In March 2013, Irina Bokova, Secretary General of UNESCO, and Professor Marek Bojarski, Rector of the University of Wrocław, signed an agreement that set up the international UNESCO Chair of Lifelong Guidance and Counselling at the University of Wrocław. Partner universities which established the Chair include the Institute of Pedagogy at the University of Wrocław, Institut National d’Etude du Travail et d’Orientation Professionnelle (INETOP, France), the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), and the Université de Koudougou (Burkina Faso). The Chair is headed by world-famous Professor Jean Guichard, (INETOP, France).
The initiative to set up the Chair appeared in the context of social, cultural and economic transformations sweeping across the ambiguous and complicated contemporary world. Segmentation of the labour market causes increasingly more people to face prolonged periods of difficulty, which thwart vocational development and preclude decent life. As a result of changes in the work organization systems, employees are expected to display quite different competencies than those demanded of them but a few years ago, which necessitates changes in vocational preparation and training (Guichard, Huteau, 2001). That is why it is so crucial today to ensure equitable access to education to all, implement lifelong learning policies and foster equal opportunities. Education is assisted by supportive interventions provided by career counselling and Life Designing interventions.
Multiple documents emphasise the importance of promoting such developments in social life. The European Commission’s communication titled Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality (2001) regards vocational guidance as a prerequisite of development and implementation of lifelong learning strategies at the national level and as a priority action area for individual countries and united Europe. In the May 2004 resolution Guidance throughout life in Europe, The Council of the European Union endorsed vocational guidance as a significant component of educational, training and employment policies that effectively contributes to the formation of the knowledge society. Education & Training 2010: Success of the Lisbon Strategy Hinges on Urgent Reforms, an interim report on the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, presents vocational guidance as a key factor in creating open, attractive and accessible learning environments. The report insists also on strengthening the role, quality, and coordination of guidance services to support learning across age groups and social backgrounds as well as to make it easier for all citizens to manage their education and career development (Sultana, 2004).
Discussing the role of and challenges to guidance and counselling in the age of globalisation and insecurity, Mark Savickas, Jean Guichard, Maria Eduarda Duarte et al. (2010, pp. 8-9) emphasise that counsellors need to assist their clients in a life-long framework, helping and supporting them in developing competencies indispensable in vocational life and career designing. In such a context, contemporary counselling interventions must help individuals prepare for transitions, support them in coping with transitions, assist them in relocating across „contexts,” engaging with, but also detaching themselves from the roles they fulfil, and in assessing risks and opportunities inherent in these roles (Guichard, 2007). Such interventions are of particular importance in the case of social groups which are underprivileged, marginalised and/or discriminated against. They should target first of all the vulnerable: young people (especially school-leavers without any formal diploma or vocational certification), women (especially those who re-enter the labour market after a break), the elderly and immigrants.
As the UNECSO Chair of Lifelong Guidance and Counselling supports dissemination of education, equal opportunities, creation of open systems and optimisation of educational and vocational choices, it can foster emancipation and social advancement of these social groups. It stands a fair chance of success, especially if it manages to take advantage of the combined effort of multiple research teams which engage in advocacy and activism for removal of social barriers and inequalities (particularly the age- and gender-gender related ones) as well as for competence development and management. It seeks to promote an integrated system of research, lifelong learning opportunities, information and documentation activities in the field of educational and vocational counselling. In this way, the Chair’s operations are inscribed in the priorities articulated and implemented by UNESCO.
The Chair’s activities are supposed to foster reflection on various assistance and support models in lifelong career counselling. This should contribute to propagation of valuable innovations, dissemination of achieved results, implementation of innovative solutions and formulation of recommendations for the further development of lifelong career counselling in a range of geographical and cultural settings.
The UNITWIN/UNESCO scheme under which Chairs are set up worldwide facilitates collaboration of researchers from renowned universities and other higher education institutions from Europe, Africa, Latin America and other regions of the world. Such cooperation of many partners helps transfer knowledge across frontiers, develop innovative education and training programmes for counsellors and launch such services as distant learning based on modern technologies.

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