In 2021, we addressed the current socio-economic trends in the project entitled Implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning in Slovenia (EAAL project). Together with international, national and local partners, we organised the so-called EAAL forums. We published our findings and recommendations in six manifestos. The latter and corresponding (video) materials are published on the Slovenian and English EAAL websites. The forums were also summarised in the EPALE blogs (first and second part).
The trends mentioned above concern the digitalisation of society, demographic changes (migration, ageing population and intergenerational coexistence), inclusion, multiculturalism and democratic citizenship, environmental challenges, and technological changes and the future of work. At the forums, we affirmed the important role of lifelong learning in responding to these trends and, even better, co-creating them. We realised that these are not six different and separated challenges but are closely intertwined. As a result, holistic approaches are needed to face them.
In this article, I will focus on the future of work and skills – both are increasingly affected by digitalisation and other forms of technological progress. Regardless of age and life circumstances, each of us should develop new and strengthen already acquired skills. Otherwise, we quickly lag behind the prevailing socio-economic currents. These lead to the abandonment of some professions and the emergence of new ones. But which ones?
Education is not just a stakeholder but a driving force in governing skills for the jobs of the future
The latter was affirmed by Dr Jasper Van Loo, the coordinator of these matters at Cedefop, at last year’s EAAL Forum on the Future of Work and Skills. He presented their collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to establish a platform in Slovenia that would enable better monitoring, understanding and skills forecasting in the labour market and matching those skills.
As part of the cooperation mentioned above, in 2021, at the first workshop, Cedefop presented guidelines for establishing such a national platform based on the examples of some EU members, e.g. Slovakia. The second meeting addressed two topics: (1) what can be expected from long-term skills forecasting and what limitations should be considered, and (2) how to ensure trust in the platform and what is the role of partners and stakeholders.
This year, on 4 July, the Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and Cedefop organised the third and last workshop. It was entitled Strengthening Skills Governance in Slovenia to Navigate Change and Manage Transitions.
The purpose of the meeting, which mainly gathered stakeholders from the work and education sphere in the Brdo estate near Kranj, was to define their role in providing, disseminating and using the so-called skills intelligence. Cedefop defines the latter as knowledge and understanding based on an expert-driven process of identifying, analysing, synthesising and presenting quantitative and/or qualitative skills and labour market information.
At the workshop, it was discussed, among other things, how to increase the efficiency of the connections between the sectors mentioned above. We spoke about ensuring that skills intelligence would also be the basis for creating other policies, such as the green and digital transition, demographic policy, etc. The third challenge for us was how to use skills intelligence to reach and engage labour market actors (employers, employees and others) in dialogue, meet their needs and facilitate their decision-making and actions – for example, in designing the vocational education and training system.
It all starts and ends with data and methodologies for its processing
Without a doubt, a reliable knowledge and understanding base requires using the best data and tools to process it. Eurostat, Eurydice, Cedefop, the OECD and other similar institutions pay great attention to quality principles, which include relevance, timeliness, clarity and international comparability. They also dedicate a lot of attention to developing methodologies that should imitate the actual situation as best as possible. However, it serves to be cautious, as numbers can quickly lead us to incorrect conclusions.
The latter was also discussed at the workshop in July when Dr Ilias Livanos from Cedefop presented the European Skills Index (ESI) 2022 study and its results for Slovenia. ESI refers to the so-called composite indicator or 15 indicators concerning the development, activation and matching of skills (with the labour market needs). The results for Slovenia show a very positive picture; we were even included in the group of exemplary EU member states. However, according to the experts and practitioners present at the workshop, this is not the case. On the contrary, the mismatch between supply and demand for skills in Slovenia represents an important socio-economic challenge.
Cedefop developed the ESI methodology for more than five years before presenting it to the public for the first time three years ago. Therefore, both of their representatives warned that when interpreting the indicators, we should consider the in-depth national situation and that ESI should be perceived only as a starting point for the discussion of stakeholders from different sectors – actually, they are an essential source of additional information! However, the comparative value of this study (available here) should not be neglected, as it gives us a sense of our position in the EU.
In short, the participants supported the importance of more appropriate skills intelligence, which should be based on quality data and advanced tools. We have also advocated for greater cross-sectoral cooperation so that data sources and their use will be transversal. Further work to establish the platform depends on the political decisions of the new government. We can only hope that the invested two-year effort will not remain without implementation.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (email@example.com), SIAE