1. Introduction

The concept of “guidance” comes from the process that consists in finding the right geographical position of the cardinal points, so that it becomes possible to determine the correct direction to follow. Over time, it has gained the further meaning of a process, aimed at the management of one’s relation and connection with educational, work, and life experience.

The process of “finding guidance” has therefore been part of human history ever since and it has faced changes concurrently with the development of human society. In fact, any social group has been sensitive to the issue of young people’s future and their transition to adulthood, but this same topic has been addressed differently, according to the society’s peculiarities and how industrial culture demanded work to be organised.

The action of “guiding” and “self-guiding”, in this way, has gone along with the entire men’s existence, changing in line with the human society development, because in all social groups the youth future issue and their crossing to the adult age has always been deeply felt; nevertheless, these problems have always been treated differently, concerning the social characteristics and the work organization needs, imposed by the industrial culture.

In ancient society, closed and homogeneous, there were limited possibilities for change and social mobility, and everything was consistently established with traditions. The youth group used to have a life prepared since birth, based on social class, and family used to play the educational and employer roles since all this was passed down from generation to generation. The crossing to the world of adults used to take place early and was limited to the few known activities; originally, elderly people passed on the rules of life, behaviour models and the required skills for the job to young people, while, later, the natural guidance practices, such as observing, assessment, consulting, deciding and finding solutions became the prerogative of parents, that would help sons and daughters find a job, consistently with gender, physical attitudes and social class.
A turning point in guidance was reached within the industrial era since the sudden technological development meant the increase and the differentiation of professional roles and the consequent need for “targeted” integration of young people into the labour market. Because of this change in the production system, the family proved to be less adequate to carry out the task of informing the new generations about the working activity and the interest in the issue of guidance has shifted to the social level, becoming an actual professional practice.

The starting point of the concept of guidance development and its application as social politics tool can be historically located at the beginning of the twentieth century in the most industrially advanced countries, such as the United States of America, England, and France. The evolution of the concept and practice of guiding has been studied by Italian and foreign experts and researchers, that have contextualized this process over time, identifying five steps.

The first step, developed from the early years of the twentieth century, can be defined as “diagnostic-aptitude”, as it aimed at finding the right “profile” of a person that best matches the “profile” of working activity, to “match the right man with the right place”. According to these criteria, human resources were selected and guided to a specific job only based on their physical characteristics and aptitudes, according to an objective survey conducted by a specialist who led the entire guidance process. The priority goal was in fact to determine the coherence between the different requirements for carrying out a work activity and the individual aptitudes, considered measurable, through tests and psycho-technical reagents. This meant to highlight those characteristics that would ensure personal future professional success, supporting, in this way, the industrial society in obtaining greater and greater profits from the productive investment of the workforce.

This approach failed during the Thirties of the twentieth century, due to the affirmation of the next “character-affective” step, which began to highlight the importance of personal interests as the main key to performance and motivation, that have gradually replaced the concept of attitude. According to this approach, it began to be considered as “adequate” for a specific job not only who knew how to do but who found pleasure in a specific job, because he/she was motivated by interests that supported him/her and motivated him/her to act. These new characteristics gave the concept of guidance a psychological facet, focusing on the affective and motivational aspects in the choosing process. The guiding action shifted to form an external perception of personal skills to an inquiry into the psychic dynamics and the internal motivation for a specific activity. Similarly to the previous step, however, this one still was too psychometrical, because the personal interests were inquired through the administration of tests and the involved person still had a passive role and was dependent on the professional, that acted through the administration and reading/interpretation of standardized tools, to combine people and jobs.

The focus was on persons and their personalities to guide them to the job that could better fit their needs. Consequently, in the Sixties, the fourth step, called maturing-personal”, began, referring to the vocational development theory, by Super (1957), who thought that it is possible to identify evolution stages in choosing, that let people decide on future if appropriately supported. This new approach was aimed at achieving subjective decisional autonomy in the designing of their personal life and work projects and, according to this point of view, guidance started to be meant as self-guiding, where subjects were viewed in a central and active role in the decisional process. In this way, the dominant role played by the counsellor was questioned since he had to become a facilitator for subjects, and no longer a decision- maker.

This perspective change was confirmed in the definition of guidance, provided within the UNESCO Congress that took place in Bratislava in 1970, according to which “guiding” meant to “help people become conscious of themselves and educate them to choose process, related to the continuously changing life needs, with a double goal to achieve the full development and contribute to the social progress.

The new concept of guidance led to the introduction, in the early Nineties, of guidance at school as a strategic tool to reduce early school-leaving and school-drop out, enhance educational success, and in general, improve the climate of class.

 The awareness that guidance should not be reduced to the final stages of a study course increased, along with the idea that guidance should become part of the entire scholastic course, so that pupils could self- guide also within the school, choosing a working method, finding the right motivations and attitudes. The main counsellors were teachers of all grades and levels of education.

At the moment the focus is on the so-called model personal-integrated”, which aims at promoting personal development, through the progressive refinement of decision and choice skills. On a practical level, this project of guidance is mainly assigned to teachers, but also with significant support from external experts who have the right competencies.

The primary target is no more only the teenager that is facing a moment of transition, but the entire person. Guidance becomes, in this way, an evolution process, that is continuous and gradual, is related to individual development, that makes us more aware of the world around us. A logical consequence of this conception is the impossibility to realize circumscribed and occasional interventions, and the need for a permanent educational process in which every distinction between scholastic guidance and professional guidance – meant, in the past, as two separated realities and activities, to be developed in different and specific moments has crashed. Nowadays, guidance is conceived as a tool oriented to “life project” building.