The impact of the global financial and economic crisis is still being felt by many countries. Even in those countries where there has been some economic recovery, the recovery in terms of unemployment has lagged behind. In response, the International Labour Conference in June 2009 adopted the Global Jobs Pact (GJP) to assist and accelerate the process of the job-rich recovery, along with balanced and sustainable economic growth. Skills development and employment services constitute priority areas of the GJP. The GJP highlights the critical role of skills development as a means for improving people’s employability, especially for those who lost or at risk of losing their jobs and vulnerable groups. It is critical that the long-term unemployed stay connected to the labour market through skills development; and by improving enterprises’ productivity and sustainability.
The reasons for the slow recovery in employment are widely debated. One critical issue is the challenge of matching the skills that job seekers possess with those required by jobs. A number of countries have experienced peculiar situation in which industries suffer skills shortages and are thus unable to fill vacancies while there is a long list of job seekers who do not have the ‘right’ set of skills to fill those vacancies. The challenge, known as ‘skills mismatch’, is in fact a major skills challenge that has existed even before the crisis, but which has become more pertinent in the context of the crisis. This was also a major issue raised during the ILO-Skills-AP Technical Meeting of the Regional Skills Network in Seoul, 2008.
Many countries have attempted to address the challenge of skills mismatch through greater partnerships between the public and private sectors in making the skills development system more relevant and responsive to the needs of industry. Many countries have strived to achieve active and systematic (as opposed to ad hoc) participation by industry in policy making and the implementation of national skills policies and programs. To some countries, it requires a major change in the mind set to recognize that skills development is no longer simply the responsibility of the government, but rather a common concern and responsibility of enterprises and individuals workers as well. Even though the idea can be accepted, there are many practical issues of ‘how’ to engage industry in terms of effective mechanisms, structures (e.g. industry-led skills body) and incentives.
The public private partnerships in skills development can also take different forms. Partnerships can be forged, for example, in planning and delivering specific training programs; managing training institutions; analyzing current or future skills demands; or developing skills/competency standards, qualifications or training materials/programs. In terms of reducing skills mismatch, employment services play a critical role in providing labour market information and career guidance to job seekers as well advising them on suitable skills training and other programs. As skills mismatch is a common challenge in many countries, the knowledge and experiences gained from various attempts at overcoming the problem is equally rich.
Japan has a long history and has been a leading country in achieving effective public private partnerships in skills development, and making the skills system relevant and responsive. The achievements are manifested through substantial workplace learning programs and joint planning and management of training institutions, just to name a few. These were by no means achieved over night, however, and Japan’s historical evolution in terms of building partnerships is insightful for other Asia- Pacific countries. Under the ILO Regional Skills and Employability Programme.
(SKILLS-AP), the ILO has developed the Regional Skills Network to support and facilitate better cooperation and services to and between Member States on skills development issues. ILO research and technical cooperation projects, carried out globally, also assist Member States in responding to the skills challenge.
Objectives of the workshop
The workshop aims to assist tripartite delegations from selected countries in the region to discuss and find effective ways to develop partnerships between training institutions and industries in making the skills development system more responsive to labour market needs and to reduce skills mismatch.
By the end of the workshop, the participants are expected to have deepened knowledge of:
- issues and causes of skills mismatch, and the role of partnerships in overcoming the issues;
- different approaches in developing partnerships in terms of policy environments, institutional framework and incentives;
- methodologies and experiences regarding anticipating, or analyzing, the industry’s skills demands, and how to go about developing ‘feasible’ systems of labour market information;
- different mechanisms and ways by which skills standards, qualifications and programmes are designed by incorporating the industry’s skills needs;
- issues and approaches in enhancing public and private employment services.
The workshops will share the experiences at both international and national levels, including that of Japan and participating countries. The workshop also provides an opportunity for the tripartite delegation from each country to reflect the sessions together, and discuss among themselves their respective roles in achieving the partnerships and come up with a draft national action plan at the end of the workshop.