Anticipating future skills needs


Anticipating future skills needs
Leaders of the G20 stressed in Pittsburgh that “[i]t is no longer sufficient to train workers to meet their specific current needs; we should ensure access to training programs
that support lifelong skills development and focus on future market needs”.
It is therefore essential to be able to anticipate skills needs and to align training
provision with changing needs in the labour market. This applies to change in the types
and levels of skills needed as well as in occupational and technical areas.
Overall, demand is growing for non-routine analytical skills involving creativity,
problem-solving, communication,

 teamwork and entrepreneurship – all skills that help
workers to maintain their employability and enterprises their resilience in the face of
change. Conversely, demand is decreasing for more routine skills in functions subject
to automation, digitization and outsourcing.
A number of methods are used to forecast future skills needs. These include
forecasting occupational and skills profiles at various levels of disaggregation; social
dialogue; labour market information systems and employment services; and analysis of
the performance of training institutions, including tracer studies.
An important element of the European Commission’s “New Skills for New Jobs”
initiative is its focus on forecasting future skills needs. The work includes forecasting
supply and demand for skills at the EU level to 2020, improving member States’ own
forecasting systems, and producing skills needs assessments in 18 sectors. The aim is
to use better cooperation with social partners and a common skills language (in terms
of educational attainment and job content) to improve matching workers to jobs in
current labour markets and preparing them for future jobs. The Commission estimates
that providing all citizens with adequate skills will increase GDP by as much as 10 per
cent in the long run (EC, 2010).
Experience from various countries provides important lessons on the limits of
skills forecasting: crucially, that it is better to focus on providing adaptable core, transPart iII Building blocks 

… of strong training and skills
development strategies
22 A Skilled Workforce for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth
versal skills, and especially on building the capacity to learn, than on planning training
to meet detailed forecasts of technical skill requirements, because these may change
before curricula can adjust. Shorter training courses, which build on solid general technical and core skills, can minimize time lags between the emergence of skill needs
and the provision of appropriate training. Quantitative analysis based on labour market
information is good, but reliable only when complemented by qualitative information
from employers and workers.
Alongside the complex process of anticipating what skills will be needed, it is
important to take into account individuals’ own educational and career aspirations.
Social expectations and stigma attached to different kinds and levels of training, and
the quality of the jobs to which they lead, may trump the best supply and demand analysis. Some economies are starting to see unintended consequences of their efforts to
raise education rates while others have a balance across types and levels of education,
providing high-quality training in non-academic fields and maintaining good remuneration and societal appreciation for related jobs.
Box 3: Anticipating skill needs and stimulating growth

 ■ Ireland’s Expert Group on Future Skill Needs (EGFSN) analyses future skill needs, and develops
proposals for how to meet them, through a broad membership including business representatives, educationalists, trade unionists and policy-makers. The breadth of participation enables
EGFSN to identify changing occupational profiles within sectors and changes in demand for
various occupations. EGFSN identified the key elements to be included in a generic skills portfolio for the future: basic or fundamental skills (literacy, numeracy, ICT); people-related skills
(e.g. communication, team-working); and conceptual/thinking skills (collecting and organizing

problem-solving, planning and organizing, learning to learn, innovation and creative skills). They provide advice on how to improve jobseekers’ awareness of sectors where there
is demand for skills and of the qualifications required.
■ The wide replication of Brazil’s national training institution, SENAI, is a good measure of its
success. SENAI is run by an association of industries, funded by a levy on the industrial payroll, and has sibling institutions serving different sectors (e.g. agriculture, small enterprise, the
service sector). SENAI’s “Prospecting Model” adjusts training provision based on analysis of
take-up rates of emerging technologies and new forms of work organization. The model generates estimates of job requirements over a five-year period by drawing on studies of technological
and organization prospecting, tracking emerging occupations and monitoring trends in demand
for vocational training. However, the proportion of young people able to take advantage of
training opportunities is limited by the quality of basic education.

 ■ At the core of the Republic of Korea’s sustained growth pattern lies a government-led skills
development strategy. The rapid progress in closing the productivity gap reflects an economic
development strategy based on investment and research and development. Investment in a
well-educated and highly skilled workforce was an integral part of encouraging adoption of new
technologies. A current challenge is to avert shortages in the more highly skilled vocational
occupations by increasing the attractiveness of non-academic skills development paths.

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