Towards an action plan for jobs in the Czech Republic: Recommendations and best practices

Stimulating job creation at the local level requires integrated actions across employment, training, and economic development portfolios. Co-ordinated place-based policies can help workers find suitable jobs, while also stimulating job creation and productivity. This requires flexible policy management frameworks, information, and integrated partnerships which leverage the efforts of employment, training, and economic development stakeholders. This chapter outlines the key recommendations emerging from the review of local job creation policies in the Czech Republic.

Better aligning policies and programmes to local economic development

Recommendation:Maintain flexibility in the management of employment programmes and services for the local level within a national system, which articulates strategic objectives and accountability requirements.

Flexibility in the management of employment policies and programme is important to ensure labour market policies are sensitive to local labour market considerations. This study has highlighted the variation in skills supply and demand at the sub-national level in the Czech Republic therefore, the employment policy framework should seek to promote strategies and approaches, which respond to these differences.

Public employment services in the Czech Republic have been reformed to a more centralised model, where 14 regional employment offices design programmes under the Labour Office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. There is a high degree of flexibility for regional employment offices but the 77 former district labour offices (operating at the local level) have experienced reduced flexibility and now mainly administer programmes. Under the previous system, the 77 former district labour offices had a high degree of flexibility to introduce employment programmes. While some flexibility has moved away from the local level, the reforms were undertaken to ensure equitable standards and services across the Czech Republic. The broader regional approach may be beneficial because it takes into account travel-to-work areas.

Granting local flexibility in employment policies and programmes does not mean that governments need to decentralise labour market policy (Froy and Giguere, 2010). OECD research has highlighted the important balance that needs to be achieved between flexibility and accountability (OECD, 2009). Accountability can be achieved by focusing on outcomes or strategic objectives, which provide a focus for the system but still enable regional and local actors to develop employment and skills approaches.

Additional flexibility can be achieved through a range of measures which could be applied to the reformed Czech model. The Labour Office can provide strategic direction for the local offices in getting more people into work, and ensure that local actions combine to achieve regional and national objectives. An individual in each regional office could be appointed to coordinate with the former district offices to ensure that local knowledge, priorities and issues are known to the regional level and that there is sufficient dialogue between local and regional bodies. The setting of performance targets could be carried out as a collaborative exercise between the local and regional offices, resulting in a regional level plan which takes into account the characteristics of the region and its diverse local labour markets. The regional level plan could articulate how its actions will align with objectives articulated at the national level through the Labour Office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

A OECD study looked at the Danish employment system, which is a three tiered model (e.g. national, regional, and local) and may provide useful lessons for the Czech Republic (OECD, 2010) - see Box 4.1.

Box 4.1. Decentralised labour market policy in Denmark

The Danish system for the management of labour market policy has undergone an important transition in recent years, with responsibility being progressively awarded to municipalities, while maintaining a strong system of control from the National Labour Market Authority, facilitated by the four employment regions.

In 2007 a major structural reform of local and regional government came into effect. Its purpose was to strengthen the decentralised public sector in the context of a fast changing business and trade environment. Analyses had shown that many of the administrative units were too small and lacked the capacity to handle the tasks they were given, and also that most of the counties (regional authorities) lacked adequate capacity to ensure optimal sector planning. 271 municipalities were reduced to 98 municipalities, and 14 counties were abolished and replaced by five new administrative regions governed by popularly elected boards. Responsibilities and the division of tasks were restructured, resulting in more tasks for the municipalities, now responsible for almost all public services. Furthermore, four employment regions were set up to monitor the labour market situation.

Municipalities were well placed to play a significant role in combining an approach which meets both individual and community needs. Their potential to work across policy silos and take broad community issues into account when planning employment policies and programmes was important. Local employment councils also ensure that the system includes a degree of local horizontal accountability, through the involvement of the local social partners.

At the same time, the role of the National Labour Market Authority and the employment regions is essential in setting targets, ensuring minimum standards are met, sharing good practice and research findings, and measuring whether the sum of local actions allows Denmark to meet national employment policy objectives. The Danish employment system achieves a balance between accountability and flexibility within the management system through a number of different instruments; legislation, financing, performance-based and dialogue-based management, IT tools, methodology requirements, and organisational requirements. The system appears to underpin both high accountability with regard to national goals and focus areas, and moderate to high local flexibility, meaning that local players and stakeholders can co-operate on targeting employment measures to local challenges and needs.

Source: Mploy (2011), “Building Flexibility andAccountability Into Local Employment Services: Country Report for Denmark”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2011/12, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Recommendation: The Labour Office should strengthen the capacity of the regional and local level to deliver programmes while ensuring that private providers complement existing services.

In the Czech Republic, the number of public employment services staff has been reduced through the reform effort, which has negatively impacted frontline work, such as placement and counselling services at a time of increasing unemployment. An increasing part of employment and training efforts in the Czech Republic are funded through EU programmes and there is little consideration of sustainability. There have been a high number of employment activities that have had little or no follow-up because of project to project funding. As a result, a number of potentially innovative approaches have not been continued.

More sustainable funding models would help regional and local actors to strategically plan for the medium to long-term. The government should also consider mechanisms for increasing local capacity to ensure the effective delivery of employment programmes and services. When capacity is low, staff have less time to think innovatively about improving policies and service delivery for job seekers.

Another challenge is that the capacities of local employment services are not effectively complemented by cooperation with private employment agencies. There seems to be no consensus about the role of private providers although discussions are taking place. When considering the role of private sector providers, it is important to complement the capacity and expertise that is already in place, alongside not-for-profit bodies, and ensure local services are well integrated. Collaboration between all relevant stakeholders is critical for coherent policy measures which are cognisant of local contexts. When outsourcing to for-profit providers, it is critical that local employment offices are involved in setting the framework for how private agencies operate and how contracts are framed out to ensure a local focus is retained.

Regional and local offices should be consulted on how outsourcing is carried out in order to ensure that all activation methods are adapted to local contexts. Any terms of reference should be informed by discussions at the sub-national level and local stakeholders should be given the opportunity to feed back into the decision making process. Setting outcome targets rather than input or output targets in outsourced contracts can also be an effective way in allowing governments to retain control over results while allowing private entities to determine the best way to administer services, including experimenting with innovative approaches.

In the Netherlands, the PES and municipalities outsource individualised client packages to private employment agencies, primarily to work with those furthest from the labour market. They face sanctions if they do not reach targets and local PES offices work intensively with the private companies - see Box 4.2.

Box 4.2. Working with private employment agencies, Netherlands

The Dutch PES (UWV WERK Bedrijven) provides basic services to jobseekers but since 2004, work coaches have also had the option to enrol the client in a so-called individualised reintegration agreement (IRO). In an IRO, the work coach determines a specific reintegration path which offers particular flexibility in the help and support offered and is most commonly used with those deemed least employable. Municipalities can also outsource services and are often more likely to. This is in part due to the fact that working with the target group demands a specialised approach which municipalities are not perceived to have, and municipalities also receive a relatively high reintegration budget per client compared to UWV WERK Bedrijven.

IROs are frequently outsourced to private reintegration agencies. Some 2 500 providers have been involved in IRO packages, many of whom solely supply IRO, and it has attracted many (mainly small) private providers. Since IROs are relatively expensive (at EUR 4 000 to 5 000 per client), work coaches are more and more encouraged to make an assessment between the costs and benefits of using IROs per client, with some UWV WERK Bedrijven only using an IRO when they are convinced that it will lead to a regular job.

Box 4.2. Working with private employment agencies, Netherlands (cont.)

Targets are passed onto private providers and if they do not meet their objectives their contract may not be renewed. Often the reintegration packages are financed on a “no cure, no pay” or “no cure, less pay” basis. Having targets and measures in the contracts was accepted as the way that business is done. There is some room to negotiate the targets as part of the contracting process. The evaluation of the effectiveness of reintegration instruments and programmes is carried out by the purchase and reintegration divisions at district level for the UWV WERK Bedrijven, and similar divisions within the municipalities.

The PES central office has a reintegration budget which has to be completely spent by outsourcing to local and regional reintegration bureaus. Private providers are chosen mainly by the central office of the UWV and each district in turn has a contract manager who handles the regional contracting arrangements, negotiating the contract and monitoring the results. Tendering processes are relatively large investments and contractors report on a national basis.

Individual local PES offices interact intensively with private reintegration companies, for example on placing unemployed jobseekers in reintegration programmes, drafting and approving reintegration programmes and reporting about the progress.

Source: Dorenbos, R. and F. Froy (2011), “Building Flexibility and Accountability Into Local Employment Services: Country Report for the Netherlands”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2011/13, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Recommendation: Enhance communication and partnerships between local stakeholders in order to promote shared solutions. This could include taking full advantage of existing networks and fora, as well as exploring ways to advance new forms of engagement.

Improving cross-institutional communication, cooperation and coordination is a precondition for better aligning policies and programmes to local needs. There is potential for better integrating employment policy carried out by regional Labour Office branches with economic development and education and training policies implemented by regional authorities.

Partnerships connect local actors, stimulate dialogue, and increase effectiveness and efficiency in the use of public resources. In both Osti nad Labem and South Moravia regions, cooperation between local stakeholders is an issue and there is a quite wide gap between declared cooperation and real day-to-day interaction. Meaningful cooperation requires staff time and also needs local actors to take responsibility beyond their daily agenda. The level of communication between various stakeholders varies but the level of informal communication is not generally reported to be very high. Improving the regularity of such communication between employment, vocational education, economic development and other stakeholders would help to engage stakeholders in area-based partnerships.

In both regions, the Councils for Human Resources Development (HRD) were originally designed to serve as a regional platform on issues relating to skills, education and job creation. In some cases, the Councils for HRD are very effective for bringing together the key decision makers, however there are huge disparities between them and it is difficult to assess what impact they have had on the ground. This type of exchange mechanism should be continued (whether in the form of the existing councils or in an alternative manner) so that local stakeholders can gather and have room for discussion, to initiate projects and to have more involvement and ownership of projects needed to develop a stronger skills base in their region. The Moravian-Silesian Employment Pact and implementation of the Human Resource Development Strategy serve as good examples of a systematic, strategic approach that leads to increased communication and joint actions that creates new synergies.

Translating strategies into action requires enough flexibility to ensure that collaboration leads to concrete changes in the delivery of policies and programmes. Such regional fora could also emphasise collecting and sharing information about “what works” and why. Such information could be supported by mechanisms that provide guidance to local stakeholders on effective practices and could be circulated amongst regions.

National level stakeholders could look at opportunities to ensure better alignment in their efforts to promote skills and job creation. The establishment of a representative advisory body that helps to coordinate public policies at the national level and facilitates cooperation between the central government and regional authorities could be considered. The national level is also well placed to establish a strong vision for skills policies. This vision should be evidence-based and include a clear alignment of economic and labour force development and could build on the HRD Strategy developed in 2003. The OECD Skills Strategy could provide a useful framework for the Czech Republic to develop a whole of government approach to skills and training.

To join up efforts locally, OECD research has identified a number of governance mechanisms, which could be considered in the Czech context. Brokers can be used to act as intermediaries to engage horizontally with a broad set of policy areas to solve problems. In Australia, the government has recently introduced Local Employment Coordinators, whose specific function is bringing together local stakeholders to develop locally based solutions to labour market challenges, including organising local job fairs to connect the unemployed with employers.

Operational and strategic platforms can also be a way to create a more networked approach to employment policy and to bring together different actors. Rewarding officials for collaboration (and specifically for the additional outcomes achieved through this) and providing additional funding to cover the costs involved can also be helpful. The Local Workforce Investment Boards in the United States provide an good model for how to join up employment, training, and economic development efforts through a flexible policy framework - see Box 4.3.

Box 4.3. Examples of locally based collaborative governance structures

in other OECD countries

Workforce Investment Boards in the United States: In the United States, the Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIBs) have played a strong role in creating more integrated strategies to address employment and skills within broader economic development strategies locally since 1998. There are over 600 WIBs across the US, at the state and local level, and they are strongly business-led, being both chaired by business and having a majority of business members. Each Local Workforce Investment Area is governed by a Local Workforce Investment Board, which is responsible for providing employment and training services within a specific geographic area. The LWIBs administer Workforce Investment Act services as designated by the Governor and within the regulations of the federal statute and U.S. Department of Labour guidelines. There are also designated seats for representatives from labour unions and local educational institutions, with economic development officials sitting on the boards in many states. While performance of the boards varies, in some areas they have developed strong integrated strategies which bridge across employment, skills and economic development. LWIBs are typically an extension of a local government unit, which in most cases is the county government and can include more than one government entity. They are not agencies of the federal or state governments, and the staff are not comprised of federal or state employees.

Source: OECD (2014, forthcoming), Employment and Skills Strategies in the United States, OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation, OECD, Paris.

Recommendation: Support the development of evidence-based tools to make better decisions about employment and training programmes. Develop more rigorous policy evaluations and ensure that evaluation results are fed into policy making.

In order to build a strategic approach that is relevant to local conditions, it is essential to have a strong evidence base. Collecting and analysing evidence is a critical step in any policy cycle where local providers look to understand what is working and where efforts could be strengthened. This information should feed into the policy development process and enable a focus on continuous improvement. There is capacity to support the development of evidence-based tools in the Czech Republic to help frontline staff and customers make better decisions about employment and training services to meet the local needs. Authoritative and updated local labour market skills profiles are important in framing providers’ strategies and strengthening accountability and can also galvanise local actors into a common agenda for action when used well.

National and regional governments could consider further disaggregating labour market data to support skills analysis at the local level. This can include expanding samples of the national Labour Force Survey and developing better regional surveys by improving how local labour offices collect labour market data. There is a need for more information on labour market trends and a greater focus on anticipating future employment trends at the regional labour market level. Information on skill needs should be widely available to local stakeholders to be able to make informed decisions about relevant education/training and careers.

The limited regional data is partially a consequence of the low evaluation culture in the Czech Republic as well as a lack of evaluation expertise at all administrative levels. Rigorous evaluations that assess the real impact of public actions on the labour market are virtually absent, especially in the area of active labour market programmes and policies. Building an evidence base through high quality evaluation requires not only evaluation expertise but strengthened analytical and management capacities within the Labour Office. There is scope to develop more rigorous policy evaluations that focus not just on processes and outputs but also on outcomes and impacts. Policy makers in the Czech Republic should ensure that evaluation results are fed into policy making and that providers are held accountable to outcome-based performance criteria.

Box 4.4. Research Institute for the Evaluation of Public Policies,

Trento, Italy

The Research Institute for the Evaluation of Public Policies (Istituto per la Ricerca Valutativa sulle Politiche Pubbliche,) is a policy-orientated research organisation established in Trento, Italy in 2008. The Institute provides evaluations of the impact of public policy to international, national and local agencies in order to help establish evidence-based policy making.

Its research covers labour market policy, economic and industrial policy, welfare policy, and social and economic policies in developing countries. Research findings are disseminated, policy evaluators are trained and a policy-relevant data archive has been established.

Locally relevant research projects of the research institute include ex-post evaluation of the merit-based financial aid to students (a programme encouraging students from low income families to obtain higher education) and the Minimum Income Guarantee programme. The evaluation of the Guarantee will include: take-up rates amongst the target population, its impact on labour supply and its impact on household consumption.

The Labour Agency of Trento, Italy recognises the importance of such evaluations in helping determine the effectiveness of its policy interventions. The Labour Agency also recognises that working with the IRVAPP/FBK in this way represents a shift towards normalising systematic monitoring and evaluation of public policy in the province.

Source: Barr, J., et al. (2012), “Local Job Creation: How Employment and Training Agencies Can Help-The Labour Agency of theAutonomous Province ofTrento, Italy”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2012/17, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Adding value through skills

Recommendation: Education and training provision would benefit from being more targeted at lower skilled workers. There is also scope to build in a stronger emphasis on generic and soft skills in course curricula.

There is a variety of training opportunities which is flexible, modularised and provision broadly covers a wide range of sectors with an increasing amount becoming certified. However, life-long learning is underdeveloped in the Czech Republic with lower participation rates than the OECD average, and the sector is dominated by free market enterprises. One type of training that is government regulated and subsidised is retraining for the unemployed and provision is based in part on previous up-take. For employed workers, there are various delivery models that enable them to participate in training (e.g. part-time education, distance learning).

Existing national initiatives target workers in specific growth sectors such as the Get Trained for Growth! and Get Trained for Stability programmes. However, on the whole, professional development and career progression for low-qualified workers in employment is not systematically supported. Policies and programmes should continue to focus on providing training for existing employees, particularly those in lower-skilled jobs who will continue to be at risk of redundancy, as well as those in small and medium sized enterprises, who may not have similar access to work-based training opportunities. There is also scope to continue to develop the National Register of Vocational Education in order to make a more systemic link between the world of skills and labour market needs.

Training programmes could be orientated in such a way that they teach higher level generic skills and soft skills, rather than being narrowly focused on specific technical skills. Demand for generic skills is increasing in today’s knowledge-based economy and it is not just those at the top of the employment ladder who need these skills. There is increasing recognition and inclusion of such skills into continuing education programmes but compulsory education lacks systemic incorporation of key soft competences highly demanded by employers (especially communication, organisation, teamwork, individual problem solving) in teaching and assessment tools.

Box 4.5. Korea, Job World

Korea Job World is an interactive vocational experience centre located in the city of Seongnam-si in the Gyeonggi-do province, providing career guidance to the public in general, and young people in particular. It consists of an 80 000 square metre, six-story building, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore and experience various occupations and career opportunities in an interactive way. It is designed to help people obtain a realistic view about possible professional choices and prospects, and to give career advice based on individual interests and aptitude. Visitors are guided through three main halls: The World Hall, Job Experience Hall, and the Career Design Hall. In the World Hall, images and descriptions about typical occupations and their employment trends are provided, whereas in the Job Experience Hall (mainly aimed at children and youth) these can be experienced in realistic settings. Finally, in the Career Design Hall visitors can perform an animated test based on the information and experiences gathered from the other rooms, testing their occupational interests and aptitude and given career advice accordingly. Korea Job World was opened in August 2012 after a period of pilot operation, and now hosts around 3 000 visitors a day.

Source: OECD (2014, forthcoming), Employment and Skills Strategies in Korea, OECD Reviews on LocalJob Creation, OECD, Paris; Ministry of Employment and Labor (2012b), 2012 Employment and Labor Policy in Korea, Ministry of Employment and Labor, Republic of Korea, p.43, and%20Labor%20Policy.pdf.

Recommendation: Ensure that employers are more fully involved in the design of training programmes to make provision more relevant and responsive to the needs of the local economy.

PES and VET institutions have limited ability to rapidly develop courses that respond to local employers, something which has become more evident with the recent crisis. Employers report that training curricula do not sufficiently meet their needs, particularly SMEs, despite the work of the sector councils in developing labour market strategies. The lag between need and action is too long in some cases. Although there is some flexibility in the delivery of employment and training programmes, responsive demand-driven approaches are virtually absent. Creating a more responsive system to skills shortages and gaps can prevent short-term skills shortages, but it can also result in short-term skills planning and a lack of strategic thinking for skills needed in the longer term.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and Labour Office are exploring ways of more actively engaging with employers and how training programmes can be aligned to their needs. They are also examining incentives to encourage employers to invest more in staff training and regionally specific initiatives. OECD research has demonstrated the importance of building on strong employer networks that already exist (OECD, 2013b). Efforts to promote employer engagement could look to involve the sector councils in identifying labour market challenges and training requirements. Government financing can play a critical role in bringing employers together to develop training initiatives. Skillnets in Ireland is a good example of a working more closely with employers (particular SMEs) through sectoral networks.

Box 4.6. Promoting and facilitating workplace training in Ireland - Skillnets

Skillnets was established in 1999 to promote and facilitate workplace training and up-skilling by SMEs. It is the largest organisation supporting workplace training in Ireland. In 2011, it had 70 operational networks through which it trained over 40 000 people for a total expenditure of EUR 25 million. It is a state-funded, enterprise-led body that co-invests with enterprises, particularly SMEs, when they co-operate in networks to identify and deliver training suited to their workforces. A network of SMEs, which are mostly sectoral or regional, is guided by a steering group of the local enterprise representatives. The steering group gives strategic direction and guidance to a network manager who co-ordinates all operational activity leading to the delivery of an agreed training plan with learning interventions suited for the member company workforces. The national programme is co-ordinated by Skillnets Ltd., who contract with all networks and provide programme support and monitoring to ensure the delivery of agreed quantitative and qualitative target outputs.

In 2011, 30 of these networks were located in Dublin, but were predominantly sectoral networks with a national remit and company membership. 25% of all Skillnets member companies and 33% of trainees were Dublin-based. Three networks were specific to the South East region (Carlow Kilkenny Skillnet, South Tipperary Skillnet and Waterford Chamber Skillnet). While Skillnets has a national impact, its influence is largely confined to SMEs which account for 94% of its 10 000 member companies. Originally set up to cater exclusively for the employed, since 2010 Skillnets has a mandate to include the provision of training for jobseekers. This happens both in an integrated manner with jobseekers attending programmes with employees, and also by focusing exclusively on the needs of jobseekers through the provision of dedicated longer-term programmes (e.g. the Jobseeker Support Programme) which includes work placements. Skillnets launched a pilot training initiative, ManagementWorks, providing management training to the SME community with a key focus on owner-managers.

Source: OECD (2014), Employment and Skills Strategies in Ireland, OECD Reviews on LocalJob Creation, OECD, Paris.

Recommendation: The apprenticeship model should be updated to provide better quality and more relevant training opportunities.

There is a concern about the relevance of secondary education and apprenticeships which is reflected in the low employability of graduates and apprentices. The number of graduates with vocational education has been falling due to demographic factors and preferences for pursuing university based-education. This trend is a significant problem as it results in vocational skills shortages in the labour market. Continued action to adjust secondary education provision more to labour market needs is needed which can include closer cooperation with employers and more schemes to support school-to-work transitions.

The apprenticeship system should be upgraded to ensure it gives trainees good quality training in relevant sectors and thus becomes a more attractive option for youth, and is well regarded by employers. It could benefit from being expanded into a broader array of economic sectors, with particular focus on growth areas. Bringing together apprentices for training could also be considered to ensure they have a sufficient knowledge of generic subjects and skills, and benefit from modern training facilities. A reform process should be initiated to consider how to make the system more responsive to both individual and employer need.

Box 4.7. Review of the Apprenticeship System in Northern Ireland,

United Kingdom

There has been increasing interest in apprenticeships both as a route into employment and also in raising the skill levels of the workforce. However, as it currently stands, there are only a limited number of apprenticeships available within traditional sectors. The Minister for Employment and Learning has recently announced a review of apprenticeships which will look at a wide range of issues relating to apprenticeships including the role of stakeholders (employers, training providers, unions, academics, and representatives from the Further Education sector and government) in shaping the programmes, the types of apprenticeships that would benefit from government funding, how SMEs can be encouraged to engage with apprenticeships, the potential expansion of apprenticeships into the professions, and, how parity can be created between apprenticeships and other Further and Higher Education pathways. An Expert Panel has been appointed to support the Review and the results of the Review are expected to be published in autumn 2013.

Source: OECD (2014), Employment and Skills Strategies in Northern Ireland, OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation, OECD, Paris.

Recommendation: Support the development of a career counselling system for youth and adults and promote greater cooperation among career counselling stakeholders.

An effective career counselling system should assess individuals’ acquired skills and propose ways of enhancing or acquiring new ones. Career guidance in the Czech Republic is seen as inadequate for both young people and adults. Educational counsellors tend to have limited knowledge of current labour market needs and job profiles. Career support for youth in schools needs quality assurance mechanisms, adequate resources and more systematic cooperation with LOs and other institutions in acquiring labour market information.

The labour offices can play a significant role in career advice. Since early 2013, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has sought to provide better and more extensive career advice and assistance to jobseekers, employers, municipalities and social partners, and to improve communication between local contact offices. While addressing the development of career guidance will be a long term challenge for the Czech Republic, the increased emphasis is welcomed. The government could consider developing tools (e.g. early assessment, profiling), organisational changes (setting client zones) and additional resources (staff numbers, training, additional funds).

Other actors such as private agencies or NGOs can play a more significant role in the delivery of counselling services to specific target groups. For example, the new Regional Information and Education Centre in the South Moravian region could be used as a nationwide model to address the needs of adults and promote continuing education activities. Greater cooperation between career counselling providers at the regional level would be beneficial in making such services more accessible for various adult groups and mapping provision.

Job profiles are mapped on the national level by sector councils and described in the National System of Occupations. The National Register of Vocational Qualifications recognises skills and competencies and certifying skills constitutes an important aspect of career mobility. It is important that this link between labour market needs (defined by employers) and qualifications being developed through the National System of Occupations is strengthened.

OECD LEED research shows that career ladders and career clusters (a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities) offer a useful way of bringing together employment agencies, career advisors, education and training bodies and industrial consortia to construct route-maps to training and employment for youth and low skilled adults. They also help to make the labour market more transparent which facilitates supply and demand matching (Froy and Giguere, 2010). A career ladder approach offers a mechanism to re-create a traditional career ladder externally. The main components of this approach include:

  • 1. Defining appropriate training with industrial consortia and colleges.
  • 2. Adapting training to the needs of working adults.
  • 3. Linking training to career transitions, from entry-level to higher-level workers.
  • 4. Disseminating information through careers advice.

Career pathways and clusters ensure education is aligned with the labour market by combining careers advice and continuous training efforts to support job retention and progression. It is critical that when young people start work that follow-up support is provided to ensure they are gradually building basic employability skills, particularly for those poorly integrated into the labour market. This support will help ensure sustainable employment and that young people gain the skills necessary to retain a job and acquire more responsibility. The National Register of Vocational Qualifications and National System of Occupations, along with sector councils, could look more closely at introducing career cluster elements into their work.

While career ladders can support entry and progression in individual industries and sectors, it is also helpful to build horizontal links across sectors to build “career clusters’ at a local level. This approach was promoted in the United States by the Department of Education through a career cluster initiative which has been adopted by many states and regions and customised to their local labour markets. Job profiles are mapped across entire industry so learners and workers can see how different careers interact and rely on one another. Within each career cluster, there are between two to seven career pathways from secondary school to college, graduate schools, and the workplace. They enable low-skilled low-income learners and workers in particular to make connections to future goals, providing motivation for enrolling in a series of related courses (OECD, 2013e). Maryland started working on career sectors and clusters in 1995 as a way to develop programmes extending from high school to colleges, universities, graduate school and beyond - see Boxes 4.8 and 4.9 which provide examples of how the public employment service works to support employment access and career progression opportunities.

Box 4.8. Maryland career sectors/clusters, US

Maryland started working on career sectors/career clusters in 1995 under the School to Work Opportunities Act. 350 business executives in ten different sectors were brought together to inform education policy makers about their bottom line - how they made money and what they needed to be successful. The original project was funded with USD 25 million of Federal School to Work funds, and the approach was very bottom-up: “we let 1 000 flowers bloom,” identified one state representative. “We looked at large clusters, mapped out what knowledge and skills are required, and developed program[me]s around big chunks of skills.” Within each county there is a Cluster Advisory Board (CAB), focused on different industry clusters.

In Montgomery County, for example, which is home to the third largest biotechnology cluster in the United States, there is a CAB focused on the Biosciences, Health Science and Medicine cluster. Administrators, counsellors and faculty members are using the career cluster system to develop programmes that extend from high school to two- and four-year colleges/universities, graduate schools, apprenticeship programmes and the workplace. Although the cluster framework was originally developed for high schools and young people, it is now being adopted by workforce investment boards and other programmes serving adults.

Source: OECD (2014, forthcoming), “Local Youth Employment Strategies: Ireland”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Box 4.9. Sectoral initiatives to meeting skills demands in Antwerp,


The public employment service (VDAB: Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training) has been working directly with the City of Antwerp to support employment access and progression within key areas of the local economy, including construction and the tertiary sector. By bringing together education, labour market and sectoral partners, local employment bottlenecks could be approached in a comprehensive manner, while also supporting access to career progression by lower skilled people. It was recognised early on that a targeted sectoral approach required a sound knowledge of the local labour market.

Identifying the situation: skills needs analysis for the tertiary sector

To develop training and employment in the tertiary sector in Antwerp, a skills analysis was first developed in co-operation with labour market and education partners under the guidance of a non-profit research and consultancy bureau (WES). Available quantitative data was reviewed and a qualitative survey conducted with local companies. Through the qualitative research it was found that satisfaction with skills levels was fairly low in the tertiary sector for almost all types of skills, and this was true across all sub-sectors. Companies identified that new entrants to the labour market lacked occupationally specific skills and French language skills (service sector workers are expected to be fluent in both French and Flemish). In addition, they were felt to show insufficient flexibility. Following the surveys, partners came together in a workshop to perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the sector, as a basis for planning a strategic response to addressing skills needs.

Box 4.9. Sectoral initiatives to meeting skills demands in Antwerp,

Belgium (cont.)

Raising skills levels in the construction sector

The city of Antwerp has also developed a joint approach in the construction sector, called Talentenwerf (literally translated as “talent building site”). This is a partnership between the VDAB, the city of Antwerp, the Antwerp Education Council and the Fonds voor Vakopleiding in de Bouw/FVB (Fund for Professional Training in the Building Industry). The organisations gathered staff and knowhow under one roof to produce a one stop shop for construction companies, their workers, jobseekers and local schools. Large infrastructural works planned in the city will require thousands of extra construction workers, despite the economic downturn. Apart from matching supply and demand much attention is devoted to the development of innovative training programmes with the highest possible participation from companies. A temporary training infrastructure is also provided on building sites so as to bring training and education closer to industry. The Talentenwerf is run by staff from each of the different partner organisations, with the process being jointly steered by a co-ordinator, a management committee and a policy working group.

Source: Froy, F. and S. Giguere (2010), “Putting in Place Jobs that Last: A Guide to Rebuilding Quality Employment at Local Level”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2010/ 13, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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