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Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and Beyond

Comparative Perspectives from the 2015 Würzburg Winter School

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Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer

This volume presents comparisons of adult education and lifelong learning with a focus on educational policies, professionalization in adult education, participation in adult learning and education, quality in adult education, and educational guidance and counselling. The essays are based on comparisons discussed at the international Winter School «Comparative Studies in Adult and Lifelong Learning», held in Würzburg, Germany, February 2015. Sub-topics of lifelong learning were chosen for an in-depth comparison and analysis of the situation in various European countries and beyond.
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A regional perspective on tutorship as a potential lifelong and adult guidance tool

← 218 | 219 →

Nicoletta Tomei

A regional perspective on tutorship as a potential lifelong and adult guidance tool

Abstract

This paper deals with some experiences in professional guidance developed in Tuscany in order to underline the role of tutorship in training and education as a potential lifelong and adult guidance tool. It reconstructs the Tuscan approach to professional guidance by presenting what has been done concerning the services addressed to early school leavers. It links that with the evolution of the concept of lifelong learning and the discussion on the implicit models that underline the concept. Focusing on the importance given to the construction of an integrated lifelong guidance system, the paper tries to highlight as the model of tutoring guidance, put in place for the early school leavers, can be presented as a good practice. The results of the analysis speak of an educational model that, counting on the systemic and distributed conception of tutoring, could be able to answer to the very different needs expressed by early school leavers throughout their experience. Interpreting the activities carried out by tutors working in the Tuscan initial vocational and educational training system in the perspective of lifelong guidance allows us to foreshadow the possibility to build a similar kind of service for those adults who experience critical transitions. The key contribution of the paper consists in the fact that it empowers the perspective of lifelong guidance, presenting an experience that can be a valid alternative to the usual advisory services.

Introduction

This paper deals with some experiences in professional guidance developed in Tuscany. It links those experiences to the important role that guidance has assumed in the context of lifelong learning strategies. The approach followed in this paper focuses on the development of the conception of lifelong learning and the evolution of guidance practices. Reconstructing the transition from a paradigm centered on attitudes to a paradigm centered on the abilities to manage changeable life paths, this paper aims to underline the role of tutorship in training and education as a potential lifelong and adult guidance tool.

The assessment of the functions of tutorship highlights the importance of looking at it through the lens of the contribution that it can provide to build a personality capable of dealing with uncertainty and complex decision-making processes. The experience with tutoring guidance offered to early school leavers ← 219 | 220 → in Tuscany seems to foreshadow the possibility that a similar kind of service may also be effectively provided to adults in transition.

The purpose to project the model of tutoring guidance on the practices in place for early school leavers—rather ambitious for a contribution of this scale—suggests that the limits be specified in advance. The perspective adopted will not comprehensively consider the factual implications of this proposal. It simply suggests that the provision of a well-established guidance service, whose responsibility is shared among different actors, could empower the coping strategies of adults who usually can only profit from advisory services.

The contribution consists of four sections. The first attempts to reconstruct the evolution of the debate on lifelong learning. The second presents the most acknowledged explanatory models to understand the transformation of guidance practices. The third focuses on the role that tutorship plays in educational and training contexts. It also suggests using the model of tutoring guidance in order to re-read the traditional functions of the tutor in the light of an increased importance of guidance activities. The fourth section presents the activities carried out by tutors working in the Tuscan initial vocational and educational training system to show the convergence of theory and practice. In conclusion, some remarks present what Tuscany has done for early school leavers in terms of a good, empowered, and customised guidance practice that can also be extended to the adult population.

Tutorship as a Potential Guidance Tool

In the last twenty years, the paradigm of complexity has emerged in all fields of knowledge. Many authors state that Western society in particular, but more generally all societies in the world, have entered into an era marked by very strong economic and cultural interdependence (Morin, 1990; Beck, 1997, Appadurai, 2001). This rapid technological development, which started in the 1960s, is both a cause and a consequence of the globalisation process that has transformed the contemporary world, making obsolete many of the traditional conceptual models. In a global society in perpetual transformation, the need for individuals and organisations to adapt to changes without losing their identity has meant that a key role was assigned to the education of a personality able to cope with uncertainty. In this perspective, knowledge and learning have become essential dimensions for people to prosper and survive in the global era. ← 220 | 221 →

Lifelong learning and the knowledge society

Rethinking the role that education takes in these circumstances has contributed to the enlargement of the temporal and spatial boundaries within which is possible to situate learning experiences. This rethinking has led to the spread of the concept of lifelong learning (LLL). As Colin Griffin explains, ‘the concept of LLL had evolved, long before the onset of the present context’ (Jarvis, 2011, p. 263). For this reason, placing it in relationship with the concepts of adult, permanent, continuing, recurrent, and lifelong education can serve to illuminate its current meaning.

In general, the concept of adult education encompasses ‘all the ongoing learning processes, formal or otherwise, whereby people regarded as adults by the society to which they belong develop their abilities, enrich their knowledge, and improve their technical or professional qualifications’ in a perspective of full personal development and rich participation in an autonomous and well-balanced social, economic, and cultural development (UNESCO, 1997, p. 1).

Besides this definition, which is shared by Griffin, it is possible to find the concept of permanent education. This term is identified by the author as the first formulation of lifelong learning by the Council of Europe in the early 1970s. This concept ‘advocated the availability of learning opportunities throughout an individual's lifetime’ (Jarvis, 2011, p. 264), and underlined that ‘with respect to cultures, the contents of this permanent education must aim at the development of a critical attitude’ (Council of Europe, 1970, p. 469).

The challenges connected to the possibility of translating into policy this critical perspective have stimulated the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to formulate the concept of recurrent education, ‘as a strategy for lifelong learning that stressed the alternatives and recurring sequence of education and other sources of individual's learning throughout life’ (Jarvis, 2011, p. 263). In Griffin’s reconstruction, the concepts of permanent and recurrent education were finally replaced during the 1980s by the concept of continuing education. The author points out that continuing education ‘constituted a swing away from the radicalism of the concept of permanent education’ and ‘came to be of some significance in relation to the focus on education for workforce formation and employability’ (Jarvis, 2011, p. 265).

The need to recover a conception of education that ‘encompassed elements of both vocational and adult liberal education’ (Jarvis, 2011, p. 266) is, in this perspective, at the base of the spread of the lifelong education idea. In the context of adult education studies, a lot has been said on this concept by those who suggest a close link between educational policy and the discourse on adult education ← 221 | 222 → (Biesta, 2013; Fejes & Olesen, 2010; Rubenson, 2006). As Barros underlines, in an article published in 2012, ‘lifelong education is understood, as an educational project that is continuously inter-relating with the individual as well as the social dimension of education, and is aimed at the construction of a “new man”, and the offer of a humanist collective system of values’ (Barros, 2012, p. 27).

The current concept of lifelong learning contains many of the elements of the ideas out of which it evolved and which have been outlined above. In spite of many common threads, for many authors the conceptual shift from ‘education’ to ‘learning’ points to different educational paradigms that involve the adoption of specific underlying principles. In 2012, Milana reconstructed this shift using OECD documentation. According to her reconstruction, the publication of the report Lifelong learning for all (OECD, 1996) demonstrated that ‘originally intended as a means for personal and social development, the concept (of adult education) today is primarily associated with economic growth and the global competition of nations and geopolitical regions’ (Milana, 2012, p. 45).

The same opinion was expressed by Lima and Guimarães in their work European strategies in lifelong learning: A critical perspective (Lima & Guimarães, 2011). This contribution provides an analytical approach to adult learning and educational policies based on three models. The first of these models is the democratic-emancipatory model. ‘In terms of political-administrative orientations, actions undertaken under this model are noted for the decentralised control of education policy … and for the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the organisations that stimulate ALE actions’ (Lima & Guimarães, 2011, p. 42).

The second model is the modernisation and state control model. It values education in a context of social and economic modernisation for the construction of a democratic capitalist state. It involves a set of centralised processes that are directed at ensuring equal learning opportunities for everyone in the conviction that education has a functional nature. ‘The most striking conceptual elements are related to reducing the field of adult education practice to formal education and to stressing the importance of targeting vocational training at promoting economic growth.’ (Lima & Guimarães, 2011, p. 49)

The most recent analytical model is the human resources management model. This model emphasises the functional nature of education, taking it ‘as an instrument for producing human capital that is functionally adapted to the demands of economic growth and competitiveness’ (Lima & Guimarães, 2011, p. 56). In this scenario, education converts itself into the most attractive investment for anyone who wants to become the master of their own competences. Consequently, a shift in the state’s role from being a service provider to being a service coordinator is ← 222 | 223 → implied by the individual duty to be able to acquire competences on an ongoing basis throughout their live and in all sorts of places.

The critical perspective exposed by Lima and Guimarães highlighting the risk of subordinating adult learning and education (ALE) to a pedagogism rooted solely in economics and management does not allow for affirming that the authors uphold the idea that a hybridism of orientations in educational policy is impossible and even undesirable. At the end of their work, Lima and Guimarães identify the contribution of UNESCO in the construction of a globally structured agenda which links personal, social, economic, cultural, and political development with ALE. In order to appreciate this contribution, a brief overview of the most relevant commitments made during the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) can be appropriate.

The conference, which has taken place every 12 to 13 years since the late 1940s and is based on three organising principles—namely ‘a culture of sustainability, a democratic participation approach, and the inseparability of culture and education’ (UNESCO, 2010, p. 36)—aimed to concretely highlight the crucial role of adult learning and education in meeting current societal challenges. Assuming that ‘lifelong learning—from cradle to grave—is a philosophy, a conceptual framework, and an organising principle of all forms of education based on inclusive, emancipatory, humanistic, and democratic values’ (UNESCO, 2010, p. 37), it commits their participants to pushing forward the recognition of ALE as an important factor conducive to LLL by promoting and supporting more equitable access to learning opportunities. In doing so, it underlines the relevance of well-designed and targeted guidance systems and the role of adult educators ‘as the most important element in quality of adult education’ (UNESCO, 2010, p. 18).

The importance assigned to guidance systems and educators suggests a close link between the functions of guidance and educators’ practices. As Bartlett, Rees, and Watts suggest, ‘guidance becomes intrinsically connected to learning because learning itself becomes an oriented measure to meet the individual needs throughout their lives’ (Bartlett, Rees, & Watts, 2000, p. 73). From this point of view, the interest in lifelong guidance is strictly connected to the understanding of the concept of lifelong learning. Some of the most frequent interpretations of the concept present lifelong learning as the best educational tool to help people adapt to change. The concept is also perceived as a policy to prevent forms of social conflict and a factor of employability and professional promotion. From this perspective, guidance systems and policies have to be seen as a strategic element to guarantee the conditions that enable learners to benefit from relevant and empowering learning programmes. ← 223 | 224 →

Lifelong learning and guidance

In many appreciated contributions on guidance and counselling, many authors insist on the plurality of approaches that characterise the evolution of modern guidance systems. If it is possible to define guidance as an ‘educational process which allows individuals to become self-conscious to progress, in relation with the diverse need of life, in their studies or professionally and following a double purpose of societal and personal development’ (UNESCO, 1970, p. 52), a historical overview can help to identify some of the steps that have produced the current conception of lifelong guidance.

As some authors point out, if the need for guidance is a need intrinsically connected to the developmental dimension of human beings, the interest in guidance, as a social practice, is linked to a specific historical period (Guichard & Huteau, 2001; Di Fabio, 1998; Pombeni, 2005). With the advent of industrial society, traditional ways of life were strongly altered by new production requirements. This meant that the tacit and informal guidance received in the family and in other places of socialisation became less effective. In this period, a series of studies to determine the correlation between individual attitudes and specific professional requirements were developed in order to maximise corporate profits.

Around the 1930s, attitude assessment was considered inaccurate, on the basis of the weight that interests and socio-affective dimensions have in the guidance process. From the 1930s to the 1950s, characterological studies proliferated. The taxonomic work on psychic types helped scholars and researchers focus their attention on subjective experience, individual’s past, and unconscious motivations. Underlining how this clinical-dynamic approach featured guidance practices well into the 1960s, Di Fabio has found that a change of perspective occurred from that moment on: ‘While first efforts were directed to find a psychic structure that fits to a given working structure, now, once the psychic structures are traced we proceed to search within the vast panorama of the professions all the dynamic elements that can meet the needs of the subject.’ (Di Fabio, 1998, p. 13).

In the next phase, which is characterised by an approach to career choice as realisation of self-image, guidance takes the form of vocational development. In this period, studies began to refer to the autonomy of the subject and to emphasise that the results of the guidance process were closely linked to ability: to explore the various possibilities, to crystallise the information collected, and to specify and implement one’s own authentic life project.

With the development of the humanistic approach, the role ascribed to the individual turns guidance actions into an empowering tool for strengthening ‘the capacity to congruently choose in relation to the complexity of the outside and ← 224 | 225 → inside world ‘ (Pombeni, 2005, p. 16). Taking into account the outside world and the ability to congruently choose highlights the importance of the heavy effects of the environment on individual interests and choices.

It seems clear, at this point, that the transformation of education systems has helped shape the current definition of lifelong guidance. From this perspective, lifelong guidance includes ‘all activities that enable citizens of any age, and at any point in their lives, to: identify their capacities, competencies, and interests; make meaningful educational, training, and occupational decisions; and manage their individual life paths in the settings in which these capacities and competences are learned and/or used’ (ELGPL, 2012, p. 13).

Based on this reconstruction, it is possible to make two observations. The first concerns the central role that different forms of work organisation have in structuring the approaches described above (Guichard & Huteau, 2001, p. 13). The second relates to the possibility to identify a series of transversal functions, such as the information, training, and counselling function, within guidance practices.

Tutorship and the Guidance Process in Italy

Although the weight of each of these functions has varied over time within the stratification of the legislation that shaped the different guidance systems in Europe, a brief review of the Italian situation can help to better understand why this paper focuses on the guidance function of tutors.

In a work of 2002, Bonini includes municipal facilities (Informagiovani), trade-union and trade-associations desks, desks aimed at specific user groups (immigrants, women, disabled persons, etc.) in the range of guidance services that make up the Italian system. In addition to these services, she identified employment centres, whose main function is to match work demand and supply, the national resource centres for guidance, established within the euroguidance network, and educational, vocational, and academic institutions (Bonini, 2002). A similar kind of list can be found in Loiodice (2004), a work dedicated to adulthood guidance.

If the presence of some of these services can be easily explained by the information function that they perform with respect to the various users, the fact that the list includes vocational training centres, educational institutions, and university desks for guidance and placement highlights two related things. The first is the role that the training function has assumed within guidance systems; the second is the role that guidance has gained in educational and training contexts.

At the normative level, even if Italy shares a guidance approach related to the lifelong and lifewide perspective, it has historically favoured school-university guidance over professional guidance (MIUR, 2009, 2014). However, the special ← 225 | 226 → attention paid to the professional sector points out the role that the regions have played during the (re)organisation of the vocational training system and during its progressive integration with other training paths offered in the region. In Tuscany, this process of organisation and coordination of training services started with regional law n. 32 of 26 July 2002. The ‘consolidated legislation on education, instruction, guidance, vocational training, and employment’ has enabled a fruitful reflection on the presence of people able to guide individuals before, during, and after their choice of a particular path.

A regional perspective

In this regard, the choices of the Tuscan Region have been geared, in many cases, to the inclusion of tutors in training and guidance services in the region. The reasons for this are related to the fact that tutorship is presented as ‘a complex educational practice, complementary and preliminary to the beginning of a training process, whose specific function is to facilitate the path of personal and professional growth of the subject’ (Baudrit, 2002, p. 7).

The term tutor derives from the Latin verb tutari (intensive form of the Latin verb tueri), which means ‘to care’. This term, used in juridical language, has gradually lost the connotation of protection and dependence of a person from another and has been increasingly associated with educational and empowering practices.

Many of the authors who have examined the subject agree that during the late 1980s, the term has spread on international educational agenda through the cultural mediation of Anglophone educational studies (Van Esbroek & Watts, 1998; Baudrit, 1999; Torre, 2006). In that area, in fact, tutors have been a traditional presence in different contexts such as schools, workplaces, and academia.

Research and studies on tutoring focused on the following lines of investigation: the devices of tutorship, the role and functions of the tutor in various contexts, and the effects of tutoring on learning and personal development. Concerning the first line of research, pastoral care and peer tutoring were the devices which gained more attention among Italian scholars (Torre, 2006; Scardella, 2007; Gemma, 2010). Pastoral care is defined as the educational practice developed in a school environment through which ‘a teacher takes care of a small group of students who follow the path of learning and growth’ (Torre, 2006, p. 8). Peer tutoring means ‘an educational practice through which learners help each other and learn by teaching’ (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989, p. 36).

In the second line of investigation, the most relevant studies on the subject identify the tutor ‘as someone who has a different role than the teacher and who is responsible for following the development paths of learners by providing specific ← 226 | 227 → and customised support to the process of growth’ (Torre, 2006, p. 12). This definition clearly reflects the tendency to interpret the tutor role as a mediating role in formal processes of teaching and learning. However, its presence in contexts in which learning processes take place in an informal way makes it harder to clearly identify its functions and tasks.

Beyond the generic function of support and reinforcement of learning, in initial vocational training the tutor may have a function centred on the coordination of the project, on the development of individual training, and on mediation between the parties involved in the training process (students, teachers, coordinators of the structure, etc.). In in-service training, it is possible that these functions take their place alongside those related to the transfer of skills, the construction of professional identity, and socialisation at the workplace. The function of making connections between classroom training and distance education are typically carried out by tutors who work in the context of e-learning or blended learning (Trevisol, 2002, p. 94).

Piccardo and Benozzo (2006) analyse the role and skills of tutors who are concerned with the training of adults and present a series of metaphors of the profession. These metaphors define the tutor as a coordinator, mediator, motivator, controller and secretary, facilitator, and agent of classroom climate (Piccardo & Benozzo, 2006). In this view, the tutor appears as a multifaceted role whose dominant feature is service.

The same opinion is expressed by Avallone (2006), who affirms that the main task of the tutor is to provide services ‘aimed at guiding and assisting individuals throughout the training process, so as to overcome any inconvenience, to remove potential barriers, and to allow their successful participation in the activities’ (Avallone, 2006, p. 17).

Returning to consider the role of tutors from a regulatory point of view, the Italian university system law identifies three main areas of behaviour that the tutor should foster in individuals: decision-making, autonomy, and responsibility (law n.341 / 1990 article 12 and 13).

Regarding the research on the effects of tutoring on learning and personal development, the brief overview presented above suggests a greater development of the former than the latter. However, as Van Esbroeck and Watts recall, tutorship has often proven to be an effective tool ‘in guiding the subjects, making them capable of autonomously responding adequately to different situations … allowing them to reach a suitable knowledge about themselves and about the environment in which they live in order to evaluate and select the field, the values, and the networks for developing their own life’ (Van Esbroek & Watts, 1998, p. 137). ← 227 | 228 →

The convergence of what emerged from this literature review and the assumption about guidance has allowed some authors to elaborate the concept of tutoring guidance, or in other words to reinterpret the traditional functions of tutors in the light of an increased importance of the guidance function (Gemma, 2010; Pombeni, 2007).

The model of tutoring guidance was introduced in Italy starting from some experiences of the Ri.TMO project, carried out in the Friuli region. In this region, in 2005, tutoring guidance was introduced on an experimental basis in the transition from the first to the second cycle of education. The aims of the experiment can be summarised as follows:

  1. to model good practices of enhanced and customised tutoring
  2. to test in the field the coordination/integration between school and community services
  3. to identify some conditions conducive to implementing tutoring guidance at the local level alongside information and advisory services.

The project, which started from the assumption that enhanced and customised tutoring cannot be completely provided from the resources of school system, activated a service that involved teachers of final classes of the first cycle of education, teachers of the first classes of the second cycle, and operators of regional guidance centres.

According to Pombeni (2007), who was the scientific coordinator of the project, tutoring guidance ‘encompasses all the actions that accompany, enhance, and personalise a learning experience in order to develop the learner’s capacity for self-orientation’ (Pombeni, 2007, p. 29). Because the development of a process of self-orientation implicates different types of guidance activities, Pombeni aims to manage them on the basis of two elements. The first concerns the transversal functions of information, training, and counselling. The second concerns a diachronic reading of the tutoring process. In the table below, it is possible to see the systematisation of the model of tutoring guidance based on the different stages of the process, the needs expressed by learners, and the actions and activities through which the system can respond. ← 228 | 229 →

Table 1: Tutoring Guidance Model (Source: Author’s own)

Phases of the processNeedsActionsActivities
PreparationMaturing conscious choicesCounselling function Activities aimed at enhancing the development tasks and strengthening personal resources and interests in order to actively manage the situation
Information1Develop prerequisites and get informationInformative functionActivities aimed at acquiring useful information to decision-making process
DevelopmentSelf-monitor the process and plan further stepsTraining functionActivities aimed at developing auto-regulation and decision-making skills
SupportSummarise the information gatheredCounselling functionActivities aimed at supporting the decision-making process understood as a moment in which the subject makes personal and coherent commitments to their objectives

From Theory to Practice

This model, although not explicitly mentioned in the planning of regional training and guidance initiatives, appears to be perfectly realised by the setting that the Tuscany region provides for some paths in the initial vocational training system (IeFP).

After law n.144/1999, which imposes that ‘no young person can interrupt their training without having obtained a degree or at least a vocational qualification by 18 years of age’ (MIUR, 2007), the region has begun to reshape the relationship between public employment services, educational institutes, and training agencies who provide vocational training courses.

Through successive adjustments, the regional initial vocational training system (IeFP) took the following structure: ← 229 | 230 →

Table 2: IeFP system in Tuscany (Source: Author’s own).

This structure has increased the role and meaning of integration between the various segments of the system due to the permeability between its pathways. Individuals can in fact leave the vocational institutes to go through a phase of drop-out and then re-enrol in a provincial training course or, vice versa, at the end of the course return into the regional institutions.

Beyond this important aspect, it is possible to talk about the guidance function of tutors only where their presence is overwhelming compared to that of other figures. A brief review of the main figures who provide support to each category of users can help to better understand why the model of tutoring guidance applies specifically to vocational training courses delivered by accredited training agencies at provincial level.

For students who attend vocational institutes, support measures essentially consist of the presence of a teacher-coordinator and the presence of an internship tutor. For early school leavers, in contrast, guidance types vary depending on the path that they choose. Those who choose to begin the process of certification of skills meet mainly operators of local services, while those who commit themselves to re-entering training encounter a series of tutors: namely, the tutor for compulsory education who works in the employment centres, the classroom tutor, the internship tutor, and the external counsellor, who often meets the students in relevant phases of their training. ← 230 | 231 →

Because each of the identified figures contributes to the activities included in the model of tutoring guidance, it is possible to project the model on the tutoring practices which characterise provincial vocational training courses.

Before focusing on the reasons in support of what has been said above, it is necessary to provide a brief description of the pathway followed by people who attend this kind of course. As mentioned earlier, these courses are designed for students who dropped out of school. After being reported by schools to their province, these students are welcomed in the employment centres by tutors for compulsory education. The tutors, after an initial survey phase, involve them in the drafting of a customised growth plan, which includes their participation in training activities. Upon entering the course, students are asked to perform 2,100 hours of training. During the course, the presence of the classroom tutor ensures constant and progressive support. The classroom tutor’s frequent contacts with the internship tutors who follow the students allow for meaningful monitoring of the student’s progress. The requirement to devote a number of hours specifically to the construction of a post-qualification growth plan completes the training programme proposed by the agencies.

Based on this brief description, it is possible to say that the training process of people who attend these courses follows, in its main phases, the moments predicted by the model of tutoring guidance. Moreover, these phases seem to include groups of activities perfectly consistent with the model. Based on Catarsi’s (2004) definition of what is carried out by the tutor for compulsory education, such as the ‘enhancement of personal resources which enable people to be directly engaged in the search of overcoming difficulties’ (Catarsi, 2004, p. 19), it is possible to recognise a certain degree of convergence with the counselling activities proposed by the first phase of the model (Pombeni, 2007). Furthermore, if we include among the activities of classroom and internship tutoring the possibility to ‘stimulate in the trainees a constant reflection on their progress in order to prevent experiences of failure and in order to plan future actions’ (Trevisol, 2002, p. 46), the convergence is once again confirmed. These are precisely the actions that Pombeni proposed from the pilot phase. Without forgetting the importance that the information held throughout the process, the contribution that the counsellor gives through their advice seems to recall in a clear manner the activities that the model suggest in order to facilitate the accountability process held by students (support).

The work done so far allows for some remarks. First, it seems appropriate to point out that the device proposed by the provinces with respect to early school leavers can be seen as a good empowered and customised practice in the perspective ← 231 | 232 → of lifelong guidance. Second, since the experience of coordination and integration between local services is consistent, what is provided for early school leavers in terms of guidance may help identify some conditions conducive to the implementation of similar services geared specifically to adults in transition, for whom guidance often consists only in the possibility to access advisory services.

Without going into the details of the factual implications of this proposal, the operative plan for regional investments of the European Social Fund (POR FSE 2014–2020) seems to offer this possibility, focusing its efforts on the modernisation of labour market institutions (Priority A5 of employability axis) and working on the adaption of lifelong educational services to the current economic and social challenges (Priority C3 of the education and training axis).

From this point of view, operators who provide advisory services in employment centre can collaborate with enterprises and training agencies in order to provide a form of shared tutoring guidance which accompanies individuals before, during, and after the transition from one path to another.

Conclusion

In the attempt to deal with the guidance function that tutors play in vocational training in Tuscany, we have tried to frame their presence within the regional training system on the basis of a wider discourse on lifelong learning and lifelong guidance. First of all, we took care to highlight the diverse ideas from which the concept of lifelong learning has emerged. We then looked at some analytical models to underline the risks of a purely functionalist definition of learning. At this point, after emphasising the importance of guidance for the construction of an inclusive and equitable system, we reconstructed the different approaches that have followed since the beginning of the century. Based on this assessment, we defined lifelong guidance as the series of activities that ‘enable citizens of any age, and at any point in their lives, to: identify their capacities, competencies and interests; make meaningful educational, training, and occupational decisions; and manage their individual life paths in the settings in which these capacities and competences are learned and/or used’ (ELGPL, 2012, p. 13). Building on this definition, we finally described the Italian system of guidance in order to propose a regional perspective linked to the role that tutors play within the Tuscan system of vocational education and training. After presenting an overview of the main functions associated with the role of the tutor in different educational contexts, the introduction of the concept of tutoring guidance allowed us to explore the experience of the training courses that provinces offer to early school leavers. The concluding proposal of this work was elaborated on the basis of the European ← 232 | 233 → Social Fund’s operative plan for regional investment, focusing on the possibility to offer what has been provided to early school leavers (e.g. shared tutoring guidance) to the adult population to extend guidance services to adults, who often only have access to advisory services.

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1 This phase can be thought as a recurrent steps of the process.