Chapter 2. Coverage and inclusiveness

For a future of work that is both more rewarding and inclusive, ensuring broad-based coverage of adult learning is a necessary condition. Yet, data shows that participation levels in job-related adult learning are low. In addition, the individuals most exposed to changes in skill needs are often under-represented in adult learning. This chapter discusses the common challenge of engagement and inclusion of adult learners and highlights for which countries this challenge is particularly severe. It also discusses which actions can be taken to for more inclusive access and participation in adult learning.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

2.1. Broad-based participation as a challenge for effective adult learning systems

According to data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), only 41% of adults in the surveyed OECD countries participate in formal or non-formal job-related training in a given year. Moreover, those adults who are most vulnerable in the labour market, such as those with few qualifications, the long-term unemployed and those at high risk of job automation are least likely to participate in training.

Engaging those who currently do not participate in education or training will be a major task for all stakeholders involved; especially because around half of all adults neither participate nor want to participate in adult learning (Figure 2.1). With adult education and training being one of the key levers to prepare the workforce for changing skill needs, it will be crucial to find effective ways to motivate this part of the population to participate.

Policy efforts must also focus on those individuals who want to take up (further) adult learning opportunities, but face a variety of obstacles in doing so. On average across the OECD countries that participated in PIAAC, about a third of people who take part in job-related adult learning (14% of all adults) want to pursue further learning, but do not for different reasons. In addition, almost one-in-five people who do not take part in job-related adult learning (11% of all adults) would actually want to take part in education or training (Figure 2.1).

Figure 2.1. Participation and interest in participation in adult learning
% of adults
picture

Note: Average of OECD countries participating in PIAAC; formal and non-formal job-related education and training; data does not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Source: PIAAC data (2012, 2015).

Based on PIAAC data, barriers to participation are diverse and include lack of time due to work (29%) or family reasons (16%), followed by lack of financial resources (16%), inconvenient time or location of the learning opportunity (12%) and lack of employer’s support (7%) (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2. Barriers to participation in adult learning
Reasons for non-participation (% of adults who wanted to participate but did not)
picture

Note: Average of OECD countries participating in PIAAC.

Source: PIAAC data (2012, 2015).

Finally, with much learning taking place in and through the workplace, the engagement of employers in the design, implementation and financing of skill development opportunities is critical to the success of adult learning systems. Involving small and medium enterprises is particularly important, as they constitute the vast majority of businesses around the world, but typically offer less training than larger firms because they face greater challenges due to their more limited capacity to plan, fund and deliver training.

2.2. Coverage of adult learning – results from the PAL dashboard

The PAL dashboard reflects the importance of engaging both individuals and employers in adult learning activities, and features indicators related to the two groups. It includes measures on the incidence of training participation, the intensity of training provision and 10-year time trends in participation to capture the responsiveness of adult learning systems to changing skill needs (see Table 2.1 for the full list of indicators).

Table 2.1. Coverage in job-related adult learning – PAL indicators

Coverage

Individuals

Employers

Formal and non-formal learning

% of adults who participated in formal or non-formal job-related adult learning in the past 12 months

Provision of training

% of enterprises providing continuing vocational training

Informal learning

% of workers who participate in informal job-related adult learning at least once per week

/

/

Learning intensity

Median number of hours participants spend on non-formal job-related adult learning per year

Coverage of training provision

% of all training enterprises providing courses to more than 50% of their employees

Trend

10-year change in the % of adults participating in non-formal job-related adult learning

Trend

10-year change in the % of enterprises providing continuing vocational training

Note: See Annex B for details on the data sources used for each indicator.

The PAL dashboard suggests that there are big differences between countries with regards to coverage of job-related adult learning (Figure 2.3). Among OECD countries and across the different dimensions of coverage, the United States scores best, followed by Canada and the Czech Republic. The weakest overall performance with regards to coverage is observed in Greece, Hungary and Turkey. Performance on the different indicators is described in the following subsections.

Figure 2.3. Results of the Coverage dimension
Coverage index (0-1)
picture

Note: The index ranges between 0 (lowest coverage) and 1 (highest coverage). Switzerland and Latvia were excluded due to missing data.

Source: See Annex B and C for details on data sources and methodology.

2.2.1. Individuals

The dashboard shows that participation in formal and non-formal1 education and training activities varies strongly across countries (Figure 2.4). While the top performing countries, which include the Nordic countries, New Zealand and the Netherlands, achieve participation rates of over 50% in a given year, several countries display less than half of this including Greece, Italy and Turkey. In countries where large shares of the population take part in adult learning, people also spend more time learning. On average, adult learners take part in 30.5 hours of non-formal learning per year. In some countries this learning intensity is substantially higher, including Denmark (42 hours), Austria (40 hours), Israel (38 hours), Australia (36 hours) and Sweden (35 hours).

Figure 2.4. Relationship between individual participation rate and learning intensity
% of adults participating in formal and non-formal learning and median yearly non-formal learning hours
picture

Note: Belgium refers to Flanders only, United Kingdom to England and Northern Ireland. Participation refers to formal and non-formal job-related learning, while training hours only refers to non-formal job-related learning.

Source: PIAAC (2012, 2015).

Participation in informal learning2 is somewhat higher: on average across the countries participating in the PIAAC survey, 64% of workers learn from others or learn by doing at least once per week. Cross-country patterns of participation are similar to those for formal and non-formal learning, with some notable exceptions. Chile and Spain, which have average rates of formal and non-formal participation, display some of the highest rates of informal learning (77% and 74% respectively). Conversely, the Netherlands, displays relatively low rates of informal learning (61%), while having the fifth highest participation in formal and non-formal learning. Overall the correlation between participation in formal and non-formal training and informal learning is positive, suggesting that countries where participation in more formalised forms of training is low do not compensate with more informal learning in the workplace.

Looking at the evolution of participation rates in the past ten years, individual participation in adult learning has increased in most countries for which data is available. According to data from the European Adult Education Survey3, the largest increases were experienced in Italy, where participation rose from 14% to 33% between 2007 and 2016, in Portugal (19% to 40%). It should be noted that in Italy and Portugal both increased participation from a relatively low starting point. In contrast, several countries with traditionally high participation rates have seen small to moderate decreases of participation rates in the last decade, including Finland (44% to 42%) and Lithuania (28% to 26%). The fall was more marked in Sweden where participation fell from 61% to 49%.

2.2.2. Employers

Information collected from employers paints a slightly different picture. In most countries, the majority of employers provide training opportunities but there is some variation in the number of people they cover. Data from the dashboard shows that on average across available OECD countries 75% of enterprises with at least ten employees provide training opportunities to their employees, ranging from 99% in Norway to 22% in Greece. However, in only 40% of enterprises is training provided to more than 50% of their workforce (Figure 2.5). While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, combine high enterprise participation and high employee coverage rates, other countries see strong divergence of both indicators. In Norway, for example, nearly all enterprises provide some adult learning opportunities, yet just over half of them provide these opportunities for at least half their employees. Lowest employer engagement overall is recorded in Greece, Turkey and Hungary.

Figure 2.5. Participation of enterprises in the provision of adult learning
Share of enterprises providing continuing vocational training (% of all enterprises) and coverage of provision (% of training enterprises)
picture

Note: Data for Chile refer to provision in the last two years, whereas data for other countries refer to provision in the last year. Excludes enterprises with less than ten employees; Data for Japan excludes enterprises with less than 30 employees. No data on coverage of training provision is available for Chile, Japan and Turkey; Latvian data on the percent of enterprises providing CVT was considered unreliable and was therefore excluded.

Source: Basic Survey of Human Resource Development (2016) (Japan), CVTS (2015), ENCLA (2014) (Chile), Statistics NZ Business Operations Survey (2015) (New Zealand).

The engagement of enterprises in the provision of adult education and training has strongly increased over the past decade. Across countries for which data is available, the share of enterprises offering continuing vocational training has increased by almost 22% between 2007 and 2016. A number of countries have seen particularly strong increases of enterprise engagement, including Spain (47% to 86%) and Italy (32% to 60%). Countries with traditionally strong employer engagement in training, such as the Nordic and dual apprenticeship countries have not surprisingly seen smaller increases.

2.3. Inclusiveness of adult learning systems – results from the PAL dashboard

The PAL dashboard highlights the importance of providing inclusive learning opportunities for all and in particular for those groups most in need of up- and re-skilling. It features indicators measuring participation gaps between disadvantaged adult learners and their more advantaged peers, where disadvantages may relate to socio-demographic characteristics of adults or their employment and contractual situation. Table 2.2 provides an overview of the indicators used to assess the inclusiveness of countries’ adult learning systems.

Table 2.2. Inclusiveness of job-related adult learning – PAL indicators

Inclusiveness

Socio-demographic characteristics

Employment and contract status

Age gap

Percentage point difference in participation between older (>55) and prime age population (25-54)

Unemployment gap

Percentage point difference in participation between the unemployed and employed

Gender gap

Percentage point difference in participation between women and men

Long-term unemployment gap

Percentage point difference in participation between long-term unemployed and employed

Skill gap

Percentage point difference in participation between low-skilled and medium/high-skilled adults

Temporary workers gap

Percentage point difference in participation between workers on temporary and permanent contracts

Low-wage gap

Percentage point difference in participation between low-wage and medium/high wage workers

SME gap

Percentage point difference in participation between workers in SMEs and larger enterprises

Note: See Annex B for details on the data sources used for each indicator.

The PAL dashboard suggests that there are substantial differences between countries as regards the inclusiveness of their adult learning systems (Figure 2.6). Among OECD countries and across the different dimensions of inclusiveness, Greece scores highest (albeit from a low baseline of overall participation), followed by Slovenia and Denmark. The weakest overall performance concerning inclusiveness is observed in Chile, the Netherlands and the Slovak Republic. Further detail on the performance on individual indicators is provided in the following subsections.

Figure 2.6. Results of the Inclusiveness dimension
Inclusiveness index (0-1)
picture

Note: The index ranges between 0 (least inclusive) and 1 (most inclusive). Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland were excluded due to missing data.

Source: See Annex B and C for details on data sources and methodology.

2.3.1. Socio-demographic characteristics

As highlighted in the dashboard, there are clear gaps between the participation of the disadvantaged groups and the reference population. Looking at socio-demographic characteristics, older and lower-skilled adults, as well as low-wage workers, are less likely to take part in adult learning in every single country participating in the PIAAC survey. The largest average gaps are found between the low and medium/higher skilled (23 percentage points), followed by low and medium/high wage (22 percentage points) and older and prime-age individuals (22 percentage points). The picture is less stark when it comes to gender: while women display slightly lower participation rates in most countries, they have higher participation rates than men in Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania (Figure 2.7).

Participation gaps are often smaller where overall participation in adult learning is low, for example in Greece, Italy and Turkey. On the contrary, Scandinavian countries and New Zealand have the highest participation rates of disadvantaged groups in adult learning, yet still feature major gaps compared to the more advantaged reference population: in Norway for example, low-skilled adults display a 20 percentage point lower participation rate than their higher skilled peers. This highlights that the inclusiveness of adult learning systems must be improved in all countries, even those which have relatively high participation rates of disadvantaged groups.

Some countries manage to limit the gap for certain groups while ensuring relatively high overall participation rates: the United States and New Zealand have small gaps between older and prime age workers; the Nordic countries have small gaps between women and men; the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia have small gaps between low-skilled and medium/high skilled individuals and all Scandinavian countries have small gaps between low-wage and medium/high wage earners. It is notable, however, that no country consistently scores high on all indicators of inclusiveness. Investigating patterns and inconsistencies across different indicators of disadvantage can provide countries with valuable insights of where to target their efforts of fostering more inclusive adult learning.

2.3.2. Employment and contract status

Beyond socio-demographic characteristics, the specific employment situation of individuals, including their employment status, contract type and firm size, are strongly related to the take-up of adult learning opportunities. According to the dashboard, on average, the participation rate of the unemployed is 19 percentage point lower than that of the employed population (Figure 2.8). The participation gap is even larger for those who have been unemployed for 12 months or longer (25 percentage points). This gap exists in all countries but Austria, where the participation rate of the long-term unemployed is 3 percentage points higher than that of the employed. Results are more varied for workers on temporary contracts, as in six countries they actually participate more often in adult learning than workers with permanent contracts (i.e. Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Israel and the United States).4 Further, workers in SMEs5 participate less in training than workers in large firms in all countries, with an average 15 percentage point difference across countries.

There are no clear patterns with regards to countries’ performance across the employment and contract type indicators. Only Austria and Slovenia display relatively small participation gaps on three out of four indicators. In this way, the dashboard primarily highlights issues of inclusiveness of specific groups. In Slovenia, for example, workers in SMEs are just as likely to participate in adult learning as workers in larger companies, but workers with temporary contracts face a relatively large participation gap compared to other countries. Inversely, workers on temporary contracts in Ireland display participation rates close to those on permanent contracts, yet those working in SMEs or (long-term) unemployed are far less likely than their more advantaged counterparts to participate in education and training.

Figure 2.7. Gap in participation by socio-demographic characteristics
% of adults participating in formal and non-formal job-related learning
picture

Note: Belgium refers to Flanders only, United Kingdom to England and Northern Ireland; formal and non-formal job-related education and training.

Source: PIAAC (2012, 2015).

Figure 2.8. Gap in participation by contract and employment situation
% of adults participating in formal and non-formal job-related learning
picture

Note: Belgium refers to Flanders only, United Kingdom to England and Northern Ireland; formal and non-formal job-related education and training.

Source: PIAAC (2012, 2015).

2.4. Policies to increase participation and inclusiveness

The PAL dashboard suggests that there is significant room for improvement in adult learning participation levels and/or inclusiveness across countries. Governments can employ a range of policy levers to engage more people in education and training, including: i) providing information and guidance, ii) removing barriers to participation, iii) offering targeted support for those most in need of up- and re-skilling, but least likely to participate, and iv) engaging employers in the provision of adult learning.

2.4.1. Providing information and guidance

Effective and inclusive adult learning systems should enable adults to make good choices about education and training. Yet, there is evidence to suggest that adults, in particular those with low skills, are not always able to recognise the need to develop their skills further (Windisch, 2015[1]). Hence, the engagement of adults in learning activities should go beyond providing opportunities to those who ask for them. Promoting the benefits of adult learning, providing high-quality information and individualised advice and guidance services are some of the ways policy can encourage higher and more inclusive participation.

Public awareness campaigns come in many forms and may promote the benefits of adult learning, advertise specific programmes for adult learning or reach out to underrepresented groups. The Institute for Adult Education in Slovenia, for example, has been organising an annual lifelong learning week since 1996, which today includes more than 1 500 events implemented in cooperation with partner organisations throughout the country. Portugal launched its adult learning program Qualifica in 2016/17 with a large-scale public awareness campaign titled “More Qualification, Better Jobs”. To reach the widest possible audience, campaigns can be delivered through different media channels, such as TV, radio, print, online and social media, as well as include outreach work through events, existing networks or direct mail. In Argentina, for example, the Hacemos Futuro programme reaches out to community leaders via Whatsapp, who in turn inform their target group about upcoming training offers. Table 2.3 provides an overview of recent public awareness campaigns across OECD and non-OECD countries.

Table 2.3. Recent public awareness campaigns

Does it exist?

Focus

Name

General adult learning

Specific programmes

Specific target groups

Basic skills

High demand skills

Firms

Australia

n.a.

 

Austria

No

 

Belgium

Yes

x

x

x

x

x

n.a.

Canada

Yes

x

x

x

n.a.

Chile

Yes

x

x

x

x

n.a.

Czech Republic

No

 

Denmark

No

 

Estonia

Yes

x

x

x

x

Jälle kooli (Back to school again)

Finland

No

France

n.a.

Germany

Yes

x

x

x

x

Zukunftsstarter (Future starter); Nur Mut – Der nächste Schritt lohn sich. Besser lessen und schreiben lernen (Courage - the next step is worth it. Learning to read and write better)

Greece

Yes

x

x

x

n.a.

Hungary

Yes

x

Szakmák Éjszakája (Night of Vocations)

Iceland

Yes

x

x

x

x

x

n.a.

Ireland

Yes

x

x

x

x

Take the first step

Italy

n.a.

Japan

Yes

x

x

x

x

Human Resources Development Month; National Skills Competition

Korea

Yes

x

x

x

Vocational Skill Month

Latvia

Yes

x

x

x

n.a.

Lithuania

n.a.

Luxembourg

Yes

x

x

n.a.

Mexico

n.a.

Norway

No

Poland

n.a.

Portugal

Yes

x

x

x

More Qualification, Better jobs

Slovak Republic

No

Slovenia

Yes

x

x

x

x

Lifelong Learning Week

Spain

Yes

x

x

n.a.

Sweden

Yes

n.a.

Switzerland

Yes

x

x

x

Simplement mieux (simply better)

Turkey

n.a.

United Kingdom

No

 

United States

Yes

x

x

 

Non-OECD countries

 

Argentina

Yes

x

 

Brazil

Yes

x

x

x

x

 

Romania

Yes

x

x

 

Source: OECD Adult Learning Policy Questionnaire.

Career guidance helps individuals to understand their skill set and development needs and to navigate available learning opportunities. Data from the PAL dashboard, based on the Adult Education Survey, shows that around 30% of adults receive information or advice on learning possibilities from institutions in a given year. To be effective, career guidance takes into account timely labour market information and the outputs of skill assessment and anticipation exercises. In most countries, career guidance is delivered through a range of channels, including public employment services (PES), specialised guidance services, career guidance websites, as well as by education providers and social partners. In Iceland, the social partners and government are working together in the Education and Training Service Centre to develop career guidance in cooperation with education providers around the country. Some countries have developed one-stop-shops to ensure individuals get all the information they need to make informed decision in one place. The House of Guidance (Maison de l’Orientation) in Luxembourg opened in 2012 following the collective effort of five departments across the Ministries of Education, Labour and Higher Education. The house provides a one-stop shop for education and labour market orientation. Previously targeted at a younger age group, there has been a greater focus on adult learners since 2017. Similarly, the project Education Shop (Leerwinkel) in West Flanders (Belgium) is an independent one-stop shop for advice on educational options and financial support. The project focuses specifically on adults with low education levels, immigrants and detainees. Career New Zealand provides a wealth of services, increasingly available online, ranging from tools that allow users to explore careers and find jobs that match their skills and qualifications.

Beyond guidance services, online databases on education and training allow individuals to make informed training decisions. To understand which offer best suits their needs, these databases should contain detailed information about available courses, as well as information on outcomes and satisfaction of participants. Databases can also be useful for trainers, counsellors and other adult learning experts. These types of databases exist in many countries, and often countries have numerous competing databases for example on different types of training. By contrast, one-stop shop solutions can help individuals to navigate available offers by combining information on courses with more general labour market information. The Danish website UddannelsesGuiden (www.ug.dk), for example, brings together information on general education, higher education and adult/continuing education. It further includes information on the structure of the Danish labour market, the role of industries and businesses and descriptions of the most common occupations and jobs in the Danish labour market. Users can access further information and guidance via chat, phone or email. In New Zealand, the Occupation Outlook is a mobile app that allows exploring study and career options, with extensive information on labour supply and demand in over 100 occupations. Chapter 4 discusses how these online databases can be used to provide information on quality of providers and programmes.

2.4.2. Removing barriers to participation

As previously mentioned, many adults face barriers, which prevent them from participating in adult learning. Barriers for individuals are diverse, but typically relate to a lack of time and financial resources, limited flexibility of training provision, a lack of employer support and not meeting the pre-conditions to take part in adult learning. Effective policies, which remove these barriers, are key for creating broad-based and inclusive adult learning systems.

Flexible provision of adult education and training addresses the barrier faced by those with limited time to participate in training, be this for family or work related reasons. Many countries offer some or several forms of flexible learning provision, including on a part-time basis, in the evenings, on weekends, as distance learning, or in a modular and/or credit-based format. According to data from the PAL dashboard, only 19.1% of adult learners take part in education and training activities that are organised as distance learning. Modular approaches are especially helpful in providing adult learners with greater flexibility on their learning path and can be combined with processes for the recognition of prior learning. They allow adult learners to focus on developing the skills they currently lack, complete self-contained learning modules on these skills and combine these modules to eventually gain a full (formal) qualification. They also permit learners to combine more easily work with training outside of work. Research suggests that such provision can broaden access to formal qualifications, in particular for disadvantaged groups (Kis and Windisch, 2018[2]). The Danish adult learning system in particular allows leaners a high degree of flexibility. Much of the training provision enables leaners to combine learning modules from different kinds of provision and across different subjects (Desjardins, 2017[3]). For example, individuals working towards a vocational qualification in Labour Market Training Centres (Arbejdsmarkedsuddannelse) can choose from a wide range of vocational training courses but also tap into subjects provided by the general education system. This allows learners to tailor their education and training programme based on their individual needs (Desjardins, 2017[3]). In Mexico, participants in the Model for Life and Work programme (Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo, MEVyT), which provides learning opportunities for youth and adults to catch up on primary and secondary education, can combine different modules that cover a variety of topics. Some of these modules are delivered on an online platform.

Statutory education and training leave is another key policy to ensure that a lack of time is not a barrier to adult learning. It is typically regulated in national legislation or set out in collective agreements; and it may be universal or provided to certain workers, e.g. those with a minimum tenure in the company (see Table 2.4 for details by country). In order to ensure its uptake, many countries provide compensation for learners and employers alongside statutory leave. An example of such an arrangement exists in Belgium, where full-time private sector employees participating in recognised training and education programmes have the right to training leave up to 180 hours per year. The maximum number of leave days is reserved for workers attending vocational training in shortage occupations and those studying towards a secondary education degree. During their training leave, workers receive full pay up to a capped amount, while employers can be compensated for the wages paid during training leave.6 In some countries job rotation schemes exist, which provide replacement for the employee during their training (see Chapter 5).

Table 2.4. Education or training leave

 

Does it exist?

Compensation for employees

Compensation for employers

Duration

Entitlement

Australia

..

..

..

..

..

Austria

Yes, legislative

Yes

..

Up to 1 year (every 4 years)

Employees (incl. seasonal workers)

Belgium

Yes, legislative

Yes

Yes

Between 32 to 180 hours

Full-time and (under certain conditions) part-time employees

Canada

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

..

..

Chile

No

 

 

 

 

Czech Republic

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

Depending on agreement

Civil servants

Denmark

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

..

..

Estonia

Yes, legislative

Yes

..

Up to 30 days per year + 15 days (under certain conditions)

..

Finland

Yes, legislative

No

..

Up to 30 days per year

Private and public sector employees.

France

Yes, legislative

Yes

Yes

Full-time: 30 hours to 1 year; part-time: 1 200 hours

Employees with a minimum seniority (duration depends on contract and sector)

Germany

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

..

..

Greece

..

..

..

..

..

Hungary

Yes, legislative

Yes

..

Depending on agreement

Employees (if committing to stay for a given time after training)

Iceland

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

..

..

Ireland

Yes, collective agreements

..

..

..

..

Italy

Yes, legislative

Both paid and unpaid leave

No

Unpaid: up to 11 months. Paid: depending agreement

Unpaid: 5 years seniority. Paid: employees in formal education

Japan

Yes, legislative

..

..

..

..

Korea

Yes, legislative

..

Yes

..

..

Latvia

Yes, collective agreements

Varies

Varies

20 days

..

Lithuania

Yes, legislative

Yes

No

From 2 to 30 days

..

Luxembourg

Yes, legislative

..

Yes

Up to 80 days (in a professional career)

Employees, self-employed and people in the liberal professions

Mexico

No

 

 

 

 

Norway

Yes, legislative

No

..

Up to 3 years

Employees with 3-year work experience, 2-year seniority

Poland

Yes, legislative

Yes

..

From 6 to 21 days

Employees

Portugal

Yes

.. 

.. 

.. 

Employees

Slovak Republic

Yes, legislative

Yes

..

..

Employees

Slovenia

Yes, collective agreements

Yes

..

No maximum days

Employees

Spain

Yes

..

..

..

Employees in formal education

Sweden

Yes

No

..

Depends on collective agreement

Employees in work for 6 months or 12 months in the past 2 years

Switzerland

Yes, collective agreements

..

Varies

..

..

Turkey

No

 

 

 

 

United Kingdom

Yes, legislative

No

..

Up to 1 application per year

Employees with 26 weeks seniority, if training is job related, and company has 250+ employees (with exceptions)

United States

Yes, collective agreements

Non-OECD countries

 

 

 

 

Argentina

No

 

 

 

 

Brazil

Yes, legislative

..

..

..

..

Romania

Yes, legislative

No, with exceptions

..

Up to 10 days or 80 hours

Employees

South Africa

No

 

 

 

 

Source: Country responses to the OECD Adult Learning Questionnaire.

Financial incentives are used widely to encourage adults’ participation in education and training. However, they should be designed in line with the training returns for individuals and companies and provide solutions for those cases where under-investment in adult learning occurs. To address this, a recent OECD report (OECD, 2017[4]) suggests that countries can apply a range of tools such as wage or training subsidies (also voucher-based), tax incentives, subsidised loans or training/time account schemes. The Austrian city of Vienna supports employed and unemployed people with below tertiary education through education accounts (Bildungskonto). Anyone living in Vienna, with a few exceptions, can have the costs of a recognised education and training programme or the procedure for the recognition of prior learning co-financed (up to EUR 300). Low-earners can further benefit from the co-financing of training costs of recognised education and training programmes (up to EUR 2 000), including those leading to an advanced vocational degree (Meister, Werkmeister) and an upper-secondary school leaving certificate (Matura, Berufsmatura). Training costs are subsidised between 30% and 50% depending on income. In many countries, the social partners are involved in the design and implementation of financial incentives. The Finnish social partners, for example, administer the Education Fund (Koulutusrahasto), which grants adult education allowances to employed and self-employed adults who meet certain eligibility criteria. In 2017, the fund disbursed close to EUR 200 million worth of allowances.

Some adult learning programmes, in particular when formal, require individuals to hold specific skills or qualifications as a pre-condition for entry. However, individuals are not always able to prove that they meet these criteria, especially when they were acquired through non-formal and informal learning. Validating and certifying existing skills can help to re-engage individuals with formal learning and limit the time and costs needed to complete a formal credential. They can also help individuals improve their labour mobility by providing proof to a new employer of the skills they have obtained informally. The purpose, methods, processes and scope of the recognition of prior learning vary strongly across and within countries. To address barriers to adult learning effectively, recognition of prior learning must be transparent, streamlined and ensure the buy-in of all relevant stakeholders, including employers and education and training providers. The Portuguese Qualifica Programme includes the creation of a credit-based system for professional training in line with European frameworks; ‘Passaporte Qualifica’, an online tool for the recording of qualification and competences; and the establishment of a network of 300 Qualifica centres. Qualifica centres provide services related to information, guidance, as well as the recognition, validation and certification of skills free of charge (OECD, 2018[5]). While many countries have a system of recognition of prior learning (RPL) in place, it is often used relatively little. This is for example the case in Romania, where authorised evaluation centres are in charge of evaluating and certifying skills obtained through non-formal and informal learning. The service is free for job-seekers, but seems to be relatively unknown or unattractive, as only around 80 job-seekers participated in an RPL procedure in 2017. Take up of possibilities to obtain recognition of prior learning is likely to be low if the time required and administrative burden are high.

2.4.3. Offering targeted support to individuals

While policy should facilitate easy access to adult learning for all, it is important to recognise that some groups need additional and targeted support to take up training opportunities. The following highlights key policies for selected target groups, including the low-skilled, older adults, migrants, the unemployed and low-income workers.

Low-skilled adults are most in need to develop further their skills, but the least likely to participate. They can find themselves in a ‘low-skill trap’, working in low-level positions with little development opportunities and low returns to training, moving in- and out of unemployment (OECD, 2017[6]; Burdett and Smith, 2002[7]). Countries can develop specific strategies to increase the take up of adult learning by the low-skilled, which must start with effective outreach efforts. Public awareness campaigns, implemented in many countries, may not be enough, as an evaluation of a German literacy and basic skill campaign suggests (Nur Mut - der nächste Schritt lohn sich. Besser lesen und schreiben lernen). The evaluation finds that the public awareness campaign finds it challenging to identify and reach low-skilled individuals. Implementing outreach strategies in cooperation with local stakeholders, such as schools or community organisations, may result in greater success (Kowalczyk et al., 2016[8]). Some countries have experimented with mobile information centres, e.g. in the form of trucks or buses, to engage groups who are typically not in contact with advice and guidance services. In 2017, the mobile information centre Formtruck was put on the streets of Brussels (Belgium) 20 times to engage job-seekers, the low-qualified and young people not in employment, education and training in adult learning. Individuals with low-skills often identify their training needs in the workplace, but may be reluctant to convey these needs to their employer for fear of revealing their lack of skills in specific areas. Trade Unions can provide a bridge between individuals and employers. Unionlearn in the UK trains Union Learning Representatives who promote the value of learning in companies, support learners in identifying their training needs and arrange education and training opportunities. The Union Learning Fund receives GBP 12 million public funding per year, see also (OECD, 2019[9]).

Older adults and their employers are less likely to invest in adult learning, given the short pay-back time on this investment before retirement (Martin, 2018[10]). However, many older adults lack familiarity with some of the digital technologies which are impacting on the world of work, making them more susceptible to skills obsolescence, potentially leading to job loss and early retirement (OECD, 2017[11]). Working lives are also increasing, thus extending the effective time to recoup the costs of investing in training. Targeted career advice and guidance services can help this group make informed decisions about their investment in further skill development and targeted financial incentives can encourage employers to invest in training for older employees by reducing the relative cost of training them. Since mid-2018, Australia has been trialling their new programme Career Transition Assistance for job-seekers aged 50 and above in five regions, with the perspective of national roll-out for everyone aged 45 and above in 2019. The programme will combine tailored career assistance and functional digital literacy training using different types of technology. In the Netherlands, workers aged 45 and more can participate in subsidised career development guidance (Ontwikkeladvies). These guidance activities help older workers understand the future prospects of their current job, and give insight into their skills profile and career opportunities. Participants develop a personal development plan that describes the actions that will be taken to ensure employment until retirement age. Taking a different approach by targeting employers, the German public employment agency supports training of low-skilled and older workers in SMEs through their programme WeGebAU. SMEs receive a 75% subsidy to the training costs of workers 45 years of age and older. Micro-enterprises with less than ten employees receive a 100% subsidy of training costs. The training of low-skilled workers is additionally supported through a wage subsidy for the duration of the training to compensate employer for any financial losses. Evaluations of the programme find that it helps participants to increase their time spend in employment, although it has no effect on wages and the probability of receiving benefits later on (Dauth, 2017[12]).

Migrants, in particular when newly arrived, strongly benefit from targeted adult learning support, be it to improve their proficiency in the host language or to validate and adapt their skills to the requirements of the host country’s labour market. Developing host language and cultural skills is key for further learning and integration, but is often the biggest challenge for recent migrants. Countries can support migrants in learning these skills in a variety of ways, including through free or subsidised class-based courses, work-based language support and digital education offers. As an example of the latter, the EU-funded MASELTOV project developed a smartphone app to enable language and cultural learning of migrants in an informal and contextual way in a number of European countries (Jones et al., 2017[13]). Other key policies for this target group are the validation of prior learning and the provision of bridging programmes to close skill gaps. Sweden has a long history of recognising foreign qualifications. It has recently increased funding for the public agency responsible for recognition of foreign qualifications and has made more funds available for bridging programmes in specific professions (OECD, 2017[14]).

With much adult learning taking place at work, unemployed (or inactive) adults need dedicated measures to develop their skills and improve their employability. These opportunities are often publicly financed and provided by Public Employment Services (PES) or in some countries, such as Australia, by private providers of employment services. Effective training programmes for the unemployed or inactive adults take into account the needs of the local labour market and closely work with employers to offer work-based learning opportunities. In Flanders (Belgium), Individual Job Training (Individuele Beroepsopleiding) provides jobseekers with work-based learning opportunities following a training plan jointly established by the employer and the PES. Employers receive a subsidy to cover wage and social security costs and are expected to offer a permanent work-contract to the trainee following the training. In Ireland, Women ReBOOT – an enterprise-led initiative co-funded and supported by Skillnet Ireland – supports inactive women in developing skills and self-confidence to re-enter the technology sector after a career break. The programme includes group seminars, technology and knowledge training, individual coaching and in-company work placements. In Greece, there are two dedicated VET schools, namely the Athens School for Disabled People and the Normal Industrial Unit of Lakkia-Thessaloniki, that concentrate on unemployed people who are mentally or physically disabled. These schools offer qualifications in various fields (administration, carpentry, pottery, sewing etc.), while trainees also benefit from social support and guidance by experts.

Similarly, employers tend to underinvest in workers who are perceived to have a weaker attachment to the company and, as a result, for whom the pay-off of training is likely to be smaller, such as contract workers or women7 who may take up caring responsibilities. Two key ways to address this underinvestment are: de-coupling entitlement to training from employment status and/or the workplace and financial incentives to support investment in training. In France, for example, personal training accounts (Compte Personnel de Formation) were introduced in 2015, which allow individuals to accumulate entitlements of training credits. The accrued entitlement is transferable between jobs and if there is a change of employment status. A similar personal training account model is in place in Iceland. In some countries, unions are active in setting up specific training programmes for women in sectors where they are underrepresented. In Canada, for example, many unions in the industrial sector provide programmes to support and increase the number of women in the skilled trades, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations.

For adults with low-income, the key barrier to participation in education and training is financial. Where this is not the case already, governments may need to put in place specific financial support to prevent under-investment in the skills of those on low incomes. Financial incentives for this group could cover programme fees, associated costs such as the cost of learning materials and travel, as well as daily allowances during participation. In Austria, the PES covers the costs of training and education courses and course-related costs (e.g. learning materials, specific clothing, and accommodation) for job-seekers and employees on low-incomes (Beihilfe zu den Kurskosten/Kursnebenkosten). Similarly, the Adult Upgrading Grant in British Columbia (Canada) covers additional costs of participating in educational and training programmes. All Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programmes are tuition-free at public post-secondary institutions. For eligible low-income learners attending a British Columbia public post-secondary institution, the Adult Upgrading Grant covers additional costs, such as registration fees, books and supplies, transportation and unsubsidised childcare. In Hungary, 52 Open Learning Centers (NYITOK) provide short training courses (up to 20 hours) free of charge for adults who have low basic skills or limited access to skill development programmes. Adults can follow courses such as everyday finances, basics of ICT or English. As from 2019 onwards, the network offers more labour market oriented programmes.

2.4.4. Engaging employers in the provision of training

Employers have a key role to play in providing and financing job-related adult learning, as they benefit from training effects including through increased productivity, higher employee retention, better engagement and improved management-worker interaction (OECD/ILO, 2017[15]). However, employers may underinvest in training and education due to a lack of information, capacity and/or resources. This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises. More generally, employers may be concerned about poaching, i.e. losing workers who have undergone more general training to other employers. Governments can engage employers in adult learning provision in a variety of ways, including through tailored guidance and financial incentives.

Many companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, lack the knowledge and capacity to offer training opportunities to their employees. In Flanders (Belgium), the government-funded Centres for Adult Basic Education send “ambassadors” into companies to review work-based learning opportunities and discuss the benefits of providing these opportunities with the company. They then aim to find ways to give more room to work-based learning, in particular for the low-skilled. Other measures to address capacity constraints use economies of scale and provide training in collaboration with other enterprises. In Ireland, Skillsnets funds demand-led training through a network model. Company networks representing specific geographic regions or industries jointly deliver training programmes tailored to labour market demands. In Austria, companies can cooperate in Impulse Training Networks (Implus-Qualifizierungs-Verbund) to provide cost-efficient and work-relevant training. The PES funds support services for the running of these networks, including in the set-up of the networks, the development of training plans and development programmes and the application for available financial support for in-company training. Similarly, in Korea the HRD Ability Magnified Programme (CHAMP) facilitates collaboration between SMEs and large companies in providing training. Often the companies involved are part of the same supply-chain.

Targeted financial incentives can encourage employers to provide training opportunities, including through training or wage subsidies, levy schemes/training funds or tax incentives (see also Chapter 5). Japan has a number of financial incentives targeting employers. The Japanese Subsidy System to Support Human Resource Development (Jinzai Kaihatsu Shien Joseikin) co-funds training expenses and subsidises wages in the context of occupational skill development activities in companies. The system features three types of subsidy schemes for: i) specific training courses, ii) general training courses and iii) training leave. Small and medium-sized enterprises receive higher subsidies. In many countries, the social partners steer the provision of training through employers. Training levies, such as in Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa are collected from employers through the pay-roll. The funds are then administered by social partners and re-distributed to fund employer-led training. To be effective, training levies need to be designed with a view to make training accessible to vulnerable groups, of good quality, and aligned to firms’ and workers’ training needs. In some OECD countries, for example in Italy, much of the resources collected through training levies are used to finance compulsory health and safety training, potentially generating high deadweight losses, i.e. financing training that would have taken place even in the absence of the levy (OECD, forthcoming[16]). Some countries incentivise employers through tax deductions: in Chile, companies can deduct training and skill recognition costs (up to 1% of their annual taxable wages) from their tax bill under the Impulsa Personas programme. Finally, some countries have put in place formal obligations for employers to provide training opportunities to their workers, specifying in some cases a minimum number of training days (Table 2.5).

Table 2.5. Training obligation other than health and safety

Country

 

Does it exist?

Duration

No

Yes, legislative

Yes, through collective bargaining

Australia

..

 

Austria

..

 

Belgium

x

2 days (Flanders), 5 days (Wallonia)

Canada

x

x (Quebec)

 

Chile

x

 

Czech Republic

x

 

Denmark

x

Varies

Estonia

x

 

Finland

..

 

France

x

 

Germany

..

 

Greece

..

 

Hungary

x

 

Iceland

x

 

Ireland

x

Italy

x

26 hours (metal sector only) 

Japan

x

 

Korea

x

 

Latvia

..

 

Lithuania

..

 

Luxembourg

x

 

Mexico

x

 

Norway

x

 

Poland

Portugal

x

35 hours per year 

Slovak Republic

x

 

Slovenia

x

 

Spain

x

 

Sweden

x

 

Switzerland

x

 

Turkey

x

 

United Kingdom

x

United States

x

Non-OECD countries

 

Argentina

x

 

Brazil

x

 

Romania

x

 

Note: ‘Duration’ refers to days per full-time equivalent unless otherwise specified

Source: OECD Adult Learning Policy Questionnaire.

References

[17] Bassanini, A. and W. Ok (2004), “How do firms' and individuals' incentives to invest in human capital vary across groups?”, CEPN Working Papers, https://ideas.repec.org/p/hal/cepnwp/halshs-00194344.html (accessed on 16 July 2018).

[7] Burdett, K. and E. Smith (2002), “The low skill trap”, European Economic Review, Vol. 46/8, pp. 1439-1451, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0014-2921(02)00184-8.

[12] Dauth, C. (2017), “Weiterbildung Geringqualifizierter und beschäftigter älterer Arbeitnehmer in Unternehmen (WeGebAU)”, in Möller, J. and U. Walwei (eds.), Arbeitsmarkt kompakt, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit (IAB)/ Bertelsmann Verlag , Nürnberg/ Bielefeld, http://dx.doi.org/10.3278/300939w.

[3] Richard Desjardins (ed.) (2017), Political Economy of Adult Learning Systems, Bloomsbury Academic, London, New York.

[13] Jones, A. et al. (2017), “Supporting immigrant language learning on smartphones: A field trial”, Studies in the Education of Adults, Vol. 49/2, pp. 228-252, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02660830.2018.1463655.

[2] Kis, V. and H. Windisch (2018), “Making skills transparent: recognising vocational skills acquired through workbased learning”, OECD Education Working Papers, Vol. 18.

[8] Kowalczyk, K. et al. (2016), Evaluation des BMBF-Förderschwerpunkts „Arbeitsplatzorientierte Alphabetisierung und Grundbildung Erwachsener“, Bundesministerium fuer Bildung und Forschung, Berlin, http://www.ramboll.de/management-consulting (accessed on 14 June 2018).

[10] Martin, J. (2018), “Skills for the 21st century: Findings and policy lessons from the OECD survey of adult skills”, OECD Education Working Paper, Vol. 166, http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=EDU/WKP(2018)2&docLanguage=En (accessed on 14 June 2018).

[9] OECD (2019), Getting Skills Right: Engaging low-skilled adults in learning.

[5] OECD (2018), Skills Strategy Implementation Guidance for Portugal: Strengthening the Adult-Learning System, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264298705-en.

[6] OECD (2017), Educational Opportunity for All: Overcoming Inequality throughout the Life Course, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264287457-en.

[4] OECD (2017), Financial Incentives for Steering Education and Training, Getting Skills Right, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264272415-en.

[14] OECD (2017), International Migration Outlook, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1999124x.

[11] OECD (2017), Preventing Ageing Unequally, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264279087-en.

[16] OECD (forthcoming), Adult Learning in Italy: what role for training funds?.

[15] OECD/ILO (2017), Better Use of Skills in the Workplace: Why It Matters for Productivity and Local Jobs, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264281394-en.

[1] Windisch, H. (2015), “Adults with low literacy and numeracy skills: A literature review on policy intervention”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 123, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jrxnjdd3r5k-en.

Notes

← 1. Formal learning is defined as institutionalised, intentional and planned learning that leads to recognised qualifications. Non-formal learning is also institutionalised, intentional and planned, but typically includes shorter or lower-intensity courses, which do not necessarily lead to formal qualifications. This includes on-the-job training, open and distance education, courses and private lessons, seminars and workshops.

← 2. Informal learning is defined as intentional learning that is less organised and structured. In the context of this report it includes learning by doing or learning from colleagues.

← 3. The data reported here on job-related adult learning from the Adult Education Survey refer to non-formal learning only.

← 4. These results refer to raw figures and can largely be explained by compositional effects. Controlling for individual and job characteristics, temporary workers enjoy less training than their peers.

← 5. SMEs are defined as companies with up to 249 employees.

← 6. It should be noted that the education and training leave in Belgium is currently in a process of reform. The responsibility for the leave has been regionalised in 2014, and it is likely that the regions will introduce changes to the current system. In Flanders, for example, the leave allowance will be changed and linked to labour market relevant training. The reform should come into effect in the 2019/2020 academic year.

← 7. In the case of women it has been suggested that their lower levels of participation may also be due to pure or statistical discrimination on the part of employers (Bassanini and Ok, 2004[17]).

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