The purpose of this analysis is to assess how local flexibility can be injected into national adult education and training systems, while preserving accountability; and to better understand how to create an enabling policy environment for the development of effective local skills strategies.
The OECD Skills Strategy identifies that building greater flexibility into national skills strategies will help to integrate human resource and economic development policies and improve partnerships between industry and education at the point of delivery, at the level of local labour markets. The possibility of creating joined-up skills strategies depends on the ability of local policy makers to align their policies and services, which in turn depends on the flexibility they have to influence the delivery of these policies and services.
Collaboration among education bodies, employers and trade unions are also important to ensuring that training and skills formation meets the needs and aspirations of the economy as a whole and of different local economies in particular.
How can more flexibility be injected into vocational training systems while preserving accountability and the achievement of national policy goals?
What policy levers are necessary at what governance levels to ensure that education and training systems are sufficiently adaptable to contribute to broader strategies for economic development and growth?
As part of its follow-up to the Skills Strategy, the Secretariat will further analyse the ability of national governments and social partners to achieve local flexibility and adaptability into education and training systems. Previous LEED research has shown that allowing local agencies greater room for manoeuvre is a difficult challenge for governments. The awarding of greater flexibility must be accompanied by guarantees regarding the accountability of decision-making and the efficiency of service delivery.
Capacities are a particularly important issue, as no government will be happy to allocate new responsibilities to local level actors if they do not feel that they have the skills and resources to deliver. At the same time, new forms of governance are being developed at the local level in OECD countries (such as cross-sector targets, scrutiny committees etc.) that allow horizontal accountability to tighten as vertical accountability relaxes
In order to implement this research, LEED will collaborate with the Education Directorate (EDU) on a survey to Ministries of Education and Vocational Training in 2013, to ascertain the degree of local flexibility within adult education and training systems and the extent to which this is balanced with mechanisms for retaining national influence and accountability. The questions will focus on:
The involvement of local stakeholders in national curricula design for adult education;
The contribution of local policy makers in the field of education and training and the existence of local strategies on education and skills;
Flexibility in the financing, performance management and legal frameworks for adult education and skills policy at a local level.
The questionnaire will be complemented by participation in the horizontal project on “Developing effective skills strategies at national and local levels” which follows the work of the OECD Skills Strategy. Depending on country interest, LEED will assess the following questions in each country:
What is the evidence base for local policy on skills (availability of disaggregated data, accuracy and timeliness) and to what extent does this inform policy and programme delivery?
How flexible is the national delivery system for education and training? Are local institutions delivering skills policies and programmes able to adapt their services to local demands and local labour market needs? Are training and skills development programmes agile enough to meet the need of local entrepreneurs and SMEs?
Are local actors able to come together to address skills issues at the level of local ‘travel to work’ areas? Is it possible to plan policies around flexible (‘soft’) boundaries?
Which actors are involved in developing and activating skills and ensuring that they are effectively used? How regular does co-ordination occur between these actors? Where is co-ordination strongest and weakest?
Are structures in place to enable and incentivise local policy makers to take a balanced and strategic approach to skills locally? Are there formal governance arrangements (e.g. partnerships or boards) and do they support effective co-ordination and policy integration? Are there fora available for taking cross-sector financial decisions on where to most effectively invest resources?
How strong is communication with the private sector at local level and to what extent do local employers own and/or lead on skills issues?
Drawing on previous OECD analysis
This work will follow up previous analysis by LEED on flexibility in the management of labour market policy in 25 OECD countries (see 2005, 2009, 2011) and on flexibility of vocational training, employment and economic development policy in 11 OECD countries (OECD, 2010). The project will also build on LEED’s work on Designing local skills strategies (2009), Skills for competitiveness (2012), Leveraging training and skills development in SMEs (2012) and its contribution to the OECD Skills Strategy (2012).
Countries can support the elaboration of the questionnaire on flexibility in VET policies, which will be administered to all OECD countries represented on the Education Policy Committee (EDPC), either through voluntary contributions or expertise. Countries are also expected to participate in the project within the context of the horizontal review project Developing effective skills strategies at national and local levels as a follow-up to the OECD Skills Strategy.
A cross-country report detailing transferable results and policy recommendations for OECD countries. This report is expected to provide material for an edition of the future OECD Skills Outlook.
Contribute to the OECD national and local level action plans as part of the horizontal project Developing effective skills strategies at national and local levels.
For further information about the project please contact the OECD Secretariat.
NOTE: Policy innovation projects address important issues in the implementation of the LEED mandate. In 2013-14, building more and better quality jobs requires us to provide ways to make our training and education systems more flexible and agile locally; make skills systems greener to facilitate the seizing of green growth opportunities; build evidence at the level of local labour markets; tackle disadvantage in a context of resource rarefaction locally; adapt local economic strategies to an ageing labour market; nurture more inclusive entrepreneurship; and accelerate local growth.