Dialogue: the use of labour market information in the design of qualifica-tions – expectations and challenges

Dialogue: the use of labour market information in the design of qualifica-tions – expectations and challenges

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As part of the DARYA project, the Peer-learning workshop – Monitoring of skills demand for relevant qualifications took place17-19 October 2023, in Tashkent. The peer-learning workshop focused on how to use labour market information (sectoral studies, employer surveys), to anticipate skills and jobs and to inform the development of occupational standards and curricula. All CA countries are interested in developing multi-country qualifications whereby a possible common goal can be to manage migration, enhance learner and worker mobility in the region as well as to enable recognition of qualifications in CA countries and beyond. This article reflects the issues and ideas discussed during the event.

A clear understanding – the main pillar

When we talk about ...

... the labour market, so what are we talking about?

Today's labour market consists of people with very different skills and competences. Based on the nature of their work, they have different roles and work in different environments. Regardless of what the working environment is, there are certain expectations for the role of the employee.

If an employee accepts his role, then he also assumes responsibility for its fulfillment. Responsibility, in turn, brings a series of challenges. Symbiosis of role-expectations-responsibility ensures the functioning of the labour market. However, in order for the labour market to be more efficient, it is necessary to strike a balance between the expectations and opportunities of those involved in different roles. The description of skills through occupational standards allows for a systematic approach to the assessment and development of qualified human capital in the labour market. The occupational standard is one of the expressions of expectations and the direction and point of reference with the labour market.

... human capital development, what are we talking about?

From expectations to challenges

Technological advances, people's desire to achieve the best possible results more easily, changing approaches to work and working time have led to a changing labour market. This, in turn, requires the market participants to adapt to new circumstances and expectations. This new way of thinking makes mapping and valuing competences relevant. The social partners – employers and employees have different expectations when starting an employment relationship, the link connecting them is competences. Certainly, the different sides of the labour market should not be pitted against each other.

The expectation of employers is to recruit a qualified workforce with relevant and up-to-date competencies. The expectation of employees is that their existing professional and up-to-date competencies will be valued, through which they will be offered a job that is both mentally and

physically feasible. From the point of view of employees, it is important that the employer accepts their self-development needs (e.g. studying at the next stage of education, participating in in-service training, career opportunities, etc.). It is equally important for the employee to be convinced through self-analysis and comparisons that the skills learned or acquired are not outdated, but are still relevant and up-to-date from the point of view of the labour market. Today's employee wants to be valued.

Where to find qualified labour?

It is often argued that we do not have a skilled workforce. What is hidden behind this statement in reality? A closer look at the situation reveals that employers have their own definite and well-established idea that at the moment when they need them, they can immediately find a person with the necessary competences both on the school bench or on the labour market. In reality, this is not the case. Does the potential dream employee who corresponds to the employer's dreams not exist or do they not know how to formulate what skills and knowledge they actually expect clearly enough.

This is where employers have an important role to play in describing as accurately as possible the relevant skills and knowledge necessary for the development of companies operating in the sector.

How to get high-quality data and what does it mean?

One of the biggest challenges of today's labour market is the collection of adequate, transparent and necessary information. Before any data can be collected, the purpose of the data collection must be agreed on beforehand. It is also necessary to define to whom and to which data access is granted. Data collection simply for the sake of collection is a time and resource intensive, useless activity.

Different options for collecting information can be used at different levels:

1 Availability of statistics from various databases;

2 State-commissioned research;

3 Regular monitoring (surveys conducted in target groups);

4 Focus group interviews.


Challenges in collecting and processing information

The process of collecting and processing information consists of two equal parts: transparent and specific data collection, information processing and feedback. When collecting data, it is necessary to make sure that only the necessary data is collected. After the data has been processed, feedback must be given to the parties that provided the input and the results must be presented. In particular, it is important to highlight the comparability between the input and the final result (for example, the input of one company is compared with the regional or national average). The process of collecting information must be systematic (for a certain fixed period, for example, two years), which makes it possible to identify trends in a certain time window, for a

certain period of time (for example, six years). The input collected and analysed over a longer period of time shows trends in changes in the labour market, which in turn provides input for drawing up occupational standards, and in perspective also for updating.

Good example is Kazakhstan - there is a national labour force forecasting system in place: The National Chamber of Entrepreneurs ‘Atameken’ conducts annual monitoring (survey) of the need for professional staff. The survey covers the capital, regions and districts that are of signif-icant economic importance for the country. The list of employers included in the survey is com-piled based on data from the statistical business register. In order to ensure representativeness for each economic sector..

In terms of challenges, Kazakh participants highlighted that there is a need to change the data collection methodology - the survey is very extensive and paid by the state only. Sectors do not conduct surveys and in general, are not interested in data analysis and training of specialists to be able to analyse data. Sector qualifications councils are now being created and this may have an impact on increasing the involvement of employers in data production and analysis.

How to make good use of the collected information?

This practice is pervasive in most models of professional standards development. Work on the creation of occupational standards begins with the formation of a multi-lateral working group in which representatives of various interest groups are represented (representatives of companies of different sizes (and/or representatives of professional associations), representatives of employees, representatives of formal education and further training (vocational and higher education institutions, private sector training companies), representatives of decision-makers (various ministries, for example, educational and sectoral). Assembling the composition of working groups is a challenge for the administrators of the process – on the one hand, the desire of the representatives of the state to participate in the process and the will to contribute; different activity of representatives of the sector, interest and desire of different associations and associations to participate in the process and be involved.

The main basis for drawing up occupational standards is a set of necessary competencies, which would most clearly and intelligibly describe the relevant qualifications. It is important to note that the competencies in the occupational qualification standard are described at the basic level. Employers may have a dream of a so-called "super-worker", but a real (and realistic) level is necessary for the application of the occupational standard.

The biggest challenge for the working groups that draw up occupational standards is to reach agreements, and the general public must also have a say before approving occupational standards. Information moves through engagements, and the more employers are involved in the working groups that draw up occupational standards, the greater their interest in participating in the next phases of the process. When drawing up occupational standards, the period of their validity is agreed upon, as well as the need for their review and renewal due to the field (for example, three years in a rapidly developing sector, five years in a calmer and more traditional field). The continuity of the process ensures the topicality of the competencies described in the occupational standards.

Where are occupational standards and other LM information used?

In vocational training. Occupational qualification standards are the basis for describing learning outcomes and assessing competences in curricula that meet the requirements of the labour market. Information collected from the labour market is used on a daily basis in vocational educational institutions to assess and improve the quality of the learning process. For example, feedback collected from alumni and students from employers who have offered company internship opportunities allows for information that can be used operationally to improve the learning process.

When describing jobs. Occupational standards are also often used in describing jobs, recruiting employees, drawing up job descriptions, defining professional requirements for employees, as well as planning in-service trainings for company employees. Thus, the occupational standard gives the potential candidate the opportunity to evaluate himself in advance in order to get clarity between existing and missing skills, provides an opportunity to plan his development and career, and creates a basis for lifelong learning.

Employee mobility. A lesser-used option for occupational standards is to increase the mobility of employees. In order to ensure equal opportunities in the international labour market, one way is to use occupational standards to compare and recognise competences in different countries.

Professional orientation and career planning. Occupational qualification standards are also a good helper in occupational guidance, for example, in counselling young people and adults, as well as in career and lifelong learning planning.

In conclusion, it can be said that one of the most important components in the creation and implementation of occupational standards is the dissemination of information to the general public and the widest possible involvement of interested parties.


Collecting and analysing labour market information is certainly not a one-off action. On the one hand, it is important to assess the current state of the labour market, taking into account various factors (for example, the working-age population, migration, legislation etc). On the other hand, continuous and systematic collection and analysis of information gives a view of the future, so it is possible to monitor the change in trends over three, five or ten years, and based on the available information, it is possible to predict changes in the labour market

Since 2016, the labour market monitoring system OSKA has been launched in Estonia, the system is managed, and the data is processed by the Kutsekoda Foundation.

OSKA – a systematic dialogue for the future

OSKA, a system for monitoring and forecasting labour force and skills needs, has been launched in Estonia to collect information on labour force and skills needs, which form the basis for planning formal education and in-service training for adults.

In order to increase Estonia's competitiveness, ensure a qualified workforce and enable the self-realization of the Estonian population, both on the labour market and in society at large, a well

thought out and systemically structured education system is important. The skills and knowledges needed on the labour market are acquired through the formal education system and in-service training, both at the present moment and by looking at development needs in the future.

High-quality and meaningful knowledge of labour and skills needs is only one side of successful workforce needs/skills management . It is equally important to ensure mechanisms that support the implementation of the conclusions drawn in education and labour market policies.

OSKA methodology for collecting data1

Applied research in the field on OSKA's workforce and skills needs is made unique by the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods and the analysis of vocational training that runs through all levels of education. For this purpose, both statistical data and information collected from experts in the field in interviews and group discussions are used.

Every year, five areas of the economy are analyzed, and all areas undergo an analysis every five years on average. In the intervening years, the sectoral panel of experts will keep an eye on the implementation of the proposals made on the basis of the study's conclusions.

The central unit of analysis of OSKA research is the main professional field. The main profession is a group of professions that require sector-specific competencies that are essential for the functioning of the field.

Quantitative analysis uses data from relevant registers and studies. In addition, information on the workforce, skills and education in the field is collected from representatives of the fields during interviews and group discussions. The interviews discuss future trends affecting the economic field and the resulting changes in the need for workforce and skills, training related to the field and proposals for improving the vocational training of specialists. Sectoral expert panels also assess the sector's numerical workforce forecast and training volumes across key occupations.

Once a year, OSKA's general labour force forecast is prepared for changes in labour demand for the next 10 years, developments in the labour market and trends affecting them.

The education key is a part of the OSKA data model that shows the theoretical relationship between the education acquired and the workplace. The education key is used in the OSKA model to predict the size of the education offer in occupational subgroups.

What are the expectations for OSKA?

OSKA results are considered to be one of the nationally legitimate instruments used to predict labour market measures and places of study. This is a broad-based agreement between different interest groups, trusted by politicians. The flow and availability of information (briefings for ministry officials, schools, interest groups, etc.) is crucial to building trust. Constant clarification and search for compromises with doubters.

First of all, it was believed that OSKA could predict the number of jobs and training needs in the sector and thus solve all workforce problems. OSKA does not give specific answers, but predicts direction. The labour market is like a huge organism that is constantly changing. The challenge of the Estonian Qualifications Authority is to predict trends and trends in the labour market, taking into account the information collected on a broad basis.

OSKA - continuous collaboration process

The OSKA result is a knowledge-based input to processes where opinions were previously edited.

OSKA helps to alleviate unexpected situations on the labour market by assessing the adequacy of training opportunities, the topicality of the competences acquired by people and their consistency with the needs of the workforce.

OSKA analysis and monitoring have become more accurate. The aim is to assess the need for future labour, i.e. the overall forecast as an umbrella view.

The balanced functioning of the labour market requires constant cooperation and contribution from different parties. In the labour market, employers and employees must not be pitted against each other. Everyone has a role to play in the labour market and the need for continuous development in the context of lifelong learning. It is important to find potential employees and apply existing competences as needed or develop them using different learning opportunities (formal education, in-service training).

One of the biggest challenges in the whole OSKA process is maintaining the continuity of the monitoring system by involving different stakeholders, sharing information and explanations. At the same time developing the system and increasing its reliability.

In summary, constant monitoring, feedback and satisfaction surveys keep the dialogue active. The necessary changes and proposals, broad-based discussions and the flow of information will ensure the acceptance of policymakers.