Most countries that adopt a framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth as the instrument for sustainable growth, acknowledge the role of skills development in that framework, stating that through its own national policies they look to strengthen the ability of their workers to adapt to changing market demands and to benefit from innovation and investments in new technologies, clean energy, environment, health and infrastructure.
The first goal of any such policy should be to ensure education for all. That is the broad availability of quality education for children in school. This is an essential foundation of future training.
The second goal of the policy should be to build solid bridges between the world of work and training providers in order to match skills provision to the needs of enterprises. This is often done best at the sectorial level where the direct participation of employers and workers together with government and training providers can ensure the relevance of training.
The third goal is to ensure continuous workplace training and lifelong learning enabling workers and enterprises to adjust to change.
Next is to ensure broad access to training opportunities, for women and men, and particularly for those groups facing greater difficulties, in particular youth, lower skilled workers, workers with disabilities, rural communities.
Finally, the fifth goal would be the active participation of employers’ and workers’ organisations and education providers with the state to identify and build competencies for current and future needs of the economy.
Developing a national policy
To achieve these five goals there is a need for continuous dialogue between the political leadership, economic planners, employers and trainers and coordination across government institutions. Secondly, labour market information, employment services and performance reviews are required for the identification of skill needs.
A national policy would enable reforms to be achieved with clear statement of responsibility shared among government, the social partners and other partners. The policy that grows out of this increases interest in skills development as an important means of addressing economic, social and developmental concerns.
A national policy (or strategy or plan) for skills development, TVET (technical and vocational education and training), HRD (human resources development) or lifelong learning would be linked with, general education and labour policies. It focuses not only on school children and young people who have completed their formal schooling, but also on adult workers, school dropouts, and workers in the informal economy and disadvantage groups.
Often skills obtained through training and those required by the job often do not match, resulting in skills shortages in some areas, simultaneously, a surplus of workers with skills that are not in demand, contributing to unemployment. Weak quality assurance, too few quality trainers, poor working conditions for trainers, and outdated qualifications, curricula, training materials and poor methods all inhibit the quality of training. Limited labour market information and inability to translate such information into improved training interventions undermines relevance.
Today a large number providers (ministries, agencies, central and regional governments, NGOs, employers and workers) are involved in skills development. Their efforts often overlap and are not well coordinated. Weakness in linking skills supply and demand also limits positive impact on employment and productivity.
These challenges have forced many policy-makers to focus their effort to produce higher value-added, higher quality goods and services that can yield higher wages and profits. To do this they have realised that they need a skilled workforce and an education and training system that adequately prepares young people to enter the labour market.
This imperative runs alongside the current thinking i.e. the need to bring education and training and the world of work closer together. Therefore formulating a national skills development policy would help to bring all key stakeholders together to adequately prepare our current and future workers to enter and remain productive in the labour market.
(The writer is a thought leader in HR.)