To be successful in today's knowledge economy, communities need to boost not only the skills of local people but also the utilisation and deployment of these skills by employers. By making sure that skills are utilised effectively, local economies can become more competitive and host better quality and better paid jobs.
The LEED Programme has played a key role in the development of the OECD Skills Strategy, emphasising the importance of delivering locally shaped responses. It is at the local level that collaborative approaches can be taken to not only boost skills levels but also attract and retain talent; better integrate people into the labour market and better match skills supply and demand. To be successful, such actions require the breaking down of policy silos within government policy sectors and ensuring that different types of stakeholder (colleges, universities, employers, employment services, unions, economic development agencies, social enterprise) are able to work effectively together.
It it’s contribution to the OECD Skills Strategy, LEED has worked alongside, among others, the Directorates for Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs and the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. The Skills Strategy document Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies was welcomed by Ministers from OECD and non-OECD countries in the 2012 Ministerial Council Meeting. It provides a strategic framework to help countries understand how they can build the right skills and turn them into better jobs and better lives. Both the strategy and the contributions of participating OECD directorates can be found on the skills.oecd online platform.
LEED has long been active in analying skills policies over the years, with skills at the heart of it’s mandate. In it’s contribution to the Skills Strategy, it has focused on the following themes in particular: i) joining up local skills strategies, with a particular focus on youth ii) improving how human capital is utilised in the labour force iii) leveraging training and skills development in SMEs and iv) skills for entrepreneurship. In addition data has been collected for the first time on the balance between the supply and demand for skills at the level of local labour markets (OECD territorial level 3) across the OECD:
i) Joining up local skills strategies, with a particular focus on youth
The Local Skills Strategy project has commissioned new research on the local strategies being put in place to build skills in both OECD and non-OECD countries, exploring the ways in which these strategies are managed and financed, the extent of employer involvement, and the common opportunities and challenges faced. A particular focus has been placed on strategies which address youth [include hyperlink here], as governments seek to secure school-to-work transitions and prevent the occurance of a ‘lost generation’ following the economic downturn. LEED also organised a conference in Shanghai in September 2012 on ‘An Integrated Approach to skills, designing and financing effective strategies’ as part of its Employment and Skills Strategies in South-East Asia (ESSSA) project, along with the ADBI (Asian Development Bank Institute), the Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Center (AFDC) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
ii) Improving how human capital is utilised in the labour force
LEED has reviewed data on the supply and demand of skills at the level of local labour markets in X OECD countries, highlighting regions which are experiencing low or high skills equilibrium, skills surplus or skills shortages. Further, the Skills for Competitiveness project has explored local strategies to raise skills demand and improve the utilization of skills by employers in three LEED member countries: Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy. In order to help communities escape a situation of low-skills equilibrium, local education and training instsitutions can play a central role in supporting employers as they move towards higher-value added product market strategies through R&D, technology transfer, networking and the provision of relevant training, particularly management training. More and more, such strategies are focusing on traditionally low-skilled sectors which employ significant amounts of local people such as care, retail, tourism and low-tech manufacturing. Such joined up actions are being further explored in LEED’s new project on Local Job Creation.
iii) Leveraging training and skills development in SMEs
The Leveraging training: skills development in SMEs project has carried out fieldwork in six countries (New Zealand, Poland, Belgium, UK, Turkey and Canada), and analysed survey results from more than 1000 firms to identify the particular challenges faced by SMEs in skills development. Evidence shows that small firms have lower levels of training activity than larger firms and that this is a persistent trend. However, SMES tend to participate in knowledge intensive actitives to learn new operational techniques and procedures, performed largely inhouse, and policy makers can help to support such informal transfer of knowledge through the development of employer networks and local skills ecosystems.
iv) Skills for entrepreneurship
The more local economies are able to support the creation of new enterprises, the more likely they are to create new jobs and employment opportunities. Success in setting up new business is underpinned by entrepreneurs having a comprehensive set of skills and competencies. In what is a rapidly developing policy field, an ongoing project on Skills and competences for entrepreneurship is looking at what skill and competencey sets are needed for entrepreneurship, and where and how these can be developed. It provides both analytical and practical assistance to policy makers and practitioners as it seeks to fill the information gap between the crucial skills and competences and the role for public policy and higher education providers.