Shaping the Mediterranean future: tackling the skills mismatch
At the 2011 ‘Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders’ held in Barcelona, 21-25 November, delegates from both sides of the Mediterranean considered challenges and opportunities facing the region, including how an improved workforce could contribute to competitiveness and employability. Debate particularly focused on ‘mismatch’ – the lack of ‘fit’ between skills required by businesses and training which the education and training sector has on offer.
Addressing the meeting, the ETF’s Anthony Gribben’s underscored the importance of ‘enterprise first,’ arguing that the skills’ support agenda is destined to fail unless the world of business assumes direct responsibility for defining skills requirements; and working with the education and training community to ensure training meets demand. Dialogue, consensus and trust between the public and private sector was crucial for more effective workforce development, said Gribben, pointing to the need for more developed public-private partnership.
Gribben added that finger-pointing as to who was to blame for skills mismatch did not help. He recognised that very often the education and training sector was slow to respond but this is where support of the private sector could help. He recommended that enterprises engage directly with schools and universities, and ‘lead from the side’ to support more market-responsive education developments.
Nonetheless, where the education sector needed to take more responsibility was in promoting ‘key competences’, said Gribben.
Key competences refer to transversal skills required in all workplaces (e.g. entrepreneurship, problem solving and teamwork skills). Gribben said that the skills mismatch discourse often ignored key competences which businesses increasingly needed in fast-changing economies. The key competence drive was also increasingly important to ensure flexibility of workers during periods of economic downturn.
Also addressing the meeting in Barcelona, Eva Jimeno Sicilia, who leads the ETF’s work in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, pointed to the employment challenges facing the countries following the Arab Spring. She specifically warned of the risks of low-skilled unemployment. This was particularly worrying given even higher risks of social exclusion. She also recommended that a renewed investment drive into the region include support for human capital development. ‘Investment and skills go hand-in-hand’ she said.
The meeting in Barcelona was organised by the Union for the Mediterranean.