3.4 Career guidance and counselling
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In Sweden, career guidance is a part of a broader education and employment initiative and not treated as a political issue of its own. The two ministries involved are the Ministry for Education and Research and the Ministry of Employment.
Public sector education and employment authorities and education providers, normally municipalities, are the main actors responsible for guidance and counselling services. Education and training institutions have the main responsibility for guidance and counselling of learners and students.
Vocational guidance and career planning and educational and vocational information services, available at employment offices, are primarily intended for those outside education and training. All guidance and counselling services of employment offices, however, are also available to students.
The right to counselling without cost is an individual right in Sweden. This comprehensive approach is normally combined with a more targeted approach. This means that specific investments are made on different groups with special needs, such as:
- Neet, young people not in education, employment or training
- Long-term unemployed young people
- newly arrived in Sweden
- young people with special needs.
Access to guidance
Individual access to career and counselling guidance is offered in different ways.
For pupils and students in the education system:
- Guidance and counselling is offered in primary schools, secondary schools, adult education, colleges and universities.
For adults and young adults outside the education system:
Guidance and counselling is offered at career centres and/or counselling centres.
For job seekers outside the education system:
Guidance is offered at Public Employment offices, career centres and/or counselling centres.
Additional access to guidance and the link to the national Youth Guarantee
Sweden has since 2006 had a strategic policy for youth unemployment in line with the Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee. The main main reform of the strategy was the establishing of the Job Guarantee for Youth (Jobbgaranti för ungdomar) in 2007.
The Job Guarantee for Youth is directed towards young people (aged 16–24) who have been unemployed and registered at the Public Employment Service for at least three months over a four-month period.
During the first three months in the programme, the focus is generally on additional access to guidance and career counselling activities, which is comprised of:
- an individual in-depth survey
- career guidance and counselling
- jobseeker activities with coaching.
Guidance in non-formal adult education
There are around 150 folk high schools in Sweden and each of them is independent, which means they are free to decide how to organise career and counselling guidance for students. The schools have given the Information service of the Swedish Folk High Schools (Folkhögskolornas informationstjänst, FIN) the task of handling central counselling and to inform the public about the folk high schools and their courses. The counsellors at the schools have their own network with an annual conference.
Digital guidance and information services
Guidance services through public web services play an important role, and work as a complement to the more general guidance services in Sweden.
Some examples of web services are:
- Utbildningsinfo.se is a website for students, parents and professionals in the field of education
- Studera.nu is a website where people can read and learn more about higher education
- Studyinsweden.se is a website with comprehensive information on higher education for prospective and current international students
- The Public Employment Service provides about 450 descriptions of different professions including interviews, films, etc., on their web site.
Example of guidance offered by a trade union
Saco provides updated information of study choices and studies. The main target audience is students who soon will complete their secondary education. The webapplication 'Professions from A to O' (Yrken A-Ö) contains information about job content, training paths and salary levels.
The web site and report 'Future outlook' (Framtidsutsikter) provides employment forecasts for a selection of university occupations in the next five years, and is also updated annually. 'The art of choosing education' (Konsten att välja utbildning) provides tips and study and inspiration.
Acts, regulations and general guidelines for career and counselling services
The Education Act (Skollagen) regulates the right to career and counselling guidance for pupils in:
- elementary school
- elementary school for students with special needs
- sami school
- upper secondary school
- upper secondary school for students with special needs
- municipal adult education
- special education for adults.
The National Agency for Educations has developed a guide for career guidance (Arbete med studie- och yrkesvägledning) with general guidelines and comments on career and counselling guidance. The guide is intended to provide a basis for school providers when planning, organizing and implementing career and counselling services for students in different schools.
The Higher Education Ordinance (Högskoleförordningen) regulates the right to career and counselling guidance for students in universities and colleges.
The Ordinance with instructions for the Public Employment Service (Förordningen med instruktion för Arbetsförmedlingen), regulates the activities for the Public Employment Service.
Cooperation between government agencies
The National Agency for Education has, since 2014, in cooperation with the Public Employment Service offered a process-education on the topic 'from school to working life' (utbildningspaketet skola-arbetsliv) and how career and guidance counselling may be integrated into the regular curriculum – and thus become a responsibility for the whole school.
The education primarily targets professionals in upper secondary and adult education. The education takes place in close cooperation with regions, counties or municipalities, with universities responsible for the process support.
The education process last from three to six months, depending on the pace desired. Participants are given process support from a university or college on three occasions. Based on the curricula and the work already done at the school, the aim is to develop an educational approach with the theme, school–working life, or to develop a long-term strategy for the schools' systematic work with career and counselling guidance.
Since its inception in 2014, the education package has been held throughout the country for more than 40 training sessions. Interest has been high and both new and follow-up actions are offered and tailored to different regions’ specific needs.
Cooperation between private and public actors
Skolsamverkan (School-collaboration) is a private operator who offers help to regions, municipalities and schools to develop the quality of their career and counselling guidance, and to increase their interaction with the working life. School-collaboration helps operators on the labour market to gain understanding, knowledge and interaction with schools. School-collaboration works on assignments, and initiates and operates projects.
School-collaboration is also responsible for the website Syv.nu, which gathers industries, organisations, official and corporate materials and initiatives aimed at the school's educational and vocational guidance. Syv.nu provides information, inspiration and ideas aimed at guidance counsellors, teachers, other school staff and students.
The funding of career guidance activities within the education system is part of the municipality’s remit. School funding is shared between state and municipalities, but a municipality’s main source of income is municipal tax revenues.
A municipality usually has its own local board of education, or similar, which decides on the allocation of funds between different schools in the municipality. This local body also decides on funds to be allocated to grant-aided independent schools in the municipality. There are no national regulations on how resources should be allocated between schools; each municipality develops its own allocation system, although the systems are quite similar. Often a basic amount is determined for each pupil and on top of that additional resources are added for pupils with special needs, etc.
The government agencies and universities in Sweden are mainly financed through appropriation of the state budget on an annually basis. The funding of guidance activities is part of the total funding.
Universities receive allocations from the Ministry of Education and Research.
The Public Employment Service receives allocations from the Ministry of Employment.
In addition, the Public Employment Service also has the right to distribute financial support to municipalities offering coaching, career and guiding activities according to the ordinance on job guarantee for youths.
Quality assurance of career guidance in Sweden mainly takes place within the educational system. Private actors and municipalities offering career and counselling guidance are free to decide how to evaluate their services.
Upper secondary and adult education
In Sweden, the school providers have the main responsibility for the quality assurance of the education – including career and counselling services. This includes continuously planning, monitoring and developing its educational services.
The state has the overall responsibility for supervision, follow-up and evaluation of the education system.
The Swedish Schools Inspectorates (Skolinspektionen) conducts regular quality assurance of all municipal and independent schools, from pre-school to adult education.
The starting point and the criteria for evaluations is based on the requirements contained in the Education Act. One of the Act’s criterion is that all students should be able to be aware and make informed choices when deciding about continued education and vocational orientation.
In recent years, the career and counselling services provided in schools has been subject to criticism. In 2019, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate reviewed the career and counselling services at upper secondary schools' vocational programmes. The study covered 28 schools throughout the country. The main results showed that:
- The career and counselling services are not sufficiently adapted to the constantly on-going changes in labor market.
- The special characteristics among students in vocational programmes are not given enough attention. For example, the upper secondary school's vocational programmes generally have a high share of students whose parents do not have post-secondary education.
- Teachers teach about occupations and the labor market, but often do not see it as study and career guidance.
All in all, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate states that there is a risk that students will not receive the extensive vocational guidance that they need and are entitled to, in many of the schools they examined. The principals therefore need to take a greater responsibility in developing the career guidance. Special emphasis needs to be placed on the vocational guidance, so it can be integrated into the regular teaching.
The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitetskanslerämbetet) has the government task of evaluating higher education in Sweden. The council evaluates programmes offered by higher education institutions and monitors their quality. Furthermore, the council monitors and reviews how higher education institutions apply the laws and statutes in order to ensure that student’s rights are respected.
Even though it is mandated in the Higher Education Ordinance that students have the right to career counselling and guidance, there is no system in place to monitor and quality assure the services.
The Public Employment Service
The Public Employment Service lacks an effective system to monitor the quality and the results of their guidance and career counselling activities. There are hence, in all probability, local and regional differences within the authority. The differences may relate to resources, priorities, skills and collaboration with the municipality.
At the moment there is no clear basic package that all offices have the ability to offer. Within the authority it has been expressed that guiding efforts are insufficient throughout the country, especially regarding young people and newly arrived in Sweden.
Due to these deficiencies, there is now an on-going mapping process, wherein career and counselling services are reviewed in order to improve parts of guidance services. There is increased focus on identifying soft skills, improving guidance towards studies and the use of digital tools.