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The world of work is changing. Digitalisation, globalisation, and population ageing are having a profound impact on the type and quality of jobs that are available and the skills required to perform them. The extent to which individuals, firms and economies can reap the benefits of these changes will depend critically on the readiness of adult learning systems to help people develop and maintain relevant skills over their working careers.

To explore this issue, the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs has undertaken an ambitious programme of work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries. This includes the creation of the Priorities for Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard for comparing the readiness of each country’s adult learning system to address future skills challenges, as well as a cross-country report, “Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems,” which showcases relevant policy examples from OECD and emerging countries.

The Directorate is also carrying out a series of in-depth country reviews of adult learning systems to offer a comprehensive analysis of the key areas where policy action is required. This report ‘Getting Skills Right: Enhancing Training Opportunities in SMEs in Korea’ assesses whether training for SME workers in Korea is adequate, relevant, and aligned to skills needs. It analyses policy options to expand access to training for SMEs, remove the barriers to training participation/provision, and ensure that training provided by SMEs is relevant to skills needs, particularly in the context of the 4th industrial revolution. Based on this analysis, this report provides actionable policy recommendations as well as good practice examples from OECD countries.

The report is structured as follows. Chapter 1 paints a picture of the place that SMEs occupy in the economy and assesses current skills imbalances in the Korean labour market. The chapter also looks at how the mega-trends that are changing the skills needed in the labour market may be particularly disrupting for SMEs. Chapter 2 assesses the extent to which SMEs support the acquisition of skills, highlights training participation patterns among SME workers, and explores the key obstacles that SMEs are facing in providing training to their employees. Chapter 3 highlights the key training obstacles that SME workers face. Chapter 4 analyses whether training is useful, of high quality, and aligned with labour market needs. Chapter 5 provides an overview of the architecture of the Korean adult learning system, looking at governance and financing.

This report was prepared by Alessia Forti from the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, under the supervision of Glenda Quintini (Skills team manager) and Mark Keese (Head of the Skills and Employability Division). Taehoon Lee provided research analysis support and helped co-ordinate the work of the OECD Secretariat with its counterparts in Korea. Useful comments were provided by colleagues in the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, the Centre for Skills, and the Economics Department. The OECD Secretariat would like to thank the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET), and the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MoEL) for their support in carrying out this project, as well as for organising an initial fact-finding mission in June 2019 and a workshop in December 2019. The OECD Secretariat is particularly grateful to Chul-Hee Kim for the technical assistance and statistical support provided throughout the project. Jai-Joon Hur and Sun-Jung Oh also deserve special thanks for providing technical assistance with the construction of the OECD Skills for Jobs indicators for Korea.

This report is published under the responsibility of the Secretary General of the OECD, with the financial assistance of the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor and KRIVET. The views expressed in this report should not be taken to reflect the official position of OECD member countries.

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