Making informed choices: career guidance in Estonia

Career guidance is an essential part of education in Estonia, starting as early as preschool and continuing throughout all levels of education, with the responsibility lying with local governments and support from the Education and Youth Board.

In Estonia, career guidance starts early. It is provided as both a part of youth work and formal education, beginning in preschool education. Children are encouraged to develop general skills, including career management, social, and self-management skills, which are essential for coping in education, the labour market, and society at large. Career guidance is supported throughout the period of study at all levels of education.

General education

Responsibility for career guidance of children and youth lies with local governments, while the Education and Youth Board supports the development and implementation of national curricula and career education. The national curricula establish the standard for basic and general secondary education, and while they do not dictate the precise actions to be taken by schools to achieve career education goals, schools are obliged to ensure the availability of career-related services. These include career counselling and career information services provided by PES (Public Employment Services) or other means for making career services accessible to students.

Basic and upper secondary school curricula include compulsory central topics, one of which supports pupils’ career planning – ‘Lifelong learning and career planning.’ Additionally, the curricula are accompanied by the syllabi of the elective subject and elective course in careers education, which enhances the use of this possibility in the school curriculum.

Vocational education and training

In vocational education, the new ‘Learning path and working in a changing environment’ module was introduced in autumn 2020, which is compulsory at level 4 (vocational secondary education) and recommended at levels 2-5. This module consists of career topics integrated with entrepreneurship competencies and aims to help students develop their careers in a modern economic, entrepreneurial, and working environment based on the principles of lifelong guidance.

Career development competencies are also developed throughout the course. Emphasis is placed on practice, and feedback from supervisors helps learners understand their studies, set goals and determine the need for development.

Furthermore, vocational educational institutions have the possibility to include career development as an elective subject. Some VET schools have their own career counsellor or educational counsellor who supports learners throughout the learning process, while some invite external professionals from PES or the private sector.

In December 2018, amendments to the Vocational Educational Institutions Act opened up the possibility for vocational educational institutions to carry out choice of profession training. This curriculum mainly focuses on career management skills and their development, with the aim of supporting young people in making decisions about their future education pathway or transition to the labour market.

Higher education

Higher education in Estonia is provided by six public universities and several universities of applied sciences. Career guidance and counselling services are available for both student candidates and current students. The goal is to support students in making informed decisions about their careers and to provide services that help them develop personal life skills and achieve success in the labor market.

Career counselling is available to provide support to students in career planning, making study- and job-related decisions, and developing job-seeking skills. Career counsellors help students in making career choices and career plans, self-analysis, searching and applying for jobs, writing a CV and cover letter, and preparing for a job interview. Both individual counselling and group services are available, involving university staff and external experts. Additionally, student volunteers offer tutoring services to provide guidance and information on various matters, including the study system and student life.

In conclusion, Estonia’s education sector offers comprehensive career guidance services to support students and job seekers in making informed career choices and achieving success in the labour market. From compulsory topics in national curricula to vocational education and training, and even choice of profession training, Estonia’s education system aims to equip its learners with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in their careers.

For a comprehensive overview of the field, refer to the booklet "Lifelong Guidance in Estonia," published by the Estonian Euroguidance which operates in the Education and Youth Board. This article is based on the information presented in the booklet.


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