Youth Vocational Counseling Work: The Redefinition of Duties, the Distribution of Professional Roles, and the Impact of Gender
- Sophie Devineau
The 1960s myth that good vocational counseling means successful youth entry into employment is back in favor and imposing itself on educational policy as an absolute priority during this period of high unemployment. But implementation of these youth career planning and employment policies has largely been delegated to local-level authorities, where interventions now take the form of reticular projects.
This is the context in which we test the hypothesis of a crisis in the work of actors providing youth vocational counseling, program coordinators of various ranks, psychological counselors, and referent teachers working with students.
The methodology for the main study is based on interviews with a range of professionals. A supplementary study analyzed the content of articles in “L’echo des régions”, the magazine of the Association of the Regions of France, from 2010 to 2015.
One finding to emerge from these observations is that the educational system internalizes concerns connected with job openings in occupations, while actors focused on post-scholastic job placement request more general education. This role inversion highlights the main contradictions running through youth vocational guidance. All actors attest to the limitations thwarting their voluntarism as well as to the dilemmas they face. Among the identified obstacles are the individualization of vocational paths and the emergence of case-by-case counseling, the application of the principle of equality to competing strategies, the disorganization of institutions allocated declining financial resources, conflicts of interest in partnerships, devalued courses of study, and insecure jobs. We also observed that the proffered arguments propose handling youth career counseling and entry into employment according to an “emergency response” model. In such a landscape devoid of egalitarian prospects, it nonetheless emerges that the path toward the equality of girls with boys is more open. At the same time, an opposing gender logic appears in the distribution of professional tasks, with particular consequences for women and especially female teachers.
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