Chapter 10 The Making of a Profession

The Development of the Careers Profession in Iceland

In: Career and Career Guidance in the Nordic Countries
Open Access

Abstract

Four elements of the history of guidance in Iceland are described, international co-operation, policy and legislation, the professional association and finally education and training of school counsellors. It is argued that these four elements are needed in the making of a guidance profession in a small country like Iceland. What is unique in this history is the fact that the MA programme in career guidance and counselling at the University of Iceland trains professionals for all school levels as well as different institutions that serve the working population. Another aspect that is quite unique is the legislation on the licensure of the title of educational and vocational counsellor.

Introduction

What fuels the making of a profession? Undoubtedly there is more than one answer to this question, but from the history of the guidance profession in Iceland we can learn that four elements are needed: (1) professional ties with colleagues in other countries; (2) policy and legislation; (3) a professional association of guidance counsellors; and (4) last but not least educated guidance counsellors (Vilhjálmsdóttir, 2016). In this chapter the story of the making of the guidance profession in Iceland will be told with a special emphasis on these four above-mentioned elements. Figure 10.1 shows these four elements of the history of guidance in Iceland. A successful process of professionalisation has all four sides of the “wheel” fully functioning. This chapter will give an overview of guidance from the start in the 1950s until 2009 when a law passed in the Icelandic parliament, on the licensure of the professional title of educational and vocational counsellor.

Figure 10.1
Figure 10.1

The “wheel of professionalisation” describes the four elements in the history of guidance in Iceland

Although the beginnings of guidance in schools can be traced back to the 1950s it wasn’t until a professional association came into existence in 1981 as well as counsellor training at the University of Iceland in 1990 that the profession of guidance counsellors was born. Until then the development of guidance in Icelandic schools was carried on the back of a few pioneers and for long periods nothing was really happening. But the flames lit in the beginning were gradually rekindled.

Important Ties with Foreign Colleagues

Nordic Contacts

The beginnings of educational and vocational counselling or guidance in Iceland can be traced to Nordic co-operation since the first two pioneers in guidance were both trained in Denmark and were in close contact with Nordic colleagues in the 1950s and 1960s by attending workshops and conferences in all the Nordic countries. Furthermore, Danish teachers gave courses in guidance at the teacher training college in Reykjavík. The teachers in the first training course on career education in Iceland in 1964 were Arne Søgård Jørgensen, an inspector in the Ministry of Education in Denmark and a leader in school guidance in Denmark, and Kaj Sørensen, a teacher in guidance at the teacher training school in Copenhagen (Gíslason, 1964–1965; Plant, 2009).

Pioneers

The first two pioneers in guidance in Iceland were Ólafur Gunnarsson (1917–1988) and Stefán Ólafur Jónsson (b. 1922). Gunnarsson started working for the city of Reykjavík as a guidance counsellor in 1950 with a main emphasis on career education for adolescents. Gunnarsson had been trained in Denmark as a psychologist and stayed in contact with colleagues in the Nordic countries (Jónsson, personal communication, September 16, 2010). He published teaching material in career education from 1953 to 1963 and organised successful career fairs both in Reykjavík and in bigger towns around Iceland (Þórarinsson, 1967; Bjarnason & Jónsson, 1960). In an article from 1953, Gunnarsson is quite aware of how underdeveloped Iceland is in the field of guidance:

We are lacking everything in this field [of giving informed guidance to young people]: Adapted tests to test the youngsters and an information office that can give information on the development of the world of work and on occupational opportunities in the future. (Gunnarsson, 1953, pp. 67–68)

In this same article, Gunnarson describes how both Danes and Norwegians are organising guidance activities and he emphasises that they are also aimed at young people in remote and rural areas, something that should have been of interest at that time since half the population (approximately 80 thousand) lived in rural areas or small towns (Hagstofan, n.d.). He concludes by saying that Icelanders should engage in guidance and thereby use the competencies of its people to the fullest.

With the next pioneer, Jónsson, the emphasis in guidance was as before on vocational guidance, but with a stronger personal counselling component (Jónsson, personal communication, September 16, 2010). When Jónsson entered the field of guidance in 1961 the employers in the Nordic countries had had a strong presence in the field of guidance, but gradually the emphasis went from vocational to personal contents in guidance. In his training at the teachers training college in Copenhagen in 1963–1964, he got to know well his teacher, Kaj Sörensen:

This was a man who came straight from the industries into the teachers training college. His role, really, was to be the voice of the industries in career education. This is how I sensed it, but people were by then talking about the pedagogical aspects of career education. (Jónsson, personal communication, September 16, 2010)

In an interview Jónsson describes how guidance evolved from the post-war period to the sixties. After the war there was such shortage of people that the needs of workplaces were the priority in guidance. The emphasis in guidance was on finding jobs for people in job placement centres. Gradually the schools took guidance over and the aim was to educate young people in making career choices and preparing for the future. This development created tension between those within guidance who wanted to attend to the needs of individuals on one hand and on the other those that emphasised the needs of the world of work for manpower. “After 1950, 1955 this developed into attending more to the needs of individuals, their dreams and interests” (Jónsson, personal communication, September 16, 2010). This pedagogical movement within guidance came to the Nordic countries from the U.S. in the fifties, according to Jónsson (personal communication, September 16, 2010).

In 1961–1962 Jónsson obtained a grant from the Icelandic government to travel to Norway and Denmark as well as to North America and other European countries to learn how career education was implemented (Gíslason, 1964–1965). Jónsson started to work as a guidance specialist at the ministry of education in 1964 after his one-year training in Denmark. Jónsson was the author of a teaching material in career education for the age group 13–15 years old that appeared in three editions from 1966 to 1972. From the year 1976 he oversaw the publication a booklet on studies after compulsory education Nám að loknum grunnskóla.

Due to reasons in policy and legislation there was a long period when Iceland did not participate in Nordic co-operation in guidance. The structural changes that resulted from new legislation in 1974 put career education to the side, as will be explained in the section on legislation and policy. In the nineties the Icelandic association, founded in 1981, became a member of the Nordic Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance, abbreviated to NFSY (Nordiska förbundet för studie- och yrkesvägledning). This co-operation renewed ties with both the Nordic countries and the wider world due to the access to IAEVG (International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance). Other important Nordic exchanges happened via NUAS, (Nordiska Universitets Administratörs Samarbetet) where student counsellors at the University level work together. The first international conference in guidance held in Iceland was a NUAS conference at Laugarvatn, 1987 (Félag náms- og starfsráðgjafa, 1987, p. 14). Counsellors working with adults have co-operated with Nordic colleagues via NVL (Nordisk Netværk for Voksnes læring). A network called VALA, a career counselling and guidance programs at higher education institutions in the Nordic and Baltic countries was founded in 2011. Its aim is to increase professionalisation and co-operation between research, practice and policy (Vala, n.d.) (see also Kettunen, Lindberg, Nygaard, & Kardal, Chapter 11, this volume). All of these different Nordic associations and networks have brought important ideas and activities to guidance in Iceland. In fact, the impact of professional associations is much greater than that of individuals since it involves many people and therefore multiplies professional influences.

Contacts with North America

The history of Iceland has been determined by its geographical situation. Ever since the occupation of Britain and the United States of America in World War II, Iceland has had closer contacts with North America than the other Nordic countries. In guidance, the ties to North America have been close since the 1980’s and onwards. This North American influence is visible in the fact that Icelandic counsellors use psychometric tests in their practice, something that most other Nordic guidance counsellors have laid aside a long time ago (see also Einarsdóttir, Björnsdóttir, Lerkkanen, Chapter 12, this volume; Plant, 2009). The tests in use are mainly the Self-Directed Search and an Icelandic version of a Holland interest inventory called Bendill (Einarsdóttir & Rounds, 2007). The Career Adapt-Abilities Scale has also been standardised in Iceland (Vilhjálmsdóttir, Kjartansdóttir, Smáradóttir, & Einarsdóttir, 2012). All these psychometric instruments are used in guidance in Iceland (Sif Einarsdóttir, personal communication, April 17, 2018).

Another important factor in this development of growing ties with North America is of a linguistic nature. Before World War II, Danish was the first foreign language, but with the British and then American occupation, the English language gradually took its place. When the post-graduate training programme of counsellors was founded in 1990 at the University of Iceland, all texts presented to students were in English and nearly all foreign visitors that gave lectures or workshops in guidance were from North America. First in line of these foreign visitors is without doubt Dr. Carol Pazandak (1924–2007) who influenced student counselling at the University of Iceland, had an important role in launching the training of counsellors at the University of Iceland and who trained many guidance counsellors in the Strong Interest Inventory. Dr. Pazandak was a professor in counselling psychology at the University of Minnesota. As an assistant to the president of the University of Minnesota she established an exchange programme with the University of Iceland. The story goes that when in 1981 dr. Pazandak was preparing this exchange programme she asked Guðmundur K. Magnússon the president of the University of Iceland: “Where are the student counsellors?” The answer was: “There aren’t any”. Later that year the first student counsellor Ásta Kr. Ragnarsdóttir was hired at the University of Iceland in half a position. Ásta had received her counsellor training with Dr. Solberg at the University of Trondheim in Norway. Other guests from North America that have had a long-lasting influence in the training of educational and vocational counsellors are Norman Amundson, Vance Peavy, Allan and Mary Ivey, Jeffrey Kottler and Mark Savickas, all prominent in the international field of guidance and counselling and whose methods and theories have been taught in the MA course in guidance and counselling at the University of Iceland.

It is typical of this shift from a Nordic to an American influence that the third pioneer in guidance in Iceland, Gerður G. Óskarsdóttir (b. 1943) was trained at the University of Boston in the early eighties. As a school master in Neskaupsstaður, a small town in the eastern fiords, she launched an intensive career education programme. Óskarsdóttir was the editor of nearly 300 job descriptions using the DOT system from the US. In 1989 Óskarsdóttir became an assistant to the Minister of Education who launched a 2-year program in school counselling. This program resulted in three important outcomes: the post graduate diploma course at the University of Iceland launched in 1990, counselling positions in upper secondary schools were augmented and a guiding policy report was published (Menntamálaráðuneytið, 1991). Without doubt, this ministerial program had a great effect on the development of guidance in Iceland.

Contacts with Europe

The author of this chapter was trained as a counsellor in France between 1983 and 1985 and was director of the counsellor training from 1991. She was promoted to lecturer in 1999 and professor in 2010. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Hertfordshire in England in 2004. As a teacher she has transferred this European background to counsellors in training.

The Icelandic Euroguidance Centre was established in 1996. The Centre has three main objectives: to promote the European dimension of lifelong guidance, to provide quality information on lifelong guidance and mobility and to provide and maintain input to the “Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe” portal. The Icelandic Euroguidance Centre works with the Icelandic Educational and Vocational Guidance Association in providing training, hosting conferences and financial support to the Annual Day of the Counsellor (Dóra Stefánsdóttir, personal communication May 2, 2018).

We have seen in this section that the beginnings of guidance in Iceland coincide with the development in other Nordic countries of a corresponding interest in guidance with an emphasis on career education and guidance in schools (Plant, 2009; Vestin, 1991). In the mid-seventies this development in career education was stopped due to new legislation on compulsory schooling. In the 1980s the contacts in the field of guidance were predominantly from the United States and with a greater emphasis on psychological counselling and psychometrical tests. Contacts were close between the pioneers in guidance and specialists in other countries and these ties were the driving force behind methods and materials in career education in the years before 1974, as well as support from parliament as we shall see in the section on legislation.

Policy and Legislation

The story of policy and legislation in guidance spans a long period of time and it developed anachronistically at the different educational levels of upper secondary school, compulsory school and adult education, something which at times has made the services at the different school levels poorly co-ordinated. Policy and legislation at the upper secondary level can be dated back to the early seventies, but not until 20 years later for compulsory schools. The first legislation on guidance in adult education was in 1997. Only six ministerial reports were written during the period of 1980 to 2007, some of them had no significant influence, whereas two reports had important outcomes.

Legislation on Guidance in Upper Secondary Schools

The first legislation at the upper secondary school level was in the law on vocational education from 1949, postulating that the council of vocational education should provide vocational guidance, occupational information and psychological testing. This legislation was under the influence of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Vocational Guidance Recommendations from that same year (International Labour Organisation, 1949). The ILO recommendations were influential in the development of guidance in Denmark (Plant, 2009). However, no traces of implementation have been found of the ILO recommendations in Iceland, apart from this legislation that seems to have passed unnoticed in the vocational school system. It is not until the early seventies that legislation was passed on school counsellors in grammar schools in 1970 (Lög nr.12/1970 um menntaskóla) and some years later in gymnasiums (fjölbrautarskóli) within the upper secondary school system. This coincided with the establishment of a new type of elective schools at the upper secondary school level where students could make more choices in their studies than was possible in the grammar schools. It was not until 1990, with the governmental 2-year program on guidance, that a regulation with coordinated rules on guidance in upper secondary schools was issued (Reglugerð um framhaldsskóla, nr. 105/1990). In 2008 a legislation was passed that said that all students at the upper secondary school level have a right to educational and vocational counselling by professional educational and vocational counsellors (Lög um framhaldsskóla, nr. 92/2008). It can be argued that with this legislation professional guidance counselling was finally acknowledged by policy makers in the Icelandic upper secondary school. Unfortunately, no regulations exist today on the implementation of guidance counselling in upper secondary school, except for regulations in individual schools that can vary.

Policy and Legislation on Guidance at the Compulsory School Level

The history of guidance starts in the 1950s at the compulsory school level. Although this history is much longer than in upper secondary school, there were periods of stagnation, that need to be explained. From 1950 to 1970 there had been a steady development in career education and Jónsson provided personal and vocational guidance at the ministry (Jónsson, personal communication, September 16, 2010). A positive policy in guidance existed and an important point in this development was a motion passed in 1960 in parliament stating that the “government should see to that possibilities to teach career education in all compulsory schools should be examined” (Þingskjal nr. 601/1960). The bill from 1973 for a new compulsory education school represented a halt in this development. It had contained an ambitious guidance system with a detailed number of 25 guidance counsellors to serve the age group of 13–15 years old students and improvements in career education (Frumvarp til laga um grunnskóla, 1973). But unfortunately, members of parliament cut this guidance system out of the bill. The reasons given in parliament were mainly that this guidance system would cost too much, but also that the bill suggested an overload of specialists and that the reasons behind this system were not explicit (Valdimarsson, 1973–1974; Jónsson, 1973–1974). Another reason that can be added to the ones mentioned in speeches of members of parliament is the fact that in 1973 no body of guidance specialists existed in Iceland and therefore no professional pressure groups. This means that valid arguments were lacking for such a big system change.

A new law on compulsory school was passed in 1974. This new school system no longer had a primary and secondary school level, which means that curriculum in career education was set aside, as career education had been organised for the secondary school level. The position of director of career education no longer existed and what was left in the ministry was a publication of a yearly pamphlet giving information on the upper secondary school system. This change in the school system was such a blow to the subject of career education that today it is provided in only 42% of compulsory schools in Iceland (Erlingsdóttir & Guðmundsdóttir, 2017). This decision in parliament is an example of how a constructive and positive development can be halted, but at the same time it is interesting to see how this occurs, through changes made during the legislative process. It can be argued that the high dropout rates from upper secondary school is in part due to this poor status of career education (Vilhjálmsdóttir, 2010). The conclusion is that this policy from 1974 has had its costs.

For the next 20 years nothing happened in terms of legislation on guidance. Legislation in 1991 and in 1995 states that all municipalities should see to it that school guidance is provided in schools (Lög um grunnskóla, nr. 66/1995, article 42). This legislation meant that the first school counsellors started to work at the compulsory school level around the year 1995. The context in guidance development was now different from the context in the year 1973, as counsellor training began at the University of Iceland in 1990. Henceforth, a group of guidance professionals existed, and implementation of professional school guidance was possible.

The legislation from 2008 on the compulsory school level (Lög um grunnskóla, nr. 91/2008) changed the landscape in guidance again, since it states that all students have a right to guidance, provided by professional school/educational counsellors. This idea originated in Danish legislation (lov nr. 298, April 30, 2003 in Þingskjal nr. 14/2005–2006). No regulations exist for this article in the law. Each school is free to interpret what the right to guidance means in practice. An explanatory note with the article on the right to guidance says: “Instead of defining guidance as a special service, the students’ right to guidance concerning educational and vocational choice is defined” (Frumvarp til laga um grunnskóla, 2007–2008). Nevertheless, it is also defined in the law that certified educational and vocational counsellors should provide guidance and thus referring to a legislation that is unique in the Nordic countries, and in many other countries in the world. This is the legislation on educational- and vocational counsellors that was passed by the Icelandic Parliament on March 30, 2009. According to the law, only those who have been licensed by the Minister of Education can use the title Educational- and vocational counsellor, and work as such. A licence is granted to applicants who have completed education in educational and vocational counselling at a university approved by the Ministry of Education.

Adult Guidance

Guidance for adults mainly takes place at two educational levels, the university level and adult education level, as well as in employment centres.

University level. Student guidance started at the University of Iceland in 1981 with half a counsellor position. In the year 1990 a legislation on the University of Iceland says in article 10: “At the University of Iceland a student counselling centre will have the status of a special university institution”. A few years later the student counselling centre became a part of the administrative body of the University. Unfortunately, the entity of the counselling centre is not mentioned in the University regulations, only the service for the handicapped or what is called disability services. The University of Iceland Student Counselling and Career Centre (UISCCC) has three main sections: academic counselling, career counselling and disability services (Náms- og starfsráðgjöf Háskóla Íslands, n.d.). The main activities in the counselling centre are personal interviews, short courses in study techniques, preventive courses such as on test anxiety and interest exploration via interest inventories. The counselling centre has been successful, since every year at least half the number of students at the university have either been in physical contact at the counselling centre or on the Internet (Hálfdánarson, Matthíasdóttir, & Guðmundsson, 2011, pp. 624–625). Figure 10.2 shows that visits and individual counselling has somewhat declined, probably because the number of students at the University of Iceland has reduced, also shown in Figure 10.2. Currently, only 6.5 positions in student counselling are attached to the University of Iceland Student Counselling and Career Centre (UISCCC) providing academic counselling, career counselling and other services such as psychological counselling, special assistance during studies or/and in exams for disabled students, students with specific learning disabilities, and long-term illness, and Icelandic sign language interpretation (Náms- og starfsráðgjöf Háskóla Íslands, n.d.). The number of students at the University of Iceland is around 13 thousand students, making the counsellor student ratio 1/2000. At the University of Reykjavík this ratio is somewhat better or 1/1200. At the University of Akureyri this ratio is 1/1800 (Sólveig Hrafnsdóttir, personal communication, February 17, 2017).

Figure 10.2
Figure 10.2

Number of visits to the University of Iceland counselling centre and number of students

Adult guidance in employment centres and adult education centres. Guidance in employment centres was established in 1997, as a result of a legislation stating that guidance services should be provided in these institutions. This new development was reflected in changes in the training of guidance counsellors, as we shall see a little further in the section on counsellor education. Today, about 20 educational and vocational counsellors work in employment centres around the country. Their target group are people in search of employment (Hrafnhildur Tómasdóttir, personal communication, May 7, 2018). The aims of the counselling provided by employment counsellors is to “encourage individuals to obtain enhanced self-knowledge, to assist them in identifying where their interest is, what their abilities are and in which direction they should set the course with respect to career development” (Vinnumálastofnun, n.d.).

In the last 15 years a guidance and counselling service has been established in adult education centres. An agreement between the government and the social partners in 2005 established guidance services within adult education centres. Here, low-skilled people are targeted and these services are run by the Education and Training Service Centre in 12 lifelong learning centres around the country. In 2018 around 25 guidance counsellors work in these centres (Fjóla María Lárusdóttir, personal communication, May 22, 2018). These counsellors are central in the process of accrediting prior learning (Haukur Harðarson, 2009). In a study on users of guidance and counselling services in lifelong learning centres, some 68% of users said that guidance had encouraged them to continue their studies and 62% of respondents said that it had enhanced their self-confidence (Vilhjálmsdóttir, Dofradóttir, & Kjartansdóttir, 2011). The counselling services in both employment centres, lifelong learning centres and upper secondary schools were crucial in reacting to the crisis that started in Iceland in 2008, a story that needs to be told.

Professional Association of Guidance Counsellors

A profession has been defined as an occupation that “has gained its status by meeting certain criteria” (VanZandt, 1990, p. 243) or as a group of people acknowledged for their unique skills and services. Their professional skills are based on ethics, professional knowledge, professional training and legislation (Aubrey, 1986). None of these criteria were met in Iceland in 1981 when the professional school counsellor association (Félag íslenskra námsráðgjafa) was founded, apart from the legislation on guidance at the upper secondary school level. The founding members were five school counsellors from upper secondary schools and one administrator from the Ministry of Education (Magnússon, 1991). Although there were only six founding members, the establishment of a professional association was a fundamental step in the professional development of guidance counsellors in Iceland. In the following years, little by little, the work of guidance counsellors became professionalised starting from being quasi-administrators (Napierkowski & Parsons, 1995) to acknowledged specialists.

By the year 1990, there were about 30 members of the association, most of whom were from the upper secondary school level, only about five of them had counsellor training from abroad. By 1996 the association had changed its name to Félag náms- og starfsráðgjafa or the Association of Educational and Vocational Counsellors, since counsellors were starting to work in employment centres. In 2016 the association had 303 members (Félag náms- og starfsráðgjafa, 2016). Although this group was not big, by 1990, it was quite energetic and functioned well as a pressure group (Ágústsdóttir, 2007). From six publications of the association from 1987 to 2016 (Félag náms- og starfsráðgjafa 1987, 1988, 1991, 1997, 2007, 2016) some major themes in the association’s work can be discerned. An overwhelming majority or 64% of the 82 articles are about the practice of guidance, around 21% are about policy, some 8% about the history of guidance and a few about guidance instruments. This shows that the main preoccupation of the association has been the practice of guidance and counselling.

A major contribution of the association is the code of ethics from 2003 and the licensure legislation in 2009, the latter a milestone reached in co-operation with the counsellor training program at the University of Iceland. The association has also been active in in-service training of counsellors, again in collaboration with the counsellor training program.

A definition of the counsellor profession can be found in an article by Francis and Dugger (2014):

Counseling is a vocation that requires individuals to obtain specific, university-based training to acquire expertise in a specialized set of knowledge and skills; confers status and power upon its members; has an established national association through which it establishes a collective identity, communicates professional values, disseminates scholarly research, and advocates for its members; and regulates itself through licensure and a code of ethics. (p. 131)

This definition stresses the importance of counsellor education that will be addressed in our next section, but other criteria in this quotation have been met in Iceland in the nearly 40-year-old history of professional counselling. It is difficult to measure status and power, but it says something that this is the only professional group that works at all school levels and it has social worth, as can be seen from a study where head-masters say that the main tasks of educational and vocational counsellors are of highest importance (Ingólfsdóttir, 2016). The only serious critique of the profession came in an OECD report from 2013 that says:

In Iceland, the OECD team heard that career guidance has often had an academic bias, perhaps because it has been delivered by academically trained teachers with little knowledge and experience of industry. When career guidance services are not available, students rely on informal sources, such as family, which may lack reliability and impartiality. The OECD review team heard that VET has low status, and that student reliance on informal sources may perpetuate this bias – visible in the low enrolment rates for upper secondary VET. The team also heard reports that students did not always have access to career guidance, especially in compulsory schooling. PISA 2006 results show that only 52% of secondary schools had career guidance formally scheduled into the students’ time (OECD, 2010b). A related challenge is that relevant labour market information – for example expected labour market returns for different qualifications, fields and institutions are not available. In the US for example student labour market outcomes are often available by institutions. (pp. 35–36)

This quotation shows that guidance counsellors are criticised for an academic bias, i.e. not attending to the needs of the labour market, but that at the same time they have not been provided with labour market information. These two themes have been on-going in the development of this profession for many decades. Guidance professionals lack career information tools and they are torn between attending to individuals or attending to labour market needs. In a society that has hardly ever known unemployment, this second need is not very pressing. Another theme that has been on-going is the lack of formal career education in school, what is called formally scheduled career guidance in this quotation.

Education of Guidance Counsellors

It is through special university training that a professional group acquires acknowledged expertise and respect (Francis & Dugger, 2014) and the experience from Iceland most certainly supports this view. From 1990 to 2004 the training was a one-year post-graduate program in educational counselling for teachers, educationalists and psychologists. The courses provided had an emphasis on adolescence and learning problems, as well as counselling theory and methods. A second year leading to a MA degree was added to the diploma in 2004. This was an option for those who had the diploma for six years, but since 2010 the counsellor training has been a two-year MA program and the diploma course is no longer available (Námsbraut í náms- og starfsráðgjöf, 2011). This turn of events was a necessary requirement for the licensure of the professional title of educational and vocational counsellor. A substantial research component was added to the counsellor training with the MA degree. In all, this research component is nearly half of the units required for the MA degree. See contents of the current MA program in Figure 10.3.

Figure 10.3
Figure 10.3

Structure of the MA programme in career guidance and counselling at the University of Iceland in 2019

The counsellor training program has tried to adapt to changes in the counselling profession, the greatest one being the expansion of career guidance to unemployment centres and adult education. This means that we are training counsellors for the age groups of 6 to 70, something that is a real challenge and is often discussed at meetings in the department. At times the counsellor training has been provided at a distance. This means that the counsellor training program has been able to serve schools and employment centres in the whole country (Kárdal, 2003). The training of guidance counsellors has had a good and longstanding co-operation with the counselling services at the University of Iceland.

Since 2009 the counsellor program is an independent department that has four faculty members in 2018 and a guest professor from the University of Jyväskylä. Some 400 students have graduated from the program from 1990 to 2018. The research by faculty and students is the foundation of a new field of research in Iceland.

Conclusion

This chapter has mainly focused on the period from 1950 to 2009. Many steps have been taken in the past 10 years, especially in policy-making, design and implementation of ICT in guidance as well as research in guidance.

Overall it can be said that the making of a guidance profession is a saga that has proceeded well, although somewhat slowly, and that as a result the counselling profession has a strong position at all school levels including adult education. The upsides of this story are that policy making has always been from bottom up, i.e. lead by the grassroots, the occupational title of educational and vocational counsellors has been licensured, and educational and vocational counsellors that serve people aged 6 to 70 are all trained in the same counsellor education program, and thus speak the same professional language. But in the upsides, there are downsides, such as weak policy making and implementation of career education for children and adolescents. The licensure is not supported by a demand on educational and vocational counsellors to update their training and it is a challenge to train counsellors for age groups ranging 6 to 70.

In promoting guidance in Iceland, the positive contribution of this group of specialists was underlined, especially in a better functioning educational system. What is interesting here, is how this profession came to exist and gain status. Two types of professionalisation have been identified from within and from above (Evetts, 2003). In the case of Iceland, the former type of professionalisation was a driving force where the small group of specialists gradually became a profession by exercising social group pressure and convincing headmasters and policy makers that with the aid of this professional group the needs of young people for vocational identity and adaptability could be met. But forces, external to the group, such as legislation and policy, were also a necessary condition to the professionalisation of guidance in Iceland.

What can be said, in conclusion, that fuels the making of a profession? In order to take steps forward in this process, all the four elements in developing a profession are needed. In the early 70s two of them were present, contacts with professionals abroad and legislation, but two were lacking, i.e. a professional pressure group and educated counsellors. That is why things came to a halt. At other times, like in the early 90s or by 2007 all four elements were present resulting in big advancing steps in the making of an Icelandic guidance profession. In my country, “kóngur vill sigla, en byr hlýtur að ráða” [The king wants to sail, but the wind must decide] is a well-known saying. It means that even though the leaders have the resolve to move things forward, the right conditions are necessary. The same can be said for the story told here.

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