ETF skills anticipation workshop gives countries food for thought in the digital age

Senior government officials, training and skills professionals and statistics experts from the six countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) came away from a Skills Anticipation conference in Dublin enthused and inspired by Irish experience in gearing up for skills demands of an increasingly globalised and digitalised labour market.

The two-day event in Ireland's capital, 27-28 September, on "skills anticipation and matching (methods and institutions)" was the seventh in a series of specialised workshops organised over the past five years under the EaP's Platform 4. The workshop's participants were members of the ETF’s "Make it Match" experts network.

Irish experience and the development of novel approaches in this field provided a rich source of examples that could be adapted for use by the 37 delegates from Armenia, Azerbajan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

"Irish experience in linking insights and signals from labour market intelligence with the national skills strategy and education and training policies at all levels," was an example of how joined-up thinking and policies could create practices suited to the era of big data, Eduarda Castel-Branco, the ETF's Senior Specialist on VET systems and policies and coordinator of the Make it Match Network, said.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs presented the findings of a new report on the impact of the digital economy on jobs and skills, noting that "in Ireland the biggest impact of digitalisation on jobs, employment and skills is expected to occur in 2023-2030 and low-skilled jobs are those most at risk."

Solutions to minimise the negative impact of this looming employment crisis included "training/retraining, better skills utilization by companies [and] support to traditional sectors and regions, and social protection," the study found.

A newly established element in skills anticipation that proved a bit hit at the workshop was Ireland's Regional Skills Forum.

Nine regional forums are already operational and their work includes liaising with very small and medium-sized companies to gather information on human resources challenges and demands; implementing innovative digital skills training that target older, low skilled employees; and contributing to a continuous exchange of information on skills and jobs between the national and regional levels.

Workshop participants recognised that "the digital era changes ways of producing and managing data on labour market and social issues, and of visualising and disseminating insights. This means combining sources of data, exploring the potential of administrative data and encouraging dialogue with SMEs to get a sense of their skills challenges. Research and data analysis are enriched by the perceptions and aspirations of all labour market players.

It is prize participants said was worth striving for: Nikoloz Chanadiri, head of department at Georgia's Social Service Agency, said: "I am impressed by the lean, effective and modern automated matching system of the website…This workshop [was] indeed a unique and enriching opportunity to improve our know-how."

Ana Indoitu, General Secretary of the National Youth Council of Moldova and member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, said: "Skills anticipation and matching is a complex theme and we know that governments tend to have insufficient resources to do it well. Our countries need to delegate this function to a well-resourced institution, promote the involvement of stakeholders and use proper research tools."

She added: "We were impressed by the Irish experience of the Regional Skills Forums - it is a great democratic way to identify needs and design policies."

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