Review of the program and educational materials “Next move” - a comprehensive educational program dedicated to personal development and social activity of young people entering the labor market
dr hab. Dorota Podgórska-Jachnik, prof. UŁ Lodz, September 30, 2021
Department of Educational Research
University of Lodz
“Next move” - a comprehensive educational program dedicated to personal development and social activity of young people entering the labor market - is a training proposal aimed at the needs of young people, but the application of the program does not have to be limited to this group of recipients. It combines the area of social and entrepreneurial competences. Therefore, it is associated with support in entering the labor market. And this is the main goal of the authors of the project: they direct the project to young people - young adults entering the labor market and trainers, youth coaches and HR employees who support / can support them in this process. But from a psychological point of view, I see even wider potential related to orientation in the postmodern, more and more complicated socio-economic reality and the development of personal resources conducive to resourcefulness in life / preventing the feeling of helplessness and teaching helplessness. This is a very important context, with the increasingly visible social inequalities in the world and increasing areas of social exclusion. Thus, I would also like to emphasize the more universal nature of the materials produced, not limited only to the age group to which it is dedicated, or to the local context or local contexts of the countries from which the partners participating in the project come.
The authors of the project accurately justify its importance with the need for wise education of young people, adapted to the changing reality, before entering the labor market and in the workplace, and creating conditions conducive to the development of their social competences. I would not put it better and I fully agree with the targeting of the strategy of project activities. The developed tools are subordinated to this: the concept of the program for trainers and coaches, with a methodological support in the form of an e-handbook and scenarios for 30 classes. The handbook introduces the issue well, making the reader aware of the broader context of the needs and goals of the classes, thanks to which the role of the trainers and coaches is not supposed to be limited to a mechanical implementation of the planned scenarios, but allows you to follow the entire process of change. Tips for coaching work primarily refer to the areas related to motivating although they also contain tips on supporting young people already in the recruitment process as well as sample case studies of working with young employees. It should be emphasized that in Poland the area of “employee experience”, highlighted by the Authors of the project, is most often neglected, which translates into potential losses for both the employer and the young employee (here in the whole range of psychological consequences that are difficult to easily estimate).
The handbook is written in an accessible language, although with reference to the standards of the scientific theoretical foundation. It can be used by a trainer or coach, but it can also be used by young people looking for a job as a form of a self-help book. Although it is one thing to read and practice recommendations (the Authors recommend a 30-day training period, and this realistically set by the period for developing new competences), and another to read the recommendations, but it is important for those potential recipients who do not have access to training and trainer or coach. Valuable support in both cases is provided not only by well-developed, imaginative infographics, but also an additional help in the form of scenarios (in a cloud drive), e-flashcards or the "Your move" mobile application, thanks to which we have a didactic process that is modernly planned and packed with useful materials. I think that it is attractive for young people, and each contact with the specific educational application of IT technology increases the freedom in active use of the resources in the search for a job.
The part devoted to motivation concerns, in fact, not only the very process of energetic excitation (involvement) and giving direction, but also managing a young team / team in which there are young people, in order to increase their effectiveness / productivity, not only to increase efficiency, but to obtain self-confirmation in action, which is the best motivating factor. The advantage of the proposed concept is its innovative approach - the material obviously contains such basics as, for example, writing a CV or using social media, but the approach to even these basic tasks is developing through insight into oneself and the nature of the situation related to looking for a job. These are not instrumental, mechanical activities telling you what to write and say when looking for a job, but a personalized process of self-discovery and self-description in terms of specific goals and tasks. I like, for example, the introduction of an element of control over one’s own image on the web (Clean up your e-reputation; How to improve your Linkedin account). Because I work with academic youth, I would also add a small, but very significant, in terms of image, element of work on an e-business card in the form of an e-mail address (although thousands of anecdotes on this subject have already been told, young (and not only young) people still use badly constructed addresses). I do not describe the selected topics in detail - they are in line with the table of contents, well matched to the aforementioned leading topics. The handbook contains very valuable content on competency assessment and management of younger employees, but the needs of adapting it to the workplace / profession, unfortunately, often boil down to job instructions. The project devotes more space to this issue, not only in the form of ad hoc, situational tips, but entire motivational and training strategies, building a bond in the team that also includes employees of different ages. Interesting case studies of young employee management situate all these issues well in specific realities and, most importantly, solutions.
Lesson scenarios, similarly to the content highlighted in the e-handbook, are available in the cloud on the drive.google.com. They are divided into five areas of competence: proactivity, responsibility for entrusted tasks, teamwork, providing feedback and clear expression, expressing thoughts - this is how they are grouped on the drive. Access at the address indicated is hassle-free; the material in the form of 30 scenarios is arranged in five thematic groups. The structure of the scenarios is methodically correct, the headings of the lesson scenarios (purple) and the methodological descriptions of the individual exercises (yellow) are visually differentiated, which perfectly organizes the material and makes it easier for the trainer and coach to use them. The proposed workshops use various activating methods, many original, interesting and, most importantly, non-accidental ideas for exercises. They are methodologically thought-out and subordinated to the objectives operationalized at this level as "detailed results". The scenarios show a picture of attractive classes, run at a good pace, with an understanding of the essence of training work with young people and adults, as well as with the use of coaching methods (they are visible, for example, at the level of formulating questions). I would like to emphasize that it is not easy to plan and describe scenarios whose results depend really on the input of the participants themselves, i.e. they are flexible and leave room for the freedom and creativity of the participants, and at the same time are precisely and transparently constructed. The authors did it very well, mainly due to very well-worded opening questions for the participants. I highly appreciate the methodological level of the extensive, but well-structured, in terms of issues, and internally coherent material. There is also a methodically thought-out relationship between the e-handbook (as I have mentioned, it can be used as an independent material) and the scenarios: the handbook introduces / summarizes the issues contained in the scenarios, and the scenarios, in turn, give a practical overtone to the content contained therein.
The whole material also contains a(n) (auto)diagnostic tool, with distinguished competence areas, analogous to the five thematic groups of scenarios (proactivity, responsibility for entrusted tasks, teamwork, providing feedback and clear expression, expressing thoughts). A rating scale of 1 to 10 (expert level) has been used. The same set of 5 categories is used to select competences for further development after the training; at the same time the obtained difference gives a good indicator for the evaluation of the training. These are not tests with confirmed psychometric indicators, but this is not their role because they serve not objectified, standardized measurement, but directed self-reflection and developing permanent habit of it.
It is a valuable tool. I only have a reservation with regard to the linguistic formulation of the instruction / introductory text. The entire instruction assessed by me in the application https://www.jasnopis.pl/ for the assessment of the text difficulty level is as high as 6 out of 7 (the haze coefficient diagnosing the text difficulty category indicates that “the text is difficult to read for the average Pole”). In addition, the application distinguishes in it such a fragment of the instruction, considered to be different in the level of difficulty from the rest: As a rating criterion, use the achievement of satisfaction in the areas of life that require these competences and the desire for greater ease in life thanks to their possession. Determine intuitively, confidently, trusting yourself, the levels of competence in each of these areas. Put an X in the field corresponding to your assessment of the level of your competences. Contrary to the simple language of the entire e-handbook, the wording of the instruction makes the instruction of the tool available only to educated people, which unnecessarily closes the circle of potential recipients. This is not an objection that disqualifies the tool. From the point of view of the recipient planned in the project, it is okay although it limits the scope of additional applications for other young employees, which could be an added value. And it is enough to think about simplifying the instruction, because the planned self-assessment process itself is not difficult.
I rate the entire program very highly, especially because of the comprehensive approach to a well-thought-out workshop cycle, and not detached classes, which may actually be conducive to shaping useful competences for employment. In my opinion, the program has a great development potential for young people and is based on an accurate diagnosis of the needs of Generation Y, the so-called Millennials (who are also part of the C - Connected Generation). The advantage of the program is its creativity, justified connection with new technologies, good methodological support (also with the use of IT) of correctly constructed scenarios. The culture of efficiency is not treated as a culture based on the exploitation of employees justified by productivity indicators; it is based on the prevention of ineffectiveness justified by the logic of the work culture. In the future, the program could be expanded to include the issue of elements of young people's lifestyle and factors shaping them as determinants of work in the context of human resource management. Lifestyles in each generation are diverse and more and more often young people are making professional choices conditioned by them. From the company's point of view, this area can be defined as diversity management, which also means working in a team that is culturally and linguistically diverse, as well as in a team with people with disabilities. This issue could appear in the future in the work of leaders and HR specialists even if there are currently no such people in the training team. In this way, a mental model is activated that creates a space for social inclusion when such individuals appear. However, it should be assumed that the program may also include young people with disabilities, so it is worth taking care of the accessibility criteria. It is also worth including crisis management issues that prepare a young person for unusual solutions and the need for flexibility in the solutions used. This, for example, played a significant role in helping businesses and employees adapt to the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Young employees most often found their way in it well, mainly due to their digital competences. However, it is difficult to predict what adaptation problems may arise from returning to stationary work for an employee "socialized" in a different reality and how the image of the working environment will change when increasing the scope of using its remote form.
I recommend materials for wide use - I will definitely use it in my own academic work.
(-) Dorota Podgórska-Jachnik
 I highly recommend it for use in creating training materials; can also be used in workshops with young people, as communication skills and recommendations for written / e-mail communication are part of the training.