Interview: Alessandra Molz, Skills & Employability Specialist
International Labour Organization, Office for Central and Eastern Europe, Budapest
Alessandra Molz moved to the ILO’s Regional Office two years ago after working for several years at the ILO’s International Training Centre in Turin, Italy (ITCILO).
Alessandra kindly shared her time, insights into the ILO’s programmes, and her expertise with us on skills development for young people, work-based learning, social dialogue, and sectorial approaches.
What does the ILO do to promote skills development for young people?
We strive to make vocational education and training more responsive to labour markets and to equip young people with the skills they need on the labour market. Education, especially vocational education and training is always an investment, for governments, for employers, for young people, and for parents, and it needs to be well informed and positioned.
Young people have the right to training that is relevant and equips them with the skills that allow them to gain decent employment, that is not precarious, but gives them a long-term perspective, a career development perspective, so that they can build a livelihood for themselves.
We promote employment, equality, social protection, social dialogue, and respect of labour rights. We promote decent work for all which includes young people, young women, young men, those living in rural areas, those with disabilities, migrants, those from minority communities in countries. Everyone should profit from vocational education and training and have access to decent work.
What is the ILO doing in the region you are working in now?
The ILO office in Budapest works in Central and Eastern Europe and we concentrate mainly on the six Balkan economies, Ukraine, and Moldova. We support member states to improve their skills system in all aspects, including vocational education and training. We work to promote work-based learning and development and the standards of vocational education and training institutes. We base our interventions on the needs and requests of our constituents: governments – the Ministries of Labour, and Ministries of Education, employer organisations and trade unions.
Can you give us an example of a project?
In Ukraine we are helping to modernise the curriculum of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at local level. We work together with local actors to understand the obstacles young people are facing entering the labour market. We work with employers to assess their needs and then seek to modernise curricula to meet the latest standards.
Last year, together with the ETF, we undertook an evaluation in Montenegro on work-based learning and dual education. The Ministry of Education accepted our recommendations. They are now included in the further development of dual education, including its corporation in higher education.
Why is dual education and work-based learning important for young people?
Work-based learning and dual education allow for systemic and tacit learning, which is only possible in the workplace, by working alongside others. Not everything can be learned at school or in a workshop. Trainees are exposed to business processes and technology, as well as day to day work. It is very important for young people to understand the dynamics of the workplace, how to work with people, liaise with clients, how to ask for help, and how to resolve problems.
Dual education is also a match-making process. Many companies use dual training as a recruitment mechanism. It gives the trainee the chance to understand how they feel about the job and the company, to know if it is the right choice for them.
What are the successful ingredients of policies to promote youth employment, particularly to support the transition to work?
All stakeholders relevant to the world of work must be included, employers’ organisations, business associations, workers associations and representatives of workers to ensure their voices are heard. Young people and their parents, youth organisations or NGOs that represent specific groups or communities, for example persons with disabilities or migrants or certain minorities, also need to be on board.
What is the ILO doing to promote social dialogue?
In the Eastern European region, the ILO works closely with economic and social councils, these are tripartite councils with employers and workers’ representatives. This can happen at national level, where social dialogue is very important for developing policies on wages, social protection, and crucially for vocational education and training. It is basically any interaction between workers’ representatives, mainly trade unions, and employers’ representatives. It needs to be shaped to respond to the needs of people, including young people, in a way that is fair and inclusive. It needs to cope with disruptions and transitions, as we have just seen with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social dialogue can also take place at local and sectoral level.
Can you share an example?
The ILO is involved in a development project in North Macedonia that supports social dialogue at the local level. We work with the local economic and social councils in different areas including employment promotion for young people, improving neighbourhood relationships, and training for the economic and social councils to engage in VET and identify the skills needed. This is a good example of multi-stakeholder engagement at local government level for finding local solutions to improve VET, industry productivity, and youth employability. Understanding what the local community level needs and feeding back into national policy making is one of most important ingredients of successful national policy making.
Tell us about ILO’s work using the sectorial approach?
Understanding the skills needs within a specific industry, region or company is necessary to ensure the curricula, teachers’ capacities, and TVET standards respond to the latest developments. Every sector is different, and every sub-sector is different, so we need to listen to the actors and understand the labour market needs to make TVET as relevant as possible. Skills development is complex and approaching this from the sector level allows it to be broken down and create an entry point.
Different line ministries and businesses for the sector also need to be engaged. It is important to pay attention to growth sectors which, with the proper investment, provide high potential for creating jobs along the production chains and may bring quicker returns in job creation.
Do you have any examples to share with us in the region?
The ILO has been working in Albania, based on a request from the employers’ organisations in the wine producing sector to increase skills matching with graduates. We targeted family businesses where there is a need to export and diversify their products. Skills needed to benefit the sector included production techniques, marketing, commerce and trade, and tourism. Developing the sector benefited young people by enhancing the economy in rural areas allowing them to remain where they grew up and build livelihoods.
What for you are the key components for youth employability?
Work-based learning and career guidance are fundamental. Young people need exposure to the workplace as early as possible so that they can develop realistic expectations of what the labour market looks like and explore their aspirations, understand themselves, and where their passions lie. Often, they must decide about their professional careers when very young, as early as 14. We have to help them to make the right decisions.