 quality activities were assessed. The report focuses on identifying the variation of different approaches, the factors that enable these approaches and the impact of these different approaches.

Main findings:

  • Most labels submitted were for individuals and organisations predominantly addressing all age needs, although specialist awards were identified that have a focus on SEND. Certification processes tended to be organisational focused, with smaller numbers addressing individual counsellors or both.
  • Most of the labels examined were national standards and were voluntary except in the UK where the standards were linked to accessing public funding.
  • Only 14% of quality standards provide mentoring as part of the support resources for organisations and individuals. The mentoring relationships identified focused on goal related (instrumental) support which was aimed a predefined goal or psychosocial (developmental) focused on supporting competence and effectiveness within professional practice.
  • Quality development frameworks support quality assurance and enhance guidance services within organisations. NOLOC and CMI in The Netherlands have recently consolidated their quality development frameworks to create on national standard.
  • Assessments of quality standards tend to include both internal and external elements. A range of resources are available to support the process and include workshops, mentoring, portfolios, case studies and webinars for example. Audit methods predominantly include the production of portfolios of evidence and or assessment visits. Often a number of methods were used.
  • Accreditation lengths lasted on average for 3 years but the longest being 5 years and shortest 1 year. 67% of quality labels had associated costs, these varied between €262 and €7500.
  • Most quality assurance standards addressed multiple and inter-related aspects of provision including, professionalism, CPD, evaluation, partnerships, LMI, client satisfaction and leadership.


There are many challenges with quality systems as there is often little backing from government and limited financial and personal resources available. However, quality is a policy issue and is the collective responsibility of service providers, policy makers and other stakeholders. Strong professional association play an important role in developing professional standards for career guidance.

The report is available here: O1_report_Final _V13 May 2019.dox

A summary report is available here: O1_report_Summary report May 2019.dox

Report on the Mentoring Programme Test in Germany

The mentoring programme developed for practitioners – candidates for certification was tested in April in Germany. The testing phase was organized by the National Guidance Forum (nfb) in cooperation with the IMBSE-GmbH (Institute for Models of vocational and social development – nfb member and partner) on their premises in Krefeld, a middle-sized town in Northrhine-Westfalia. The testing was carried out with 13 participants (9 participants from IMBSE, 3 participants from dvb, 1 Participant from NOLOC) plus 4 trainers from IMBSE and nfb.

The selection of modules presented in the testing of the mentoring Programme was subject to several discussions and decisions between nfb and the Slovakian and Czech partners during the partner meeting in s’Hertogenbosch and also between nfb and our training provider IMBSE. From the 22 modules available we chose 13 modules but combined some of them into one training unit.

Most of the presentations and works sheets were translated into German beforehand which very turned out to be very helpful for the testing. All the presentations, work sheets and some photo-protocols will be uploaded on the IMBSE Website in a special cloud so that all participants can download them if they want, but also on the google drive platform of the Qual-IM-G project.

The data from feedback questionnaires show that the modules

  • Mission and Vision
  • Ethics
  • Outcomes
  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Networking
  • Career Portfolio

got the highest agreement in terms of being useful for a preparation for certification whereas theory, counselling techniques and reflection of own practice were felt not to be significantly important for this specific purpose. However, the participants indicated in one of our open questions that for their own benefit they would have appreciated to work more intensively on these modules.

A more detailed analysis shows that the highest standard deviation in results between the different evaluation criteria can be observed in the modules Reflection of Own Practice, Career Portfolio and Counselling Theory. The work sheets used for practical self or group work and the following plenary discussions were mostly appreciated although we mostly ran out of time. Some ore detailed feedback to some of the modules and the presentation of content can be found in the qualitative statements of the participants.

Summarizing the quantitative and qualitative results and feedbacks from the participants the workshop and the testing of the Mentoring Programme in Germany was very successful and of great value for the participants. During the whole workshop the participants actively participated in the programme as a whole as well as in the group work and the plenary discussions. The overall feedback however was, that there was not enough time in most modules.

For the final decision in the project how many and which modules should be selected for the final version of the Mentoring Programme, our recommendation is that with regard to the overall goal of the Mentoring Programme the following modules (from the modules tested in our testing phase) definitely should be part of the final programme:

  • M02 Mission and Vision
  • M03 Ethics
  • M04 Marketing
  • M05 Networking
  • M14 Career Portfolio
  • M19 Quality Assurance
  • M 23 Outcomes
  • M25 Evidence Based Practice

This of course has to be subject to further discussion among the partner organizations in the project.

QUAL-IM-G Conference Careers in Transition

Flexicurity, robotization, lifelong learning and mobility of labour across borders (national and sectoral) are the main drivers for change and innovation. This not only challenges where and how we work but also when and why we work. In addition, aging Europe results in a working population that has to work longer, asking for more awareness and guidance towards ‘second careers’. Added to this is the trend of personalising the learning needed for staying tuned in to the labour market. In short: our work paradigm is in transition, since the importance of jobs is fading and the importance of careers emerges. Career guidance and career guidance professionals are important beacons of light in facilitating this transition for both organisations and individuals. What is needed is a clear vision from an educational, social and economic point of view of how to assure the quality of those involved in guiding people into the labour market of the future.

On February 15, 2019, the Dutch professional association for career guidance professionals and jobcoaches – Noloc – organized an international conference on Careers in transition and the need for assuring the quality of career guidance professionals. The conference took place in ‘s Hertogen-bosch, the Netherlands, as part of the ErasmusPlus project QUAL-IM-G. This project focuses on improving the implementation of quality assurance in career guidance, and includes partners from the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the UK, Germany, Austria, and Norway.

At the conference, both national and international speakers presented contributions on the role of career guidance and competent, qualified career guidance professionals as beacons of light in a rapidly changing European labour market.
The conference offered a platform to discuss the trends across Europe, to present best practices and create more clarity on present dynamics in work, learning and guidance. Its objective was to link the need of a changing labour market paradigm with the need that this transition should be guided by competent, qualified career guidance professionals.
Attended by over 80 policy makers, academics, career professionals and representatives from a diversity of organisations, the conference provided many useful insights in sharing expertise and experiences from a variety of angles.

Martin Soeters MSc, working for the Dutch ministry of Education, culture and sciences, shared his view on the lifelong learning (policy) context of career guidance in the Netherlands. He stated the importance of adult learning as a driver for individual self-fulfilment, economic development and social inclusion. Adult learning can help people acquire the basic skills (literacy, numeracy and digital skills) they need to take part in a transforming society, which helps society to become more inclusive. The Dutch policy goal for adult learning is to improve the learning culture: it should be second nature for everyone to develop their skills further. An important element is to reach out to adults, to support and activate them to make the right decisions to improve (basic and) professional skills. That is where career guidance can make the difference.

Prof. Dr. Judith Semeijn, holder of the Noloc chair on Career management at the Open University of the Netherlands, argued in her keynote address that career management is becoming a strategic asset for sustainable organisations. Changing working patterns require changing HR solutions, with more focus on career guidance. This not only has consequences for the professional development of career guidance professionals, but also for the underlying quality standards of the profession as a whole.

Dr. Jos Sanders, professor at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, stressed in his keynote address that the current labour market changes require innovative guidance instruments for employees. His keynote presentation showed how skills mismatches occur and how they are barely resolved in modern day’s highly dynamic labour market. Precarious workers especially need professional and high quality guidance in maintaining their fit to ever changing jobs and employment. Career checks are one way of providing workers with individualized labour market information, and helping them in assessing their sustainability regarding their employability and careers.
Mr. Tomáš Šprlák, President of the Slovak professional association for career professionals and overall coordinator of the QUAL-IM-G project, introduced this project on improving the implementation of quality assurance in career guidance. The results of the project are the basis of the development of national quality assurance mechanisms in Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

In her keynote address, Dr. Siobhan Neary, Head of ICeGS, the research institute on career guidance of the University of Derby (UK), elaborated further on the QUAL-IM-G research conducted on the European perspective on quality assurance in career guidance. She explored the findings from the synthesis report for the QUAL-IM-G project. In doing so, she introduced the Hooley and Rice (2018) model which differentiates between systems and frameworks connecting drivers for change and the degree of provider autonomy. Using an audit template 21 submissions were examined from seven countries. The outcomes from the research contributed to the development of a mentoring programme, a certification/accreditation procedure, a quality development framework for practitioners and an audit procedure for providers, all being outputs of the QUAL-IM-G project.

Dr. Erik Haug, associate professor at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences introduced the way Norway is developing towards a national quality framework on career guidance. The Norwegian government has decided to develop a lifelong holistic quality framework for career guidance. In his keynote presentation, Dr. Haug presented the policy background for such an initiative, the process of developing it, and content of the preliminary framework, which was launched in mid-February 2019.

In an inspiring workshop, Dr. Aniek Draaisma, researcher at the Open University of the Netherlands, introduced an holistic quality approach on student oriented career guidance in vocational education. Her research shows that this not an easy thing to realize. Faced with a traditional teacher oriented school structure, both curricula, teacher orientation towards students and the organisation of schools itself should be considered as inseparable and intertwined elements. Given the rapidly changing labour market, an holistic quality approach towards career oriented education is needed to provide students the tools, instruments and self-insights required for realizing a successful career. Providing teachers with career guidance skills proves to be a crucial aspect of this process.

Jouke Post, MSc, researcher at Saxion University of Applied Sciences, stated in his contribution that evidence exists that the training and competence of career guidance professionals make an essential contribution to the development of high-quality career guidance services. This implies that in the process of enhancing the quality and professionalization of career professionals, services and organizations the (continuous) education of career professionals plays an important role. In his workshop, Post explored various ways to create more coherence and quality in the work and education of career professionals.

In a joint Dutch-Belgian workshop focusing on best practices in innovative career instruments, Dr. Derk-Jan Nijman of HAN University of Applied Sciences, and Dr. David Meulemans from VDAB, Belgium, shared experiences on how to effectively implement career vouchers as instruments for labour market transition. The workshop presented preliminary results of a study on the effects of introducing career checks in the Netherlands, and compared the Dutch approach on career checks with the Belgian approach on career vouchers.

As another example of best practice, Jeroen Bregman MSc, member of the Executive board of Noloc, presented the process in which the two Dutch institutes issuing quality labels for career guidance practitioners in the Netherlands – Noloc and CMI – are working towards introducing a Dutch national quality label for career guidance practitioners by July, 2020. As part of this process, CMI as an organization will integrate into Noloc, and thereby cease to exist.

During two workshops, the importance of quality assurance of both career guidance practitioners and career guidance providers was presented by demonstrating the results of the QUAL-IM-G project. In one workshop, the results of the development and piloting of a mentor training programme in order to prepare guidance practitioners towards their certification were presented. Also, a concept of building an overall certification development framework for guidance practitioners was introduced. In the other workshop, preliminary results on the development of quality assurance implementation tools for guidance providers were presented. The tools presented focus on a quality development framework for organizations providing guidance and the development of an audit/labelling procedure for providers of career guidance.

In the final keynote address, the concluding speaker of the conference, Guus van Weelden MSc, a member of the Executive Board of UWV, the Dutch unemployment service, stressed the importance of cooperation between UWV and both Noloc and Oval, being major players in the field of career guidance from the perspective of career professionals and career service providers, respectively. In his contribution, Van Weelden emphasized that proven guidance methods provide a solution in effectively dealing with unemployment. The common goal in this collective process is to provide effective, qualitative career guidance to different groups with different needs.

By Jeroen Bregman

Pilot phase for the mentoring program realized jointly with Slovak and Czech associations

The mentoring program partners developed within the QUAL-IM-G project was proposed to more than 20 counsellors from Slovakia and Czech republic from 9th to 13th January 2019. These first candidates for newly created national accreditation for guidance counsellors tested all the developed modules. The mentoring was conducted jointly by Slovak and Czech associations for career guidance and career development and participants had access to an experimental self-assessment tool that helped them identify the strengths and weaknesses of their practice.

How did the participants evaluate the usefulness of different modules?

ModuleScore (higher is better)
Mission and vision4.56
Outputs and outcomes4.44
Reflection of own practice and quality development4.33
Intake and contracting4.31
Networking and partnerships4.19
Decision making and action planning4.17
Theoretical basis4.06
Basis in counselling3.87
Labour market3.56
Personnalization and equality3.47
Distance counselling3.18

The overall feedback was very positive, although some participants deemed that the very intense program didn’t leave sufficient space for self reflection. In terms of delivery, participants prefer a flexible blended model – with individual preparation in advance and then one-day group seminar focused on peer-learning and reflections.

Extensive feedback will be used to adapt the mentoring program to final version. It will be available for download on this website.

First version of the mentoring program is ready for testing

During the first week of November project partners met near the beautiful city of Prague to work together on the mentoring program for careers professionals – candidates for certification.

The following modules were developed by partners and presented to the whole consortium:

ThemeProposed Content
Theoretical basisTheoretical minimum for CG practitioners: developmental processes along the course of life (e.g. personality theories, theories of career development, lifeworld models)
Counselling/coaching basicsCounselling basics: interviewing micro-skills (open questions, affirmations, reflexions, summarization…), working alliance, building relations and trust (person-centred approach, three-stage model of building trust); – Different guidance approaches / coaching techniques with the focus on the active role of the client
Action PlanningAction planning (SMART), identifying and overcoming obstacles, supporting the change process, methods for the identification, definition, and operationalisation of goals/objectives;
OutcomesOutcomes of career guidance (personal, social, economic, career management skills). Defining the objectives of CG and measuring the outcomes (examples of good practice).
Pedagogical outcomes (CMS)Pedagogical approach of career guidance: learning outcomes of guidance, identification of CMS development needs of the beneficiary, basic didactical skills, verifying the learning progress of the client… collaborative summarisation of the progress and results of the guidance process (examples of tools and approaches)
Social OutcomesSocial outcomes of guidance: preparing a CV, social media profiles, jobseeking techniques, examples and templates of reports and action plans. What outcomes from your guidance process can be communicated by the client to third parties/used outside of the guidance process?
Mission StatementTechniques that help the counsellor build his own personal mission statement and vision, practical exercise. How this mission can be communicated to clients and partners.
Intake, Needs AnalysisAssuring full information of the client, making your offer transparent

Clarification and identification of needs/objectives, identifying expectations, making doubts and fears explicit, contracting common goals of the guidance process (e.g. examples of intake questionnaires/checklists, guidance agreements…)

EthicsEthical aspects of CG (including social justice, inclusion, equality, examples of ethical dilemmas). Exercise: document specific examples of own ethical decision making and behaviour.
Labour MarketCurrent trends on the labour market (e.g., globalization, growing complexity, precarisation, demographic change, lifelong learning, and diversity); Understanding labour market: LMI (iCeGS) and its use in CG CG practitioner as a mediator of LMI, focusing of development of information competences (client capable of a critical analysis of LMI)
Networking an partnershipsNetworking strategies, partnerships, referral of the client to other services, evaluation and quality assurance of partnerships. Involving external partners in service provision. Documenting own network and practice.
Supporting decision-making, widening opportunitiesDecision making process, linking interests, personality traits and other factors to career opportunities. Techniques for exploration, analysis and comparison of opportunities.
Tools 1: PersonalityTools and techniques for analysing factors of career decision making: how to build your portfolio of tools for identifying personality traits, social roles, interests, attitudes (examples of different approaches from different CG schools, e.g also socio-constructivist, narrative approach etc., 360-evaluation, role playing). Building your own portfolio/library of quality-assured tools.
Tools 2: career, lifestory and competencesTools and techniques for identification and documentation of skills, competences, life-story, competence portfolio…   Building your own portfolio/library of quality-assured tools.
Tools 3: psychological assessmentBasics of psychological assessment (validity, reliability, sensitivity, ethical aspects and risks), “objective” vs. “subjective” (self-assessment) methods. Joint interpretation of the results.

Rules and risks linked to assessment.  Building your own portfolio/library of quality-assured tools.

Personalization of the serviceGuidance in specific life situations: early-school-leaving, unemployment, Labour and health / physical and psychological illnesses / burnout, Crisis intervention, Dealing with traumatized persons in guidance, Vocational re-orientation after the baby break, after a phase of unemployment, after being ill
Gender issues and equalityMain topic: Gender competence as a cross-cutting skill,  including specialized knowledge, methodological competence, social responsibility  and self competences
Tools:  questionnaire to review the mentor’s gender-competence and the  organization’s gender standards/ two case-studies
Distance counsellingICT: Distance counselling, online counselling, use of ITC, blended counselling, flipped classroom pedagogy
Measuring Feedback and ImpactCollecting feedback from clients, partners. Approaches to measuring impact of the service.  How to evaluate if your service/tools it appropriate for the target group?
Quality DevelopmentQuality assurance and development, quality cycle PDCA…
Research & DevelopmentResearch and development: monitoring existing professional and scientific resources, current research topics in CG, basics of scientific method. What tools have you developed/adapted and how?
Reflection of own practiceSelf-reflective and self-analysis techniques: Preparing your personal development and training plan (SWOT, training needs, training plan…)
Methodological procedurehow to prepare your own internal methodological guide/procedure… examples
Management BasicsBudgeting, acquisition and sustainability of necessary organisational, actively participate in the determination of which human and financial resources will be needed in the future (e.g. financial planning, controlling, working-time management)
MarketingOutreach, communication, marketing strategies (within or outside of the organization): basic principles

Mentoring/training program will allow practitioners to comply with a quality standard. The content of the mentoring program reflects the results from the Analytical paper (key quality areas, quality areas that individual counsellors have difficulties complying with, see below) and contains training modules that allow the counsellor to develop skills and competences in areas required in most of the QA standards focused on individual counsellor. From the delivery point of view, the mentoring programme combines elements of physical presence with virtual tools.

Case study: Noloc and CMI joining forces: towards one Dutch national quality framework for career guidance professionals

With her mission of improving both the quality of career guidance in the Netherlands as well as increasing the number of qualified guidance professionals, in 2011 Noloc implemented her own quality assurance framework for individual career guidance professionals. The ‘Noloc erkend’ quality mark nowadays is one of the two quality marks for individual career guidance professionals in the Netherlands. Some 1,500 career guidance professionals have obtained the Noloc quality mark (July 2018).

The standard has 6 main subjects:

  • Education and skills in the field of people-oriented services (at least on level EQF-6)
  • Relevant working experience in the field of career guidance, career advice, outplacement or work reintegration; still being active in this field / fields as a guidance professional
  • Relevant theoretical and practical knowledge of careers, labour market and their interaction (gained through education, literature studies, working experience)
  • Relevant theoretical knowledge and practical experience of methods, techniques and instruments that could be used in guiding candidates
  • Mastering the most important competences of a career professional, coach and advisor: showing empathy, effective communication, reflection, advising and coaching
  • Showing a professional attitude: reflecting on one’s own actions, acting ethically (according to the Noloc code of conduct), professional development, networking)

Noloc provides a checklist for candidates and for the auditors. Candidates need to hand in a curriculum vitae, a written casus and supporting documents showing proof of the required education and other requirements. Those documents are being judged by the assessor. In case the assessor has doubts whether the candidate fulfils the requirements, the files will be judged by a second assessor.

Besides the Noloc quality mark for career guidance professionals, the Career Management Institute (CMI) offers an additional quality mark for more experienced career guidance professionals. Some 360 of them have obtained the CMI quality mark ‘Register Loopbaanprofessional’ (July 2018). Noloc has adopted this CMI quality mark as the quality mark for her more senior members.

Agreeing that it would be better if there were one, strong national quality framework for career guidance professionals in the Netherlands, since the end of 2016 Noloc and CMI are in the process of looking for possibilities to join forces. The aim of this process is to develop a national quality standard for individual career guidance professionals on different levels of seniority and specialization.

In April 2018, Noloc and CMI agreed that from July 2020 on, there will be just one Dutch national quality framework for career guidance professionals based on the mutual strengths of both organizations. In order to reach this ambitious goal, it was also agreed that the Noloc and CMI organizations will merge, and the new quality framework will be carried out under the responsibility of Noloc. To guarantee the objectivity of the certification process of individual career professionals willing to obtain the new national quality mark – either Noloc member or not – a number of safety valves will be implemented.

In the following table , the cornerstones of the new Dutch quality framework are being described and compared with the current cornerstones of both the Noloc quality framework and the CMI quality framework.


 Noloc quality framework

(present situation, July 2018)

CMI quality framework
(present situation, July 2018)
Dutch national quality framework
(to be implemented by July 2020)
Name of quality markNoloc erkend loopbaanprofessionalRegister loopbaanprofessionalNoloc Register loopbaanprofessional
Number of different levels13: A, B and C level1
Number of different specialisations  >1
Validity period of certification3 years3 years4 years
Validity period of recertification3 years3 years4 years
Assessment method, certificationWritten fileWritten file + Personal interviewWritten file + Personal interview
Assessment method, recertificationWritten fileWritten file + Personal interviewWritten file
Level of educationEQF6EQF6EQF6
General work experience required3 years7 years 
Specific vocational experience required1 year, minimum of 750 hours3 years, no minimum hoursIndicative: 1,200 hours
Mentoring programme in place?Yes, voluntarilyYes, mandatoryYes, mandatory
Supervising programme in place?NoNoYes, as part of recertification process
Organization executing certification processIndependent, external organization: CRPIndependent, external organization: DNVIndependent, external organization
Organization issuing certificateNolocDNV, on behalf of CMINoloc
Quality assurance system in placeAssessors are independent

Review procedure executed under responsibility of external, independent reviewing organization

Quality of reviewed files is assessed periodically on basis of individual samples

Assessors are independent

Review procedure executed by
external, independent reviewing organization

Quality of review procedures and underlying processes are periodically reviewed by ISO

Assessors are independent

Review procedure executed by external, independent reviewing organization

Quality of review procedures and underlying processes are periodically reviewed on basis of ISO

Cost of certification, including admission to professional registerIncluded in Noloc membership;
€ 175 per year for non-members
€ 695, plus € 75 per yearIndicative: € 100 per year for Noloc members, € 200 per year for non-members
Cost of recertification, including admission to professional registerIncluded in Noloc membership;
€ 175 per year for non-members
€ 695, plus € 75 per yearIndicative: € 50 per year for Noloc members, € 150 per year for non-members

Case study: Quality assurance of the centres of skills audit/bilan de compétences (FECBOP)

Certifying body: FECBOP – Fédération Européenne des Centres de Bilan et d’Orientation Professionnelle / European Federation of Centres of Career Guidance and Bilan de Competences

The quality standard and labelling procedure were developed by the European network of career guidance providers influenced by the “bilan de compétences“ (skills audit) methodology.

Skills audit („bilan de compétences“) came into existence in France as a tool helping the organizations and employees to analyze their knowledge, skills, abilities, competences and motivations and prepare a realistic career goal and an action plan. First centres of the bilan de compétences were created in 1986. A national network of inter-institutional centres for the bilan de compétences (CIBC) was created in 1989.

Through different projects the methodology slowly spread to other countries (Italy, Belgium, Germany) and in 2004 a European association of providers was created. With the assistance of the French network of CIBCs the European Standard “Qualité Europe Bilan de Compétences” was created. Its goal is to maintain and protect a common quality level between providers and to differentiate the service from other similar services.

The label is delivered by the European Labelling Committee that is an elected body within FECBOP with 5 members (currently 1 from France, 2 from Italy, 1 from Belgium, 1 from Czech republic).

The quality assurance process is as follows:

  1. The organization sends the candidature sheet to the FECBOP Executive Bureau of the Federation. This sheet contains basic information about the candidate (activities, statistical data, motivation for obtaining the label).
  2. The Executive Bureau assigns the auditor: 3 auditors are currently working for FECBOP, trained by the French network of skills audit centres. The auditor sends the candidate the necessary documents (Audit agreement, Guide for internal audit and requirements for the agenda of the audit visit. Internal audit guide allows the organization to prepare for the audit visit and collect all necessary evidence and send it beforehand to the auditor.
  3. The auditor agrees with the candidate organization on the time schedule (date of the visit, deadline for submission of internal audit guide, foreseen date of the meeting of the meeting of European Labelling Committee (1-3 months after the audit)
  4. The audit takes 2 days and contains meeting with an official representative, consultation of documents (final reports from bilan de competences, competence portfolios), consultation of the library of methods, meeting with a group of beneficiaries and with a group of counsellors.
  5. The auditor prepares the audit report within 15 days after the audit. Draft of the audit report is sent to candidate for eventual comments and corrections (if necessary) and then submitted to the European Labelling Committee.
  6. The European Labelling Committee meets and decides about awarding the quality label (usually 1-3 months after the audit). The auditor presents the report and additional questions can be asked by the committee members to the candidate during the meeting.

Currently, 25 centres in 8 countries successfully obtained the quality label and 5 – 7 audits are realized every year by FECBOP auditors. The audit is realized every 5 years.

FECBOP quality standard is available here. The standard is used mainly in countries with links to French culture (Italy, Belgium) or in countries, where it was spread through projects (Slovakia, Czechia, other CEE countries). In almost all cases it occupies the vacuum caused by the lacking national system of QA in CG. The standard is not mandatory (except for France and some specific cases). Its recognition is highly dependant on the country.

What are the most challenging aspects of the quality standard to implement?

Analysis realized during the QUAL-IM-G project (interviews with FECBOP auditors) revealed, that the following aspects are deemed as the most difficult to implement by skills audit providers:

Methodological issues (NB: these issues are in some cases specific to the methodological nature of the skills audit as used within the FECBOP network of providers):

  • Multidisciplinary character of the provided service: the quality standard requires the centre to have a multidisciplinary team of providers, whereas many centres tend to employ counsellors with specific backgrounds (e.g. psychologists) which results in a rather homogenous staff of counsellors (from the point of view of their qualification). This is then often reflected in the methodology that is used predominantly in the guidance work done by the centre (e.g. too much focus on psychological assessment).
  • Insufficient focus or on labour market exploration: similar and often connected to previous point: some providers tend to focus on analysis of personal characteristics of the beneficiary (interests, personality…) and do not connect this information sufficiently with the socio-economic context of the beneficiary. The career goals that result from the skills audit can then be too broad or disconnected from the global situation of the beneficiary.
  • Effective implementation of the portfolio or other documentation approaches: Identification and documentation of the competences of the beneficiary are often approached superficially – often because the providers do not completely understand and see the added value of it.
  • Development of career management skills and active role of the beneficiary: Some centres tend to focus on expert analysis of client’s interests, personality traits and acquired skills and knowledge. This is especially the case if they work with the low skilled with the objective of matching them to appropriate job (if the PES are financing the service). Providers rarely use explicit pedagogical framework (CMS framework, identification of needs of the beneficiary in term of CMS development, individual or group activities with defined learning objectives).
  • Common glossary and internal methodological guide: lack of common understanding of different terms (knowledge, skills, competence, interest, career management skills…). Non-existence of common methodological guide, that would formalize the process and could be used by newly employed counsellors.

Organizational issues:

  • Evaluation, training and development of staff: non-existent procedure for the identification of training needs, elaboration of training plan. This area is often reduced to informal internal meetings for sharing of experiences, without tangible results or capitalization of these exchanges.
  • Satisfaction and impact evaluation: insufficient of inexistent system for monitoring satisfaction of the beneficiaries or impact of the provided service (3-6 months after the service).
  • Continuous quality improvement: Providers rarely implement mechanisms for monitoring quality of the service and collecting feedback (e.g. statistical treatment of satisfaction questionnaires) to improve their service.
  • Research and development: This activity is often neglected by the providers, mainly in cases where the guidance activity is new, project-based or occasional (dependent on public tenders…).
  • General formalization of procedures: small centres seem to rely on informal processes and/or oral “tradition” in their practices. Guidance centres often don’t like procedures and are not accustomed to process management and quality assurance practice.

Policy-related issues:

  • Voluntary participation of beneficiaries: in some countries skills audit is used as and ALMP measure and the beneficiary can face sanctions if he refuses the offer from the labour office to participate.
  • Financial sustainability of the service: Guidance activity is often project-based or occasional (dependent on public tenders…).
  • Networking, linking to other services: in some countries (especially in central and eastern Europe) the network of potential services in the field of lifelong learning, lifelong guidance or social support is weak or inexistent, given the lack of public funding.
  • Link to systems of validation of non-formal and informal learning: in some countries these systems are insufficiently developed or inexistent.

Meeting in Derby: kicking-off the work on all outputs

Second partner meeting of the QUAL-IM-G consortium was held in Derby on 24th/25th May 2018. This meeting was hosted by iCeGS.

The current status of the O1 (Report on QA practices) with some preliminary findings was presented. Partners agreed, that the output will be enriched by following short case studies illustrating different good practices:

  • Mentoring programme for candidates for accreditations provided by CMI (Netherlands)
  • Certification process for career guidance practitioners by NOLOC (Netherlands)
  • Quality development framework for organizations providing careers services by nfb (Germany)
  • Audit and labelling procedure by FECBOP (EU)

The meeting allowed us to kick-off the work on other intellectual outputs of the project:

O2: Mentoring program for career guidance practitioners “Mentoring program” is not a “training program”: While it could lead to the development of new skills and competences, its primary goal is to prepare the counsellor for a QA procedure. Focus should thus be on the documentation of counsellors competences and development of practice. It should be connected to the self-assessment procedure. Partners decided, that the mentoring programme will be “content dependent”: it will be based on the most widely used quality criteria, as revealed by the analysis in O1.

O3: Certification procedure of career guidance practitioners The output will be content-independent (independent from specific quality standard). It will describe different stages of the certification procedures, and for every step it will provide examples of template documents. It could also provide recommendations and examples of good practice from partner countries.

O4: Quality development framework nfb has developed a very advanced quality development framework. It will serve as an inspiration for the development of the output, but will be adapted as necessary for the needs of the testing phase.

O5: Audit / labelling procedure The development will be similar to O3 and will lead to a development of a content-independent process (not tightly linked to any quality standard) that will include recommendations and may also include illustrative examples of good practice.