Chapter 3. Local Job Creation dashboard findings in Slovenia

This chapter presents the results from the OECD’s local job creation dashboard, which was applied to Slovenia. The results are presented to compare how Drava and South-east Slovenia are managing and implementing programmes along the following dimensions: 1) better aligning of policies and programmes to local employment development, 2) adding value through skills, 3) targeting policy to local employment sectors and investing in quality jobs, and 4) inclusion.

  

Results from the dashboard

As part of this OECD Review on Local Job Creation policies, in-depth fieldwork and research was undertaken to assess local employment and economic development practices using a dashboard methodology developed by the OECD LEED Programme. The dashboard is divided into four thematic areas of analysis, which look at a range of policy and programme measures to understand implementation practices on the ground. A value of 1(low) to 5 (high) is assigned to each indicator based on the strengths and weakness of the policy approach, with a focus on its implementation in the two local case study areas. In this chapter, each of the four thematic areas of the study is presented and discussed sequentially, accompanied by an explanation of the results. The full results of the OECD Local Job Creation dashboard in Slovenia are presented in Figure 3.1 below.

Figure 3.1. Local job creation dashboard results for Slovenia
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Theme 1: Better aligning policy and programmes to local economic development

Figure 3.2. Dashboard results for better aligning policy and programmes to local economic development
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Flexibility in the delivery of employment and vocational training policies

The OECD defines flexibility as “the possibility to adjust policy at its various design, implementation and delivery stages to make it better adapted to local contexts, actions carried out by other organisations, strategies being pursued, and challenges and opportunities faced” (Froy et al., 2011). Flexibility deals with the latitude that exists in the management of the employment system, rather than the flexibility in the labour market itself. The achievement of local flexibility does not necessarily mean that governments need to politically decentralise (Froy et al., 2011). Governments just need to give sufficient latitude when allocating responsibilities in the fields of designing policies and programmes, managing budgets, setting performance targets, deciding on eligibility, and outsourcing services.

In Slovenia, labour market programmes and strategies are designed at the national level. Local and regional employment service offices can give advice about the perceived needs of the local economy during the preparatory stages of policy. However, most programmes provide limited flexibility to local public employment services (PES) offices to design their own strategies and initiatives to boost job creation. During the OECD study visit, it was highlighted that local and regional stakeholders would prefer to have more influence on the selection of measures to be implemented to ensure they are suited to local labour market conditions.

Local employment service offices are provided with operational flexibility through the development of individual employment plans. Under this mechanism, each unemployed individual is counselled and an employment plan is prepared based on the individual’s skills, aspirations, and available job opportunities in order to find the best job match. This enables local PES offices to guide and facilitate individuals to specific programmes based on client suitability.

In addition, local PES offices have the ability to prepare specific training programmes in co-operation with local employers. Several such tailor-made programmes have been implemented. In Bela Krajina within the South-East Slovenia region, an important Slovenian company was opening a new production facility and needed a number of well-trained welders. In co-operation with the local PES office, training was organised for the unemployed with suitable skills and applicable individual employment plans to guide them into these jobs locally. Going forward, more focus will be given to tailor-made programmes in order to improve the job-matching as well as rationally use local resources. An important measure includes stimulating the education and training of the unemployed through active labour market programme funding for inter-company training centres (MIC – Medpodjetniški Izobraževalni Centre). This enables companies to become actively involved in guiding skills development programmes. This skills development programme includes a six month employment trial at the firm, supported by active labour market funding. The measure is targeted towards unemployed individuals who are often low skilled.

Target setting, budget and performance management and accountability

Programme budgets are set nationally with minor adjustments or transfers allowed between offices. Targets are set at the national level and the central office verifies spending within these limits. In some cases, at the end of the fiscal year, it is possible to move funding between programmes if funding is under-spent. However, a key issue is how budgets are assigned to regional and local offices. In some specific cases, quotas are not assigned to regional/local offices and spending is done on a “first come, first serve” basis, rather than on the prioritisation of resources and local needs.

Performance targets in Slovenia are set nationally for different policies and programmes. Targets include inputs (e.g. people enrolled into a programme), outputs (e.g. completion rates), as well as specific outcomes, such as lowering the unemployment rate. Targets are set based on statistical indicators and local offices are consulted on the preparation of these measures. In addition, the PES conducts surveys that measure the satisfaction of clients (e.g. the unemployed and employers) with their services. Once targets are set, the regional and local PES offices are accountable only to the central PES office and not to the local community.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing of activities is carried out nationally through a “registry” of potential providers. All potential providers must apply to be included in the “registry”. Public calls are made for those organisations that would like to be included into the catalogue of those who can help in case of outsourcing activities. Local/regional PES offices can request the registration of a local provider. By registering, the provider becomes eligible to operate specific programmes.

In the past, a common criticism of employment services operations was that efficiency and costs were given priority over the quality of services and job placements. In response, the PES have reduced the evaluation criteria for selecting contractors based on the costs of services to 20%. Local PES offices have previously argued that they have limited influence over the choice of contractor and structure of contract. The lack of experience of some providers in delivering employment services in a local area has lessened the efficiency and effectiveness of some programmes, especially when contractors were not willing or able to make operational adjustments for a specific local target group (e.g. Roma, disabled).

Capacities within employment and VET sectors

As of 2013, Slovenia spends 0.37% of GDP on active measures, placing it in the bottom half of OECD countries in terms of relative spending (OECD, 2015a). The PES is financed through a combination of the integral state budget as well as European and national “projects”. During the OECD study visit, local PES stakeholders acknowledged the importance of EU project-based financing to boosting the overall employment and skills budget. EU funding can often be used to finance programmes that are outside nationally set targets and may be more appropriate for specific groups (e.g. Roma programmes through the European Social Fund).

At the same time, however, there are also challenges associated with this type of EU based project funding, namely that it can be unpredictable or unsustainable. While core PES services and programmes are financed on a systematic basis, there are a number of staff and services at risk if certain EU project funding envelopes are discontinued. Some local PES offices report that up to 40% of overall programmes and services depend on EU-project financing. Even if programmes demonstrate good results, they can often be discontinued in the next project financing cycle or become temporarily unavailable once a given year’s project budget has been spent out.

Figure 3.3 shows the results of an OECD questionnaire distributed to local PES offices. Financial resources and the number of staff are perceived as the most significant barriers to improving overall performance with the employment services. Local PES offices perceive the overall skills levels of staff and their level of local labour market knowledge as sufficient and not a barrier to the improvement of overall performance. Despite these results, it was noted during the OECD study visit that it would be beneficial to have more specialised personnel with background in psychology to work as front-line counsellors.

Figure 3.3. Regional and local barriers to Public Employment Services (PES) performance improvements
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Source: OECD Public Employment Services Questionnaire.

During the OECD study visit, it was reported that some front-line staff are under pressure with the current level of unemployment and staff have had difficulty ensuring quality services and counselling in some cases. Hiring more caseworkers in order to reduce client-to-staff ratios may be necessary in order to increase the clients’ chances of finding employment, and may pay for itself as the initial investment would be offset by lower benefit expenditure (OECD, 2016c). In addition, the motivation of employees has been challenged by the generally low wages for PES frontline staff and the daily pressures associated with providing client services. Table 3.1 provides information on the overall case load of PES personnel between 2010 and 2015. The number of unemployed people per counsellor is clearly increasing, which confirms stakeholder feedback that was provided during the OECD study visit. Concrete measures have recently been taken by the government to strengthen the quality of PES counselling, especially for programmes which aim to assist youth (see Box 3.1).

Table 3.1. Number of unemployed in Slovenia, case-loads per counselling personnel

Registered unemployed

Number of unemployed per counselling staff

Time* per unemployed person (in hours)

Unemployed per all counselling staff

Excluding project financed counselling staff

All counselling in hours

Excluding project financed counselling staff

2010

100 504

384

463

3,3

3,9

2011

110 692

379

448

3,4

4

2012

110 183

361

424

3,6

4,2

2013

119 827

394

463

3,3

3,8

2014

120 109

406

479

3,2

3,7

2015

107 412

385

531

3,4

3,9

* Time refers to all PES activities per unemployed person per year, both individual and group work, allocation of candidates to jobs, monitoring allocation as well as working with employers.

Source: SORS (2015).

Box 3.1. Strengthening PES counselling activities for the young

The PES has strengthened its counselling work with youth. Between 2014 and 2015, 68 new and specially trained counsellors were employed by PES in order to strengthen the counselling activities for youth, increase the quality of counselling and increase the efficiency of career guidance with the final goal of realising the Youth Guarantee. The increased number of counsellors allowed the PES to sustain case-loads and increase the counselling time per unemployed. The unemployed were able to obtain quality information and counselling based on their interests and needs and without the need to make appointments. Without the additional counsellors, the case-load per counsellor would be significantly higher, implying less counselling as well as less customised services.

These counsellors have an opportunity to get to know their clients better and create alternative employment goals. In many cases, youth have been able to reach their goals primarily due to the strengthened support and goal-oriented counselling. The primary purpose of the project was to work efficiently with youth and improve their employment prospects. To achieve that, counsellors try to consider young people’s values, lifestyle and perceptions.

The counselling activities were thereby incorporating more elements of life-long career planning. Local PES directors were also invited to evaluate the impact of the strengthened counselling teams on the 1) use of new, innovative approaches in co-operation with employers, 2) use of new and modern communication channels, 3) creativity in career guidance, 4) implementation of fresh ideas and approaches, 5) feedback from the unemployed, especially regarding the communication, and 6) considering the needs of the young.

The evaluation revealed that the increase in the number of counselling staff and the specialised training, significantly improved the quality of PES services. The general satisfaction with PES services increased, and youth expressed more satisfaction than the average recipient of PES services. The new counsellors and their innovative work methods, energy and their desire to tailor their services improved the quality of work at PES. The results support the view that the measures within the “Youth Guarantee” were successful and also improved the position of the young in the labour market.

Between 2016 and 2022, the PES will implement a similar project to target the long-term unemployed, one of the most problematic groups within the labour market. The PES will further increase the number of counselling staff, which will be specially trained for the work with disadvantaged groups in the labour market and equipped with motivation techniques.

Policy co-ordination, policy integration and co-operation with other sectors

Generally, collaboration and communication at the regional and local level could be stronger and more active in all policy areas. Communication between the employment and training sectors at the regional or local level is not institutionalised. The majority of communication is sporadic and ad-hoc and there is no formal mechanism to ensure joined-up working across policy portfolios. While the recent process that led to the establishment of a National Skills Strategy in Slovenia shows that it is possible to bring together stakeholders from different ministries, authorities and sectors around strategic goals, the culture and practice of stakeholder engagement remains weak in Slovenia, including in the policy area of skills (OECD, forthcoming, 2017a).

Regional development agencies are active in organising collaboration between different stakeholders to prepare regional development plans. This includes the training sector, the PES, and employers. A development board, which includes the PES, meets regularly to discuss development priorities for the region. The outcomes from the development boards are summarised in extensive regional development programmes, including the Regional Development Plan for the Drava region (Regionalni razvojni program za podravsko razvojno regijo, 2015) and Regional Development Plan for the South-East Slovenia region (Regionalni razvojni program Jugovzhodne Slovenije 2014-20, 2015).

Regional development plans are prepared in collaboration with local stakeholders but there sometimes appears to be a divide between the regional level plans and those articulated at the national level. Also, there are often local development agendas prepared by different institutions (e.g. the development agency and the local municipality) which may have different strategic focuses. Furthermore, the new regional development projects (in the new operational plan of financing development from the EU sources) are more focused on requiring co-operation from local stakeholders. The new Smart Specialisation Strategy of Slovenia has been well received by local stakeholders and is expected to better integrate employment and economic development objectives.

Co-operation among municipalities is challenging because of the number of administrative areas that exist in Slovenia, as well as the uneven financial and human resources across municipalities. The number of municipalities in Slovenia has grown over the last 20 years, in contrast to the trend in most other OECD countries. Many municipalities are too small to provide public services efficiently and municipal mergers and financial incentives for inter-municipal co-operation should be a policy priority (OECD, 2015a). The new Operational Programme will focus on stimulating co-operation by awarding additional points in public tenders in case of “co-operative” projects among municipalities.

Co-operation between economic development policies and the PES can be hampered because of the organisational structures in Slovenia. For example, regions are defined on a NUTS3 basis, but the regional organisation of the PES does not align with these administrative boundaries. For example, Kočevje is a municipality facing a number of labour market challenges and is located in the South-East Slovenia region, but it falls under the Central Slovenia region in terms of the PES organisational structure. While Kočevje has stronger economical and geographical linkages to the Central Slovenian region than South-East Slovenia, it has significantly different local development and labour market issues.

The regional organisation of the PES also presents challenges in terms of policy planning. As an example, Kočevje is less developed with a vastly different labour market to Ljubljana, but both areas fall under the same PES regional office. From the perspective of economic development administration, Kočevje is part of the South-East Slovenia region, while Ljubljana is part of Central Slovenia.

In both case study regions, the PES has active communication and co-ordination with employers. At the national level, the PES is a member of the social partnership and is therefore involved in significant labour market changes that require co-ordination among the social partners. At the regional level, the PES is also a member of the development boards, which bring together a number of local stakeholders. The results from the OECD questionnaire to local PES offices also demonstrate that high emphasis is placed on reaching out to employers (see Table 3.2). Local and regional PES offices reported more collaboration with employers and chambers of commerce than with other stakeholders.

Table 3.2. PES collaboration with other stakeholders

Most collaboration

Least collaboration

Local PES offices

  • Employers and chambers of commerce

  • Private or public training facilities

  • Local government

  • Slovene human resources and development and scholarship fund

  • Universities

  • Specialized industry chambers

  • Private sector employment agencies

  • Other NGOs

Regional PES offices

  • Employers, associations of employers, chambers of commerce

  • Vocational schools

  • Welfare and social integration institutions

  • Universities

  • Slovene human resources and development scholarship fund

  • Post-secondary schools

Source: OECD Public Employment Services Questionnaire.

Local PES offices provide continuous support to employers through the Offices for Employers, which were opened in 2014. The Offices for Employers offer a number of services, including gathering information about vacancies; professional selection of appropriate and motivated candidates; providing information about the currently available incentives for recruitment and training of new employees; assistance in completing applications and forms, which are required in order to obtain specific services for employers; and information about the legal obligations of the employer after the employment of a new employee (when using services and incentives by PES). If there are no appropriate candidates in the local labour market, the PES provides the following services to employers:

  • Appropriate candidates can be sought throughout Slovenia and the EU area through the internal PES database;

  • The PES can organise special presentations of vacancies available and companies to unemployed candidates with the appropriate knowledge, skills and motivation necessary.

  • The PES can co-finance the training of motivated candidates;

  • Available candidates can be trained according to special educational programmes that provide specific professional knowledge, skills and competences required from companies;

  • The PES can provide special grants for certain groups of the unemployed;

  • The PES can organise mini employment fairs to bring unemployed and employed individuals together. Short interviews can be organised with candidates to help companies select new employees.

In both case study areas, the PES works well with not-for-profit and adult-education institutions (see Box 3.2). In this context, a number of programmes (financed largely from the European Social Fund) were implemented, including training to improve basic computer skills and language skills, as well as special programmes for disadvantaged groups (e.g. Roma and immigrants). This co-operation was also acknowledged by the municipalities and local development institutions.

Box 3.2. Example of adult education centres: Razvojno-izobraževalni centre (RIC) Novo mesto

RIC Novo mesto is a public institution for adult education. Traditionally, the RIC (and predecessors) were an important adult education facility, primarily offering primary school for adults, different secondary programmes for adults and language courses.

They co-operated with PES to offer skills development opportunities to the unemployed. After 1990, the centre expanded its activities to a number of other activities. Besides formal educational programmes, which include primary school for adults as well as secondary vocational programmes for other occupations (e.g. salesmen, commercial technicians), the RIC also provides general programmes for disadvantaged groups. These programmes include project learning for young adults, study groups, training to be more successful in life, language courses, programmes for active citizenship, programmes for older adults, special needs’ individuals and Roma.

They also provide computer programmes for the general public as well as a self-study area and counselling services. Counselling for adults is a special programme (ISIO centres) that is offered in RIC to support adults in all stages of education and learning. In addition, the RIC also provides European Business Competence License (EBCL) certificate training to help participants achieve an internationally recognised certificate of business skills. RIC also works with the corporate sector and prepares special computer and language programmes that are tailored to the needs of companies.

RIC is just one example of an adult education centre or “peoples’ university”. Ljudska Univerza Kočevje, Zavod za izobraževanje in kulturo, Črnomelj, Center za izobraževanje in kulturo Trebnje, Andragoški zavod Maribor, Ljudska univerza Ptuj, Ljudska univerza Ormož are also examples of similar institutions providing similar services at local area.

In general, adult education centres are important local stakeholders due to their specialisation in the field of life-long learning and work with different disadvantaged groups. Their focus on different formal programmes place emphasis on general competences (e,g, literacy, communication, computer, and presentation skills), which are extremely important for labour market success. Often, these skills are neglected in skills development programmes in Slovenia.

Source: RIC (2015), ZLUS (2015).

Evidence based policy making

In a recent OECD review of the Slovenian Skills Strategy (OECD, 2017), it is noted that the skills assessment and anticipation system is not sufficiently developed. This means that decision makers at all levels do not have access to the appropriate information that would enable them to respond to changing conditions in the labour market. The main source of information that is at their disposal concerns occupations that are currently in high demand. But no system is in place to anticipate future skills needs. In addition, little information is available on the supply of skills, which means that imbalances on the market for skills cannot be easily detected. This lack of quality labour market information also hampers career guidance services.

Local stakeholders rely on available data in the development of employment and economic development strategies. Data can be sourced from Eurostat, which offers some regional data, as well as the Statistical Office of Slovenia. Data at the municipal level is harder to obtain due to general availability and in some cases confidentiality issues (firm level, individual data for further analysis). Regional data can be found at SORS Maps and website, where more popular data are collected at the regional and municipal level. More detailed data is also available in the SI-Stat Data portal database. When available,data are often used in programme and policy development when available.

The PES also has a rich internal database of all unemployed, which they actively analyse for internal purposes. They also have partial coverage of the demand for workers, based on reported vacancies. However, as of 2012, the reporting of vacancies is no longer obligatory, so coverage is only partial. An interesting project within the PES involved forecasting employment, which looks not only at general trends but the types of skills required of future jobs (see Box 3.3).

Box 3.3. “Forecasting employment needs”

The PES in 2014 established the “Forecasting employment” (Napovednik zaposlovanja) project, which gathers information about the plans of the employers to employ in the next 6 months, the main occupations they will employ and the problems they are facing in employing (which occupations and what skills are missing).

The results of the survey show that technical profiles are most in demand. Through several rounds of this survey, it has been found that welders, metal workers, drivers, elementary workers and electricians have been the most desired profiles. The results also show that 22% of Slovenian companies encountered problems when trying to find suitable candidates, which rises to 25.6%, 31.8% and 31% in Maribor, Ptuj and Novo mesto respectively. Generally, bigger companies had more problems when looking for suitable candidates, but they also have more vacancies and often seek very specific profiles.

Source: Employment service of the Republic of Slovenia, Napovednik zaposlovanja, 2015.

Alongside official statistical sources (SORS, Eurostat), data on the regional labour market situation can be partially obtained from the Centre of Social Security and local employers that provide information to the PES. Also, more detailed data on employment could be obtained for empirical research from firm-level data, which are available to selected institutions via AJPES (The Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Public Legal Records and Related Services). Data are also subject to data-protection clauses. Other stakeholders, such as the chambers of commerce and development agencies, do not regularly conduct labour market analysis due to resource issues. There could be an opportunity to merge chambers together at the local level and give them more resources to conduct labour market analysis and forecasting on a sector basis.

Although data are available and are being used when preparing policies, more could be done to better utilise information in the evaluation of programmes and policies. Previous OECD work on Slovenia has highlighted the importance of creating a system of independent evaluations for active labour market programmes to improve their efficiency (OECD, 2015c). Furthermore, there is no systematic data-collection gathered for travel-to-work areas, regions and municipalities. Data on the basis of travel-to-work areas are not available through SORS.

Due to the size of the economy, research at the national level can also provide relevant results for local communities, either because the topic is generally relevant and the whole economy is analysed or a regional focus is taken. Such analysis is often conducted in co‐operation with academia. Through public calls, the government and the Slovenia Research Agency regularly provide funding for either “targeted research projects” or applied research. Often, development and labour market issues are financed.

Theme 2: Adding value through skills

Figure 3.4. Dashboard results for adding value through skills
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Flexible training is open to all in a broad range of sectors

The OECD dashboard results show that Slovenia is doing well in terms of providing accessible training in a broad range of sectors. In general, there is a strong network of primary and secondary schools, as well as higher degree programmes (e.g. the University in Maribor in Drava region, the University in Novo mesto in the South-East Slovenia region, as well as higher degree programmes offered through vocational education centres). Yet while recent governments have given a clear priority to improving the employability of young individuals by promoting life-long career orientation, upskilling opportunities for older workers has tended to be somewhat neglected (OECD, 2017b forthcoming).

From the primary level, students develop basic skills and higher level generic skills (including networking, communication, leadership, innovation and problem solving). Some schools even offer entrepreneurship education from a young age, depending on the availability of such electives. These skills are then further strengthened in secondary education and vocational education. In some national vocational qualification programmes, such as care-taker, these skills are a mandatory part of the curriculum. For adults, generic skills can be upgraded through the not-for-profit sector or adult education centres. Developing entrepreneurial skills among the Slovenian population would be all the more beneficial to the economy that the country currently lacks the ability to effectively translate its quality research and development activities into innovative products and services that can be commercialised in both national and international markets (OECD, forthcoming, 2017b).

Vocational schools or school centres (which are comprised of several different schools) offer a number of different programmes in vocational education (e.g. Tehniški šolski cente Maribor, Srednješolski centre Ptuj, Šolski centre Novo mesto, Srednješolski centre Črnomelj, Srednja šola in gimnazija Kočevje). These institutions offer formal educational programmes for youth and adults. They also offer higher educational programmes and special training for companies – some have specific inter-company training centres (MIC – Medpodjetniški izobraževalni cente). Their activities are often supported by local partners – for example, the higher education unit in Maribor’s training centre has 84 partners. The PES will systematically support increased co-operation between MICs and employers through the new programme “I can, because I know”, which aims to re-train job-seekers. Through this programme, the government will support on-the job training in a company (about 104 hours). In 2016, a total of 1 600 people will be targeted in such programmes.

Generally, there are three basic types of secondary vocational training programmes: two, three and four year programmes, which can all lead to university under specified conditions.

  • The programmes of short vocational education are two year programmes designed for students who have completed compulsory schooling and finished at least seven (out of nine) grades of primary school or finished primary school with an adapted programme. Programmes in various professions are offered (e.g. engineering, construction, biotechnology, textiles) with an emphasis on practical training.

  • Programmes of secondary vocational education normally take three years and involve a minimum of 24 weeks of practical training in the workplace. Anyone who has completed basic education or a lower secondary education programme can join this educational track. Programmes are prepared for a number of occupational fields and training ends with a final written and oral examination as well as a presentation of a product/service (CPI, 2015).

  • General and technical programmes are also intended for students who have completed basic education or lower secondary education or short term vocational programmes, but they last four years rather than three. They provide vocational training, but also provide a pathway into higher professional education (CPI, 2015).

Adults with vocational skills only have limited opportunities to retrain throughout their working lives. Schools do offer diploma programmes (upper secondary or higher education) as well as shorter modular courses, national vocational qualifications programmes, or trainings prepared in co-operation with local companies and/or the local PES, but this is not an adequate way of helping older workers to upskill or retrain for new occupations (OECD, 2017b forthcoming). Financial support to undertake higher education courses are often reserved to students aged under 25. As a result, only 6% of new entrants in such courses were aged over 24 in 2015, compared to 18% on average in OECD countries, and the enrolment rate for the population aged 30 to 64 halved between 2005 and 2014 (OECD, 2017b forthcoming). The fact that part-time courses, which are likely to be more attractive for those in employment, are often undersubscribed may also be the consequence of a financial support system that does not favour such courses.

Some initiatives have been taken to encourage retraining of older workers. In early 2017, the national government has announced the creation of a new programme entitled “Comprehensive Support to Companies for Active Aging of Employees” which will provide skills upgrading opportunities to 12 500 older workers by 2022. In Bela Krajina, the Akrapović exhaust pipes company set up a training programme through a partnership with the local PES office. In addition to the programmes for adults offered through secondary school centres, training is also available through adult educational centres (“peoples’ universities”). As “formal programmes” are broadly available in secondary school centres, the importance of these institutions is primarily in providing training for different skills, such as ICT, communication skills and language training.

Schools and the Ministry of Education are able to suggest the development of new programmes (national curriculum) that provide an official diploma. National vocational qualifications (NVQ) are defined by law and provide official national certificates of qualifications. If the qualification is needed by a specific branch – provided that a similar one does not exist – the CPI typically prepares occupational standard and the assessment catalogue of the qualification within six months.

Looking specifically at the case study areas, schools in both areas offer a number of programmes in various technical and scientific fields. In South-East Slovenia, the biggest secondary educational centre is in Novo mesto but there are also smaller centres in municipalities such as Kočevje and Črnomelj. The agricultural education centre “Grm” in Novo mesto is one of the strongest centres in this field nationally (see Box 3.4). Similarly, the biggest centre of education in the Drava region is in the region’s capital, Maribor, but smaller municipalities including Ptuj and Ruše also have training centres. While provision is generally adequate in the larger centres, smaller educational centres face more challenges, particularly related to engaging a sufficient number of students to reach the “critical mass” needed to offer courses, and working with local employers (e.g. related to work-based learning).

Box 3.4. Centre Grm, Centre of biotechnology and tourism

Grm Novo mesto is an education and development centre that specialises in the fields of biotechnology (agriculture, horticulture, food and nutrition, veterinary medicine, forestry and hunting, nature conservation, environmental protection, sports and recreation in the countryside, social welfare in rural areas) and tourism (hospitality, gastronomy, hotel business, rural and urban tourism, sport and recreation).

Grm Novo mesto is comprised of several educational institutions: Agricultural School Grm and Biotechnical School, Secondary School for Hospitality and Tourism, Vocational College, Student Hostel, Business Educational Centre with the school farms, food processing plants and the Culinary House, a restaurant in Novo mesto. Agricultural School Grm and the Biotechnical School are the oldest programmes of the school, which was established in 1886. In 2000, the school started a higher educational programme, which today offers three programmes: countryside and landscape management, nature protection, and catering and tourism. The centre also includes an R&D Institute, which founded the Higher School of Rural Management in Novo mesto.

The school is actively involved in agriculture and tourism in the region and engages its alumni through seminars and events, including opportunities for lifelong learning. The centre also stimulates co-operation between individuals. Finally, from the first year of education, the school actively promotes entrepreneurship in agriculture and tourism. As such, the centre is an active and important actor in regional (and national) agriculture and tourism.

Source: Interviews with Centre Grm undertaken for LEED, 2015.

Compared to other EU28 countries, Slovenia performs slightly better than average in the participation of unemployed and low-skilled workers in training (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5. Participation rate in education and training (previous 4 weeks), aged 18-64, 2015
picture

Source: Eurostat (2017a).

The PES subsidises training to help unemployed people obtain additional qualifications. Decisions about training are based on personal employment plans. Generally, unemployed persons can enrol in training as long as it aligns with their personal employment plan and is supported by PES. These programmes tend to be short (e.g. national vocational qualification, e.g. 60-150 hours, with different combinations of practical and theoretical parts). Longer or more formal programmes for diplomas are less commonly supported by PES.

Employers that offer on-the-job training for the “hard to employ” (for up to 3 months) are eligible for a subsidy after the training is completed. In addition a new instrument, “Zmorem, ker znam”, was launched in 2016 with the aim of increasing co-operation between employers, education and training organisations, and PES.

Working with employers on training

While no exact measure is available, a number of indicators can be useful in determining the extent to which training is aligned to employer needs. In 2015, 24.3% of employers faced difficulties in finding suitable candidates whereas in large firms, the share was 33% (Manpower, 2015). In an analysis conducted by the PES, over 75% of employers reported that candidates are primarily missing occupational or vocational-specific skills. Employers specifically report challenges with finding candidates with organisational, team-working, and problem solving skills (see Figure 3.6). In another study of Slovenian employers who recruited higher education graduates, 62% reported being “somewhat” satisfied with their sector specific skills, while 15% reported being “rather not satisfied or not satisfied at all” and 20% reported being “very satisfied (EU Barometer, 2010).

Figure 3.6. Skills that the candidates are missing according to local employers, 2015
picture

Source: ESS (2015).

The OECD distributed a questionnaire to local employment offices to ascertain their view on the responsiveness of training to local employer needs. In the view of representatives of local public employment services, training provided through the formal education system is least likely to be aligned with employer needs, while training within Active Labour Market Policy (ALMP) measures are more positively assessed (see Figure 3.7). In one survey, 38% of Slovenian employers reported that they have never co-operated with higher education institutes to discuss curriculum design and study programmes (EU Barometer, 2010).

Figure 3.7. The responsiveness of Public Employment Services to local employer needs
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Source: OECD Public Employment Services Questionnaire.

However, it should be acknowledged that some schools work very well with employers. Based on the Law on Vocational and Professional Education (Zakon o poklicnem in strokovnem izobraževanju, 2006), 20% of the vocational curriculum is left “open” for local actors to prepare, often in co-operation with local employers. Employers can also suggest new vocational qualifications or even educational programmes. If a new programme is required, this can take longer (approximately one year). Special shorter modules can be prepared within an even shorter time frame. In some cases, employers also work with schools to organise practical training, or equip the school’s learning facilities with the necessary machinery.

Some school centres have inter-company training centres (MIC). MICs aim to develop quality vocational training opportunities and support innovation and development within companies. For example, MIC Maribor attempts to develop new technologies and implement innovative activities and thus promote the economic and technological development of the region in addition to providing training. In May 2015, MIC Maribor offered four programmes (which were also free for unemployed): Mechatronics – Automation of industrial processes; Machining – Turning; Hardware Installations – Sanitary Installations; and Welding – TIG welding. Similar examples can be found also in other educational centres. From 2016, co-operation between MICs and companies will be further stimulated through training for employment instrument (“Znam, ker zmorem”).

Employers can also directly engage in vocational education design. For example, a large employer in the South-East Slovenia region suggested the development of a programme on “industrial pharmaceuticals”. While this plan was not implemented, they are still very active in education and training. They developed six internationally certified national vocational qualifications that are customised to their specific needs. The company also has a practical and co-operative relationship with the pharmaceutical faculty in Ljubljana, where employees teach classes at the university.

Workplace training and apprenticeships

Approximately 68% of employers in Slovenia offer continuing vocational education training (CVET) to their employees, slightly above the average of 66% in EU28 countries. The most common factors influencing the provision of employer-sponsored training in Slovenia were training being too expensive (43%), a major training effort already undertaken in the previous year (29%), or a focus on initial vocational training rather than CVET (19%). Only 10% of employers that offer training reported that public measures had an impact on their CVET plans, compared to an estimated EU28 average of 26% (Eurostat, 2016).

Larger employers invest significantly in human resource development. For example, one large Slovenian company located in South-East Slovenia provides an average of 55 hours of training to employees annually, which covers general (IT, languages, etc.) as well as occupational-specific skills. There are also a number of large companies in both case study areas that invest in training, primarily because they are developing new products. Typically, these programmes are conducted through on-the-job training, but employers are beginning to invest more in official programmes for diplomas. On the other hand, smaller companies find it much harder to invest in specific training for both organisational and financial reasons.

Apprenticeships are not currently available in Slovenia, but are in the process of being launched (e.g. CPI, 2014). A pilot programme for the establishment of a dual apprenticeship-training system, co-financed by the Ministry of Education and the European Social Fund, will be launched for six to eight industries in 2017-18. While practical on the job training is already part of other vocational programmes, the time spent in practical training will be increased to at least 50% of the programme curriculum in the new system. Some employed and unemployed adults will also be able to participate in the system. An important role will be given to the Chamber of Commerce which will be involved at various stages.

The Law on vocational and professional education (Zakon o poklicnem in strokovnem izobraževanju [Vocational and Professional Education Act], 2006) provides the framework to the preparation of vocational and professional programmes, and on the job training represents the biggest share of two year vocational programmes. In three year programmes, it is 24-weeks long, while in four year programmes, it takes 4-10 weeks.

Matching people to jobs

Career planning usually begins in basic education and continues to the secondary level. Counsellors in basic education conduct career and vocational counselling from the sixth grade, while elective or additional courses also provide insight and guidance to students with regard to their interests and future vocational opportunities.

Many career activities take place at the secondary school level. For example, the Grm centre of agriculture and tourism in South-East Slovenia has developed a programme of “individual counselling”, where both parents (often farm owners) and students are invited to identify a specialisation and a desired career path early in secondary education. Through later school work, pupils prepare an entrepreneurial idea and plan. Many succeed in starting companies before they even finish school.

However, there are a number of challenges related to career guidance within the short and technical vocational education system. Short vocational education is generally viewed as a “second choice” educational pathway. Similar to other OECD countries, parents in Slovenia generally have a negative attitude towards short vocational education, which may help to explain why the university enrolment rate is among highest in the EU. There is a perception that pupils from short vocational or vocational technical schools were unable to go to university, and that these programmes can be completed more easily. In Bela Krajina, for example, schools have attempted to change this perception by inviting employers to information days and connecting employers and parents in eight and ninth grades to attract them to their vocational and technical programmes.

Career support for older works is less organised and depends on the individual situation (e.g. whether they are employed or unemployed). General counselling is available through ISIO centres for self-learning. Career guidance is also available at the GENEP centres, while adult education centres and the not-for profit sector conduct career counselling. For example in the South-east Slovenia region, RIC as well as other adult education centres and the peoples’ universities” are active in consulting and are also involved with employers. A successful project was ZaTE that brought together different labour market stakeholders. There is also some support for professional development and development of career ladders for low-qualified workers. This is primarily through the activities of PES, “peoples’ universities”, and the not-for profit sector.

In order to improve the responsiveness of the VET system to the needs of the labour market, incentives have recently been put in place to encourage students to choose VET courses that correspond to occupations for which there are labour shortages. In 2015, a ’Scholarship for Shortage Occupations’ scheme was established with a monthly stipend of EUR 100. The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs determines the occupations that are covered by the scheme after consultation with social partners.

At university level, more could be done to provide graduates with the skills that are needed in the labour market. For example, the funding system for universities could provide better incentives to align curricula to employer skills demands (OECD, 2017b). The fact that universities are currently paid a lump sum paid per students enrolled incentivises establishments to prioritise quantity over quality. A different funding system that would be partly based on the labour market performance of graduates could help to improve the alignment between university curricula and labour market demands. Better links with industry could also contribute to improve the responsiveness of higher education institutions. Although there are plenty of evidence of top-tier Slovenian firms engaging with training and research institutions, through scholarship schemes for example (OECD, 2015b), employers do not have the possibility to influence higher education curricula and are generally not represented on boards of management. Finally, the lack of internationalisation of higher education institutions may also hinder their ability to respond to new technological trends and to provide graduates with the skills that are needed to succeed on the global marketplace for jobs and skills (OECD, 2017b).

Activation and job-matching through PES

At the PES, all registered unemployed people receive counselling. The PES develops individual employment plans that consider the individuals experience, education, and labour market experience in order to find the best possible job match. Counselling is typically the only instrument used in the first three months of jobseeking, as the unemployed are expected first to show that they are actively searching for work. Jobseekers with specific needs may immediately receive additional support (for example, early school leavers can receive support through PUM). Yet, as a whole, Slovenia spends relatively little on active labour market programmes (ALMP) as a share of GDP in comparison to the OECD average.

Figure 3.8. Public expenditure on active labour market programmes (as % or GDP), 2013
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Source: OECD (2017c).

Given that it is generally easier to find a new job while still being in employment, it would be beneficial to incentivise workers who are at risk of being displaced to engage in activation programmes before they lose their job, for example through mandatory registration with ESS (OECD, 2016c). Yet, at present, there are no procedures in place for early activation of potential job-seekers and ESS staff are not encouraged to provide job-search assistance to workers who have been notified termination of their employment (OECD, 2017b). In addition, activation programmes that target displaced workers could be extended and improved as they currently do not benefit from sufficient dedicated resources and coverage (OECD, 2016c).

When employers approach the PES in search of a specific profile, the PES can use an internal database that provides data on all registered unemployed people across Slovenia to find a list of suitable candidates. Generally, both the candidate and the firm prefer to find matches that do not require long commutes, particularly because travel costs are covered by employers in Slovenia. Nonetheless, firms report that individuals have become more willing to commute longer distances to work following the economic crisis, which is also evident from the regional and municipal migration data.

Local recruitment challenges are usually firm-specific- due to the size of economy it is hard to speak of any regional specialisation in terms of large clusters that would require a more systematic approach or a strategy. In such cases, either the PES assists local employers or the firm seeks other assistance through vocational education or internal training programmes. Through the Regional Scholarship scheme, companies also provide scholarships in order to encourage students to work with them after finishing a specific programme.

There are also mechanisms to validate skills obtained informally. Individuals can demonstrate proficiency by passing a national vocational test and receiving a public document – certificate on national vocational qualification as regulated by National Professional Qualifications Act. There are a vast number of fields where such national vocational qualifications exist and these qualifications are revised every five years. They can also be expanded with pressure from local companies and other stakeholders.

Joined up approaches to skills

Local stakeholders recognise the importance of harnessing and attracting talent, and references to skills can be found in the relevant economic development strategies. While a systematic and co-ordinated approach does not exist, some action is being taken by individual actors. In South-East Slovenia, companies such as Krka, Revoz and Adria Mobile attract talent to the region. Local stakeholders also recognise the benefits of domestic employers, especially within higher-value added sectors that focus on R&D activities and generally stimulate better economic development opportunities.

Co-operation at the local level to bring together skills and perspectives on economic development is expected to improve with the new Smart Specialisation Strategy of Slovenia. Co-operation and partnerships to embed skills policies into perspectives on economic development will be stimulated through national tenders that prioritise projects that aim to bring local stakeholders together across employment, skills, and economic development portfolios. Both Drava and the South-East Slovenia regions have regional developments plans for the period of 2014-20 that highlight the importance of skills for the regional and local economy.

The municipality of Kočevje has taken an innovative approach towards joined-up working. It prepares “diploma” evenings in the local library, where recent graduates present their work to employers. Several graduates have obtained work through these activities. The municipality also aims to retain keep quality labour, and involves employers in the preparation of development programmes. The municipality also stresses the importance of human resources to potential investors.

According to the Regional Development Plan of the Drava region 2014-20, the priority areas in which skills will have to be developed are: management skills, communication skills, foreign languages with a focus on English and German, and information and communication technology. The growing demand for professionals from information technology could be strengthened by creating closer linkages between academic centres and companies and promoting education in the field of information technology. The Regional Development Plan also acknowledges the importance of innovation that encourages the development and creation of high-value businesses. Furthermore, there is a focus on entrepreneurship and supporting the development of SMEs.

According to the Regional Development Plan of the South-East Slovenia region 2014-20, informal and non-formal education is needed in order to increase employment opportunities through the acquisition of general and professional competences, taking into account development policies and projections, such as the expected increase in green jobs. The plan also points to the importance of boosting entrepreneurship skills and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The plan notes that intercompany training centres (MICs) should have a stronger role in the implementation of training programmes for the employed and unemployed. It also stresses the importance of harmonising vocational education with the needs of the economy and increasing the overall enrolment in short vocational and technical education.

Theme 3: Targeting policy to local employment sectors and investing in quality jobs

Figure 3.9. Dashboard results for targeting policy to local employment sectors and investing in quality jobs
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Relevance of provision to important local employment sectors and global trends and challenges

Regional development programmes in both case study regions acknowledge the problems of population ageing and sustainability but planning is somewhat ad-hoc. Many OECD countries use sophisticated skills forecasting models, which provide a breakdown of trends by sector and level of education over the long-term. However, no such planning exists in Slovenia. In Slovenia, IMAD (Institute for Economic Research and Development) carries out short-term planning twice annually, which provides data on overall employment and unemployment numbers. However, forecasting over the long-term is not done. An analysis of skills planning at the firm level also showed that companies plan poorly for the future, with relatively little attention paid to firm needs a year or more in the future (Pahor et al., 2012).

Some efforts are underway to take global trends into account through policies and programmes. For example, during the OECD study visit, local stakeholders stressed that the new EU operational programme funding will stimulate green jobs. Cohesion funding will be used to promote the “green economy”, including funding for jobs in water safety, water quality, waste water, energy efficiency, and transport. In all these areas, green jobs are emerging. For 2015-16, a plan has been developed through a partnership between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education to promote greater inclusion of green topics into education programmes and curricula. The training sector also actively incorporates green skills into their programmes. For example, the Centre Grm (highlighted earlier) offers a programme in environmental engineering that analyses sustainability issues and environmentally friendly practices in both agriculture as well as tourism.

Work with employers on assuring decent work and skills utilisation

When implementing active labour market policy, the PES tries to match workers to jobs that ensure stability, and minimise instances of employers taking advantage of training and employment subsidies just to lower their labour cost for the duration of the programme. For example, during the OECD study visit, some local PES offices reported that the subsidised on-the-job training programmes were often abused because employers were not obliged to take on trainees after their training is completed.

The performance of Slovenia in effectively using people’s skills in workplaces has been found to be mixed (OECD, 2017). This can have negative consequences on wages, productivity and job satisfaction. Generally, public agencies do not actively co‐operate with the private sector to look at issues related to the better use of skills and work organisation, but both case study regions are trying to improve the local business environment and are aware of the importance of increasing the demand for skills to further economic development. Special measures have been introduced that are targeted towards disadvantaged areas. These include special regional plans in both case study areas, which aim to increase overall development and broadly aim to address issues related to productivity and skills utilisation (see Box 3.5).

Box 3.5. Creating a supportive environment in the Drava and South-East Slovenia regions

The Drava Region Development Plan stresses that the low productivity of firms is one of the problems in the region, as well as limited R&D expenditure and poor marketing skills. As a result, the penetration of export markets is not as high as it could be given the regional location. The Regional Development Plan calls for the enhancement of the supportive environment, strengthening entrepreneurship, and improving other key competences. Overall, the region plans to support the efficiency of companies, among other measures, by:

1) Increasing overall competitiveness by stimulating excellence in research; strengthening the innovation capacity of enterprises, including the creation and transfer of new knowledge and solutions from scientific research and educational institutions in the economy; strengthening the international competitiveness of enterprises and promoting the internationalisation of the economy; attracting new investment from the country and from abroad; investing in the development of a supportive environment, including the development of economic infrastructure; providing support services to new and growing businesses and schemes of financial subsidies to encourage start- ups and social enterprises and co‐operatives; investing in ICT development and providing more uniform access broadband networks and e-services; and promoting social entrepreneurship and social innovation.

2) Improving social cohesion and labour market by improving the quality of life for individuals and families and increasing social cohesion and social inclusion; increasing social inclusion and quality of life for young people, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; investing in the further development of educational institutions in order to achieve quality and efficient education and training , including the use of innovative technologies and the establishment of systemic higher education study programmes that facilitate entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer; and increasing the impact of research, development and innovation.

South-East Slovenia region’s 2014-20 Economic Development Plan aims to support the economy and increase the productivity of firms, creating a better environment for entrepreneurship, and strengthening and better utilising key competences. The plan aims to: (Regionalni razvojni program za obdobje 2014-20 v razvojni regiji Jugovzhodna Slovenija, 2015, pp.90-92):

1) Develop a supportive environment by ensuring an effective and supportive environment; improving the entrepreneurship climate and better disseminating information on business opportunities; promoting entrepreneurship among young people and other groups; building a better understanding of entrepreneurship as an opportunity; increasing the number of fast-growing firms; and establishing a network of incubators (regional network incubator, incubator network Pokolpje).

2) Raising the productivity of enterprises: by providing infrastructure and equipment for the development of start-up business; ensuring the development of economic infrastructure which is suitable for new companies, where priority will be given to business districts close to regional centres or where there is a critical mass of labour and businesses; supporting networking and clustering of businesses and other organisations in the region and beyond; implementing various forms of business advice and training in the agriculture, tourism, forestry, wood, creative and cultural industries and implementing counselling and education in social entrepreneurship and economic democracy; assisting in the restructure of business models; raising the competences of those working in supportive environment; integrating new and existing support services of various institutions (development agencies, business chambers of commerce, chambers of crafts, municipalities, etc.); integrating incubators with networks in neighbouring countries; and scoreboard economic infrastructure (occupancy, infrastructural equipment, checking.

3) Raising skills in the region in various fields of work: including enterprises and organisations of the region in international co-operation; increasing co-operation with foreign companies and partners, both in European and other markets; recognising the need for new occupations and competencies; introducing new state-approved programmes to meet the needs of the labour market; raising skill levels; increasing participation in international projects; and applying for international sources of funding, particularly EU funds and programmes.

At the national level, the Smart Specialisation strategy identifies specific sectors as key to the competitive advantage of Slovenia. Measures will be introduced based on this national plan. On a case-by-case approach, special regional and sectoral support can be provided by the investment agency.

Local higher education institutes, inter-company training centres and universities are involved with local community and economic development projects. In Novo mesto, for example, the Faculty for Information Studies obtained a silver medal in 2014-15 for their innovation mScan, a programming solution for capturing and managing paper documents in the cloud. This was developed in co-operation with a local business.

Within agriculture and tourism, Center Grm has a research institute that develops knowledge and promotes the use of applied research. They also have a facility that aims to connect local business and their alumni to spread new trends in the use of technology in the workplace. By doing so, they are promoting knowledge networks to share information on new product and production innovations. In Maribor, the local university has started to look at stronger co-operation with the local business community on issues related to skills use.

Promotion of skills for entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is acknowledged in the development plans of both the South-East Slovenia and Drava regions. A previous OECD rapid policy assessment of Slovenia highlighted a number of interesting practices to develop training, coaching and mentorship programmes (OECD, 2015a). These programmes include ’Entrepreneurially Into the World of Business’ (Podjetno v svet podjetnistva), YES Start, ARTUS, Model M 2014, KonektOn, and EnterYOUTH. Many of these programmes are targeted to highly skilled youth, and there are relatively few programmes that focus on the core working-age population or older workers.

Most entrepreneurship programmes are operated by the PES. One of these programmes was the self-employment programme, which included training; the development of individual business plans; and subsidies to help individuals start businesses (see Box 3.6).

Box 3.6. Self-employment programme by PES and entrepreneurship development

Between 2007 and 2013, the Slovenian PES stimulated employment via a self-employment programme supported by the European Social Fund. In total, 23 316 individuals obtained subsidies for self-employment, but interest in the programme was greater than funding could facilitate. The candidates for the subsidy were required to attend training in basic entrepreneurial skills, then develop and present a business idea. The plans were then assessed for their sustainability.

The measure was successful. More than 94% of the businesses were still in operation after the first year and 85% survived the first two years. Moreover, 19% of the self-employed also became employers themselves and created 2 600 new jobs. The initial target for the inclusion of women was 40%, but over the average inclusion was eventually 41% over the course of the programme.

The majority of the participants in the programme were men from Ljubljana, Maribor and Kranj that had been registered with the Employment Service for approximately 6 months. They were 30 to 39 years old and had secondary education. Approximately 90% of participants began their businesses as sole proprietors in the fields of professional, scientific and technical activities or trade and construction.

However, a critique from social partners was that it encouraged precarious work, and this programme has since been discontinued. As such, there is now a gap in services for unemployed people who wish to start a business but require additional support.

Source: Republic of Slovenia Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy (2017).

In 2016, the government launched additional “entrepreneurship” programmes for unemployed women. In the past few years, young women, especially those with a social-science education, have found fewer opportunities in public administration and other fields. Women who have been unemployed for at least three months and with university degrees or higher are now eligible for special “entrepreneurship” programmes conducted over a period of 100 hours. Upon completion, the candidate will be eligible for a EUR 5 000 subsidy over two years in order to support their company.

The OECD’s rapid policy assessment of Slovenia notes that entrepreneurship education is generally under-developed and notes that the education sector does not develop creative skills or focus on entrepreneurship and business creation (OECD, 2015a). Generally, entrepreneurship skills are not a part of general training curricula (except in specialised programmes and business schools). Nonetheless, some schools include entrepreneurial topics in their electives and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport support a number of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education. There are examples of secondary vocational and professional schools which place a good deal of emphasis on entrepreneurial skills. For example, Centre Grm includes entrepreneurial skills in all programmes, and students also prepare a plan for their own “job”.

In universities, entrepreneurship is present as a standard course in business schools and can also be selected as optional course for some, but not all, other programmes. For example, at the University of Maribor (Drava region), students of electro-technics must select a non-technical elective course in management or a related topic.

Economic development promotes quality jobs for local people

FDI is often used to increase the availability of capital, provide additional technology and skills, improve the quality of jobs and increase economic growth. As such, it can significantly support economic development, especially if there are the desired knock on effects of investors becoming more intertwined with the local economy. Investments from domestic sources can also support economic development. In Bela Krajina, for example, Akrapovič set up a plant in Črnomelj that created new jobs and is expected to significantly boost local economic activity.

Typically, all municipalities try to attract strong investors and employers. For example, in Kočevje (in South-East Slovenia), local authorities and the regional development agency try to attract investors through different activities, such as fairs and disseminating information about potential government incentives, available locations and infrastructure. Kočevje’s proximity to Croatia can create challenges, however, as labour costs are comparatively more expensive. Other, more general challenges relate to the limited resources of municipalities and a lack of statutory decision-making authority at the regional level. Other challenges relate to a limited supply of potential investors, meaning that local actors do not have much leeway to “choose” which investors to prioritise.

Quality jobs and employment are part of the strategic development planning in both regions but several obstacles exist in implementation because of insufficient co-operation and “buy-in” among stakeholders. Additionally, given that unemployment is high, much of the focus is on increasing overall employment rather than the quality of jobs. In the Drava region, for example, there has been criticism of new investment from retail chains on the grounds that they do not create quality jobs.

Theme 4: Being inclusive

Figure 3.10. Dashboard results for being inclusive
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Employment and training programmes are geared to local “at risk” groups

The PES, educational sector, municipalities, not-for-profit sector co-operate in tackling deprivation on both an ad-hoc and systematic basis. In Slovenia, there are a number of at-risk groups that receive significant attention from local PES offices including disabled women, older workers, youth, the Roma, the low skilled, displaced workers, the long-term unemployed, migrants and those from less developed regions. With the support of the national level, special pilot programmes can also be prepared to tackle specific place-based issues.

It has been noted that PES offices have had the tendency to “park” clients that were harder to place by providing less frequent counselling interviews to these jobseekers (OECD, 2016c). This practice was reflected in the fact that claimants experiencing greater labour market barriers were less likely to be referred for ALMPs.

Local PES offices support the inclusion of those that have been out of employment for a longer period. For example, special programmes are available for disabled or older workers, and some programmes are delivered directly to disadvantaged communities. The PES even provides motivational programmes and performs other outreach activities. This “targeted” approach has been successful in the past and the government will continue to support such measures in the 2016-20 period such as entrepreneurship for women, special programmes for youth, as well as programmes for 30-50-year olds.

Box 3.7. PES for at-risk groups: an example from a programme targeted towards the elderly

The candidate in question had been included in a job for older unemployed persons. She had been unsuccessfully seeking work for 2.5 years. She was a seller and commercial technician by profession, but her last period of employment was a fixed period contract at a large retail store, which was terminated. Through the PES programme, she was employed by a company called Kostak, who offered her a contract for an indefinite period after one year.

The candidate explained: “My experience of unemployment is sad, as is certainly the case for anyone who finds themself in such a situation. As a person who more difficult to employ, I was particularly happy when I learned of the programme that stimulated the employment of older persons. My new job was a challenge and a new experience. Initially, I was employed for a period of one year, but recently received an employment contract for an indefinite period of time, which made me even more motivated to work.”

The employer, Kostak Company, explained: “The active employment policy programme which stimulates the employment of older motivated us to employ six people. As an employer, we have always been interested in recruitment of the unemployed, because we have good experience with PES who are very responsive in providing information about appropriate candidates. Thus, we have a greater choice of candidates with the required skills and knowledge. We initially employ people for a specific time period, and then usually offer indefinite employment. We would like such programmes to be implemented also in the future because they are a benefit both to the companies as well as well as the unemployed, especially those from disadvantaged groups, who can then be re-integrated into the working population.

Source: Interviews undertaken for LEED, 2015.

There is regional variation in disadvantaged groups. In the South-East Slovenia region, the Roma are a focus and receive help through a number of mechanisms. The Adult Education Centre in Kočevje (Ljudska Univerza Kočevje) obtained funding via the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2009-14 to implement projects for the health of the Roma population. The partners in the project are RIC Novo mesto, Kočevje municipality, Novo mesto municipality, Health Care Centre Kočevje, Novo mesto Health Centre, the Roma society ’Romano Happy’ and a Norwegian partner Landsforening for Pårørende innen Psykisk Helse.

The municipalities of Kočevje and Novo mesto are home to approximately 1 440 Romas. As a group, they experience poor living conditions, poor social networks, and a lack of education and unemployment. Limited access to health care is also a problem that arises because of ineffective communication with medical staff, poor recognition of symptoms and low prevention activities. A project has been set-up to address health problems in the Roma community that will offer the Roma accessible health services and prevention activities.

Adult training programmes are adapted to at-risk groups and many types of assistance exist, depending on the needs of the specific group. For example, the Peoples’ university (e.g. RIC in Novo mesto) provides programmes for older and disadvantaged workers that help build general competences. They also offer project learning programmes to young drop-outs, targeting women over 40 years old and immigrants. They constantly monitor the market and data and prepare proposals to the ministry, municipality, and local PES offices in order to develop and get financing to support these programmes.

The informal sector is a significant problem in Slovenia. According to Nastav (2009), the share of informal employment is around 15% of GDP. Informal and illegal employment usually intensifies during times of crisis. The Slovenian tax administration has fought heavily against this problem, with some success. However, many workers continue to report bad practices, but the PES is able to do little other than make referrals to where these problems can be reported.

Childcare and family friendly policies to support women’s participation in employment

Slovenia has a female labour force participation rate of 67.3%, compared to an OECD average of 62.8% (age 15-64). In comparing the gap between the male and female labour force participation rates in 2015, there is only a 7.5 percentage point difference in Slovenia (67.9 compared to 75.4), compared to a 16.7 percentage point difference (63.0 compared to 79.7) across the OECD (OECD, 2016a). A number of factors can influence female labour market participation, including the availability of affordable child and elderly care as well as family friendly work policies.

Availability of childcare

Slovenia also has a well-developed early childhood care system. 45% of 0 to 2 year olds and 88% of 3-5 year olds participate in childcare or school services. In both cases, this is above the OECD average (33% and 82% respectively) (OECD, 2016b). Children in Slovenia are accepted to child-care from age 11 months of age on, thus eliminating the gap between maternity leave entitlements and the legal right to care coverage. A child can spend up to 9 hours a day in childcare, allowing the parents (usually mothers) to return to their work routine. Slovenia is one of only eight EU countries that has a legal guarantee of early childhood care relatively soon after birth (beside Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Malta, Finland, Sweden and Norway). The gap between the end of compensated childcare leave and the legal entitlement to early care can be over two years in many other EU countries (Eurodyce and Eurostat, 2014).

Childcare facilities are mainly public, but many private early childcare and pre-school providers have opened in response to a recent baby boom. Generally, childcare is affordable to parents. Parents contribute to the provision of public childcare on a means-tested basis. The cost of early childcare and pre-schools in Slovenia differs across municipalities, and municipalities are able to subsidise places. In general, childcare is heavily subsidised for people with lower incomes per family member. Family circumstances (e.g. student families, etc.) can be an advantage when searching for a spot in early childcare and pre-schools.

Due to the baby-boom in recent years, the availability of public childcare has become an issue. In some regions (bigger cities), a bigger problem is that there is not enough space. For example, data from the Novo mesto (South-East Slovenia region) municipality shows that 2 more early childcare facilities or pre-schools are needed to accommodate 120 children. In Maribor, there are 36 early childcare and pre-schools (3 of which are private), and none have a significant waiting list.

To respond to the baby boom, municipalities have opened several new facilities and a significant number of private childcare facilities have also been established. The state has provided concession to some private facilities in order to ensure affordability. In addition, the state has recently acted to allow people to register as a child-caretaker and tend to up to four children at home. In the past, retired women often took care of children on an informal basis due to the lack of institutional care options available. This has helped to move unregistered or “shadow” childcare services into the formal economy.

Availability of elder care

Care for the elderly is a general problem across Slovenia, primarily related to the availability of institutionalized care (elderly homes). The ageing population has increased much faster than the number of beds in elderly homes, which has resulted in long waits for appropriate facilities. In the Drava region, there are 10 homes for the elderly and 7 in the South-East Slovenia region (including Bela Krajina and Kočevje/Ribnica). In the Maribor region (Drava), there are 2 577 people who would immediately like a free room; in Novo mesto (South-East Slovenia) there are 181. Due to long waiting periods, people sometimes submit an application many years in advance. Thus, there are over 600 people in total waiting in Novo mesto and 8 700 Maribor. While these statistics paint a grim picture, other types of support as well as informal networks alleviate the care responsibilities of younger generations. Additionally, institutionalised care is highly culturally unpopular, and thus homes often accept those with more severe problems. In general, the care-burden is low and does not inhibit employment.

However, given the ageing population in Slovenia, more could be done. New homes have been opened in the past few years and the state has also provided concessions to private suppliers to stimulate the growth of the sector. For example, the Kočevje municipality has invested in the development of modern elderly facilities that feature eco-homes with a special dementia ward, with the financial support of the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Labour under the Programme for promotion of competitiveness of Pokolpje area. The municipality has also been certified as “friendly to elderly”.

The state has also decided to intensify alternative support for elderly, particularly through help at home, which has expanded quickly since 2006. The measure is aimed at those over the age of 65 (which represent 88% of all users) who are disabled or suffer chronic illnesses. This is also very beneficial for the elderly, especially those that prefer to stay at home rather than moving to an institution. This measure is a part of social security rights and encompasses:

  • Household help, including food delivery, going to the store to buy food, washing dishes, cleaning, etc. This is also the most popular service, with 84.5% of users receiving this form of help.

  • Help with maintaining social contacts, including building new contacts with the help of volunteers, keeping contact with family, helping individuals make necessary trips, etc. These services are also in high demand, with 72% of users requesting this form of assistance.

  • Help with everyday routine tasks, including help getting dressed, undressed, washing, help with feeding, etc. Around 60% of users need such help.

In most cases, these services are provided by social security centres and elderly homes. In 2006, 5 300 individuals were using these services, which rose to 9 664 in 2014. The number of users fluctuates significantly during the year; for example, there were 6 900 users in December 2014. Women are much more likely to use these services than men, and their share increases with age (as expected due to longer life expectancy).

Family friendly work policies

Slovenia has a relatively generous system of parental rights, especially in early childhood. A mother is entitled to 105 days of “birth” leave (30 days before the due date, the rest after birth). After the 105 days, a mother or a father can take 260 days of child-care leave. Fathers are also entitled to 20 days of paid leave, while the state pays social contributions for a further 70 days of unpaid leave. The benefit that the mother receives during her period of leave is calculated on the basis of her average income over the previous 12 months, but cannot be lower than 55% of the average Slovenian wage. The benefit for childcare leave cannot be lower than 55% of the average Slovenian wage and cannot exceed 250% of the average. One parent of young children can also opt for shorter working hours, which cannot be lower than half of normal work obligations, while the state will support social contributions for this parent on the basis of full-time work. In the case of large families, a parent can also opt to be a homemaker and the state will cover social contributions (Skupnost Centrov Za Socialno Delo, nd). Additionally, both of the regional development plans of South-East Slovenia and Drava regions stress the importance of balancing work-family life although no specific measures are provided.

Table 3.3. Overview of parental rights

Parental leave

Maternity leave 105 days

Paternal leave (90 days: 20+70)

Child-care leave (260 days)

Adoption leave (120 or 150 days)

Benefits

Maternity benefit

Paternity benefit

Benefits during child-care leave

Adoptor benefits

The right to shorter work time due to parenthood

Until child reaches age 3 years – for all children

Until child reaches age 18 years – in case of more severe physical or mental disability

The right of parents to have their social security contributions paid in case of 4 or more children

Until the youngest child is 10 years old – due to labour market inactivity

Source: Republic of Slovenia The association of centres for social work (2017).

However, on the employer side, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that young women face difficulties in finding work due to potential motherhood, which employers associate with frequent sick-leave. There are some large Slovenian companies are quite active in this field. Lek, a company in in Ljubljana (now Novartis), was the first to have an internal early childcare facility and pre-school. Companies that understand the need to balance work and family life can apply for a “Family-friendly company” certificate (Družini prijazno podjetje. Currently there are 240 such companies in Slovenia.

Tackling youth unemployment

The crisis significantly impacted the position of youth in the labour market – both those that just finished education as well as those that dropped out of education and are now not in education, employment or training (NEETs). In Slovenia, the share of NEETs in the 15-24 year old category is lower than in the EU28 on average. This is a result of high inclusion of youth in secondary and tertiary education.

Figure 3.11. Share of Youth Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), age group 15-24, 2015
picture

Source: Eurostat (2017b).

In January 2014, the government adopted the Youth Guarantee implementation plan for the years 2014 and 2015 and subsequently developed a plan for 2016-20. The Youth Guarantee seeks to ensure that every young person aged 15 to 29 years receives an offer of employment (including traineeship), on-the-job training or enters formal education or a short form of institutional or work-based training within four months of registering with the PES. In Slovenia, this plan is being implemented through structural reforms and specific initiatives, as summarised in the table below.

Table 3.4. Overview of Youth Guarantee pathway to employment

Preventive action

  • Lifelong career guidance at all levels of education and beyond

  • Grants

  • Forecasting labour market needs

  • Work-based training with employers during education

Immediately after becoming unemployed

  • Preparation of an individual employment plan

  • General and in-depth counselling and assistance in finding employment

  • Special youth counsellors

  • Active employment policy measures: project learning for young adults, formal education, preparation of national vocational qualifications, training to promote self-employment of young people, etc.

  • EURES

After three months of unemployment

  • Repeated in-depth counselling and job-seeking assistance

  • Additional active employment policy measures to increase employability: on-the-job training, work-based and institutional training

  • Mentoring schemes

  • Support in the implementation of an entrepreneurial idea

  • Exemption from the payment of the employer’s contributions (Intervention Act)

After four months of unemployment

  • Additional active employment policy measures: incentives to employers to employ, co-financing of mandatory traineeship in certain sectors, etc.

  • Counselling service

  • Public works (for long-term unemployed)

Source: European Commission (2017).

As an example of the measures taken, Slovenian PES provided additional training for front line staff that work with young people, and hired additional counsellors to provide guidance and job-seeking assistance to young people. In order to create more labour market opportunities for young people, it launched the Work Trials programme in 2015 for young people up to age 29, and implemented a measure wherein employers are exempt from paying social security contributions for two years for each new young employee aged up to 30 years old (Draft Joint Employment Report from the Commissision and the Council).

The first results from 2014, the first year of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee in Slovenia, are promising. In 2014, 25 742 unemployed young people found jobs, which is 23.6% more than in the previous year (2013). The latest data show that 49% of young people aged 15 to 29 years old have received a good quality offer for further training, education or employment in the first 4 months after becoming unemployed, and 32% have successfully found employment.

Another important measure for youth is the Project Learning for Young Adults initiatives, which was very successful in the past and was also awarded funding in the 2016-20 period (see Box 3.8).

Box 3.8. Project Learning for Young Adults: PUM-O

In 1990s Slovenia developed a publicly recognised programme of “Project Learning for Young Adults” (PUM-O) which promoted informal adult learning. The programme is part of the Operational Programme for the period 2014-20 in order to further the”Social inclusion and reduction of poverty’’ priority.

The PUM-O is aimed at young adults from 15 to 26 years of age, who are unemployed or are first-time jobseekers, not in education or have problems in education that can lead to discontinuation of schooling. The programme has two main objectives:

  • Formation of professional identity, developing the candidates’ sense of initiative and entrepreneurship in order to help them enter the labour market,

  • Development of learning abilities and basic skills, particularly in support of the formation of personal identity and the promotion of their active participation in society.

The programme comprises three key educational modules:

  • Career planning and professional identity development includes developing both short-term and long-term career goals, preparing an employment plan and providing the basic competencies that help the individual ’behave’ in the labour market (basic legislation, entrepreneurship skills, etc);

  • General education, which aims to build their general knowledge about local and global trends, society, culture, sustainable development; natural science, humanities and social sciences, promote understanding of social organisation and social relations, and improve the ability to actively use modern technologies;

  • Personal growth and sustainable lifestyle, which focuses on interpersonal relationships and group-dynamic processes, physical and mental health, sexuality, etiquette, cuisine, culture of living, planning and leisure activities, entertainment, consumption and abuse of alcohol and other drugs, crime and violence in the family, among peers and in other social situations.

In the beginning, the candidate and mentor prepare a personal career plan that defines the purpose of the candidate’s participation (vision) and targets (including time goals). Implementation is periodically monitored and, also changed when needed. The participant and mentors also work with other institutions and third parties (e.g. employment advisors at PES, school counsellors, mentors in enterprises, or parents).

PUM-O is one year long and includes the individual in activities from Monday to Friday for six hours a day. The duration can be reduced or increased, depending on the needs of the career plan and external circumstances. The participants obtain a certificate that provides data on the individual’s participation, his/her individual learning projects and other achievements and activities.

Source: Translation and adaptation from Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (2015).

Openness to immigration

In comparison to other OECD countries, Slovenia does not receive a large number of immigrants. According to SORS (2015) data, approximately 14 000 immigrants arrived in 2014, representing 0.6% of the population. The immigrants are primarily men (60-80% of all immigrants) aged between 20 and 49 years of age who come in search of work. Traditionally, the majority of immigrants to Slovenia come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia (around two-thirds of all migrants). Generally, these migrants speak Serbo-Croatian (except for younger people from Kosovo), which facilitates their integration, as this language is spoken by or understood by the majority of Slovenians.

Figure 3.12. Immigration to Slovenia: number of immigrants, 1990-2015
picture

Source: SORS (2017).

In the past, PES supported the integration of immigrants through an informational “one-stop-shop”. However, the office ceased operations from 30 September 2015. Foreign workers are now able to obtain information at PES and municipalities, as well as other institutions such as peoples’ university and the not-for-profit sector. Programmes to ease integration are available (Slovenian language courses as well as “preliminary integration courses”).

Work permits legislation has been simplified to ensure that foreigners from non-EU countries no longer need two separate permits (one to work and one to live in Slovenia). Foreigners seeking to enter Slovenia and find employment are now able to apply for a single permit at the local municipality.

Immigrants must submit their education certificates through a formal notification procedure in order to have foreign formal education qualifications recognised. Vocational competences can be recognized (validated) for a number of vocational qualifications by obtaining a national vocational qualification certificate in accordance with National Professional Qualifications Act. Some qualifications can be transferred (for example, those from the EU). ENIC-NARIC Centre Slovenia provides information regarding the comparability of specific elements of immigrants’ education with the Slovenian education system.

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