Strategies, resources, and coping mechanisms that individuals use to cope with life/ vocational development tasks and thereby build and manage their lives/careers. Adaptability is understood as the individual’s ability to accept change and adapt to new career circumstances, internal or external to the present organization, even when these are not favourable (Kossek et al., 1998, p.942).
The values in action that best characterize the person, guide his/her behaviour, and lead him/her to explore his/her full potential. Peterson & Seligman (2004) have developed a classification of central human strengths, which arise from universal human virtues across culture, geography and religion. The six universal virtues are: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, moderation and transcendence (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
The anticipations that individuals have developed with regard to the likelihood of a certain event (Miller & Liciardi, 2003; Tinsley et al., 1988, cit. Em Shivy & Koehly, 2002, p. 41; Whitaker, Philips, & Tokar, 2004).
Interests are the person’s preferences for different classes of activities. Whether in our work or in leisure, some activities seem to interest and attract us more naturally than others. Interests indicate the direction in which the person guides his/her efforts, but it is his/her cognitive abilities that determine the level of effectiveness. The interests do not allow a satisfactory prediction of academic or professional success. Often when we have a strong interest, such as fulfilling job’s demands, we can dedicate an important part of our time to accomplish this objective. This accomplishment increases our satisfaction level of having successfully carried out the task, as well as our general wellbeing, and therefore increases even more our interest level in performing well on the job.
A process of problem-solving and decision making that requires exploration skills, focused on self-knowledge and knowledge of the environment, the definition of objectives, and the definition and implementation of a plan of action, always with a proactive attitude and autonomy. This perspective is close to the most current conceptions of career development, integrating, on the one hand, all the sequence of events that the person experiences during the entire lifetime, and, on the other hand, all the contexts / stages in which these events unfold, along a process of construction and management for which each person must take full responsibility (Pinto 2010; Savickas, 2005).
Roles played by individuals over the course of their lives. These life roles include family / marriage role (associated with being a child, father / mother, spouse), academic / professional role (relative to being a student and / or worker), social role (related to being a friend, colleague), domestic role (associated with performing household management tasks), leisure role (relating to involvement in health, sports and wellness activities) and the citizenship role (related to volunteering and community services). The conjugation of different roles that are assumed in different life contexts allows the definition of a lifestyle. In addition, it is important to take into consideration that these life roles also interact with each other, and any decision regarding any of these life roles has a capacity to pass on to all the rest, and it is this potential impact that must be considered during any career decision (Brown, 1996).
Migration refers to an exit movement out of the city and/or country of origin, and consequent entry into a new host city and/or country.
Stimulates that enable individuals to take a set of actions driven by the belief that these will allow him/her to achieve goals and the desired results. Motivation stimulates the individual to develop attitudes and behaviours in order to attain his/her objectives—for example, the need for economic security, recognition, or status (Crites, 1969; King, 2004). When there is no obstacle or barrier that prevents the individual to achieve his/her objectives, then the individual immediately puts into practice all the necessary behaviours and easily reaches his/her objectives.
The knowledge of individuals facing a determined event arising from their personal observations or direct experience (Tinsley et al., 1988; cit. in Shivy & Koehly, 2002, p. 41).
In the context of an increasingly unstable, unpredictable and dynamic organizational world, the person must assume the responsibility to manage his/her own career (Arnold, 1997; Greenhaus & Callanan, 1994).
Complex set of unique psychological qualities that influence the characteristic patterns of a person’s behaviour in different situations over time. Qualities or personal enduring attributes that predispose and influence the behaviour of people in different situations.
The desires and pretensions of individuals towards the occurrence of certain events (Tinsley et al., 1988; cit. in Shivy & Koehly, 2002, p. 41).
People in situations of forced migration, including refugees, are all those who are forced to leave their city / country of origin because of persecution, conflict, war, or violence.
”One’s belief in one’s abilities to perform or succeed at a certain level of performance or desired outcome that influences situations affecting one’s lives.” (Bandura, 1994) It corresponds to the individual’s beliefs in how he/she has the necessary competences (e.g., exploration, experimentation, decision-making competences) to successfully solve the tasks, challenges, and obstacles that arise through his/her life’s/career’s decision (Bandura, 1986, 1994). A deficit in this dimension is frequently associated with sentiments of denial, and fear, and can evolve to situations to which the individual considers to have no competence, because he/she has never experienced a similar situation, or that in previous moments that situation was not effectively resolved. Self-efficacy is important to explore and develop the participants’ beliefs in their own ability to succeed. The person is seen as an agent in his/her own life. People’s experienced self-efficacy affects, according to Bandura (1994), the way in which we think, feel, act, and motivate ourselves.
Defined as the “level of clarity and certainty of individuals to the set of attitudes, values, interests, needs, and competences, which are personally and vocationally relevant” (Barret & Tinsley, 1977, p. 302, cit Weng & McElroy, 2009, p. 2). A clear sense about oneself, or about one’s needs, interests, and values, and being able to make decisions about the life/career that do not betray one’s identity (Schein, 1996).
The formation of the self-concept is dependent of life experiences to which the individual is submitted and only consolidated after five to ten years of professional experience (Schein, 1996). From the time it is consolidated, the self-concept acts as an anchor in which it remains stable along the life of the individual, allowing him/her to be faithful to his/her identity.
A positive or negative assessment of one’s self (Burns, 1991; Smith & Mackie, 2000; Vaz Serra, 1986; Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2012). It refers to the value the person attaches to his/herself, to his/her self-confidence, self-respect and pride. Self-esteem has an adaptive function, helping the person to be confident about him/herself and to recognize the merit of his/her successes (high self-esteem), or on the contrary, to be insecure, confused and hesitant (low self-esteem). In general, self-esteem develops according to the response to life experiences (Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2012), and then it usually remains the same from childhood to old age (Kassin, Fein, & MarKus, 2011).
“Skill is the ability to perform tasks or cope with various situations effectively, in a particular context, and it is therefore necessary to mobilize attitudes, skills and knowledge, at the same time and interrelated” (Zabala & Arnau, 2007). The beliefs of individuals concerning their ability to perform particular activities. It contributes to determining the choices of activities and the environment, the investment of the individuals in the pursuit of the objectives that he/she has set for himself/herself, the persistence of his/her effort and the emotional reactions that reach him/her when meets obstacles.
Adoption of a diversity of actions aimed at the empowerment of societies/nations, favouring access and use by their members of opportunities, resources, and values, without any kind of advantage or disadvantage concerning sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, or other factors.
What drives the individual and hinders him/her in exploring his/her potential. Peterson & Seligman (2004) have developed a classification of central human strengths, which arise from universal human virtues across culture, geography, and religion. According to Seligman (2004), strengths are the road to realising virtues. People actively working with their strengths thrive better, are more confident, have higher self-esteem, have more energy and zest, experience less stress/are more resistant, perform better, are more committed, are better able to achieve their goals, develop faster and achieve lasting improvements.
The beliefs that define what is most important for people; the motivators of people, providing life purpose and meaning; personal life values influence behaviour, choices, emotions, habits, lifestyle and social experiences. Focusing on one’s core values, enables the participants to set personal goals based on what is important for themselves.
A gap between academic qualifications and / or technical skills and labour market requirements (lack of professional experience, precarious and unskilled jobs).
The rationale of this project takes into account the increasing needs of a variety of end users with different professional backgrounds (trainer, mentor, advisor), working with populations in situation of professional vulnerability, and propose interventions for 21st century based on general and specific theoretical approaches that value:
- Personal system: supporting the person to develop a stable and clear image of him/herself, in a world populated with contradictory messages
- Contextual system: supporting the person in the exploration, understanding and use of information about the changing factors in the educational, training and professional world;
- Temporal system: supporting the person to deal with the interaction between the personal system and the contextual system over time, reviewing the past, understanding the present, and outlining the writing of the future;
- Complexity, chance, unpredictability, and instability of life contexts: awareness of the permanent mutation of the world of work and the uncertainty associated with it; getting used to the ambiguity and difficulty of predicting the future;
- Personal agency in the attribution of meanings and in the process of change, namely through the acquisition and training of life/career skills: to have the flexibility of mind to easily abandon a blind prospect in favour of another.
Thus, it proposes a four dimensional schema that includes personal, contextual and temporal dimensions and a process of change based on training transitional skills (Figure 4):
Figure 4. Personal, contextual, and temporal systems in the intervention to support the construction of life projects of people in situation of professional vulnerability
The personal, contextual and temporal systems are described as (table 1):
central role in the process of elaboration and realization of future intentions:
- Focused on the self-knowledge of the individual, that is, on the mental representation that the person has of the set of characteristics that defines him/her;
- The subjective perception of his/her main characteristics: age, gender, ethnicity, personality, values, interests, life and transitional skills;
fundamental to help make conscious, strategic and informed decisions:
- It corresponds to the individual’s experiences in his/her relation with the external world, namely family, education, work, and community groups (e.g., religious, political, cultural);
- Offers information on useful opportunities for education, training and professional practice (being able to seek and use, in a timely and appropriate manner, highly relevant career information);
it allows to understand that an individual is the sum of his/her experiences during the life time, as well as of the meaning given to these events by the person:
- It focuses on the person’s life history and establishes relationships between past, present and future (re-analysis and re-assessment of the life course carried out up to now, and (re) construction of his/her narrative);
- From the evaluation of difficulties and opportunities, it aims to identify the competencies needed to reformulate successful lives projects;
Table 1. Systems and themes of intervention in the construction of life projects
|Personal||Age, gender, ethnicity
Community Groups (e.g., religious, cultural and political)
(difficulties and opportunities)
The change process is based on the development of four dimensions (table 2):
- Self-knowledge: corresponds to the personal system of the individual. This dimension consists of a range of activities aimed at supporting the participants in collecting, analysing, interpreting and using personal information. This is especially useful in regards to personality characteristics, values, interests, personal skills, and strengths. This dimension will help the participant in getting a clear understanding of, and building a stronger sense of his/her identity. Includes the clarification of self-concept (personality, values, interests, strengths, life roles); development of self-esteem (life projects—changes to be made);
- World knowledge: corresponds to the contextual system. This dimension consists of the development of a set of activities that allow to collect, analyse, interpret, and use information related to the training and professional world of the participants, and their main objectives in life. The exploration of the environmental information must take into account the previously gathered information about oneself. Exploring the world (professional, training, and educational) is a fundamental step in ensuring that participants make decisions in a conscious and informed way, based on reliable and creditable sources of information. This information also has to be related to participants’ knowledge of themselves (personal desires, interests, values, and expectation). Includes curiosity and exploration of the environment (educational, training, professional opportunities); identification and promotion of networks (family, social-support);
- Transitional skills: “Skill is the ability to perform tasks or cope with various situations effectively, in a particular context, and it is therefore necessary to mobilise attitudes, skills and knowledge, at the same time and interrelated” (Zabala & Arnau, 2007). Transitional skills correspond to the changes people want to make in order to transform their present into their desired future. They include the development of motivation, persistence and resilience; adaptability; communication and tolerance of difference; and time management skills.
- Decision-making: involves the temporal system, more specifically the design and construction of the desired future. People can motivate themselves by setting goals for future actions and preferable scenarios. It is important, however, that these goals are clear and achievable, if they are to be satisfactory and strengthen people’s faith in their ability to act. Also, effective goal systems are organized hierarchically, where the closest milestones regulate the motivation and the actions that are necessary to reach the overall goals. Enterprising action will become manageable and possible if people “always” deal with the ‘next best action’ through small steps of full control. It includes the development of life/career goals, and implementation and development of action plans (identification of activities, behaviours, tasks; identification of obstacles and possible resources to overcome them).
Table 2. Dimensions to work on intervention in the construction of life projects
Identification of target group
The target group for this project consists of young adults (between 18 and 30 years of age), in a situation of professional vulnerability, including migrants and refugees, in particular those who are unemployed due to a gap between their competences and those required by the labour market in host country (Figure 5). It should be noted that the background of the target group is determined by a wide variety of characteristics that need to be taken in account (e.g., age, gender) as well as the context in which they are (e.g., racism) and all these influence their personality characteristics, interests, values and attitudes, expectations and objectives, the perception of opportunities and barriers in the context, and the demand for and experience of counselling itself.
As an example, a study evaluating the training needs in the construction of life projects, which was produced with the participation of SCML (Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa) trainers, the professionals working with people in situations of vulnerability, verified that these professionals identify the following to be the main characteristics/problems in their target public:
- Personal problems (e.g., low self-esteem, immaturity, lack of autonomy),
- Academic problems (e.g., reduced educational attainment, failure, absenteeism)
- Occupational problems (e.g., lack of professional experience, precarious and unskilled jobs), and
- Social problems (e.g., domestic violence, drug addiction, poverty, exclusion).
Figure 5. Target groups
This heterogeneity in personal and contextual variables cannot, and should not be ignored when the goal is to provide professional support with high standards of quality and effectiveness. Application to other groups implies adaptations to the specific characteristics of the intended recipients.
Identification of end users
The Live2Work programme is proposed as a professional development to qualified end-users, preferably those with a background in social or educational areas, such as psychologists, social workers or educators, in the context of their interventions in the construction of life projects, for which it is considered they have been properly prepared (Figure 6). In this regard, we would like to stress the importance of the work competencies these professional end-users should possess in order to be able to perform their functions. These needed competencies are presented in section 2.3 of this Live2Work manual. In addition, it is important to highlight the importance of interacting with other key stakeholders, in particular actively cooperating with universities, employment centres, public institutions supporting immigration, non-governmental organizations who work with this type of public, directly or indirectly.
Figure 6. End users
Keep in mind
- Personal system à Self-knowledge dimensions
- Contextual system à World knowledge dimension
- Temporal system à Decision making dimension
- Complexity, chance, unpredictability, and instability of life contexts à Transitional skills dimension
- Personal agency in the attribution of meanings and in the process of change, namely through the acquisition and training of life/career skills à transversal to all the project dimensions
- Young adults and adults (18-30 years old)
- Professional vulnerable situation due to a gap between qualifications and skills, and labour market requirements
- Migrants and refugees
The concepts and theoretical principles underlining the approaches that specifically focus on life projects of vulnerable populations are presented below. The analysis of each of these theories and their interrelationship constitute the starting point for the elaboration of the rationale on which the project is based.
The construction of life projects from the perspective of Systems Theory
The theory of systems consists of “a conceptual and practical map” (McMahon & Patton, 2006, p.94) for evaluating the performance of end users in support to the construction of life projects. Considered one of the most practical, useful and flexible psychology theories, one of its most distinctive characteristics is that it recognizes the individuality of each client, is culturally inclusive, and can thus be applied in a great diversity of international contexts (Patton & McMahon, 1997, Patton, McMahon, & Watson, 2006; McMahon, Watson, Chetty, & Hoelson, 2012). Moreover, this theory constitutes a systemic approach insofar as it assumes the perspective of the “individual in context” (McMahon, Watson, & Patton, 2014, p.30), that is, the individual is a set of variables and contexts that interact with each other, and in this sense, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. For this reason, all the variables of the individual and the contexts in which he/she is inserted are taken into account in the intervention process.
Being anchored in a wide variety of other career development approaches, it places its focus on the process (e.g., Super’s life-span, life-space theory) and content (e.g., Holland’s personality and vocational environments theory) of building life projects that foster the well-being of individuals and nations in a changing world. The Systems Theory, and consequent intervention model, consider three main systems:
- The individual system, consisting of a set of intrapersonal factors influencing career development, such as age, health, beliefs, self-concept, ethnicity, personality, interests, abilities, attitudes, gender, and sexual orientation;
- The social system, consisting of all the closest contexts in which the individual is inserted, and with which one interacts, such as peers, family, media, community groups, educational institutions, and workplaces; and
- The environmental/contextual system, which encompasses broader contexts such as geographic location, political decisions, historical trends, globalization, socioeconomics level, and the labour market.
These systems (1, 2 and 3) are in constant interaction, in a continuous and dynamic process, through the close interconnection between three temporal dimensions—past, present and future. In this sense, this process fundamentally draws the attention to the unique pattern of influence that these groups/contexts can have on the individual throughout the life cycle.
The process of supporting the construction of life projects should be understood as an open, circular and recursive process in which different systems are in continuous interaction and constantly influence each other due to the permeability of their boundaries. In addition, this is a process influenced by chance, since people’s lives (careers) have become more unstable, unpredictable and dynamic, a direct result of the increasingly unstable, unpredictable and dynamic contemporary world in which we live. Thus, the process of construction of a new life project requires, from the point of view of the individual, an active, reflexive and meaning-giving attitude (according to a constructivist approach to the career), and from the end user’s point of view (e.g., trainer, mentor and advisor), a collaborative construction and attribution of meanings, encouraging revision, reflection and re-orientation in life (career). In this way, client (target group) and end user will co-construct the meaning of life (career) of the client, using a narrative approach (story building).
It should be noted that the client has an individual and social system of his/her own, but this theory also incorporates the individual and social system of the end user, considering that these systems interact with each other throughout the course of the intervention. These interactions (support processes) allow the individual to play an active role (personal agency) in creating his/her future identities, in the context of a time and space of secure reflection (reflection), in which the end user promotes the relation of this with the different systems in which it is inserted (connection), through the attribution of meanings to the influences of the variables of the different contexts (meanings), and the identification of repetitive patterns of functioning between (learning) contexts (McMahon, Patton, & Watson, 2015, p.151).
Figure 1 shows the individual and social system of the client, the individual and social system of the end user, and the relational system constructed from the interaction between the two systems. These systems are integrated into a broader environmental/contextual system that encompasses the country and its laws, norms, values, and culture, which affect, in a very particular way, the systems mentioned above. In addition, it is important to consider that the individual, social, and environmental systems of the client and of the end users are influenced by a past, a present, and an anticipation of the future, based on recursiveness and chance.
Figure 1. Systems Theory (McMahon, Patton, & Watson, 2015)
The construction of life projects from the perspective of the Ecological Approach
The ecological approach is based on a diversity of constructs, processes and instruments derived from different theories, with the purpose of effecting change. Therefore, it presents a meta-theoretical, pragmatic and eclectic view of the process of supporting the construction of life projects, considering that the multiplicity of complex factors that influence human behaviour (e.g., biological, environmental, sociocultural factors) is not compatible with a single explanatory theoretical model.
In spite of this fact, there is a theoretical model that stands out by the support that provides to the development of the ecological approach. This is the Ecological Systems Theory of Bronfenbrenner (1992) that emphasizes the set of interactions of the person with different levels of the physical and social environment. These levels include (Figure 2):
- The microsystem: all persons with whom there is close interaction and therefore have a more significant influence on one’s development (e.g., family, peer group, school, place of job);
- The mesosystem: relations established between the microsystems, such as family-work, parents-peers, home-school;
- The exosystem: distal systems, in which the person does not have a direct participation, but which in some way can influence it through their actions and decisions (e.g., labour market fluctuations, political decisions, changes in the health system); and
- The macrosystem: broader systems containing moral, social, political, and ideological rules, norms, principles and values, to which all other levels are permeable (Conyne & Cook 2004, p. 16).
All these systems constitute “the total sum of interactive influences that operate in a person’s life” (Conyne & Cook, 2004, p.11). In addition to these levels, Bronfenbrenner (1992) mentions the existence of a “chronosystem”, which consists in the temporal dimension transversal to the different levels previously mentioned.
The ecological approach is based on three basic assumptions to explain that human behaviour is a result of the interaction of the person with his / her environment (b = f (p x e); Lewin, 1936). Analyses of behaviour exclusively based on information on the person (e.g., genes, personality), or exclusively based on information from the environment (e.g., culture, politics) are restrictive, since it is in the reciprocal interaction of the person with his/her the environment, real and perceived, that behaviour can be truly understood.
Therefore, human behavior is:
- Contextualized: based on the concept of the Bronfenbrenner ecosystem, the human being is rooted in its multiple environments (ecology) and depends on them for sustenance and support (Conyne & Cook, 2004), so that no variable (e.g., race, gender) can be analysed in isolation, or without considering time and space;
- Interactional: the person (consisting of feelings, thoughts, emotions and behaviours) and environment (family, social, historical, cultural, economic, political) lives under a reciprocal determinism, according to which the person is imbued in a complex environment and multiple layers of relationships that in turn promote their development through recurrent interactions, and the role of the end user will be to place the focus of their intervention on the interaction, that is, on the cause and effect relation, between the person and the environment; and,
- Significant: using resources and opportunities provided by environments, people seek to live meaningful lives. The meaning they attach to their experiences results from interaction with their specific physical and social environment. In this sense, “truth” does not matter objectively, since the focus is placed on the internal truth, that is, on the meaning, on the interpretation that each person attributes to his/her experience (constructed by thought and language).
Support for the construction of life projects, according to the ecological approach, “is a contextualized support, dependent on the meaning that people attribute to their interactions with the environment” (Conyne & Cook, 2004, p.6). Contrary to Systems Theory, which addresses the system as a whole, the ecological approach focuses on the relationship between the person and his/her environment, and any intervention is developed at the individual level, within a specific set of contextual influences. In this sense, the end user will “reconsider the various possibilities [for the construction of life projects] and, with his/her clients, plan interventions that will help them achieve their goals, with the resources they can manage” (Conyne & Cook, 2004, pp. 9-10).
Figure 2. Ecological Approach
The construction of life projects from the perspective of Chaos Theory
The theory of chaos applied to the construction of life projects considers reality to be constituted by complex, open and dynamic systems—the individual system and contextual systems. These different systems undergo continuous influences, which can be of two types: stability and change. These influences can either occur in the individual, in his/her context, or in the relationship between the two. The behaviour of systems is aperiodic, that is, the result of order and chance, and therefore is simultaneously undergoing an unpredictable and self-organizing process. The more complex the system, the greater the impact of changes in initial conditions (butterfly effect—dependence on initial conditions), but a change in one part of the system does not necessarily have a direct impact on other parts of the system (nonlinearity).
The theory is structured in 4 main concepts:
- Complexity: corresponds to the multiplicity of endogenous or exogenous factors/variables, which influence life and vocational development in general, and career decision making in particular (e.g., parents, friends, teachers, labour market, gender, sexual orientation, politics, climate, health, culture); these factors have a dynamic nature, in the sense that they are continuously, and unpredictably oscillating between stability and change, and moreover have an interactive nature, relating to and influencing each other;
- Change: systems are sensitive to change, and as the individual is constantly changing, the context is constantly changing, and the relationship between individual and context is constantly changing (concept of reciprocal determinism); this change, usually recursive and non-linear, may be trivial, and have few consequences on the person’s life/career, but can also be profound/complex and have repercussions of various orders, thus requiring the person to adapt;
- Chance: is related to the inability to predict and control what happens within the systems, whether it is in the individual system, in the contextual system, or in the relationship between both systems; unpredictability and instability become the norm in contemporary lives/careers, and stress the limitation of human knowledge and control; the existence of an unplanned life event puts at risk rational decision-making.
- Construction/connection: in the face of an inability to predict and control events, people must be active in the process of constructing their life projects, rejecting determinism, i.e., the belief that an ensemble of causes can produce only one effect.
In this respect, the authors consider that change can occur as follows:
- Attractors: they represent the limits of the system, influence the individual and determine the behaviour more likely to change; they include situations where the system can only follow a certain well-defined (objective) direction; in which the system can only move between two points (choice of type “either this or that”; approach-avoidance; dichotomous thinking) without considering other possibilities; in which the system can move through a series of defined points that repeat over time (habitual patterns of doing things); or in which the system is chaotic, repeating old patterns, but not necessarily in the same way, with some possibility of nonlinear and radical change;
- Fractals: they are dynamically stable patterns, that is, the change in the individual’s life/career, although unpredictable, occurs constantly, according to a self-similar pattern, over time (e.g., work market trends, family influences).
- Non-linearity: cause-effect disproportionality, i.e. small changes in dynamic complex systems have the potential to result in disproportionate changes in other parts of the system (e.g., a small change in a part of a complex dynamic system can generate a large change within and beyond the system); this is also known as the “butterfly effect”, and makes it impossible to carry out long-term forecasts.
- Emergence: identification of new patterns from a set of seemingly random events in dynamic complex systems over time; and,
- Phase changes: when the configuration of a system radically changes, in its structure or operation, gradually (e.g., academic) or abruptly (e.g., dismissal).
In this approach, a life project is an emerging property of people’s interaction with their contexts, which may include other people, organizations, culture, legislation, and social contexts (Bright & Pryor, 2011; Pryor & Bright, 2007, 2011). The theory of chaos considers, at its core, that the construction of life projects must encompass predictable and unpredictable dimensions. Thus, end-user (e.g., trainers, mentors) and client (participants from target-group) place the focus on an uncertain and unpredictable reality, having to assume two prevailing positions in the framework of its collaborative process: convergence and emergence The convergence perspective focuses on what is stable, probable, and controllable, that is, academic, formative, and professional information. The emerging perspective focuses on the unpredictable, unstable and dynamic, that is, adaptability, resilience, spirituality, and response to failure.
The construction of life projects from the perspective of Career Self-Management Models
Career self-management models consider that the process of building life/career projects is fundamentally a problem-solving and decision-making process that occurs in a cyclical, systematic and intentional way throughout the life cycle of an individual (Taveira & Rodriguez-Moreno, 2009). There are several models, but in general, everyone considers that this process is more or less composed of the following stages (Figure 3):
- Exploration: a set of activities to search, analyse and interpret career information, that is, information on personal dimensions such as personality characteristics, personal and professional interests, life values, skills, and information about the different contexts in which the person is inserted (e.g., political, economic and social context);
- Goals definition: determining in a clear, concrete, realistic and evaluable way, for the short-, medium- and long-term, and for the different life roles, the goals or results that the person proposes to reach within his/her life /career;
- Design and implementation of action plans: identification and implementation of a set of activities, strategies, and behaviours in which the person will have to be involved, in order to increase the probability of attaining his/her career goals (Greenhaus & Callanan, 1994)
- Obtaining feedback and evaluation: verifying whether the initially proposed career objectives were achieved or not (Pinto & Taveira, 2010), thus assigning a cyclical character to the career management process (King, 2001).
Figure 3. Career self-management model (Pinto & Taviera, 2010)
Conclusion on the approaches to four theories on the construction of life projects
All these four theories have in common the fact of highlighting the personal agency in this process. These theories consider that, whilst the employers have had the main responsibility for career management of their employees in a logic of employment for life, where the individuals continued their whole professional life in the context of one or two organizations, the conditions changed in an increasingly unstable, unpredictable and dynamic organizational world. Nowadays, this responsibility has fallen almost exclusively on individuals, since they are expected to develop their careers in the contexts of various organizations throughout a lifetime of work, in addition to being able to have periods of their life where they are not even part of any employment organization. Thus, the end-user of this manual will need to support his/her participant in acquiring new skills for the development of life projects, so that in the future, and independently, he/she can solve problems and make decisions, consciously and informed, in the construction of his/her life projects.
These four theories are some of the scarce resources available to support Live2Work end users intervening in practice, inspired and supported by theoreticians that take in consideration the concerns of social justice in the context of building life projects. The traditional approaches to managing life/career issues have recognized merit but, given the unpredictable and chaotic environment experienced today, are no longer sufficient. Each of the theoretical approaches presented supports, on the one hand, the end-user by helping to intensify the development of competencies to undertake different roles, such as advocate, consultant and community empowerment advisor. On the other hand, they help the participant to recognize the structural barriers that impede their development and overcome them in order to benefit from unpredictable influences in his/her career.
Keep in mind
The construction of life projects in the perspective of the Systems Theory Framework
Recognizes the individuality of each client and is culturally inclusive and can thus be applied in a great diversity of international contexts
Constitutes a systemic approach insofar as it assumes the perspective of the “individual in context”
- Individual system
- Social system
- Environmental/ contextual system
- Open, circular and recursive
- Permeability of the organizational boundaries
- Influenced by chance
- Personal agency
The construction of the life projects in the perspective of the Ecological Approach
Multiplicity of complex factors that influence human behaviour which is not compatible with a single explanatory theoretical model.
- Theory of the ecosystem of Bronfenbrenner (1992)
- Microsystem: e.g., family, peer group, school, place of job;
- Mesosystem: relations between family-work, parents-peers, home-school;
- Exosystem: e.g., labour market fluctuations, political decisions, changes in the health system;
- Macrosystem: e.g., moral, social, political, and ideological rules, norms, principles and values
- Chronosystem: temporal dimension – past, present and future
- Human behaviour is
- “A contextualized support, dependent on the meaning that people attribute to their interactions with the environment”
The construction of life projects in the perspective of the Chaos Theory Career self-management models
Reality is constituted by complex, open and dynamic systems à undergo continuous influences, which can be of 2 types: stability and change
Change can occur as follows:
- Phase changes
Focus on an uncertain and unpredictable reality, having to assume two prevailing positions in the framework of its collaborative process: convergence and emergence
The construction of the life projects in the perspective of the Career Self-Management Models
Process of building life/career projects is fundamentally a problem-solving and decision-making process that occurs in a cyclical, systematic and intentional way throughout the life cycle of an individual
- Goals definition
- Design and implementation of action plans
- Obtaining feedback and evaluation
- Personal responsibility
Analysis and evaluation of the European context in the 21st century
The project aims to meet new needs arising from the increase of groups with challenges within the scope of life projects. It is therefore imperative to examine the European context of the 21st century by presenting some information and statistical data on the world’s migration situation as it is affecting European countries, especially on demographic, educational, employability and skills issues.
Migration refers to an exit movement out of the city and/or country of origin, and consequent entry into a new host city and/or country. According to the United Nations data, in 2015, more than 244 million people around the world were in a situation of migration (Kunzig, n.d.). The reasons for leaving the city and/or country of origin may be the most diverse, from the desire to go study abroad, the need to seek employment opportunities, the experience of a situation of extreme poverty, or the existence of conflicts and wars. Nowadays, news that are being transmitted by the media spread the idea that the active conflicts in different regions of the globe are those principally responsible for migration situations. However, of the significant number of refugees, only a small proportion are due to the current 15 conflicts around the world. In 2016, approximately 65.3 million people left their countries for the sake of survival, of whom 21.3 million have a refugee status, 3.2 million are seeking asylum, and 40.8 million are internally displaced in their own country (Batha, 2016).
These data are extremely pertinent, since they run counter to a general perception of forced migration to the Western countries— that migrants’ first choice is to flee from their country. In fact, most people choose to move from their homes while remaining within the country. For example, it is estimated that in Syria, 13.5 million Syrians will need humanitarian assistance within the country (Syrian refugees, 2016). Another option is to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq being the countries receiving the most refugees (Saunders, 2016). Only Turkey has received more than 3 million refugees and migrants, including 2.7 million Syrians (Batha, 2016). Only as a last resort do they turn to the help of Europe. Data indicate that the European continent received a total of 1.3 million (1,327,560) refugees in 2015. By 2016, about 100 migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were arriving in Greece each day, while about 500 migrants from Africa arrived each day in Italy (Connor & Krogstad, 2016). Across the European continent, Germany (over 442,000), Hungary (174,000), and Sweden (156,000) together received more than half of the asylum applications in 2015 (Eurostat, 2015).
Forced migrants arriving in Europe are from very diverse countries, but most often include people from countries in Asia and the middle east, such as Syria (378,000), Afghanistan (193,000), and Iraq (127,000), and also Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran and Ukraine (Connor & Krogstad, 2016, Eurostat, 2015). Their crossing into Europe is usually fraught with dangers that threaten their survival. Entire families flee from an almost certain death in their countries of origin to confront a set of circumstances in their travels, which, unfortunately, often do not allow them a better destination. According to Saunders (2016), most refugees arrive in Europe by land or sea. Those arriving by land usually make a long journey through Turkey, Greece, or the Balkans. Those arriving by boat often come from Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Eritrea, but also from Senegal and Somalia, countries that are not in active conflict (Batha, 2016; Saunders, 2016). Front data (in BBC news, 2016) indicate that in 2016, about 370,000 people arrived in Europe by sea, of which about 173,000 arrived in Greece and 167,000 arrived in Italy. At least 4,960 migrants died in the Mediterranean crossing in 2016, trying to get to Europe, mainly because of overcrowding of ships (Batha, 2016).
When they arrive, many of the refugees seek asylum. 1.321.600 asylum applications were made to the European Union, 29% of Syria, 14.8% of Afghanistan, 9.9% of Iraq, 3.7% of Pakistan, and 3.6% of Eritrea, and 39% of other countries (Kunzig, n.d.). Data indicate that Germany received 29% of the requests, followed by France (13.2%), and Sweden (12.9%). Countries such as Denmark (1.2%), Portugal (<0.5%) and Czech Republic (<0.5%) have fewer applications for asylum (Kunzig, n.d.). Of these, Germany approved 140,910, Sweden approved 32,215, Italy approved 29,615, and France approved 20,630, the Netherlands approved 16,450 and the UK approved 13,905 (Eurostat, 2015; in, BBC news, 2016). However, it is possible that by 2015 illegal entries into Europe would have been much higher. BBC news (2016) points to about 1,000,000 from the Eastern Mediterranean, 800,000 from Western Balkans, and 150,000 from the Central Mediterranean. This international flow of refugees, although recurrent, has not been constant, and has led countries to build walls and close borders (Kunzig, n.d., Saunders, 2016).
Many European citizens disapprove of how the EU is dealing with refugee issues. The most discontented countries are Greece (94%), Sweden (88%) and Italy (77%), which are precisely the countries that are most in need of “relocation” of migrants and refugees (Connor & Krogstad, 2016). To meet this need, Germany has undertaken to accept about 27,000 refugees, France approximately 20,000, Spain approximately 9,000, and Portugal and the Czech Republic almost 4000 each (BBC news, 2016). The United Kingdom and Denmark are not participating in this relocation scheme (BBC news, 2016). But, despite all the efforts of different countries in Europe to support the crisis of migrants and refugees, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) considers that the monetary amount donated by member countries is insufficient (Syrian refugees, 2016). In total, about 7,000 million euros were donated, of which €752,262 came from the United Kingdom and €543,526 from Germany. Countries such as France, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Portugal contributed the least, financially, to this humanitarian aid (BBC news, 2016).
Europe’s practical capacities to accommodate more refugees are very close to their limits (Tiffany, 2016). Most Western countries only get in contact with refugees during conflicts, after which the majority of those return to their countries of origin as soon as they can, whilst some become well-integrated citizens in host countries (Saunders, 2016).
In recent years, there have been profound changes in the European demographic composition, posing significant challenges to the economy and welfare system of EU countries. On the one hand, the EU countries face low birth rates and have an aging population and, on the other hand, the migratory patterns have changed. There is a relatively small number of children (0-14 years old) in European countries, and a growing number of post productive age (over 65). Portugal is one of the countries with the lowest fertility rates at 1.21. Czech Republic has a fertility rate of 1.46 and Denmark 1.67. Notably, the minimum fertility rate for “replacement” (maintaining the same population) is 2.1 children per woman. Thus, the data on ageing of the population indicate significant changes in the age structure of the population in the coming years. It is estimated that, if the population in productive age (from 15 to 64 years old) represents a significant part of the population, in the near future, there may be a marked decrease in the labour market. The Eurostat long-term population projections indicate a reduction in the number of working-age people in the EU by 15.7 million over the forecast horizon of 2016-2060; this is expected to reduce labour supply by 195.6 million until 2060. The decline in the workforce will affect growth and per capita income, with a resulting decline in potential economic growth. This situation will lead to a serious socioeconomic problem, considering that, at present, the working-age group has a level of economic activity below 100%.
Europe has been facing a serious refugee crisis since 2015, as described above, that has become a political and humanitarian problem. Despite the numerous uncertainties regarding the European Union and member states’ strategies to tackle immigration problems and related issues, hundreds of thousands of refugees have continued to flee war and other conflicts or economic problems in their countries and find refuge in European countries. Portugal’s commitment to the European Union is to receive 4,500 refugees, although the political will is to welcome and integrate about 10,000. There are currently 111 institutions available to host refugee families in Portugal, and up to now 65 families have been accommodated, out of a total of 276 people (143 of whom are minors). However, the reception and integration of refugees represents a situation of social mobility characterized by a great diversity of cultural backgrounds, both with regards to Europe and the groups themselves, thus enhancing the difficulties of social and labour integration. There are also issues related to the phenomenon of terrorism that have other implications for approaching displaced populations. Today, European countries are facing the need, and the difficulty, to promote the active reception of socially vulnerable groups of people, of their own nationals and of the foreigner arriving, as to help these persons to succeed to become well integrated and productive members of the society.
Despite the efforts and investment of European countries in education, and the progress made, training and education problems persist and reinforce social vulnerability. The report “European education and training cooperation: new priorities”, prepared in 2015 by the European Council and the Commission, contain important data for reflection on educational issues and social vulnerability, revealing high early drop-out rates and low skilled adults, most of whom are unemployed or inactive.
Over the last few years, the following developments have been linked to the academic situation in the European context:
A significant reduction in the number of people with only basic education;
A significant reduction in the number of people holding secondary education degrees; and,
An exponential increase in the number of people attending higher education.
However, notwithstanding the progress made in recent years, the European situation is still worrying, with population groups, in particularly the adults and young people, who have failed to complete any level of education, including persons characterized by situations more unstable financially and temporarily unpredictable. According to European Commission data, at the end of 2015, there were more than 5 million young people without any full educational level in the European Union, and about 3.2 million in the Eurozone countries. In the particular case of migrants, there are serious educational inequalities, with the group often having a higher probability of dropping out of school (e.g., Belgium, Austria).
In European countries around 20% of young people between 25 and 34 years of age have completed higher education, with 30% in Portugal, 28% in Germany and 22% in the Czech Republic, whereas the EU target is of 40 % to be achieved by 2020. Alongside this situation, the labour market is characterized by the creation of new jobs that require highly skilled employees, with the (hard and soft) skills necessary to perform new tasks and to participate in an international work environment. Although the labour market is dynamic, and predicting the necessary skills and knowledge can be challenging, it is clear that matching the labour market’s present and future needs will be achieved only by a strategic focus on developing human capital through constant investment at both the levels of initial training and of continuous education, encouraging and supporting lifelong learning. Without investment in education, individuals will be at a disadvantage in obtaining/maintaining these jobs, and organizations will lack a qualified labour force with impact on economic growth and capacity to compete successfully, innovate and ensure less harming effects of economy on the environment and society as a whole.
The labour market situation is quite different in the various European countries. Unemployment reached, in 2015, 9.4%, with Europe accounting for 28 countries (Pordata, 2015), and around 10.8% if we consider only the Eurozone. These statistics generally indicate that one out of each ten people is unemployed. For example, in Portugal, the most severely unemployed population includes women over 45 years of age, with a low level of education, looking for new jobs from the services sectors, and looking for work for 12 or more months. In 2015, according to data from Pordata, the average unemployment rate in Portugal was 12.4% of the working-age population, while in the Czech Republic, the average number of unemployed people has been decreasing, representing 5% of the working-age population, that is, between 15 and 64 years.
In recent years the unemployment situation appears to be becoming particularly acute for young adults. On one hand, there are countries where the unemployment rate in the 15–19 age group is extremely high (e.g., in the Czech Republic only 4.5% of people aged 20 or under were employed in 2015 – Pordata). On the other hand, there are other countries (e.g., Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria and Germany) where it is quite common for this age group to be particularly active in the labour market, with employment rates between 25.5% and 51.6% when the average employment rate in Europe accounting for 28 countries is 15%. People within this age group are often employed in contexts consistent with their qualification, and in which they can develop their skills and acquire financial sustainability/economic independence. A report from the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training in 2012 (Cedefop, 2012) foresees that there will be a return to job growth across Europe over the coming years due to improvement in the economic outlook. Furthermore, with a slightly growing population of the EU going from 510 to 517 million in 2060, the population of Europe will also be older. It is important to find ways of finding young adults to replace retiring workers. One of these ways would be to integrate the unemployed into the labour market.
High unemployment rates generally perpetuate cycles of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. In addition to the unemployment situation, it is important to note the existence of a specific group within this population which corresponds to “underemployed” or “not fully employed”, and who are generally in this situation due to three conditions. On the one hand, they may have an excess of academic and/or professional qualifications vis-à-vis the professional proposal presented to them. On the other hand, they may accept involuntary part-time work, since they would like to be able to work full-time, but due to various constraints (e.g. lack of professional opportunities), only part-time opportunities are offered. And yet another reality is hidden unemployment, in which the worker is not fully occupied, for legal or social reasons, and is only requested seasonally. The underemployment situations have been increasingly maintained in Europe through strategies used for certain work-groups, such as employing young graduates on the grounds of allowing them to gain work experience, employing women with the argument that they facilitate family-work conciliation, and employing immigrants and refugees on the grounds that their qualifications obtained in the country of origin are not in line with the performance of the duties in the host country. Any of the conditions behind the “underemployment” situation leave the person in a situation of great social and professional vulnerability.
According to the Joint Report of the European Council and European Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (2015), published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the development of new skills and lifelong learning opportunities for the European workforce has faced several issues: one in four adults in Europe is caught in a low-skills trap—a situation that limits access to the labour market, while simultaneously closing avenues to further education or training. Only 4.4 % of the 66 million adults with at best lower secondary education attainment participate in adult learning; early school leaving now stands at 11.1 %. While good progress has been made towards the common Europe 2020 headline target, there are still more than 4.4 million early school leavers across Europe, and about 60 % of these are either inactive or unemployed, which means higher risks of social exclusion and lower civic engagement.
Policies tackling unemployment and integration are mainly focused on getting adults into work rather than ensuring a good match between labour market needs and the skills available in the person in question. This disparity causes problems. It places the individual in a position of not being able to meet the requirements of the labour market, and the company does not acquire the work force that it needs. Hence, we do not meet the employment objectives. Reaching employment objectives is important, as we need to create a Europe that makes full use of the skills of its citizens, new and existing. The “Tackling Unemployment while Addressing Skill Mismatch” Cedefop 2015 Report suggests various approaches to solve these challenges. We can either address this dual objective by tacking a preventive approach or by addressing it directly and changing the situation that led to the unemployment of those already in a situation of exclusion from the labour market. The focus is on looking at unemployed young adults, including migrants and refugees, who, for different reasons, are excluded from the labour market. The problem for these groups of people is that, when they eventually do enter the work force, they find themselves unemployed shortly after, due to not being able to match the needs of the company for better qualified persons.
In its recent Report “The Future of Jobs”, published 18th January 2016, the World Economic Forum lists the top 10 non-formal skills, in addition to a certain educational level, that will be increasingly needed in the labour market until 2020: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgment & decision-making; service orientation; negotiation; and, cognitive flexibility.
Therefore, unemployed low-skills adults need more than specific and formal training; this is why we aim at contributing to this target group’s career development by identifying, recognizing and transferring the individual’s skills. The mentors, advisors and trainers that take part in the training or job matching process will ensure the coherence and adequacy of adult learning by improving the coordination between the labour market developments and the capacity of the (adult) education and training policies to respond to the new labour needs, ensuring in this way a good governance and synergies amongst education and labour market policies.
Several studies point out that the ability to make use of soft skills determines whether or not employment efforts will be successful. It has become apparent that industry specific training and practical skills development cannot stand alone, thus focus needs to be on both hard and soft skills. In addition to efforts made to develop professional skills, it is necessary to contribute to the successful integration into the labour market by finding a way to develop and acquire soft skills and to aid the unemployed through the process of change, thereby helping the individual deal with and find a way through the transition phases, from unemployed to employed and subsequent retention. In order to fit into a 21st century labour market, it is also important for today’s generation of workers to possess and apply 21st century skills, amongst the most important being adaptability, self-efficacy, creative thinking, and problem solving.
In order to improve opportunities, we need to ensure that the adult workforce, especially in the group of unemployed young adults and migrants and refugees aged 18-30, join the workforce while being prepared in the best possible way for the workplace of the 21st century. If the true goal of the training is to find a relationship between the development of skills and the integration in the labour market, the training should not be limited to the development of specific technical skills but also cover how to develop transferable skills that empower and enable the trainees to better perform at work and keep their jobs.
In short, there are many situations like those analysed above that limit the access of individuals to effective educational, training and professional paths and, as a consequence, interfere with their personal, academic/professional, family, social, and community achievement. In this way, their integration into society is compromised. This results in socially vulnerable populations, resulting from very diversified life experiences, which require differentiated interventions by the end users who approach them and, of course, policy measures that foster opportunities for success in the construction and implementation of life projects of their own.
Understanding social justice
Social justice encompasses the adoption of a diversity of actions and laws, favouring equal access of citizens to resources and opportunities irrespective of sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, or other factors. It seeks to ensure that society aims at organizing itself to improve the lives of individuals, satisfying their physical and psychological needs, in a fair, total and egalitarian way, thus favouring the realization of the individuals’ full potential (e.g., Bell, 1997; Fouad, et al., 2006; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Helms, 2003; Herr, 2001; Herr & Shahnasarian, 2001; Irving & Malik, 2005; O’Brien, 2001; Watson, 2010; Young, 1990).
At present, different areas of knowledge, such as psychology, social service, sociology, and economics, have invested in the development of actions aimed at eradicating inequalities in society (Vera & Speight, 2003) through the development of new theories and practices that contradict the uniform, normative, and Eurocentric vision of society. In the particular case of vocational psychology, the questions of social justice applied to the construction of life projects are rooted in the work of Frank Parsons (1909), within the framework of his theory of vocational adjustment (Blustein, 2006; Fouad, Gerstein & Toporek, 2006). He expressed concern that the theory and practice of career counselling may exclude, even if unintentionally, a significant proportion of the population, including people from non-dominant populations such as young people, women and poor people (McMahon, Arthur, & Collins, 2008).
Almost 100 years later, many voices are raised in defence of the application of social justice notions to overcome the limitations in supporting the construction of life projects (e.g., Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Leong & Hartung, 2000), in particular with regards to people who drop out of school early, the unemployed, the underemployed, and all those who, because of distinctive characteristics of the normative population, have a quite conditioned access and mobility in education and employment (Sampson, Dozier, & Colvin, 2011). However, despite the growing recognition that it is a “moral imperative” (McWhirter et al., 2005, p.215) to overcome differential access to support services for building life projects, these voices have had little echo in Western society. For this reason, despite the emergence of some conceptual proposals in this area, practical and proven resources for promoting social justice are scarce (Arthur, Collins, McMahon & Marshall, 2009; Barham & Irving, 2011; Irving, 2011).
In this regard, it should be noted that support for the construction of life projects occurs mostly with youngsters, young adults and adults, of medium or medium-high socio-economic level, with medium or high academic results or relatively comfortable professional situations. In addition, this type of service occurs precisely in scholar and/or professional contexts, at critical moments of the vocational development. In this way, a very high percentage of people are excluded from this type of support because they do not share the characteristics of the target public, nor are they in the usual circles where it is typically made available. People with differential access to opportunities, resources, and values are often at risk of being marginalized, and their access to the construction of meaningful life trajectories is limited, especially with regard to their academic and/or professional pathways. Their cycle of exclusion is thus perpetuated, since education and employment are considered central means to ensure social justice (Fouad et al., 2006; Hargrove, Creagh, & Kelly, 2003).
Authors such as Blustein, McWhirter and Perry (2005) point to an urgent need to change the focus, abandoning a “denunciation approach”, in which there is only a recognition that the needs of all the people living in our communities are not currently being adequately met. Instead, they defend the need to adopt an “annunciation / articulation” approach, in which the principles of social justice, in relation to social, political and social reforms in society (Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Herr, 2001; Herr & Shahnasarian, 2001) are applied to life, allowing the barriers that hinder an equal distribution of resources and services to be broken down (Arthur, 2005; Toporek & Chope, 2006). However, in order for this new approach to be implemented successfully, the end users working in this field must be prepared to expand their knowledge, skills, roles and levels / type of intervention to support the construction of life projects.
Preparation of different end users to respond to social vulnerability situations
As mentioned under the previous topic, the global demographic, educational and employability changes have implications for the various professionals who work directly with the groups of disadvantaged/vulnerable people, in the context of supporting the construction of their life projects (e.g., Swanson & Fouad, 2010), in particular regarding the need to acquire, train and apply new knowledge, skills, roles, and levels of intervention.
To justify government investment in this area, and as an illustration, the National Career Development Association working group (NCDA) found that people in situations of vulnerability (in particular ethnic and racial minorities) recognized the need to focus on the construction of their life projects. But it also found that these are the people who are less likely to use and / or remain in these services. A possible cause is that the support they receive is not the most appropriate to their present situation of life, either because it is not understood and accepted in its fullness by the professional that assists him/her or because he/she does not feel the advice as pertinent, useful and appropriate to his/her characteristics and problems.
On the one hand, there is evidence that people in situations of vulnerability do not recognize the adequacy of these services in relation to their specific characteristics; on the other hand, the end users who provide these services also recommended the need for complementary training to deal with the new challenges that diversity (gender, racial, ethnic, religious) entails. A recent study developed in Portugal, at the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Lisbon (Pinto & Rebelo-Pinto, 2017), showed that the end users, despite their several years of professional experience, emphasized their needs to review their knowledge, and further participate in training to be able to develop a diverse set of theoretical knowledge as well as core competencies and better expertise in supporting the construction of life projects of their clients (target group).
Studies like this reinforce the findings that training obtained in an academic and professional context prepares the future end-users for an effective performance of their profession, but the almost exclusive focus on normativity raises concerns in situations that are characterised by a need to support the needs of marginalized groups (Jenschke, 2003).
Faced with this situation, an increasing number of authors (e.g., Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Helms, 2003; Irving, & Malik, 2004) advocate the need for greater investment in the development of new policies, new theoretical approaches, and new practical methodologies that ensure adequate services to the new specificities of the different target groups, thus contributing to a fairer and more equitable access. In this sense, there is a need to review the training of end users in order to complement the theoretical-practical training at the micro-level (centred on the individual) that they currently receive, with new ways of thinking and acting at a more macro or systemic level (centred on society) (Helms, 2003; Toporek & Williams, 2006). In fact, it is a moral and ethical imperative that the different professionals who work on issues related to supporting the construction of life projects in vulnerable populations acquire and train knowledge and skills that allow them to develop culturally sensitive and responsive interventions.
Thus, in terms of knowledge, the end users who work in this area would benefits from:
- Being informed about social justice issues, and in particular about the culturally sensitive strategies and resources that contribute to their promotion;
- Being able to master traditional models of support for building life projects, and understanding what their principles are, and how they can be applied to diverse populations;
- Keeping abreast of new theoretical developments in supporting the construction of life projects (e.g. Greenhaus, Callanan, & Godshalk, 2010; Patton, McMahon, & Watson, 2006), and how they can inform their practice with vulnerable populations;
- Understanding that the situation of professionally vulnerable people is not sufficiently well dealt with a traditional individual intervention, and that these clients can benefit from intervention based on an analysis of the potential impact of systemic forces, i.e., influences from various contexts / systems (Arthur, 2005);
- Recognizing clients’ (vulnerable persons’) concerns, and the specific challenges and barriers of this type of intervention, ensuring that their most fundamental rights (e.g., being treated equally) are preserved; and
- Identifying resources and services which, whilst not directly related to education and/or employability issues, can support other areas of life and thus contribute, albeit more indirectly, to the construction of their life projects (e.g., legislation, immigration policies).
In terms of competencies, it is imperative that the end users who work in this area have:
- Specific competencies for intervention in the construction of life projects, from which we can highlight, for example, evaluation of interests, values and competencies, promotion of self-knowledge, promotion of exploration related to formative and professional information, identification and development of life goals, design and implementation of action plans, construction of career portfolios, preparation for job interviews, curriculum writing, recognition of how social, economic, and political circumstances influence the development of life projects, among others;
- General counselling skills, such as knowing how to demonstrate empathy and compassion, respect and care for the client, knowing how to support and encourage by fostering hope and optimism about the future, focusing on the client’s personal and environmental strengths, being flexible in order to incorporate clients’ characteristics and rhythm into the counselling (Sue & Sue, 2007), and promoting their empowerment and autonomy;
- Communication and interpersonal skills, such as promoting a positive environment, using diplomacy and mediation, being able to stimulate motivation, problem solving, creativity, and decision-making, and act as a facilitating change agent (e.g., through reflection, use of open-ended questions, positive feedback, brainstorming, and role-playing); and
- Multicultural competencies, i.e., knowledge and ability to work with specific subjects, variables and cultural groups (Arthur, 2005, Hartung, 2002, Leung & Hartung, 2000) with ethics, sensitivity and honesty, respecting and accepting difference (Arthur, 2005, Toporek & Williams, 2006), and recognizing when their own beliefs and values interfere with the support process that is being provided.
Keep in mind
European context in the 21st century
- About the estimated 65.3 million migrants:
- Most people choose to move from their homes while remaining within their country
- Many seek asylum in neighboring countries
- They tend to turn to Europe for help only as a last resort
- European continent received a total of 1.3 million (1,327,560) refugees in 2015; Germany (over 442,000), Hungary (174,000), and Sweden (156,000) together received more than half of the asylum applications in 2015
- Most Europeans disapprove of how Europe is dealing with refugees issues
- Europe’s practical capacities to accommodate more refugees are very close to their limits
- Low birth rates and population aging in Europe à lead to serious socioeconomic problem, considering that at present the group aged 15-64 has a level of economic activity below 100%
- Changes in migratory patterns à European countries need to promote the active reception of socially vulnerable groups of people, enabling them to achieve a productive integration
- High early drop-out rates, untrained adults, and low percentages of groups with higher education à led to rising number of persons with labour market links more financially unstable and temporarily unpredictable
- Evolution of the characteristics of current workplace needs together with the creation of new job profiles, requiring highly skilled workers à means that constant investment in European human capital is needed, both at the level of initial training and in lifelong learning
- The labour market situation is quite different in the various European countries à whilst a common trend in recent years the unemployment situation appears to be becoming particularly acute for young adults
- There is an important specific group within the population which corresponds to “underemployed” or “not fully employed” persons
- One in four adults in Europe is caught in a low-skills trap
- Coherence of adult learning is needed, particularly improving the coordination of (adult) education and labour market policies à therefore ensuring a good match between labour market needs and the skills available
- Top 10 non-formal skills that will be more needed in the labour market needed by 2020: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgment & decision-making; service orientation; negotiation; and, cognitive flexibility.
Adoption of a diversity of actions aimed at the empowerment of societies/nations, favouring access and use by their members of opportunities, resources, and values, without any kind of advantage or disadvantage, in sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, or other factors.
- Development of actions aimed at eradicating inequalities in society (Vera & Speight, 2003) through the development of new theories and practices that contradict the uniform, normative, and Eurocentric vision of society à “moral imperative” (McWhirter et al., 2005, p.215)
- Very high percentage of people are excluded from this type of support because they do not display the characteristics of the target public, nor are they in the usual circles where it is typically made available à cycle of exclusion is thus perpetuated
- Abandoning a “denunciation approach” and adopting an “annunciation / articulation” approach à the principles of social justice, in relation to social, political and social reforms in society are applied to life, allowing the barriers that hinder an equal distribution of resources and services to be broken down (Arthur, 2005; Toporek & Chope, 2006).
End-users need knowledge about
- Social justice issues
- Traditional models of support for building life projects
- New theoretical developments
- The impact of systemic forces
- Clients’ concerns, and their specific challenges and barriers
- Resources and services that can support other areas of life
End-users’ needed competencies
- Specific competencies for the construction of life projects
- General counselling skills
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Multicultural competencies
 NCDA is a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA)
Purpose and Description
The Live2Work project aims to deliver a useful pedagogical tool for all those involved in the process of building life projects with young adults (between the ages of 18 and 30) in situations of professional vulnerability, including migrants and refugees. Live2Work recognizes the need to understand the characteristics of this target group and, as such, aims to provide end users (e.g., mentors, advisors, trainers) with the knowledge, skills and strategies required for successful intervention in this area using a high-quality and in-depth conceptual framework and a toolbox.
The Live2Work project aims to:
- Train end users (e.g., mentors, advisors, trainers) on the new approach to the construction of life projects among unemployed young adults, migrants and refugees, between the ages of 18 and 30;
- Create/adapt/reinvent tools to support this training, to work with its target group of intervention;
- Promote the use of these tools in interventions with the target group by supporting the identification, acquisition and transfer of competences, developed in formal and non-formal processes of lifelong learning.
These three aims support the ultimate goal of this project: to improve the possibilities of social integration of those who are most professionally vulnerable.
The development of a project of this magnitude, encompassing a number of international partners and experts, and selected to be financed with European funds between 40 projects, presents important requirements both in its conception and in its application. For this reason, it is intended that this intervention proposal be scientifically sustained, empirically validated, and innovative and creative in its approach. The characteristics that best distinguish this project are listed below:
- It is an effective working proposal for broad groups of people with similar needs: it is intended to be administered to young adults (18-30 years), including migrants and refugees, in situations of professional vulnerability (i.e., with a gap between their academic qualifications and / or technical skills and labour market requirements). This target group has a set of personal, professional, social, cultural, political and religious characteristics, quite distinct from each other and from their host countries;
- It can be used by different institutions or users: this project aims to prepare end users (e.g., trainers, mentors, and advisors) from different professional backgrounds (e.g., psychology, social work, education, etc.), to support the construction of life projects of people who are in situations of professional vulnerability. For that purpose, a conceptual framework, a toolbox, a course guide, and a set of resources (such as training activities and educational videos) have been created and are available online;
- It presents a well-organized and well-reasoned scheme of activities that constitute the toolbox. These activities are organized into systems, themes, and competencies to work with the target audience, according to their specific needs as assessed by the end user (i.e., the toolbox is very flexible);
- It can be implemented by the end users to the target group at very low costs: the materials included in the project are made freely available for download in several languages (Portuguese, Danish, and Czech), the necessary information on their use is also accessible, and the end users will receive the necessary training for their correct implementation; in addition, the costs associated with the project derive from the time, resources, energy and effort invested by the end users; and,
- It promotes the dissemination of all its components (theoretical manual, toolbox, application guide, videos) through several online platforms: a Moodle platform for learning, a website for dissemination and presentation/distribution of project outputs, and an internal communication platform between project partners have been created and are available to anyone who wants to try out the project and take advantage of it.
The Live2Work project results from a partnership between eight European entities:
- Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa – Portugal, in the quality of the project’s leader, is a private organization that pursues objectives of social action, provision of health care, education, and culture, and the promotion of higher quality of life, particularly for the benefit of those in greater need of protection;
- Coneqt – Denmark, is a Small and Medium Enterprise whose main focus is innovation in education, producing teaching materials in relation to soft skills development, teaching methodologies, materials development, and online learning (Moodle), innovation, and inter-cultural understanding;
- Spolek PELICAN – Czech Republic, is a non-profit association active in the field of education and culture, based on the belief that one way to improve the quality of education is to raise public awareness of current trends in education and support their implementation in all levels of educational organizations;
- Universidade Católica Portuguesa [Catholic University of Portugal] – Portugal, is a higher education institution that, following the ideal of rigour and excellence in its scientific, educational, and pedagogical activities, prepares students for a demanding society that seeks serious and ethically well-trained professionals;
- Artevio – Czech Republic, is a company specialized in complex web solutions tailored to the client’s needs, whose main goal is to deliver a complex service mix of internet technologies and marketing;
- MYO MindYourOrganisation – Denmark, is a private Consulting organization that supports companies, organizations, and individuals in conducting successful change processes;
- Luminita Angelica BUCUR – ALB Conseil – France, is an SME enterprise that specializes in monitoring, quality assessment and evaluation of education projects in innovative education projects, with a focus on EU-funded projects;
- Instituto Padre António Vieira – Portugal, is a non-profit civic association, recognized as a private social welfare institution and a non-governmental development organization, whose objective is reflection, education and action in the promotion of human dignity, social solidarity, sustainability, development, diversity and dialogue between civilizations/cultures.
The Live2Work project is a Strategic Partnership for EU Adult Education. The project is organized into six intellectual outputs that allow the achievement of the three aforementioned aims:
- Output 1: Development of a manual on the construction of life projects for young adults in situations of professional vulnerability, including migrants and refugees;
- Output 2: Development of a toolbox, composed of materials, activities and exercises, made available online, for use in intervention sessions with the target group;
- Output 3: Development of a course guide, with the general guidelines for a course to prepare end users for the use of outputs 1 and 2 (manual and toolbox), with the purpose of ensuring their quality;
- Output 4: Piloting / in-service training courses, aimed at conducting a pilot study on the manual, toolbox, and course guide, in order to make the necessary changes to its contents;
- Output 5: Online audio-visual learning scenarios, subtitled in three languages (Portuguese, Danish and Czech), which will stimulate the use of the materials of this project through video tutorials (showing how to use the learning system) and promotional videos (briefly outlining what the user can expect from this project and what the benefits of using their materials are); and,
- Output 6: Moodle courses and a learning platform on the website, with a set of interactive materials for online learning, that are easy and intuitive to use.
In addition to these outputs, the project also involves:
- Two training activities: one to introduce the consortium to the methodologies and tools involved in the theoretical models selected to support the intervention about the construction of life projects in situations of professional vulnerability, and another to teach the consortium about the creation and use of online courses through the Moodle platform;
- Three multiplier events: these will consist of workshops aimed at disseminating, testing, evaluating and improving the outputs to ensure that the final version of the intervention meets the needs of their different users. The participants of these events are educators, social workers, and psychologists who work with unemployed young adults, including migrants and refugees; and,
- A final conference at Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon, for which the different partners will organize workshops and a large conference, aimed at public and private institutions, such as job centres, NGOs, and refugee centres, among other entities involved in supporting inclusion, whose purpose will be to make entire project known to the relevant public.
Keep in mind
Since the beginning of the 21st century:
- Social, cultural, technological and economic progress vs increasing situations of social vulnerability = repercussions on personal, family, educational, work, economic, cultural, and political levels
- Challenge: increasing the availability of support services for the development of life projects
- Personal level: diversity of new needs requires the development of skills that enable/promote job market integration
- Professional level: end users face new challenges arising from the uncertainty, unpredictability, insecurity, and instability in contemporary society, and for which their academic and professional background is not always adequate, and can be enhanced by access to innovative approaches and resources.
Live2Work intends to be a useful pedagogical hands-on instrument for all those involved in the process of building life projects with young adults (between the age of 18 and 30), in situations of professional vulnerability. It aims to provide end users (e.g., trainers, advisors and mentors) with knowledge, skills and strategies needed for successful action in this area, using a conceptual framework and a toolbox of high quality and depth.
- Train end users in the approach to the construction of life projects among unemployed young adults, migrants and refugees between the age of 18 and 30;
- Create/adapt/reinvent tools to support this training, to work with this specific target group;
- Promote the use of these tools by supporting the identification, acquisition and transfer of competences, developed in formal and non-formal processes of lifelong learning.
- Working proposal for broad groups of people with similar needs;
- Allows the use by different institutions/users;
- Presents a well-organized and well-reasoned scheme of activities that constitute the toolbox and can be used flexibly, according to the identified needs;
- Allows the implementation by the end users to the target population at very low costs;
- Promotes the dissemination of all its components through several online platforms
- Output 1. A conceptual framework for the construction of life projects for young adults in situations of professional vulnerability, including migrants and refugees;
- Output 2. A toolbox, composed by materials, activities and exercises, made available online, for use in intervention sessions with the target group;
- Output 3. Course guide, with the general guidelines for a course to prepare end users for the use of outputs 1 and 2 in 3 countries with the purpose of ensuring their quality;
- Output 4. Piloting / in-service training courses, aimed at conducting a pilot study on the manual, toolbox, and course guide, to make the necessary changes to its contents;
- Output 5. Online audio-visual learning scenarios, which will stimulate the use of the materials through video tutorials and promotional videos;
- Output 6. Moodle courses and learning platform on the website, with a set of interactive materials for online learning, that are easy and intuitive to use.
 Target group: unemployed young adults (18-30 years old), in a professionally vulnerable situation due to a gap between qualifications and skills, and labour market requirements, including migrants and refugees.
The present conceptual framework is organized in four main parts.
The social, cultural, technological, and economic progress achieved since the beginning of the 20th century has contributed to the improvement of the quality of life of populations in certain regions of the globe. However, the contrast between different population groups—from these and other regions—has been reinforced, and there are still situations of social vulnerability, with repercussions at different levels: personal, family, educational, labour, economic, cultural, and political.
Several international organizations and movements, national and local policies, and institutions from different areas have been called upon to organize themselves to meet the challenge of supporting these groups, with the aim of promoting and enabling their integration and active participation in their communities. For this reason, more and more of these entities seem to be focused on increasing the availability of support services for the construction of life projects for people of different ages, races, ethnicities, levels of education, and professional situations, as these services are a right of any citizen (e.g., Nieto, Pérez-González, & Riveiro, 2011).
However, responding to this challenge involves intervention at different levels and in different areas. On the personal level—of individual support—we must recognize that myriad new needs and requirements that people must deal with arise in the course of their lives. Meeting these challenges requires the development of new skills and competencies; also, situations of vulnerability, often prolonged or recurrent, are associated with a lack of these competences, and reinforce people’s inability to overcome the associated challenges. On the professional level, those who work in the field of information, guidance and advice in the construction of life projects are faced with new challenges arising from the uncertainty, insecurity, instability and unpredictability inherent in contemporary society, and for which their academic and professional background is not always adequate.
The Live2Work project brings a contribution to help to meet these challenges. To this end, it proposes materials and methodologies in a coherent and well-founded structure for intervention with populations in situations of professional vulnerability (specifically young adults between 18 and 30 years old), in order to promote the development of skills for the construction of sustainable life projects.
The present conceptual framework is organized in four parts.
The first part aims to present the Live2Work project with respect to its purpose, general objectives, and distinctive characteristics, as well as to summarize the different stages and outputs developed.
The second part focuses on the social relevance of the project, starting with an analysis and evaluation of the current European context on a set of migration, demographic, educational, and employability issues, and analyses the main understandings on social justice. It also includes a reflection on the current way of training (academic and professional) the different end users that does not always adequately prepare them to deal effectively with the construction of life projects with a public in situations of professional vulnerability.
The third part analyses different theoretical contributions for the construction of life projects in people in situations of professional vulnerability, constituting the conceptual basis of the intervention. Thus, the concepts and principles of the Systemic Theory (McMahon & Patton, 2006; Patton & McMahon, 1997; Patton, McMahon & Watson, 2006), Chaos Theory (Conyne & Cook, 2004), the Ecological Approach (Bright & Pryor, 2011; Pryor & bright, 2007, 2011), and the Career Self-Management Models (Greenhaus & Callanan, 1994; King, 2001, 2004; Pinto, 2010; Noe, 1996) are presented, from which the rationale of the project was constructed, and which inspire its structure.
Finally, the fourth part presents the rationale and structure of the activities that constitute the toolbox an also explain the target group and the end-users.
 End users: those who work directly with the target groups, such as mentors, trainers and advisors.