Building intelligence through data gathering on education, skills and employment

Interview with Mircea Badescu, statistician at the ETF

Mircea Badescu gave us some insight into his work as statistician at the ETF leading the data collection for the pre-accession countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.

Mircea's main areas of work include the ETF’s Key Indicators on Education, Skills and Employment – KIESE, skills mismatch, the European Skills & Jobs Survey and youth transition (including monitoring of the Youth Guarantee). Previously Mircea worked at the EU Agency CEDEFOP, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the OECD, and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

The interview focused specifically on the ETF’s Key Indicators on Education, Skills and Employment – KIESE, a data collection exercise which the ETF has been undertaking regularly for over a decade. A new edition of KIESE is due to be published at the end of 2022. 

ETF: Mircea, tell us about KIESE. What is it?

MB: KIESE are a collection of statistics that are part of a broader set of information proposed by the ETF to enable a review of developments in the field of education, skills and employment in the partner countries. They also allow the ETF partner countries to reference themselves against the European Union.

ETF: How is the data collected?

MB: The exercise is based on a statistical framework encompassing some 30 indicators to monitor developments in the remit of the ETF’s work concerning education including initial vocational education and training, and beyond this including youth transition, employment, skills, adult training, etc. The ETF obtains the data throughout the year which are then validated by a team of statisticians.

ETF: Who are the primary audiences?

MB: KIESE has been designed for a broader audience, mainly external, who do not have daily access to our intelligence. However, it has also become an important internal intelligence source internally and, for example, at the ETF’s annual Governing Board meetings and discussions on ETF fulfilling its mandate supporting education, skills and employment.

ETF: How is the data used?

MB: The KIESE report is the most visible part of a broader ETF product/brand serving multiple purposes and being replicated in several ETF by-products of a different nature including policy analysis of reform in participating countries that informs ETF’s policy advice function; reporting to EU institutions as a reference for the programming of country and regional activities; contributing to the national, regional and international knowledge base; and more generally in the use of visuals, including the media, for wider audiences to give a quick snapshot of a country’s situation in specific areas.

ETF: How is the data presented?

MB: The KIESE report has a stable structure which builds every year on the main blocks of the statistical framework (education and initial vocational education and training, youth transition, skills and employment) highlighting changes and patterns based on the data which has been diligently recorded. KIESE does not assess national systems or policies in-depth.

ETF: Is there analysis based on the data?

MB: Statistics have their limitations in that they can oversimplify complex issues, and to be construed properly they must be contextualised. KIESE use standard statistical frameworks to categorise and report cross-nationally comparable statistics and this remains one of its most important features. Comprehensive analysis requires more detailed data and other information, to which KIESE are an important but not an exhaustive contribution.

ETF: How good is the data?

MB: ‘Good/bad’ are philosophical concepts which statisticians do not usually employ. KIESE is the official data released by countries/our partners and so they are backed up by the statistical bodies. As with all international organisations, we ask countries to report back to us based on strict definitions while flagging and recording any deviations in the tables with data. Data is robust and sound to the extent we all speak the same language. We have been working closely with a wide-range of stakeholders in countries over time, which is a key factor contributing to the success of the exercise.

ETF: What is new or different in the newest edition?

MB: We are slightly changing the structure this year aiming at producing a more analytical product based on findings form our current work. For instance, this year, we also discuss the results from some new ETF work-strands such as youth transition and skills mismatch. More importantly perhaps, is that this year we have also added a statistical snapshot allowing the candidate countries to reference themselves against the European Union. Finally, an overview of data availability in ETF partner countries completes the report.


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