Skills and employment policies should be viewed together. The full value of one policy set is realized when it supports the objectives of the other. For investments in education and training to yield maximum benefit to workers, enterprises, and economies, countries’ capacities for coordination is critical in three areas: connecting basic education to technical training and then to market entry; ensuring continuous communication between employers and training providers so that training meets the needs and aspirations of workers and enterprises, and integrating skills development policies with industrial, investment, trade, technology, environmental, rural and local development policies.
Anticipating and building skills for the future is essential to a rapidly changing labour market. This applies to changes in the types and levels of skills needed as well as in occupational and technical areas. Effective methods to anticipate future skills needs and avoid potential mismatches include: sustained dialogue between employers and trainers, coordination across government institutions, labour market information systems, employment services and performance reviews of training institutions.
The world of learning and the world of work are separate but linked. While one involves learning, the other produces goods and services. Neither can thrive without the other. Strong partnerships between government, employers and workers help ensure the relevance of training to the changing needs of enterprises and labour markets.
Matching skills to labour market demand requires reliable sectoral and occupational information and institutions that connect employers with training providers. Sector based strategies and institutions have proved effective in engaging all stakeholders in promoting both pre-employment training and life-long learning.
Labour market information is an essential component in helping countries generate, update and disseminate knowledge on current and future skills needs. Public Employment Services play a critical role in providing career guidance, vocational counseling, and access to training and job-matching services. Private employment agencies also play an increasingly important role in matching workers to training and jobs, and improving labour market functions.
A great deal of effort is required to make sure that skills development systems deliver both the quantity and the quality of training needed. Factors that are critical to supporting these aims include: initial training, in-service learning, and working conditions for teachers, trainers, and directors of training institutions and master craftspersons to take on apprentices; up-to-date training courses, methods, facilities and materials; combining classroom- and work-based training through formal apprenticeships and other learningships; and, involving stakeholders in setting standards and assessing training results.
Skills development can be viewed from a life-cycle perspective of building, maintaining and improving competencies and skills. A holistic approach to skills development encompasses the following features: access to good basic education; development of cognitive and core skills, including literacy, numeracy, communication, problem-solving and learning ability; and, availability of continuous training opportunities targeting adult and older workers. Systems to improve recognition of attained skills across occupations, industries and countries improve the employability of workers, reduce labour shortages, and promote good working conditions for migrant workers.
Access for all to good quality education, vocational training and workplace learning is a fundamental principle of social cohesion and economic growth. Some groups of people may require targeted attention if they are to benefit from education, training and employment opportunities.
This is particularly the case for disadvantaged youth, lower skilled workers, people with disabilities, and people in rural communities. The attractiveness of vocational education and training is enhanced when combined with entrepreneurship training and when public policies encourage utilization of higher skills by business.
Women represent both half of the world's population – and half the world's economic potential. Their participation in the labour market reduces poverty because they often invest 90 per cent of their income in the well-being, education and nutrition of their families. Yet labour force participation by women has stagnated at about 55 per cent globally since 2010. Moreover, women are disproportionately represented in precarious work – low-paid, low-skilled and insecure jobs.
Training plays an important role in the pursuit of equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men in the world of work. Yet women often lack access to technical and vocational education and training. Many also lack the basic functional skills, such as literacy and numeracy, to participate meaningfully in the work force. Overcoming this challenge requires the adoption of a life-cycle approach. This includes improving girls’ access to basic education; overcoming logistic, economic and cultural barriers to apprenticeships and to secondary and vocational training for young women; and meeting the training needs of women re-entering the labour market and of older women who have not had equal access to opportunities for lifelong learning.
Youth make up 25 per cent of the global working-age population; yet their share in total unemployment is 40 per cent. Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed as adults. Disadvantaged young people are at higher risk of marginalization and social exclusion than other youth.
Skills development is a primary means of enabling young people to make a smooth transition to work. A comprehensive approach is required to integrate young women and men in the labour market, including relevant and quality skills training, labour market information, career guidance and employment services, recognition of prior learning, incorporating entrepreneurship with training and effective skills forecasting. Improved basic education and core work skills are particularly important to enable youth to engage in lifelong learning as well as transition to the labour market.
Quality apprenticeships based on robust social dialogue and public-private partnerships can improve employment prospects for young people while developing high level skills identified by employers as necessary for growth and increased productivity. Both informal and regulated apprenticeship systems are important learning resources enabling young people to overcome the work-inexperience trap, gain new and enhanced skills and recognized qualifications.
Upgrading informal apprenticeships and expanding regulated ones is a cost-effective way to invest in a country’s skills base, promote economic growth and enhance the employability of youth.
Of an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities in the world today, some 785 million are of working age. While many are successfully employed and fully integrated into society, most face a disproportionate level of poverty and unemployment. This is a massive loss both to them and their countries. A strategy of including people with disabilities in training and employment promotion policies, combined with targeted supports to ensure their participation, can help disabled persons obtain productive mainstream employment.
Eight out of 10 of the world’s working poor who live on US$1.25 per day live in rural areas, where many are caught in vulnerable employment, especially in agriculture.Flourishing rural areas are vital to regional and national development. Yet, rural economies tend to face a wide range of challenges that urban areas are more likely to overcome. These include access to transportation, sanitation and health services, and a consumer base in close proximity to support small and medium enterprise development. Women and men working in rural areas also face difficulties associated with a paucity of economic opportunities, under investment, poor infrastructure and public services, including education, and, in many cases, weak governance and underdeveloped markets.
Education, entrepreneurship, and physical and social infrastructure all play an important role in developing rural regions. Skills are central to improving employability and livelihood opportunities, reducing poverty, enhancing productivity and promoting environmentally sustainable development.
Initial education and training and lifelong learning benefit individuals, employers and society as a whole. Economic principles dictate that the costs for services with public and private benefits should be shared between public and private funding, or else too little training will be provided or taken up. Effective mechanisms for financing skills development vary according to countries’ economic and political circumstances and the degree and level of social dialogue established.
Measuring the outcomes of skills systems, policies and targeted programmes is essential in order to monitor and improve their effectiveness and relevance. Elements of sound assessment processes include: institutions to sustain feedback from employers and trainees; mechanisms to track labour market outcomes of training and systems of accountability that use this information; and, quantitative and qualitative labour market information and its dissemination to all stakeholders.