1. National survey: Austria

Cross Border Seminar "Hope in times of uncertainty"
National survey: Austria
(by Margit Pichler (University of Teacher Education, Lower Austria) for Euroguidance Austria)

Career choices in an uncertain time

Youth researcher Simon Schnetzer has presented the personal and working worlds of adolescents and young adults in Austria in a study of young persons aged 14 to 39. Far-reaching negative social, economic, and systemic changes are creating fundamentally new long-term life circumstances and career paths for younger generations. The desire for social contact, structure in daily life, and financial security are core issues for 71% of young people. This is shown by the representative study titled Young Austrians in 20211 , which provides a multi-faceted view of the situation and needs of the young generation in Austria. Especially in phases of transition, for example when entering the workforce for the first time, young people feel uncertain and see a lack of prospects.

The importance of a good job was not changed to any great degree by the COVID-19 pandemic. The security of a job comes right after the top three aspects of good employment: a good working atmosphere, fun on the job, and a good work-life balance. However, more and more job decisions are being made based on career and financial security. The five most important factors in the career decisions of young Austrians are career prospects (66%), financial prospects (60%), job security (59%), parents (48%), and school marks and other qualifications (40%). The overall trend has changed in that there is a clear focus on career and financial aspects and job security. A career in and of itself is important for 38% of 14 to 19 year olds. The most important performance motivators are money (55%), fun (37%), and passion (35%). The increasing importance of money is based on two important factors: fear of decreasing prosperity and elevated uncertainty due to crises2.

Youth researcher Klaus Hurrelmann warned about the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which are especially impacting Generation Z in the “critical phase of becoming independent and transitioning into working life” (Schnetzer et al., 2021). Study author Simon Schnetzer described the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as alarming because the financial and career situation of 32% of the young generation has deteriorated as a result. Co-author and life and career orientation expert Heinz Herzceg noted that special focus must now be placed on ensuring the ability to work and pointing out existing prospects. The authors of the special analysis of the study titled Youth and the Coronavirus in Austria3 see a coronavirus scholarship as one possible solution. The goal of this measure would be to have social and community organisations as well as companies and potential startups allow young people to engage in fulfilling activities where they can apply their creative potential and skills – without red tape and in a manner that makes the young people feel appreciated and respected.

Potential consequences for education and career counselling services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and changes in careers and the working world relate to the competences needed by the counsellors on the one hand and the counselling methods and topics on the other. Developments in the current refugee and migration flows also require target-group-specific approaches in counselling methods that go beyond the scope of this article.
1 Study Young Austrians in 2021 (Junge Österreicher:innen 2021), https://simon-schnetzer.com/studie-junge-deutsche-2021/
2 Youth Trends in Austria in 2022 – Update of the Study Young Austrians (Jugendtrends 2022 in Österreich – Update zur Studie „Junge Österreicher:innen“), https://simon-schnetzer.com/blog/aktuelle-trends-junge-oesterreicherinnen-2022/
3 Special Analysis: Youth and the Coronavirus in Austria (Sonderauswertung: „Jugend & Corona“ in Österreich), https://simon-schnetzer.com/blog/aktuelle-trends-junge-oesterreicherinnen-2022/

Counselling approaches in Austria

Not only because of the current crises but also due to the steady increase in the number of education and training options, the specialisation tendencies in post-secondary and tertiary education, and the higher degree of shifting between educational paths, the uncertainty and thus the need for advice is growing among young people at the end of secondary level II (Bliem, 2017).

Key questions about the most important counselling concerns, trends, and challenges in uncertain times were answered in an abif4 study5 commissioned by the Labour Market Research and Career Information department of the Austrian Labour Market Service. According to this study, the “counselling needs of adolescents and young adults with psychological problems or with the need for social-pedagogical intervention” (Taschwer et al., 2020) has increased since 2018. The experts stress that offering easily accessible forms of counselling seems to hold particular potential for success to “align with the lives of the young people and to reach the clients” (Taschwer et al., 2020). Success factors here especially include youth outreach, low language prerequisites, and an open attitude in the design of the content. Pop-up counselling services, for example at sporting events or in shopping centres, facilitate spontaneous and uncomplicated contact with young people and parents. The counselling target group that presents the greatest challenges seems to be those who are neither in the educational system nor the labour market system, the so-called NEETs6 . Young NEETs are reached through the case management approach, where personal development work and individualised counselling are offered before competent education and career advice is provided. The “mandatory education until 18”7 that became law in Austria in 2016 included an important, easily accessible reintegration project that is implemented by the youth coaching team8 . Making contact and arranging appointments via messenger services and social media channels has proven to be effective for e-guidance and is leading to new norms and expectations on both sides of the education and career counselling system. The Austrian Education Counselling Initiative (Initiative Bildungsberatung Österreich) recommends specialisation or the outsourcing of online counselling services to cooperation partners to reduce the adaptation pressure that is placed on counsellors (Taschwer et al., 2020).

4 abif stands for “analyse, beratung, interdisziplinäre forschung”, analysis, advice, interdisciplinary research – https://abif.at
5 https://www.ams-forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/AMS_info_480_-_Jugendberatung_Berufsorientierung.pdf
6 NEET – not in employment, education, or training
7 https://ausbildungbis18.at/
8 https://www.neba.at/jugendcoaching

Online counselling formats

In addition to one-on-one online counselling, group counselling sessions were quickly offered and conducted via video software due to the pandemic. The work for the counsellors was made easier through regular exchanges among team members. Interaction in online group counselling sessions is possible when the boundaries are clear. Using digital collaboration tools such as EduPad.ch and Padlet.com also allows communication to be maintained between education counsellors and clients in times of crisis. The goal is to allow participants to interact with confidence in online formats and to communicate comfortably and work on screen to attain a degree of closeness in human contact (Steininger, 2020).

Counselling methods and topics

After career choice topics (Mosberger et al. 2012) dominated as the theoretical underpinnings of the counselling approaches for a long time, the more flexible working and career worlds have now caused career and personal history examination (Dausien 2011) to grow in importance. In addition to defining the concrete starting point, existing competences and strengths are identified so as to develop stability-promoting strategies and thus a plan with solution approaches. The systemic counselling approach with a focus on solution- and resource-oriented questions “is intended to provide impetus for changing the dynamics of the system” (Götz et al. 2020).

Possible counselling questions:

  • Are there alternatives to the current career situation?
  • How high is the pressure?
  • Where can security be found in the current situation?
  • What is a source of positive feelings?
  • Have I already successfully mastered changes in my life?
  • What are the next concrete steps?

In addition to traditional dialogue techniques such as paraphrasing, mirroring, active listening, reframing, and visualisation to name just a few, methods for identifying competences are being used to a much larger degree in education counselling. This involves methods such as competence balancing9 and competence counselling10 as well as tools such as SkillCards®11 and the Check Your Future12 card set, along with methods for attaining higher qualifications such as the 2030 Vienna Qualification Plan13 .

Acquiring professional competences and qualifications presents a significant challenge due to the rising and changing requirements on the labour market. Experiences in the career and further education counselling centre at waff14 show that the range of counselling topics has increased and that counsellors are required to “more closely monitor the labour market, continuously expand their knowledge of existing and new careers, and deal more intensively with the topic of digitalisation as well as new forms of learning and working” (Barosevcic, 2020).

One instrument for quality assurance in education and career counselling is team intervision (Klabischnig-Hörl/Hammer, 2017). Especially in times of crisis, this method can be a low-resource measure for dealing with stress stemming from professional challenges. The two education and career counsellors Klabischnig-Hörl and Hammer illustrate the many advantages of this method:

  • Even just presenting and verbalising the problem often reduces the perceived burden and brings clarity.
  • The person presenting the case feels like he or she is taken seriously through the inputs and empathy of colleagues.
  • Negative self-perceptions are relativised, and new perspectives can be found.
  • Different options for action and solutions are discussed without pressure to act.
  • All participants profit from the experience and knowledge in the team.
  • Reflection on colleagues’ resources.
  • Competences are expanded within the team.
  • Feedback on the behaviour of the person presenting the case expands the professional toolkit.
  • Positive effect on the working climate.
  • Motivational effect.

9 https://www.noe-kompetenzatlas.at/
10 https://www.noe-kompetenzkompass.at
11 https://www.skillcards.at/
12 https://www.valiskills.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/03_AU_ABIF_Kartenset_CheckYourFuture_23062021.pdf
13 https://www.wien.gv.at/arbeit-wirtschaft/qualifikationsplan.html
14 waff – Vienna Employment Promotion Fund https://www.waff.at/

A number of resources for work in the field of education and career counselling are described below:

Resources for identifying competences and orienting towards strengths

▶ Competence Atlas (Kompetenzatlas)
https://www.noe-kompetenzatlas.at/ The Competence Atlas consists of an individual analysis of a person’s abilities, strengths, and competences. In addition analysing strengths and competences, the Competence Atlas also offers a wide range of further education, counselling, and funding programmes. This offers new perspectives that the participants can make use of.
▶ Competence Compass (Kompetenzkompass)
https://www.noe-kompetenzkompass.at This scientifically-based instrument offers an individual analysis of a person’s abilities and talents and identifies new opportunities and perspectives for each participant. This free online offer that requires no commitment allows users to discover their key competences easily, quickly, and anonymously, and they can then directly contact an education counselling service with the results.
▶ Recognising and using strengths
https://www.skillcards.at/ SkillCards® is a practical, interactive method for identifying and promoting a person’s potential and realising it in a targeted manner. SkillCards® is a “neutral” instrument. It does not measure, but simply identifies. The competence cards are intended to open doors. This promotes creativity, motivation, agency, and the willingness to make decisions. The user comes to a clear understanding of existing abilities and talents. The SkillCards® method is extremely diverse and is thus ideal for the career context. It is especially suitable for:
  • Career and education counsellors as a decision-making aid
  • Trainers as an interactive tool in workshops and seminars
  • “Career orientation” teachers
  • Social workers as an aid in integrating people with a migrant background
  • Young people in clarifying potential careers
  • People re-entering the workforce as an aid in reorientation
▶ 2030 Vienna Qualification Plan
The Vienna Qualification Plan is an overall strategy for offering persons with low qualifications better chances on the labour market. The Vienna Qualification Plan is being supported by the City of Vienna, the Vienna Economic Chamber, the Austrian Federation of Industry, the Austrian Trade Union Federation, the Vienna Chamber of Labour, the Vienna office of the Austrian Labour Market Service, and the Vienna Employment Promotion Fund. The 2030 Vienna Qualification Plan covers four key goals:
  • Young people should have the opportunity to complete education beyond the mandatory requirements.
  • Persons who have only completed mandatory schooling will be given a second chance. They will be assisted in obtaining professional and educational qualifications.
  • Persons with a migrant background will be given support so that they can make better use of their prior educational qualifications on the labour market.
  • Persons with post-secondary education can earn additional degrees and expand their competences for new career opportunities.

Digital transformation resources

▶ AMS further education database – Consult the AMS further education database to find regional offerings on the topic of digitalisation: www.ams.at/weiterbildungsdatenbank
▶ FUTUR – A dialogue with the future: Map of the competences of the future: www.futur.at
▶ Digital competence model – DigComp 2.2 AT; including a competence check for day-to-day digital competences: www.fit4internet.at
▶ The become digital (Werde-digital) initiative for the promotion of digital media competence, including a list of learning offerings: www.werdedigital.at

▶ AMS qualification barometer – the Austrian Labour Market Service provides information about labour market and qualification trends: www.ams.at/qualibarometer
▶ Digital careers: How digital are you? (Digitale Berufe: Wie digital bist du?): https://www.digitaleberufe.at/
▶ Job-Futuromat: Could a robot do my job? (Job-Futuromat: Könnte ein Roboter meinen Job machen?): https://job-futuromat.iab.de/

▶ Digital Austria: https://www.digitalaustria.gv.at/
▶ Research atlas – future technologies (Forschungsatlas): https://forschungsatlas.at/
▶ Fraunhofer Austria: https://www.fraunhofer.at/
▶ Austrian Industry 4.0 platform (Plattform Industrie 4.0 Österreich): http://plattformindustrie40.at

Other education and career counselling resources
▶ Austrian Economic Chamber career database (Berufsinformationscomputer WKO) – www.bic.at
▶ Links to further counselling institutions – such as www.neba.at, www.fit2work.at, https://www.psz.co.at/
▶ AMS method manuals on different topics (career orientation, competences, etc.) - https://www.ams-forschungsnetzwerk.at/deutsch/publikationen/amshandb.asp?first=0&hb=1&sid=808808171

Bibliography (Literaturhinweise)

Barosevic, Milja (2020): „Wie verändern sich Angebot und Nachfrage am Arbeitsmarkt und was bedeutet das für die Bildungsberatung? Tagungsbeitrag auf der 18. Überregionale Vernetzungstagung, Bildungsberatung Österreich. Arbeit... alles anders? Herausforderungen und Chancen für die Bildungsberatung.

Bliem, Wolfgang (2017): Arbeits- und Berufswelt im Wandel: „New Skiils“ für neue Jobs. In: Hammerer, Marika et al. (Hg.): Zukunftsfeld Bildungs- und Berufsberatung. Schwierige Zeiten - Positionierungen und Perspektiven. Bielefeld.

Dausien, Bettina (2011): "Das beratene Selbst" – Anmerkungen zu Bildungsbiografien im gesellschaftlichen Wandel und Strategien ihrer professionellen Bearbeitung. In: Hammerer, Marika et.al. (Hg.): Zukunftsfeld Bildungs- und Berufsberatung. Neue Entwicklungen aus Wissenschaft und Praxis. Bielefeld.

Götz, Rudolf, Haydn Franziska, Tauber Magdalena (2020): Ansätze, Formate und Prozesse in der Bildungsberatung. Online abrufbar unter https://erwachsenenbildung.at/themen/bildungsberatung/begriffsbestimmung/beratung.php, Zugriff am 14.07.2022.

Klabischnig-Hörl, Barbara/Hammer, Jeanette (2017): „Kollegiale Beratung/Intervision“ – ein Instrument zur Qualitätssicherung in der Bildungs- und Berufsberatung. AMS FokusInfo 126, Wien.

Mosberger, Brigtte/Schneeweiß, Sandra/Steiner, Karin (2012): Praxishandbuch. Theorien der Bildungs- und Berufsberatung. Im Auftrag und mit Unterstützung des AMS Österreich. Abt. Arbeitsmarktforschung und Berufsinformation. Wien.

Schnetzer, Simon (2021): Die Studie „Junge Österreicher:innen 2021“. Zukunft neu denken und gestalten: Lebens- und Arbeitswelten der Generation Z & Y in Österreich.

Schnetzer, Simon (2022): Jugendtrends 2022 in Österreich – Update zur Studie „Junge Österreicher:innen 2021“.

Schnetzer, Simon/Herzceg, Heinz/Hurrelmann, Klaus/Leibovici-Mühlberger, Martina (2021): Jugend und Corona in Österreich: Wege aus der Corona-Krise für junge Österreicher im Lockdown.

Steininger, Astrid (2020). Neue Online-Beratungsformate in der „Bildungsberatung Wien“. Tagungsbeitrag auf der 18. Überregionale Vernetzungstagung, Bildungsberatung Österreich. Arbeit... alles anders? Herausforderungen und Chancen für die Bildungsberatung.

Taschwer, Mario/Steiner, Karin/Flotzinger, Michael (2020): AMS info, 480: Bedarfe und Trends in der Bildungs- und Berufsberatung für Jugendliche und Erwachsene. Ergebnisse aus einer Befragung im Auftrag des Arbeitsmarktservice Österreich. Online abrufbar unter https://www.ams-forschungsnetzwerk.at/deutsch/publikationen/BibShow.asp?id=13121&sid=229761527&look=0&stw=ams+info+480&gs=1&lng=0&vt=0&or=0&woher=0&aktt=0&zz=30&mHlId=0&mMlId=0&sort=jahrab&Page=1, Zugriff am 12.07.2022.