Earlier this month we took part in the fourth study visit for the AdEIGuS project. This time we were hosted in Slovenia by our partners from LUNG, an adult education centre based in Nova Gorica. The purpose of the AdEIGuS project is to share best practices within the field of adult guidance and our Slovenian colleagues had planned a jam packed agenda to show us the different agencies and programmes which make up the Slovenian guidance system.
Monday started with a trip to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, in order to meet with the national body responsible for careers guidance in the country. The morning’s presentations were a good introduction to the visit, as it allowed us to understand the similarities and differences between the national governance systems in Slovenia and the UK. We then visited BIC (Biotechnical Educational Centre), a local vocational school, for a fabulous lunch cooked by trainees. The school reminded us in many ways of our own local college’s approach to practical work-based learning – with hotel rooms and a restaurant available for paying customers to use. However BIC also has its own wine production department and is in the process of developing a micro-brewery – something that is missing from the UK colleges!
The rest of the week was spent visiting local partners and services based in and around Nova Gorica. This included the local University, Chamber of Commerce and Labour Office. Whilst much of the guidance carried out by these different services mirrors that delivered by our National Careers Service in the UK (workshops, CV advice, help to access training etc.), what was noticeable is that Slovenian advisors are not under the same pressures in terms of the time they can spend with clients. Whereas the targets placed on National Careers Service advisors means that they are unable to carry out as many follow up sessions etc. with people as they would like, the Slovenian system is more flexible. Targets remain but contracts are not so result driven, allowing for advisors to offer a more holistic and flexible service.
Aside from the services and programmes on offer, what was particularly interesting was to see how well connected our Slovenian partners are in the wider national guidance system. Slovenia is a small country of around 2 million inhabitants, meaning it is slightly smaller than the Leeds City Region. However LUNG clearly makes the most of this situation, networking with key decision makers and stakeholders from across the country. The benefits which they are able to reap from developing an engaged network were clear and so provided inspiration for how we might continue to develop our own profile within the West Yorkshire region.
Nevertheless the trip was not all work. We were overwhelmed by the welcome our partners gave us, as they went out of their way to show us the best of Slovenia. As well as time to explore Ljubljana (which is a lovely, small capital with an Alpine feel), we visited the fascinating Postojna caves and the beautiful countryside around Goriška brda (where we also went wine tasting!). However the undoubted highlight of the trip came on Wednesday evening. Our hosts promised us a surprise – what we were not expecting was for a local women’s group to be waiting for us at LUNG, complete with an array of traditional breads and an accordion player. There were folk songs and dancing as we got a real taste of Slovenia’s heritage.
The AdEIGuS project is the first time we have worked with many of these partners and, now that we have got to know them and seen many of their organisations in action, it is proving to be an enjoyable and productive partnership. We learnt lots in Slovenia but the biggest takeaway for us was discovering what a hidden gem the country is – whether it is for work or pleasure we cannot recommend a trip to Slovenia enough.