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What the career centres are?

Career centres have operated as organizational units of higher education institutions for several years, whereas some of them for over one hundred years among others in Great Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada and Australia, countries where the free market economy has existed for ages. That is where career centres cooperate closely with university colleges. In nineties the idea of creating career centres spread over the other European countries among others Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Poland.

History of career services

First such units were formed in Great Britain at prestigious and significant university colleges after the World War II under the name Career Services. That time university colleges did not demonstrate great interest in the situation of its students and graduates. However, when the higher education gained the status of mass education, it was necessary to establish special institutions, which helped graduates take up work in their profession. British career services for many years of their activity gained high standards of services, thanks to which they got a strong position in the system of employment. One should pay attention that English word career means not only a professional success, but also simply professional development, by offering a placement either for the cleaner or bank manager. At present these institutions deal above all with career promotion of students and graduates of university colleges, help them to enter the labour market by career advisory and outlining their further career path, which is based on psychological tests conducted by career advisors. What is more, career services duty is to cooperate with companies, their domestic and foreign branches, foundations, all sorts of associations and be involved in the nationwide statistical research on graduate career paths. Career services provide support to students, while graduates are referred to the national system of career counseling, so called job centres. The British network of job centres, Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, is in charge of collecting and organising information on specific professions and employers. The HESA agency at the Ministry of Education runs statistics on the British graduate employment level classified into specific professions.

Career Services in Europe

The Ministry of Education in Finland made a decision to create career services at all university colleges. They are an integral element of the structures of universities and until recently were financed by the ministry. It is essential that the amount of financial resources and subsidies for universities, allocated by the ministry, depends on successes and achievements of graduates on the labour market as well as employment rate. While, one of the main tasks of Finnish career services, apart from career advisory and helping graduates, is just setting these rates and controlling graduates’ career path. Hence, there was a need to establish these units.

Activity of career services in Germany is based rather on informing than advising. German student of non-vocational fields of studies i.e. biology, geography, history or philosophy has a duty to do the semester or annual internship as well as fast typing and computer vocational course. For that purpose these university units, which help graduates find a job and offer students courses of all kinds of vocational training and courses as well as cooperate closely with employers, were appointed.

Career services in countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Poland are covered by many EU educational programmes concerning career guidance. Their major priorities are to facilitate entering the labour market as well as level professional qualifications. Thanks to the notable European Union financial support every year, these units have great opportunity of extending the scope of their activity.

Career Services in Poland

Within the economic changes in Poland being a result of the transformation from the central to free market economy, the level of unemployment increased dramatically. Demanding labour market and gradual increase in the number of students in the country caused the university diploma to be insufficient to provide a satisfactory employment. There was a need to create the institution that would help students and graduates begin their active working life on the more and more competitive labour market. The structure and activity of the first Polish career centre followed British patterns. It was established in 1993 by the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun. John C. Franks, the head of the job centre of the University of Hull, gave technical support to the entire initiative. As a result, the agreement with that province job centre was concluded, thanks to which they established a unit of a wide area of action aiming at finding employment for graduates. At the end of the nineties there was a rapid development of university colleges. Thanks to the EU TEMPUS-PHARE Programme and the initiative of the universities in Great Britain and Amsterdam as well as the National Employment Office and the Ministry of National Education eight new institutions of this type came into existence at another universities in 1997. At first the European Union’s supported the project only by training programmes conducted by EU experts. Employees of Polish job centres could attend foreign trainings and workshops. With result of it was conclusion of a contract with the local province job centre, what the unit was created about the sweep of action, aiming towards finding employment for graduates thanks to. While the basic costs of i.e. employee’s remuneration, premises and equipment were carried (and are until today) by the National Employment Office and competent institutions in each of provinces. A year later an All-Polish Network of Career Services was appointed. It is an informal partner structure associating over 100 career services in Poland currently. Its main tasks are to create a model of a specialised job centre and to work out standards of its functioning as well as to promote the very idea of such institutions in the academic environment, individual and group career guidance, to inform students and graduates about the opportunities on the labour market and possibilities of establishing relations with employers. Next, in 2002 a competition within the ‘First job’ project was initiated by the Ministry of Labour. Subsidies to create and develop newly established career services were a win. Thanks to the whole initiative many other institutions like these came into existence.

At present there are over 170 academic career services in Poland, dealing with the career guidance. Most of them are located in the major centres of higher education among others Warsaw, Cracow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lublin, Kielce. Not only a significant increase in the number of these units but also in their specialization has been recorded in the recent time. More and more offices are offering support to students of specific field of study and disabled students.

Mission of career services

Career services function above all as a connection between students and graduates of higher education institutions. Moreover:

  • provide information about the labour market: recruitment procedures, qualification requirements regarding offered jobs for candidates, possibilities of improving professional qualifications and language skills, trainings at home and abroad;
  • acquire job and internship opportunities in and outside the country;
  • run career guidance for students and graduates in group sessions and individually; on the basis of psychological tests determine their suitability to perform work on a given position as well as help to establish their career path;
  • teach self-presentation: advice on how to introduce oneself to the employer best, prepare the curriculum vitae and letter of application, successfully handle an interview;
  • build databases of employers as well as students and graduates in order to select potential employees with abilities and skills corresponding employers’ requirements most;
  • monitor career action and achievements of graduates on the labour market, and inform university colleges about the observed tendencies on the labour market and needs of forming the education profile required on the labour market on the basis of the collected data and statistics;
  • organise meetings of students and graduates with employers i.e. conferences, seminars, presentations of companies on the university premises, job fair;
  • promote the image of the university colleges in and outside the academic society;
  • promote the idea of career services and their establishment at other university colleges.

Career services offer help to:

  • students and graduates searching for career advice and information about the situation on the labour market;
  • employers looking for ideal candidates for the offered job opportunities and internships;
  • university colleges investigating the functioning and procedures of education system on the basis of the data collected via career services.