Career Guidance and Livelihood Planning across the Mediterranean – R.G. Sultana

An academic read aimed at those working in the field of Career Guidance.

This book is a collection of academic essays on the concept and influence of Career Guidance in the lives of those living in the Mediterranean region. Admittedly on first picking up this book Spain, France, and the Mezzogiorno in Italy were the first regions to enter my mind. My ignorance was highlighted when I realised that almost 20 countries span the coast of the Mediterranean; in such a vast area of study a multitude of cultures are brought together. Despite many differences with regard to society, religion and wealth, surprisingly so many of these countries share many of the same challenges; in particular, a soaring youth population, high unemployment amongst young graduates and a reluctance to enter the vocational education and training sector. These themes are recurrent throughout this anthology of studies. The impact of current Career Guidance practice is explored and the question is asked whether improved Career Guidance could have an influence on helping to resolve some of these societal issues?

The questionable relevance of Career Guidance stood out for me as an important theme in this study. Many of these essays mention how Career Guidance theory is based on western psychology, sociology and economy; making it alien to many Arab countries.  The word ‘Career’ doesn’t even have a direct translation in Arabic.  The culture of some MENA countries holds very little room for individualism; a luxury required for career aspirations. Rather the culture is rooted in familial expectations and collective responsibility.  Religion and gender also feature heavily in limiting career possibilities. As a practitioner in the field of Career Guidance, this book forced me to ponder the purpose ‘Career Guidance’ (as we know it) has in such a setting?

Most of the essays highlight a lack of investment in Career Guidance in the studied regions. The quality of training of practitioners is questioned and the limited implementation of Career Guidance is brought to light. This lack of guidance support is especially damaging in countries experiencing a ‘youth bulge.’ A soaring youth population coupled with a very high youth unemployment rate is a major problem in many of the studied countries. A mismatch of training and the needs of the jobs market are to blame for much of the youth unemployment as is the case in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where many highly educated youths have little prospects of work. The question lingers in the subtext whether greater investment in career guidance could have a more favourable affect on this situation?

This book does not make for light reading! It is a challenge to get through this tome but it does hold significance for Guidance Counsellors working in Ireland. I felt very enlightened reading about the Arab countries and I now have a greater understanding of why career prestige is so tied up in their culture. Through reading about other cultures and attitudes to work I have been forced to ponder the way I work with young people of non-Irish backgrounds forcing me to look at careers through an alternative lens.

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