A common framework for skills development

 A common framework for skills development
Meeting today’s and tomorrow’s skills needs
International experience shows that countries that have succeeded in linking skills
development to gains in productivity, employment and development have targeted
skills development policy towards three main objectives:
■ matching supply to current demand for skills;
■ helping workers and enterprises adjust to change; and 

■ building and sustaining competencies for future labour market needs.
The first objective is about the relevance and quality of training. Matching the provision of skills with labour market demand requires labour market information systems to
generate, analyse and disseminate reliable sectoral and occupational information, and
institutions that connect employers with training providers. It is also about equality of
opportunity in access to education, training, employment services and employment, in
order that the demand for training from all sectors of society is met.
The second objective is about easing the movement of workers and enterprises
from declining or low-productivity activities and sectors into expanding and higherproductivity activities and sectors. Learning new skills, upgrading existing ones and
lifelong learning can all help workers to maintain their employability and enterprises to
adapt and remain competitive.
The third objective calls for a long-term perspective, anticipating the skills that
will be needed in the future and engendering a virtuous circle in which more and better
education and training fuels innovation, investment, technological change, economic
diversification and competitiveness, and thus job growth. 

A holistic approach
At its 97th Session in 2008 the International Labour Conference called for a holistic
approach to skills development encompassing the following features:
(1) continuous and seamless pathways of learning, starting with pre-school and primary
education that adequately prepares young people for secondary and higher education and vocational training, going on to provide career guidance, labour market
information and counselling as young women and men move into the labour market,
and offering workers and entrepreneurs opportunities for continuous learning to
upgrade their competencies and learn new skills throughout their lives;
(2) development of core skills – including literacy, numeracy, communication skills,
teamwork, problem-solving skills and learning ability – which, along with awareness of workers’ rights and an understanding of entrepreneurship, are not linked
PART II A strategic framework to bridge training and the world of work 19
to performance in specific occupations but form the building blocks for lifelong
learning and adaptability to change;
(3) development of higher-level skills – professional, technical and human resource
skills – enabling workers to profit from or create opportunities for high-quality
and/or high-wage jobs; 

(4) portability of skills, based first on core skills, so that workers can apply their existing knowledge and experience to new occupations or industries, and second on
systems that codify, standardize, assess and certify skills, so that levels of competence can be easily recognized by social partners in different labour sectors across
national, regional or international labour markets; and
(5) employability (for wage work or self-employment), which results from all these
factors – a foundation composed of core skills, access to education, availability of
training opportunities, motivation, ability to take advantage of opportunities for
continuous learning and support in doing so, and recognition of acquired skills.
A life-cycle perspective
Skills development can fruitfully be viewed from a life-cycle perspective of building,
maintaining and improving skills. Policy interventions need to be designed accordingly. The essential stages can be summarized as follows: 

■ Children: building important foundation skills through early childhood and initial
education, keeping in mind that the benefits of these investments will be reaped in
the longer term.
■ Young people: consolidating foundation skills and gaining important workplace
skills and experience for a successful transition from school to work.
■ Mature and older workers: maintaining and upgrading existing skills and gaining
new skills while also certifying the skills and competencies acquired in the working life.
It is also important to recognize that skills build upon one another, and that acquiring foundation skills in literacy

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