Everyone wants to join the Union
IN one week in May 10,000 people asked the Government to help them fulfil a dream. They all wanted to work in Europe and rang a new careers helpline to find out how to do it.
The Employ Europe service shows how much easier the advent of the Single Market has made it for young people to work and study in European Union countries.
Careers Europe, the Bradford-based company which runs the helpline, was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment to offer advice on working and training on the Continent. In 1992 all inhabitants of EU countries were given full right of access to employment or education in any other member state.
"We target professionals rather than the public directly," says Mick Carey, Career Europe's manager. "We try and equip the professionals at the front end with the information they need."
Careers professionals who ring the centre's helpline can access its database and be sent fact sheets. Careers Europe is also part of the Euro Guidance Network which exchanges information about jobs across the Continent.
Another system, the European Employment Service or EURES, links UK job centres with their counterparts in other member states.
Job seekers go into local job centres for computerised information about vacancies in other countries. Employers can also use it to recruit workers from abroad.
Tony Raban, director of the Cambridge University Careers Service, said that the EU has also improved British graduates' prospects abroad.
The numbers of UK students getting their first job in the EU is small, but greater than it would have been before the Single Market, which has also opened up opportunities for European placements for young graduates.
Often it is the Britons studying abroad on exchanges who end up getting jobs in those countries. Anecdotal evidence from British recruiters also suggests that they are starting to recruit continental graduates.
"We are beginning to hear comments about how some of the continental applicants are older, more mature, more work experienced with better language skills and they are sometimes just pinching jobs from under the noses of UK graduates," Mr Raban said.
European networks are growing rapidly. "I can pick up a phone to my opposite number at the University of Amsterdam and say 'Dan, I have a student who wants to work in the Netherlands. Can you help?' That would not have been true 10 years ago."
Pat Rederecht, chief executive of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, the agency that supports careers advisory services, said she thought that big graduate recruiters were starting to look to European universities.
There is overseas interest in Britain's dual system of careers advice in schools, says Professor Tony Watts, director of the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling. Teachers in Britain have special responsibility for careers, while consultants offer support, expertise in interviewing skills and labour market knowledge.
Many other countries only have one or other of these systems, so they are intrigued by the strengths of our partnership approach, says Professor Watts. Few European countries offer well-established university careers services, but are starting to do so.
Other countries are also interested in Britain's proposed local partnerships for lifelong learning and upgrading adults' skills.
However, there are clearly many examples of good practice overseas, says Professor Watts. His institute is evaluating The RealGame from Newfoundland which is being piloted in schools. Players assume job roles such as policeman or accountant and then consider the skills and attributes needed as well as the impact of such work on lifestyles, spare time and finances.
"Its very active, fun but also a lot of learning takes place," says Professor Watts.
Britain could learn from the Swedish Infotek model, an information resource centre using the latest technology, says Mick Carey, at Careers Europe. It offers easy access to the Internet, audio-visual and computerised resources and video-conferencing.
Finland and Greece have used British consultants to help set up a university careers services, says Pat Raderecht, of the Careers Services Unit. The education ministries in Sweden and Finland are also funding the creation of institution-based careers services along the UK model.
While Britain clearly has some things to learn from Europe, she says, we have a great deal to learn from the United States which is far ahead in its use of technology, especially the Internet, its willingness to change and its ability to deal with very large numbers of students cost effectively.
INTERNATIONAL CAREERS GUIDANCE CONFERENCE, UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK, AUGUST 4-7