An Economist and an Education Specialist Get Off a Plane:
Assessing Workforce Development Systems from Private Sector and Institutional Perspectives
August 24, 2011 — 3:45 p.m.
||Phil Psilos, RTI International
Joseph DeStefano, RTI International
This session unveiled contrasting views on workforce development and labor market assessment. The assessment models discussed explored both the demand (e.g., employers, growth sectors) and supply (e.g., workers, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and workforce development providers) side of the equation. The presenters shared examples of such assessments, including recent experience in Yemen and the Philippines.
Phil Psilos discussed development approaches from an economist’s point of view. He shared different stages of workforce assessment based on a Stylized Private Sector Approach: (1) the research that needs to be done before the assessment starts (i.e., before s/he gets off the plane in the country to be assessed), and (2) the work to be done in country (identifying key sectors; mapping national stakeholders from the private, public and voluntary sectors who will be key information sources; and identifying web-based job boards or recruiter websites. Both demand-side and supply side analyses are required for a full understanding of the issues and composing a complete picture of the labor market in the country being assessed. The primary intent of the private sector assessment is to be objective and useful rather than appearing fair or balanced. This approach calls for objectivity and candor concerning all actors, including the private sector. The main issues to consider are labor cost, workforce quality, and job availability.
Joseph DeStefano spoke from an education policy point of view. He presented three TVET delivery models: enterprise-based, institution-based, and program-based. DeStefano discussed the roles the public sector can play to ensure a match of skills with labor market needs. This can be done by (1) targeting resources via incentives, subsidies and direct funding of some programs, and (2) assuring the quality and relevance (i.e., standards) of TVET training programs and providers. The discussion also included the role of the private sector in TVET training delivery. In this model, the key considerations in assessment are access, quality and financing of TVET programs. The key education policy questions include: How can we match training to new workforce market demands? What role can the public sector play in making sure that training is delivered where there is a demand? What can the public sector do (e.g., provide incentives) to encourage private sector actors to provide training for their own workforce?
Key take away points Though the two assessment approaches discussed are different, they share a common focus on quality. The experience of developed countries in particular shows that while the private sector is involved in workforce development to some extent, the public sector plays the major role. In countries like the US, workforce development is one of the most efficient and competitive investments that can be made. Local governments are intimately involved in TVET training and work closely with their communities to create the programs that will provide the skilled labor that the market needs.
What skills in the competency pyramid are most valued by the private sector (general vocational skills, soft skills, employer-specific technical skills, sector-specific technical skills, etc.) is a complex question whose answer depends on each country’s system and market. When searching for skilled labor, companies know where to look, because of the strong, clear correlation between good education and employment. This in turn means companies use more qualified training/education providers when recruiting. Any company that expects hired employees to possess company-specific skills is simply badly managed.