Advancing Accountable Schools and Training Institutions

One of the more frequently cited disconnects in developing the technical and work-related skills needed for the workplace is the disconnect between what schools and training institutions deliver and what employers actually need. This is far more fundamental than just facilitating transitions from school and training to work, but goes more profoundly to the curriculums, teaching methods, and applicability of learning to the job. Here developing countries share similar challenges with the developed world, although the disconnect and the dimension of the problem is greater in the developing world - poorly schooled young people, dropouts, limited numbers of firms that train their workers, training programs in fields where there are no jobs, universities producing unemployable graduates, few options for adults to return to school or retool - shall I go on?

Skill development as it stretches from early childhood through schooling to university level throughout the lifecycle is the subject of many books, well beyond the scope of this one. But its interrelationship with job placement and intermediation is unavoidable. Expanding and improving the efficiency of job placement services moves in tandem with improving the articulation of skill demands and the link of schools and training institutions to the workplace. Remember back in Chapter 1, the surveys of employers worldwide say the talent shortage around the globe is growing while skill demands are generally increasing. One fundamental feature then of a better functioning national intermediation system is its role in building incentives or pressure for more accountable schools and training institutions.

This accountability is not built by a government program or regulations, but over time by the combination of market pressures (students going to schools that give better results and skills), good public and private incentives, social responsibility and in select cases as part of national skills boards or skills strategies (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore). The principal drivers for change are the institutions themselves. Accountability starts first with collecting and publically disclosing basic information and knowledge: where do our graduates get jobs? Do our curriculums prepare them well for the jobs of today, tomorrow? Accountability advances next to the institutional, curricular and systems changes needed to make accountability, performance and flexibility integral to the institution. What needs to change to better align what students are taught with the skills they need for employment? How do universities, schools, or training programs compare against each other? The implication is not that schools and universities teach only what is relevant to the workplace, but that students have the information and can choose more employment relevance if that is what they seek.

The evolving national intermediation system can play a host of supporting information roles with many different entrance doors. Romania has begun tracer studies of its university graduates, one of the many Eastern European countries looking at the problem of good rates of university graduation but with poor connections of these graduates to the labor market.57 A university-based education to employment data system considered a global model is Alma Laurea begun in Italy in 1994. The website and associated programs now track 91% of Italy’s graduates from 72 universities at 1, 3 and 5-year intervals.58 High school students can get detailed information on employment, graduation, earnings, and skills of graduates in every school in the 72 university system. Foreign and Italian employers are now using the CV repository to search for skilled employees, with 400,000 CVs accessed in 2015. Under grant financing, Alma Laurea is now working with Turkey’s universities to establish a similar system called THEQA. Alma Laurea is an example of the expansion of diverse private institutions that can grow to play an intermediary function on a national scale well outside the old lines of employment services. Advancing skill development and systems to certify just what skills have been acquired is yet another step. Skill standard systems will understandably take on a host of adaptations in diverse developing economies to shape very different multi-actor national intermediation systems. Given the premium placed on future labor markets on skills, my guess is that many more innovations and adaptations in late Stage 2 will come from the reform and advancement of education and training.

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