This ‘policy brief’ from CEDEFOP (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) focuses on the ‘skills revolution’ brought about by “changing demography, the digital and the green transition and other megatrends [that are] reshaping economies and societies. To make that happen, “providing relevant, learner-centred, inclusive and efficient vocational education and training is [seen as] crucial.”

This is a message in this brief which has considerable resonance with policy directions in Australia at present, along with VET’s role in supporting those sorts of changes here.

‘Skills intelligence’ is a term CEDEFOP has coined. It “helps translate megatrends and aspirations of key stakeholders at national, regional, local and sectoral level into labour market trends and skill needs [and] is essential for shaping feedback loops that effectively transmit labour market signals to education and training systems.” This is done because

Shocks and rapidly accelerating transitions have contributed to increased uptake of technology and skill foresight methods, which have become much more used in skills anticipation compared to a decade ago.

Skills intelligence includes the processes supporting ‘skills needs anticipation,’ which “is the process of identifying skills the economy will require in the short, medium or longer term, to balance skill supply and demand and to promote economic development via skills investment in people, countries, regions, sectors and enterprises.” However, to be effective and make a difference “it must be part of well-functioning skills ecosystems” and be holistic and inclusive, the brief argues.

A wide variety of intelligence gathering approaches can be used, including technological and skills forecasts and foresight, learner and graduate tracer or tracking surveys, big data analysis (including through the use of AI) and skills and job surveys. Skills anticipation outcomes can be used to identify labour market shortages, in advising career and vocational guidance services, and to allocate continuing training programme subsidies and advise migration policy.

This work may be undertaken centrally by government agencies, or through collaboration by a range of bodies at different levels. In Australia it is Jobs and Skills Australia that plays an important central role. Indeed, according to their website, their aim is to be “a catalyst in activating the potential of Australia’s human capital to meet present and future skills needs.”

Becoming more effective

CEDEFOP’s policy brief suggests the following ‘take away’ messages:

  1. Maintain a robust political commitment towards improving skills anticipation and its uptake
  2. Accelerate innovation in skills anticipation methodologies.
  3. Leverage method diversity through effective coordination
  4. Connect stakeholders effectively. The brief argues that “No stakeholder can afford to think and act as an island when information exchange and activity coordination are drivers of success and progress. Stakeholders need to be mobilised to engage with one another horizontally (e.g. by linking government agencies), vertically (e.g. across value chains), and across geographic areas.”
  5. Champion network thinking and acting and move away from silo thinking and acting.
  6. Training in, and using, big data and AI more effectively. This action highlights “the importance of familiarising people with big data and AI, and how they can contribute to better understanding of trends, phenomena and contexts and underline the need for more targeted actions.”