copy the linklink copied!3. Reducing skills imbalances

Skills imbalances are costly for individuals, firms and the economy as a whole, leading to lower investment and lower overall productivity. Attracting skilled workers from abroad can contribute to reducing skills imbalances in the short term. In the longer term, a wider set of policies can help reduce skills imbalances. These range from framework policies to improve resource allocation to strengthening the responsiveness of the education system. This chapter explores the importance of reducing skills imbalances for the Slovak Republic and provides an overview of current practices and performance. Subsequently, it presents four opportunities to reduce skills imbalances: improving the dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs; strengthening the responsiveness of students and their families to labour market needs; strengthening the responsiveness of secondary vocational education and training (VET) and tertiary education institutions to labour market needs; and moving from “brain drain” to “brain gain”.

    

copy the linklink copied!The importance of reducing skills imbalances

Skills imbalances are misalignments between the demand and supply of skills in the economy, and comprise skills mismatches, skills shortages and skills surpluses (Box 3.1). They can exert a negative impact on overall economic growth, on firms and on individuals. Skill mismatches and shortages can negatively affect economic growth through their effects on increased labour costs, lower labour productivity growth, slower adoption of new technologies and lost production associated with vacancies remaining unfilled (OECD, 2016[1]). Firms experiencing skills shortages may be constrained in their ability to innovate and adopt new technologies, and might face larger hiring costs (OECD, 2016[1]). Skills mismatches can cause individuals to experience a higher risk of unemployment, lower wages and lower job satisfaction (OECD, 2016[1]).

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Box 3.1. Definitions: Different types of skills imbalance

Skills shortages refer to a disequilibrium condition in which the demand for a specific type of skill exceeds its supply in the labour market at the prevailing market wage rate (Junankar, 2009[2]). Skills surpluses arise when the supply of a specific type of skill exceeds its demand in the labour market.

Skills mismatches describe situations when a workers’ skills exceed or fall short of those required for the job under current market conditions (Shah and Burke, 2005[3]; OECD, 2017[4]). They can be measured along different dimensions:

  • Skills mismatch: when workers have higher or lower skills proficiency than what is required by their job. If their skills proficiency is higher, workers are classified as over-skilled; if lower, they are classified as under-skilled.

  • Qualifications mismatch: when workers have an educational attainment that is higher or lower than what is required by their job. If their qualification level is higher, workers are classified as over-qualified; if lower, they are classified as under-qualified.

  • Field-of-study mismatch: when workers are employed in a different field from that in which they have specialised.

Source: OECD (2016[5]), Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264258051-en.

The available evidence suggests that skills imbalances have a strong impact in the Slovak Republic. A study from the OECD found that reducing skills mismatch could be associated with an increase in productivity by approximately 5% (Adalet McGowan and Andrews, 2015[6]). Over-qualified workers in the Slovak Republic earn on average 20% less than well-matched workers (Montt, 2015[7]).

Megatrends such as automation and demographic change are increasing the urgency to implement policies to reduce skills imbalances in Slovakia. As indentified in Chapter 1, Slovakia has the largest exposure to automation among OECD countries (OECD, 2019[8]). It also has the second largest expected decline in working population among OECD countries (OECD, 2019[8]). Automation will lead to significant changes in the patterns of job creation, making it increasingly important to have adequate mechanisms to better match the supply and demand for skills. The shrinking working population implies that Slovakia will need to more effectively match the skills of its workforce to jobs to satisfy labour market demand.

A wide range of policies can help address skills imbalances, including framework policies to improve the allocation of resources, such as product market regulations and bankruptcy legislation, and wage setting institutions (Adalet McGowan and Andrews, 2015[6]; OECD, 2016[1]). This chapter focuses on three skills-related policy areas: 1) generating and disseminating information on labour market and skills needs; 2) strengthening the responsiveness of the education system (both students and their families and education institutions) to labour market needs; and 3) attracting workers (both Slovak and foreign) from abroad. Improving the generation and dissemination of information and the responsiveness of the education system will likely help reduce skills imbalances in the longer term, whereas attracting workers from abroad could have a more immediate impact.

These three policy areas were selected based on insights from stakeholder representatives consulted during the two workshops, as well as an examination of relevant literature. The stakeholders identified reducing brain drain and improving alignment between the education system and labour markets as the key priorities to reduce skills imbalances. They also expressed concerns regarding the availability and dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs. The literature confirmed that these three policy areas were useful avenues to explore and allowed the OECD team to further refine the scope of the analysis.

The provision of adult learning (see Chapter 4) and policies supporting the adoption of better management and working practices (see Chapter 5) also have an important role in addressing skills imbalances. Adult learning can help ensure that the existing stock of workers can better match skills demand, whereas better management and working practices help firms to achieve more effective labour allocation (Adalet McGowan and Andrews, 2015[6]; OECD, 2016[1]).

This chapter begins with an overview of current arrangements and performance indicators for reducing skills imbalances in Slovakia. It then articulates four opportunities for reducing skills imbalances across the three policy areas described above:

  1. 1. Improving the dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs.

  2. 2. Strengthening the responsiveness of students and their families to labour market needs.

  3. 3. Strengthening the responsiveness of secondary vocational education and training (VET) and tertiary education institutions to labour market needs.

  4. 4. Moving from “brain drain” to “brain gain”.

copy the linklink copied!Overview and performance for reducing skills imbalances in the Slovak Republic

Overview of the current arrangements for reducing skills imbalances

In Slovakia, several government and non-government actors are involved in 1) generating and disseminating information on labour market and skills needs; 2) building a responsive education system; and 3) attracting workers from abroad. The main actor involved in generating, managing and disseminating information on labour market and skills needs is the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (MPSVR). However, some private actors, such as Trexima Ltd. and the web portal Profesia, also play an important role. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports (MŠVVŠ) is responsible for building a responsive education system, in co-operation with the MPSVR and self-governing regions (in the case of the VET system). The MPSVR, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MZVEZ) and the Ministry of the Interior are responsible for international labour mobility policies.

Generating and disseminating information on labour market and skills needs

Skills assessment and anticipation (SAA) exercises are the main tools to generate and disseminate information on labour market and skills needs. Countries rely on different types of SAA exercises, such as labour market information systems (including vacancies and other labour market data); quantitative forecasting models; and more qualitative methods such as employer surveys, panels and roundtables (OECD, 2016[1]). The main SAA tools available for Slovakia are described in Table 3.1.

There are two main tools available from international institutions to assess current skills imbalances, although these are not commonly used in Slovakia, according to information gathered during the bilateral meetings, workshops and focus groups conducted during the project. OECD Skills for Jobs provides an overview of relative shortages and surpluses for skills and abilities, and measures skills mismatches through qualification mismatch and field-of-study mismatch indicators (OECD, 2017[4]). As for other European countries (EU), Cedefop publishes a high-level list of mismatch priority occupations based on desk research and stakeholder interviews on the Skills Panorama portal (Cedefop, 2016[9]).

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Table 3.1. Main skills assessment and anticipation tools available in the Slovak Republic

SAA tool

Focus

Type of SAA

OECD Skills for Jobs

Current shortages and current skills mismatches

Occupational shortage index for shortages (based on relative labour market demand), qualification mismatch and field-of-study mismatch.

High Priority Mismatch Occupations by Skills Panorama

Current shortages and surpluses

Qualitative exercise based on labour market indicators, stakeholder interviews and desk research.

Vacancy data from the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

Current shortages

Unemployment rates by duration, age and sex.

Eurostat-compliant vacancy data based on an employer survey and registered vacancies.

Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ústredie práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny, ÚPSVR) portal

Current shortages

Unemployment rates by level of study, field of study and region.

Data on vacancies reported by employers, either through the Labour Market Integrated System (Internetový sprievodca trhom práce, ISTP) portal or directly to labour offices.

National Project Forecasting Labour Market Developments

Future labour market demand and supply

Forward-looking quantitative forecast model up to 2024.

Cedefop-Slovak Academy of Science quantitative model

Future labour market demand and supply

Forward-looking quantitative forecast model up to 2030.

Source: Vantuch, J. and D. Jelinkova (2019[10]), Cedefop ReferNet VET in Europe reports 2018: VET in Slovakia, https://cumulus.cedefop.europa.eu/files/vetelib/2019/Vocational_Education_Training_Europe_Slovakia_2018_Cedefop_ReferNet.pdf; Cedefop (2016[9]), Slovakia: Mismatch priority occupations, https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en.

Two main SAA tools to assess current skills shortages are used in the Slovak Republic. First, the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic publishes data on unemployment rates by duration, age and sex, as well as Eurostat-compliant (i.e. consistent with EU-wide regulations) data on vacancies, through the DATAcube portal (http://datacube.statistics.sk). These Eurostat-compliant vacancy data consolidate information from an employer survey and registered vacancies from labour offices. Second, the MPSVR disseminates administrative data on vacancies and data on unemployment rates by education and region through the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ústredie práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny, ÚPSVR) portal (www.upsvr.gov.sk/). The vacancy data here reflect vacancies reported by employers either directly to labour offices or through the Labour Market Integrated System (Internetový sprievodca trhom práce) (ISTP) portal, run by the MPSVR (www.istp.sk/). Another online job portal is operated by Profesia (www.profesia.sk/).

There are two main models that forecast future needs across different occupations (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). According to stakeholders consulted during the project, the first model has been developed by the Institute of Economic Research of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, in semi-formalised co-operation with Cedefop. The second model has been delivered by the National Project Forecasting Labour Market Developments (Národný projekt: Prognózy vývoja na trhu práce, NPPVTP). According to stakeholders consulted during the project, the NPPVTP is overseen by the MPSVR and relies on European Social Fund (ESF) funding. It is delivered by the private agency Trexima Ltd and relies on internal data collection. The MPSVR disseminates key results from NPPVTP forecasts on a public portal (www.trendyprace.sk/sk).

Building a responsive education system

The structure of the Slovak education system (for ISCED levels 1 to 3) was described in Chapter 2; this section will focus on arrangements in the education system that are relevant to the responsiveness of students and their families (Opportunity 2) and the responsiveness of secondary VET and tertiary institutions (Opportunity 3).

The education system contributes to the responsiveness of students and their families through the provision of career guidance services. The MŠVVŠ is responsible for providing guidelines for career guidance activities to primary and secondary schools. Career guidance in schools is delivered by education counsellors, who have to follow the guidelines set by the MŠVVŠ. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are autonomous in terms of organising career guidance activities for their students (Beková et al., 2014[11]).

The MŠVVŠ and self-governing regions are responsible for secondary VET (ISCED level 3), whereas the MŠVVŠ provides funding and oversees the external quality assurance process for tertiary institutions (ISCED level 5-8).

In the case of secondary VET, the MŠVVŠ is responsible for setting regulations for the content of the curriculum and the guidelines for work-based learning (WBL). It is also responsible for providing funding and regulating the allocation of study places across different VET programmes and schools, in collaboration with the MPSVR and self-governing regions (see Opportunity 2 for a more detailed description). The main responsibilities of VET schools are to adapt the curriculum to local needs and co-operate with employers to organise work-based learning.

In tertiary education, HEIs have full autonomy (with the exception of three state HEIs). The MŠVVŠ provides funding through a formula and, from 2020, will oversee an external quality assurance process through the Slovak Accreditation Agency, an independent body that will become operational in 2020 (see Opportunity 3 for a more detailed description). HEIs are responsible for developing the curriculum, collaborating with employers and allocating study places across different courses.

Secondary VET institutions in Slovakia have a relatively large share of learners, but most VET students attend a school-based programme with a focus on theory (Table 3.2). Students in VET programmes account for more than 60 % of all secondary school students. This is one of the highest rates across the OECD and significantly above the OECD average, which is approximately 40% (OECD, 2019[8]). However, fewer than half of VET students complete programmes with a significant work-based learning component.

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Table 3.2. Overview of the secondary education system in the Slovak Republic

Type of programme

Description

Percentage of secondary school students in 2017

General secondary school programme (ISCED 3440)

Programme with an academic focus. Awards the maturita certificate that allows access to university.

29%

School-based four-year VET with a focus on theory (ISCED 354)

VET programme with a lower share of WBL. Awards the maturita certificate that allows access to university.

37%

School-based four-year VET with a minimum of 36.4% WBL (ISCED 354)

VET programme awarding the maturita certificate that allows access to university, as well as a certificate of apprenticeship.

WBL can be delivered through school-based workshops or practical training.

18%

Three-year programmes with a minimum of 50.5% WBL (ISCED 353)

VET programme awarding a certificate of apprenticeship only.

WBL can be delivered through school-based workshops or practical training

16%

Note: WBL stands for work-based learning. In this instance, it includes apprenticeships and short-term internships in firms, as well as school-based activities, such as training in workshops and labs.

Source: Vantuch, J. and D. Jelinkova (2019[10]),Cedefop ReferNet VET in Europe reports 2018: Vocational Education and Training in Slovakiahttps://cumulus.cedefop.europa.eu/files/vetelib/2019/Vocational_Education_Training_Europe_Slovakia_2018_Cedefop_ReferNet.pdf.

Despite the relatively high share of VET graduates, Slovakia only has a marginal offer of professional bachelor studies (OECD, 2017[12]). Most Slovak tertiary students attend public universities, which offer bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programmes (Table 3.3). A high share of students in Slovakia complete university education with a master’s degree, and students usually pursue their master’s programme at the same university (OECD, 2016[1]; Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]).

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Table 3.3. Overview of the tertiary education system in the Slovak Republic

Type of institution

Number of institutions

Percentage of tertiary graduates

Public (ISCED 6-8)

20

84%

State (ISCED 6-8)

3

2%

Private (ISCED 6-8)

12

14%

Note: ISCED refers to International Standard Classification of Education.

Source: CVTI (2019[13]), Statistical Yearbook – Universities, www.cvtisr.sk/skolstvo/regionalne-skolstvo.html?page_id=10267.

Attracting workers from abroad

Two Slovak ministries play an important role in attracting skilled workers from abroad. The MI is responsible for regulations on permit conditions for foreign workers, whereas the MPSVR is responsible for co-ordinating policies concerning the relocation and integration of foreign workers, including disseminating relevant information (e.g. on how to organise the relocation process) and overseeing local-level integration strategies.

Several government and non-government entities have also implemented initiatives to engage with the Slovak diaspora abroad. The Government Office for Slovaks Abroad (Úrad pre Slovákov žijúcich v zahraničí, ÚSŽZ) within the MZVEZ organises cultural activities for Slovak expatriate communities. Several government and non-government bodies have organised some ad hoc initiatives to encourage Slovaks abroad to relocate to Slovakia, including the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (Slovenská agentúra pre rozvoj investícií a obchodu, SARIO), IT Association of Slovakia, and the non-governmental organisation (NGO), LEAF.

Performance of the Slovak Republic

The existing evidence suggests that Slovakia experiences labour shortages both among higher-skilled occupations (such as engineers and ICT professionals) and lower-skilled occupations (such as assemblers). It also shows that Slovakia experiences high levels of over qualification among tertiary graduates, and high levels of field-of study mismatch across younger workers. The responsiveness of the secondary VET and tertiary education system has contributed to skills shortages and skills mismatches, whereas emigration and brain drain have been major drivers behind shortages (OECD, 2017[12]; Štefánik et al., 2018[14]; OECD, 2019[15]). Improving the adult learning system (see Chapter 4) and working and management practices in firms (see Chapter 5) could help address shortages and skills mismatches going forward.

Overview of skills imbalances in the Slovak Republic

Strong economic performance in Slovakia in recent years has led to a progressive tightening of the labour market (OECD, 2019[15]). Employment growth has been strong and unemployment has been falling fast (Figure 3.1), although long-term unemployment has remained high (see Chapter 4). The vacancy rate is at its highest level for many years and continues to rise (Figure 3.1). The increasing tightness of the labour market has been accompanied by labour shortages across different areas (OECD, 2019[15]).

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Figure 3.1. Recent evolution in vacancies and unemployment in the Slovak Republic
Figure 3.1. Recent evolution in vacancies and unemployment in the Slovak Republic

Source: Eurostat (2019[16]), Eurostat Database, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075279

The OECD skills for Jobs database, the high-priority mismatch occupations identified by Cedefop’s Skills Panorama and domestic vacancy data suggest that Slovakia is likely to be experiencing shortages both across high-skilled (International System of Classifications on Occupations, ISCO 1-3) and medium-skilled (ISCO 4-8) occupations.

The OECD Skills for Jobs database (Figure 3.2) shows significant shortages in higher-level cognitive skills, such as system skills (judgement and decision making, systems analysis and evaluation), basic skills (reading, writing and critical thinking) and complex problem solving (problem-solving skills), as well as in a range of higher-level abilities (such as verbal and quantitative abilities). These higher-level cognitive skills and abilities are most frequently supplied by tertiary educated graduates (OECD, 2017[4]).

The mismatch priority occupation review by Skills Panorama and the available vacancy data from Slovakia provide a more composite picture (Table 3.4).

The review by Skills Panorama shows that “ICT specialists”, “science and engineering professionals” and “health professionals” (requiring university level education) face significant shortages (Cedefop, 2016[9]). However, it also points outs that there are significant shortages among qualified manual workers and craftsmen, such as customer care specialists and supply-chain operators, especially in the automotive industry (Cedefop, 2016[9]).

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Figure 3.2. Shortages across skills and abilities from the OECD Skills for Jobs database
Figure 3.2. Shortages across skills and abilities from the OECD Skills for Jobs database

Note: Positive values indicate shortages, while negative values indicate surpluses. An indicator value of +1 represents the maximum value across countries in the database, while a value of -1 represents the lowest value. The index is constructed in two steps. First, an occupational shortage index is calculated for each occupation based on five sub-components: wage growth, unemployment growth, hours worked growth, unemployment rate and change in under-qualification. Second, the values of the occupational shortage indexes are used to weight the importance of the skill requirements associated with each occupational group. Information on skill requirements in each occupation are extracted from the O*NET database (www.onetonline.org/help/onet/).

Source: OECD (2018[17]), Skills for Jobs database, www.oecdskillsforjobsdatabase.org.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075298

The available vacancy data from Slovakia confirm that medium-skilled occupations are likely to be a significant area of shortage, especially in manufacturing and transport, and show that Western Slovakia has a higher level of vacancies than other regions. To reach this conclusion, it is necessary to combine data from ÚPSVR, the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, and publicly available data on the Profesia and ISTP portals (Table 3.4). These data sources have different levels of granularity and employ a different methodology, making it difficult to build a more coherent picture (see Opportunity 1 for a more detailed description).

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Table 3.4. Overview of current shortages in the Slovak Republic

Data source

Main results

High-priority mismatch occupations by Skills Panorama

Key shortage occupations nationwide are: ICT specialists, science and engineering professionals, health professionals, and medium-skilled occupations (ISCO 4-8) in the automotive industry (e.g. qualified manual workers and specialists).

Vacancy data from the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

Higher level of vacancies in Western Slovakia.

Higher level of vacancies in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade and public administration.

ÚPSVR portal

Higher level of vacancies in Western Slovakia.

Higher level of vacancies for medium-skilled occupations (ISCO 4-8) across the country.

Publicly available data from the ISTP portal

Higher demand for manufacturing across the country (e.g. assemblers) and for transport in Western Slovakia only (e.g. truck drivers).

Publicly available data from the Profesia portal

Higher level of vacancies in production/industry, services and transport (using classification developed internally).

Note: ISCO refers to the International System of Classifications on Occupations.

Source: Vantuch, J. and D. Jelinkova (2019[10]), Cedefop ReferNet VET in Europe reports 2018: Vocational Education and Training in Slovakiahttps://cumulus.cedefop.europa.eu/files/vetelib/2019/Vocational_Education_Training_Europe_Slovakia_2018_Cedefop_ReferNet.pdf; Cedefop (2016[9])Slovakia: Mismatch priority occupations, Skills Panoramahttps://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/analytical_highlights/slovakia-mismatch-priority-occupations; Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic (2019[18]), DATAcube website http://datacube.statistics.sk/.

Forecasts on future labour market demand from Cedefop and the NPPVTP suggest that the strong labour market demand across both high-skilled and medium-skilled occupations will extend into the future. In line with other OECD countries, both forecasts suggest that most overall employment growth will occur in medium-skilled occupations (ISCO 4-8), followed by high-skilled occupations (Table 3.5).

Employment growth in medium-skilled occupations will be driven by replacement demand (i.e. the replacement of workers facing retirement), whereas employment growth in high-skilled occupations will be driven by expansion demand (i.e. new jobs being created). As a result, the overall share of high-skilled jobs in the labour force will increase, whereas the share of medium-skilled jobs will shrink, consistent with job polarisation dynamics.

The NPPVTP provides more granular information on the patterns of future shortages and surpluses (Table 3.5). It identifies substantial future labour shortages in mechanical engineering for machine operators, machine fitters and equipment fitters, as well as skilled workers and craftsmen (ISCO 7-8). There will also be a lack of IT, accounting, business and finance specialists (ISCO 2-3), although mainly in the Košice and Bratislava regions. On the other hand, there are several areas that will have a surplus of workforce, such as hotel and tourism (in both secondary and university level positions), as well as specialists in journalism, mass media and psychology (ISCO 2-3).

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Table 3.5. Overview of future labour market demand

SAA tool

Focus

Main results

National Project Forecasting Labour Market Developments (NPPVTP)

Future labour market demand and supply (up to 2024)

Medium-skilled occupations (ISCO 4-8) will account for 52% of total demand, and high-skilled occupations (ISCO 1-3) for 37% of total demand.

There will be significant shortages among IT, accounting, business and finance specialists, mainly in Košice and Bratislava regions (ISCO 2-3); machine operators, machine and equipment fitters, as well as skilled workers and craftsmen (ISCO 7-8).

There will be surpluses among the hotel and tourism industry, as well as specialists in journalism, mass-media and psychologists.

Cedefop-Slovak Academy of Science quantitative model

Future labour market demand and supply (up to 2030)

Medium-skilled occupations (ISCO 4-8) will account for 54% of total demand, and high-skilled occupations (ISCO 1-3) for 42% of total demand.

Note: ISCO refers to the International System of Classifications on Occupations.

Source: Cedefop (2018[19]), Slovakia: making dual VET more attractive, www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/news-and-press/news/slovakia-making-dual-vet-more-attractive; Trexima (2019[20]), Trendy Prace, www.trendyprace.sk/sk.

Shortages across medium-skilled and high-skilled occupations have been accompanied by a high incidence of skills mismatches, especially among younger workers and tertiary graduates (Figure 3.3).

Within the OECD Skills for Jobs database (Figure 3.3), Slovakia shows relatively low levels of overall qualification mismatch (both in terms of under qualification and over qualification). However, it has the highest rate of over qualification for tertiary educated workers across EU/European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and the fourth highest rate of field-of-study mismatch (for workers aged 15 to 34). In line with other EU/EEA countries, younger tertiary graduates (aged 25 to 34) are more likely to be over-qualified than older tertiary graduates (aged 35 and above), reflecting that it might take some time for them to find a good match in the job market (OECD, 2017[4]).

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Figure 3.3. Skills mismatches in the Slovak Republic, from the OECD Skills for Jobs database
Figure 3.3. Skills mismatches in the Slovak Republic, from the OECD Skills for Jobs database

Note: The countries considered across the difference indicators change due to availability of data. The field of study indicator can only be calculated for workers aged 15 to 34. The qualification mismatch index calculates the share of under- or over-qualified workers by computing the modal (i.e. most common) educational attainment level for each occupation and using this as a benchmark to measure whether individual workers’ qualifications match the “normal” education requirement of the occupation. This approach has the advantage of being comparable across countries. However, occupational averages will tend to be driven by the majority of older workers with longer tenure. This means that the index might tend to reflect historical rather than current entry requirement. This could lead to over-estimated rates of over qualification for countries that have seen an increase in tertiary attainment such as the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Source: OECD (2018[17]), Skills for Jobs database, www.oecdskillsforjobsdatabase.org.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075317

Explaining the underlying dynamics in skills shortages and skills mismatches

The mix of shortages and high levels of over qualification among tertiary workers are explained by a combination of different factors, including the effectiveness of the adult learning system, working and management practices in firms, the responsiveness of the education system, and emigration (OECD, 2019[15]; Štefánik et al., 2018[14]).

A more effective adult learning system could contribute to address skills shortages, especially among middle-skilled occupations, by facilitating the reskilling of workers who have already joined the labour force and the activation of long-term unemployed adults (see Chapter 4). Improving working and management practices in firms could help reduce over-qualification rates among tertiary graduates, as well as shortages among both medium- and high-skilled occupations, by enabling a better use of skills in the workplace (see Chapter 5). This chapter focuses on the responsiveness of the education system and emigration.

The existing evidence suggests that the education system in Slovakia has played an important role in driving shortages and skills mismatches, both in terms of the responsiveness of students (see Opportunity 2) and institutions (see Opportunity 3).

Prospective secondary VET and tertiary students have frequently enrolled in programmes not aligned with labour market needs. Secondary VET programmes with a significant work-based learning component have provided skills and knowledge relevant to occupations in high demand in the labour market (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Examples of these occupations may include assemblers and operators. However, as seen in the overview of current arrangements, most secondary VET students are enrolled in four-year VET programmes with a focus on theory. This has likely contributed to shortages among medium-skilled occupations, as well as field-of-study mismatch among younger workers. In the case of prospective tertiary students, econometric evidence from the 2017 OECD Economic Survey suggests that graduates with tertiary education qualifications in “social sciences, business and law”, “humanities, languages and arts” and “health and welfare” were substantially more likely to be over-qualified (OECD, 2017[12]).

Shortages and skills mismatches have also been impacted by the decision making of secondary VET and tertiary education institutions. Existing VET programmes with a significant work-based learning component have failed to provide valuable opportunities for practical training, and suffered from low reputation (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]). This might help explain why most prospective secondary VET students have enrolled in the more theoretical VET track (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]). Tertiary education institutions have not been succesful in developing an educational offering aligned with labour market needs (OECD, 2017[12]). The curricula of tertiary education courses generally prepare students in theoretical rather than practical ways, and do not reflect the mix of technical and transversal competencies demanded in the labour market (Cedefop, 2016[9]; OECD, 2017[12]). There are some examples of problem-based approaches (e.g. in ICT courses) and practical training in agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine, but these are not widespread. As anticipated in the overview of current arrangements, Slovakia has a limited offering of professional bachelor programmes (see Opportunity 3 for a more detailed description). These programmes could have been helpful to prepare graduates in more technical fields that are experiencing strong labour market demand, such as ICT and engineering.

Emigration and brain drain have also played a crucial role in exacerbating skills shortages (Štefánik et al., 2018[14]; OECD, 2019[15]). Since Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, many Slovaks have emigrated abroad, attracted by higher salaries and better study and job opportunities (Kureková and Žilinčíková, 2019[22]). This trend has particularly affected highly educated young Slovaks (Haluš et al., 2017[23]). It has been estimated that 5% of the population left the country between 2000 and 2015, with more than half under 30-years-old (Haluš et al., 2017[23]). Return migration has not been substantial, with only around half of those who left after 2000 having returned by 2015 (Haluš et al., 2017[23]).

Young Slovaks frequently leave the country after secondary school to attend university abroad. Approximately 17% of Slovak university students were enrolled abroad in 2016, the second highest proportion across OECD countries (OECD, 2019[15]). Even if they attend university in Slovakia, young Slovaks often leave the country at the end of their studies. In the years prior to 2015, approximately 10% of university graduates left the country after having studied in publicly funded institutions in Slovakia (Haluš et al., 2017[23]).

However, the importance of emigration in driving shortages has decreased over time (Figure 3.4). Net migration turned positive in 2016, driven by increasing return migration and an increased inflow of foreign workers. The foreign workers have mostly been lower skilled so far and have mainly contributed to closing shortages in the automotive industry (OECD, 2019[15]).

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Figure 3.4. Migration balance in the Slovak Republic
Figure 3.4. Migration balance in the Slovak Republic

1. Highly educated immigrants include individuals with a tertiary qualification (ISCED 6-8).

Source: OECD (2019[15]), OECD Economic Surveys: Slovak Republic 2019, https://doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-svk-2019-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933902776

copy the linklink copied!Opportunities to reduce skills imbalances

This chapter describes four opportunities to reduce skills imbalances. The opportunities were selected based on input from the literature, discussions with the National Project Team, and feedback from government and stakeholder representatives consulted during the two workshops, bilateral meetings and focus groups. As a result, the following four opportunities are considered to be the most relevant for the specific Slovak context:

  1. 1. Improving the dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs.

  2. 2. Strengthening the responsiveness of students and their families to labour market needs.

  3. 3. Strengthening the responsiveness of secondary VET and tertiary education institutions to labour market needs.

  4. 4. Moving from “brain drain” to “brain gain”.

Opportunity 1: Improving the dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs

Effectively disseminating information on current and future labour market and skills needs is crucial to address shortages and skills mismatches (OECD, 2017[4]; OECD, 2019[8]).

As mentioned in the performance section, skills assessment and anticipation (SAA) exercises are the main tools to generate and disseminate information on labour market and skills needs. To minimise shortages and skills mismatches, the results from SAA tools should be tailored and disseminated to different users, including policy makers, education and training institutions, students, adult learners, career guidance services, and employers (OECD, 2019[8]). Policy makers can use these results to design and evaluate policies, and education and training institutions can use them to better align their programme and degree offers. Students, adult learners and career guidance services should use the information to ensure that choices about learning and careers are aligned with labour market demand (OECD, 2019[8]).

The existing evidence suggests that the dissemination of information from SAA tools in Slovakia is fragmented and not always tailored to the needs of different users. Going forward, Slovakia could improve the consolidation and tailoring of information from SAA tools by setting up a working group with representatives from different ministries and stakeholders.

Strengthening the dissemination of information from SAA tools to all users

In Slovakia, users need to access two platforms to construct a coherent picture of current vacancies. Even combined, these two platforms do not provide the full set of information required by different users. The general results of the NPPVTP are disseminated effectively, but the dissemination could better satisfy the requirements of different users.

Vacancy data are disseminated in two separate portals, ÚPSVR and DATAcube, making it difficult for users to compare results and methodology. The ÚPSVR portal reports breakdowns by region and first digit level ISCO occupations (e.g. managers, professionals, associate professionals). Conversely, the DATAcube portal from the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic only breaks down vacancies by sector and region, but not by occupation. This means that even when policy makers and education institutions combine the two sources they are unable to form an idea of specific occupational needs across different sectors, both at the national and regional level.

The portal recently developed by the MPSVR (www.trendyprace.sk/sk) is effective in disseminating the key results from the NPPVTP and has been presented in press conferences and presentations across the regions. The main interface is intuitive, and it is easy to analyse labour market trends nationally, regionally and by subject. The portal also has a “private zone” dedicated to users from the “decision-making sphere”, such as policy makers (www.trendyprace.sk/sk/prihlasit-sa). This area contains more detailed breakdowns of the forecasts and data, with more detailed sectorial and regional reports.

However, the portal could be improved to better cater to the needs of different users. Participants in the workshops, focus groups and bilateral meetings during the project highlighted that several education institutions and policy makers were unaware of the existence of the private zone, which means that they might not have access to detailed data that could support their decision making. Students and young people are currently unable to visualise the content of university courses or career paths that match different occupations. This information is frequently available in comparable portals in OECD countries (see Opportunity 2).

The fragmentation and limited tailoring of results from SAA tools were confirmed by a recent review of the governance of skills anticipation and matching in Slovakia (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]), which undertook an online opinion survey among employers and education institutions to assess the use, strengths and weaknesses of information on labour market needs (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]). The review found that many stakeholders viewed the processes of linking labour market information with end users, and using it to develop policy relevant and actionable skills intelligence, as weak (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]).

Virtually all education institutions (95%) thought that using information on current and future skill needs was important, but only 45% of education institutions used information regularly. There were two main barriers to accessing information: 50% of institutions making no or little use of labour market information felt that it was too general, and approximately 30% of these institutions felt that the results were too difficult to understand (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]).

In the case of employers (mostly medium-sized or large enterprises), approximately 50% conducted in-house analysis and discussion on current and future labour market needs, with roughly one-third doing this through informal contacts. However, approximately 60% of employers thought that finding business relevant information was difficult, and approximately 90% felt that more information on local/sectoral labour market needs was needed (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]). The limited availability of relevant information is likely to be an even more serious bottleneck in small and micro enterprises, which tend to lack capacity for in-house analysis (van Loo and Kvetan, forthcoming[24]).

The workshops, bilateral meetings and focus groups undertaken during the OECD project confirmed this picture. Several participants were not aware of the existence of the different portals and expressed doubts about their advantages and disadvantages.

Some participants of workshops, bilateral meetings and focus groups thought that establishing a working group to consolidate the results from different SAA exercises could improve dissemination efforts going forward. A similar solution has been adopted across a number of OECD countries, which have set-up a specific body to oversee the consolidation and dissemination of information (OECD, 2019[8]). These platforms typically involve multiple ministries, external experts and social partners, such as researchers, employers and trade unions. This helps ensure that the working group better tailors the dissemination of SAA results to the needs of different users, such as students, families, education institutions, employers and adult learners (OECD, 2019[8]).

In the Slovak context, the Alliance of Sectoral Skills Councils might constitute a good base to form a working group. Sectoral skills councils (Sektorové rady) provide expertise to policy makers on labour market needs in terms of knowledge, skills and competences, and support the creation of a national occupations system (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). However, it would be important to involve other stakeholders in the working group beside sectoral skills councils, such as academic experts and representatives from other ministries (e.g. the Ministry of Finance and the MŠVVŠ), in line with the experiences of other OECD countries (OECD, 2019[8]). Slovakia could also use the experiences of Norway and Estonia (Box 3.2) to consolidate and disseminate information on labour market and skills needs.

Going forward, Slovakia could also consider facilitating and expanding secure access to the research data underlying the SAA tools. Improving access to research data for policy makers and researchers can strengthen the breadth and quality of available information and research on labour market and skills needs by reinforcing open scientific enquiry. This encourages diversity of analysis and opinion, and enables the exploration of topics not envisioned by the initial investigators (OECD, 2007[25]).

Current legislative arrangements mean that research data on vacancies and other statistical surveys (e.g. the Labour Force Survey) gathered by the Statistical Office are available to policy makers and external researchers upon request. Policy makers and external users can receive the data in electronic format or access them in a “safe centre” within the Statistical Office. However, microdata from the ISTP portal and NPPVTP are currently more difficult to access. Stakeholders in workshops, focus groups and bilateral meetings reported that policy makers and external researchers are only able to receive some aggregate results upon request. Expanding access to microdata from the ISTP portal and the NPPVTP might pose some problems from a security and confidentiality perspective; however, the Statistical Office has already managed similar challenges in granting access to statistical surveys, either remotely or through the secure research facility. Other OECD countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have made further progress in making research data available through secure facilities (Box 3.2).

The secure procedure for accessing microdata could also be applied to the graduate tracking database that is currently being developed by the MPSVR and the MŠVVŠ. A graduate tracking database contains information on an individual’s educational history and employment outcomes. The implementation of graduate tracking in Slovakia was identified as a recommendation in the 2019 OECD Economic Survey and was part of the action plan of the Spending Review of Regional Schools and Universities approved by the Slovak government (OECD, 2019[15]). As well as ensuring that the graduate tracking database is successfully implemented and that the main findings are effectively distributed to education institutions and students (see Opportunity 2), the MPSVR and the MŠVVŠ should consider making the underlying microdata securely available to policy makers and external researchers.

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Box 3.2. Relevant international examples: Dissemination of SAA exercises

Consolidation and dissemination of SAA tools: Examples from Norway and Estonia

In Norway, the Committee on Skills Needs was formed in response to the need for an evidence-based understanding of Norway’s future skills needs. This committee plays a key role in co-ordinating between different ministries and stakeholder bodies in the area of skills needs assessment and responses. The committee is funded by the Ministry of Education and Research, and its secretariat is within Skills Norway. The committee includes 18 members representing social partners, ministries and researchers. It is tasked with compiling evidence on Norway’s future skills needs, contributing to open discussions and better utilisation of resources between stakeholders, and producing an annual report with analyses and assessment of Norway’s future skills needs. Unusually, these skills needs are forecast at the national, regional and sectoral level. The Committee on Skills Needs uses a comprehensive set of methods and tools, including employer surveys, surveys of workers or graduates, quantitative forecasting models, sector studies, qualitative methods, and labour market information systems.

Estonia introduced two laws in 2015 to improve the governance of skills anticipation. The new arrangement established that the System of Labour Market Monitoring and Future Skills Forecasting (Oskuste Arendamise koordinatsioonisüsteem, OSKA) provides skill forecasts in five sectors every year. Based on quantitative forecasts and qualitative insights developed by sectoral expert panels, the OSKA Co-ordination Council publishes a yearly analysis of labour market trends and skill needs. Representatives from employers and trade unions are involved in the co-ordination council that oversees OSKA, alongside ministries and the Estonian unemployment insurance fund. Education providers are also involved in sectoral expert panels, while experts from universities and professional associations sit on the OSKA Panel of Advisers (a body guiding methodological discussion and reflection). The whole system is administered and developed by the Estonian Qualifications Authority (Kutsekoda) and co-funded by the European Social Fund. The OSKA council publishes the main findings by sector on a portal (https://oska.kutsekoda.ee/), as well as recommendations for policy makers, education institutions and employers.

Source: OECD (2016[1]), Getting Skills Right: Assessing and Anticipating Changing Skill Needs, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264252073-en; Norwegian Committee on Skills Needs (2018[26]), Mandate of Official Norwegian Committee on Skill Needs, https://kompetansebehovsutvalget.no/mandate-of-official-norwegian-committee-on-skill-needs/; OECD (2019[27]), Getting Skills Right: Creating Responsive Adult Learning Systems, www.oecd.org/employment/emp/adult-learning-systems-2019.pdf.

Improving access to research data: Examples from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands

The United Kingdom has a long tradition of securing access to research data for policy makers and external researchers. The Secure Research Service is an integrated platform that allows policy makers and external researchers to work with sensitive microdata from business and worker surveys. Users gain access to the data after passing a one-day course and submitting a detailed research proposal. External researchers can access the data in a secure room within the Office for National Statistics, whereas government departments can set-up their own secure room in their building.

The Netherlands has similar arrangements in place. At Statistics Netherlands, external researchers from authorised institutions are able to access microdata sets at the level of individuals, companies and addresses. Institutions such as Dutch universities, organisations for policy analysis, institutes for scientific research and statistical authorities in other EU countries are able to apply for access. Access is granted to an institution for up to five years at a time, provided that they publish the results of their research, that the microdata is used solely for statistical purposes, and that the data is considered relevant to the research question.

Source: ONS (2019[28]), Accessing secure research data as an accredited researcher, www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/statistics/requestingstatistics/approvedresearcherscheme#becoming-an-approved-researcher-through-the-ons-approved-researcher-scheme; CBS (2019[29]), Microdata: Conducting your own research, www.cbs.nl/en-gb/our-services/customised-services-microdata/microdata-conducting-your-own-research.

Recommendation for strengthening the dissemination of information from SAA tools

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to consolidate results from multiple SAA exercises, and tailor dissemination to different users. The government should set up a working group responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy to consolidate and disseminate results from different SAA tools. It could consider using the Alliance of Sectoral Skills Councils as the basic platform to fulfil this objective. The working group should include representatives from employers, trade unions, SAA experts, self-governing regions and relevant ministries. The working group should consolidate the results from all available SAA exercises in a single set of outputs (e.g. a report as in Norway or a portal as in Estonia), highlighting their relative advantages and disadvantages. The working group could then prepare a tailored dissemination strategy, mapping what information (e.g. short-term information on labour market needs vs. longer-term trends) and channels (e.g. online portal vs. seminars) might be more relevant to different users. It could then oversee that the dissemination strategy is successful by monitoring user satisfaction with the information and channels. The sub-opportunity “Improving the direct dissemination of information to students and their families” in Opportunity 2 provides recommendations on a potential dissemination strategy for students and their families. Other users that should be targeted through an ad hoc dissemination strategy include policy makers from various ministries and regional authorities (e.g. the MŠVVŠ for the allocation of study places in secondary schools discussed in Opportunity 3), career guidance counsellors (see “Expanding career guidance in schools and universities” in Opportunity 2), education institutions (see Opportunity 3), adult learners (see Chapter 4), labour offices (see Chapter 4), and employers (see Chapter 5).

Opportunity 2: Strengthening the responsiveness of students and their families to labour market needs

To minimise skills imbalances, students and their families need to become more responsive to labour market needs and make choices that are aligned with current and future labour market dynamics. Across OECD countries, this typically requires improving the direct dissemination of information from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1), providing effective career guidance services and offering financial subsidies for specific fields of study (OECD, 2017[30]).

This opportunity focuses on the direct dissemination of information and the provision of career guidance services. In the Slovak context, the direct dissemination of information and effective career guidance could help reduce skills mismatches among secondary VET and tertiary graduates. It could also reduce shortages among medium-skilled and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related high-skilled occupations, such as engineers and ICT technicians. Effective career guidance in schools and the direct dissemination of information could support students in choosing tertiary education courses or VET qualifications that are in high demand in the labour market and suited to their interests and skills. Effective career guidance in universities could help tertiary students find a good match in the labour market.

However, as foreshadowed in Opportunity 1, Slovakia has struggled to directly disseminate information on labour market and skills needs to students and their families. The available evidence shows that the performance in career guidance has not been stronger, but Slovakia has recently introduced some reforms in schools, which will need to be adequately supported and complemented.

Financial subsidies for specific fields of study in tertiary education are likely to be another important area of focus for Slovakia going forward. In line with other OECD countries, Slovakia provides scholarships in STEM-related fields of study such as applied informatics, applied mathematics and various engineering courses (OECD, 2017[30]). The contribution is organised so that 15% of students can be awarded a yearly scholarship of EUR 1 000, on average, in 2019. There is no evidence on the effectiveness of these scholarships in pushing students towards STEM subjects in Slovakia. However, when compared to other OECD countries (e.g. Estonia), Slovak scholarships are smaller and target fewer learners (OECD, 2017[30]). For instance, Estonian universities offer between EUR 1 900 and EUR 3 600 per year (equivalent to EUR 1 700 and EUR 3 200 in purchasing power parity terms) to between 30% and 50% of students, depending on the course (University of Tartu, 2018[31]).

In addition to financial subsidies, legislative changes have recently introduced new types of loans for “shortage regulated professions” (e.g. nursing) in Slovakia. The loans are written off if the recipient works in the sector for a given amount of time (e.g. three years). Going forward, the MŠVVŠ should consider evaluating whether the scholarships and loans are effective and, conditional on the results, potentially further strengthen them.

Improving the direct dissemination of information to students and their families

Across OECD countries, two main channels are typically used to directly disseminate information on labour market and skills needs to students and their families: online portals and information campaigns (OECD, 2017[30]). Online portals can be used to provide information on labour market demand and outcomes for different courses, as well as information on study and career opportunities. Information campaigns can be used to raise awareness about the importance of using information on labour market and skills needs when making career and education choices, or to steer graduates towards relevant fields of study (OECD, 2017[30]).

Slovakia has relied on both of these policy levers, but the existing online portals are fragmented and the publicity campaigns have not been entirely successful.

Slovakia does not currently have a one-stop-shop portal containing both information on study/career opportunities and labour market needs. Two main public portals provide information about study and career opportunities: portal VS, developed by the MŠVVŠ, and the ISTP portal developed by the MPSVR. Portal VS (www.portalvs.sk) has detailed information on the content of university courses, and the ISTP portal has a dedicated section for youth. The ISTP portal lists job vacancies and recommends possible study options and career paths based upon existing qualifications and interests. It also outlines minimum skill requirements for occupations to enable users to clearly see the required steps to follow a desired career. For information on labour market needs, graduates rely on the portal developed by Trexima Ltd (www.trendyprace.sk/sk).

In other OECD countries (e.g. Denmark or Poland) it is relatively common to have information on study opportunities and labour market trends on the same portal. This allows students and their families to easily consider the advantages and disadvantages of different study options. Slovakia could take inspiration from Denmark or Poland to design an information portal that relies on consolidated SAA exercises (see Opportunity 1), especially graduate tracking (Box 3.3). The portal could also contain information on VET courses.

In 2016, Slovakia launched a television campaign called Study Science and Technology – The Future Will Thank You to promote the study of science and technology programmes. The first part of the campaign saw six Slovak personalities in the field of science present their work and its importance (Stauder, 2016[32]). In the second part of the campaign, three young Slovak scientists presented their “messages from the future” by explaining the projects they had been working on. Some participants in workshops and focus groups reported that the campaign was highly controversial and did not have the desired impact. They highlighted that it promoted unrealistic expectations about work in the Slovak science sector, and generated an unforeseen negative reaction from the science community.

Going forward, Slovakia could consider conducting a publicity campaign to encourage students and their families to take into account labour market information (e.g. from the one-stop-shop portal) when making study choices, as in Denmark (Box 3.3).

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Box 3.3. Relevant international examples: Direct dissemination of information to students and their families

Online portals: Examples from Denmark and Poland

In Denmark students can use an online tool, Uddannelseszoom (education zoom), to make informed decisions about the course they choose to study at the tertiary education level. Using this tool, students can compare up to three different courses at any one time from institutions across Denmark. Uddannelseszoom links labour market outcomes to specific qualifications, allowing students to more actively consider career prospects when choosing where and what to study. The information provided to students includes unemployment levels, average pay, whether the qualification equipped previous graduates with the correct skills for their career, and how they got their first job after leaving education. The information is based on SAA tools to monitor graduate outcomes (see Opportunity 1). The Ministry of Education and Research has overseen the project since its launch in 2015, and the tool is continuously updated as new statistics become available. The Ministry of Higher Education and Science launched a media campaign just ahead of the deadline for higher education applications. It sought to encourage students to take labour market outcomes from Uddannelseszoom into consideration when making their choices.

In Poland, prospective tertiary graduates can use the ELA-nauka portal to inform their university choice. This portal is the main tool to distribute key results from the Polish graduate tracking database. It provides infographics on what graduates are doing (further study, in work, unemployed, etc.) and can be sorted by subject area. It also ranks individual courses by area, such as total salary, the risk of being unemployed and time taken to find a job. Similar to the Danish Uddannelseszoom, students can directly compare specific programmes. Regular summaries are published to convey key trends and findings and, in order to increase engagement, the portal can be accessed both online and by a dedicated app on the App Store and Google Play. A more detailed website – ELA Pro – provides statistical summaries, reports and the methodology behind the rankings.

Source: OECD (2017[30]), In-Depth Analysis of the Labour Market Relevance and Outcomes of Higher Education Systems: Analytical Framework and Country Practices Report, www.oecd.org/education/skills-beyond-school/LMRO%20Report.pdf; Danish Ministry of Education and Research (2019[33]), Uddannelseszoom Portal, www.ug.dk/vaerktoej/uddannelseszoom; Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (2019[34]), ELA Portal, https://ela.nauka.gov.pl.

Recommendations for improving the direct dissemination of information to students and their families

  • Introduce a one-stop-shop portal that allows students and their families to access information on labour market and skills needs and study opportunities. In the short term, the MŠVVŠ and the MPSVR could consider creating a single portal that has information on study opportunities and labour market demand for related occupations/skills at the regional level (e.g. by merging information from the NPPVTP and ISTP portals). The MŠVVŠ will need to decide whether this portal includes VET qualifications and university degrees. In the longer term, the portal should rely on consolidated SAA tools, including programme level data on earnings and employment rates from the graduate tracking database, results from graduate surveys, and consolidated future growth projections for related occupations.

  • Consider launching a publicity campaign targeted at students and their families that advertises the importance of using labour market information. The MŠVVŠ and the MPSVR could consider introducing a publicity campaign that advertises the importance of consulting labour market information when making educational choices (as in Denmark). The campaign could advertise the newly introduced one-stop-shop portal through a variety of channels (e.g. social and traditional media).

Expanding career guidance in schools and universities

Providing information to students and their families is frequently insufficient to ensure that students make choices aligned with labour market needs. Effective career guidance is necessary to ensure that students and their families understand the information provided to them, and that students approaching the end of their studies (e.g. students in HEIs) have a smooth transition to the labour market.

Evidence suggests that Slovakia has struggled to give sufficient time, motivation and support to career guidance counsellors in schools.

In Slovakia, career guidance in primary, secondary and special schools is provided by educational counsellors, who are also responsible for psychological counselling (i.e. general counselling on behavioural and educational issues) (Beková et al., 2014[11]). The role is filled by an experienced pedagogical employee of the school who has at least three years of successful pedagogical practice and has completed specialised further education. The specialised further education allows educational counsellors to develop a strong knowledge of labour market trends, ICT skills and best practices to support students in their educational choices. In carrying out their role, the educational counsellor collaborates with the 79 centres for pedagogical-psychological guidance and prevention (CPPPaP) and centres for special pedagogical guidance. These centres provide methodological support through dedicated workers and are overseen by the MŠVVŠ (Beková et al., 2014[11]).

Euroguidance, a Europe-wide network of national resource and information centres for career guidance, has published a detailed review of career guidance in Slovak schools that identified some key challenges in terms of the availability and quality of services (Beková et al., 2014[11]). Educational counsellors in schools do not generally receive adequate time and incentives to fulfil their duties. Across most schools, ordinary teachers are assigned to the role and given one to two hours per week less in teaching obligations. This time allocation includes both their career guidance duties and educational counselling. This is insufficient to offer a wide range of services, such as career guidance classes, one-to-sessions, and organising seminars and sessions with parents (Beková et al., 2014[11]).

Educational counsellors also have insufficient access to relevant information and good-quality training opportunities. They often work without adequate ICT tools and do not have access to up-to-date information on labour market needs (see Opportunity 1). This frequently means that they are not able to provide high-quality advice to students (Beková et al., 2014[11]). The training for educational counsellors is often conducted in an MPC centre; however, the quality of the training offered by the MPC is often low (see Chapter 1 for recommendations on the MPC).

The system of career guidance at primary and secondary schools will change significantly due to amended legislation that will come into effect in September 2019. From this date, the activities of career guidance will be defined as separate activities to educational counselling, and the school principal will be able to define a separate role for a career guidance counsellor. In each CPPPaP, a new position of “expert employee career guidance counsellor” will be created. These experts will take care of technical and systemic issues, such as consolidating labour market information and communicating with employers. One CPPPaP per region will supervise the quality/level of career guidance in schools, as well as participation in education and professional development. In order to fulfil these additional duties, the designated CPPPaP will be assigned an additional one-quarter career counsellor in full-time equivalent terms.

These reforms represent a step in the right direction. Provided that they are successfully implemented, they will improve the governance of career guidance activities in schools and increase the information and support available to career guidance counsellors. However, the reforms do not provide a clear indication of time/compensation for career guidance activities and the range of services that need to be offered across different schools and programmes.

Several participants in workshops and focus groups highlighted the importance of educational counsellors being allocated a fixed amount of time (e.g. one day a week) to deliver a wide range of career guidance services, including sessions with parents, one-to-one sessions and events with companies. International best practice confirms that providing these services is very important to make students more responsive to labour market needs (Musset and Mytna Kurekova, 2018[35]). Going forward, Slovakia could use international and national examples to improve the quality of career guidance services (Box 3.4). Given the shortages among engineers and ICT technicians, Slovakia should consider placing particular emphasis on specific activities to raise awareness of STEM-related subjects, as in the Netherlands (Box 3.4). To facilitate the introduction of these changes, Slovakia could implement clear standards for career guidance activities in schools, building on the experiences of Scotland (Box 3.4).

Career guidance in Higher Education institutions has not been stronger. A review of career guidance services in Slovak universities analysed information on the supply, breadth and quality of the services offered in the 2014/15 academic year (Markovič, 2015[36]). It highlighted that only 11 out of 32 HEIs in Slovakia advertise career guidance services on the Internet. This suggests that more than two-thirds of Slovak universities might not have a career guidance centre or might not be conducting systematic outreach to students (Markovič, 2015[36]). Participants in workshops and focus groups confirmed that several universities in Slovakia do not offer career guidance services.

Even among universities that do offer career guidance services, students are not aware that such services exist and do not use them extensively. A survey among university students suggests that approximately 40% of master’s students were not aware that career guidance is offered in Slovak universities, and 83% of students reported never having used the career guidance services provided by their university (Markovič, 2015[36]).

The low use of career guidance services might be driven by their low quality and breadth. Services offered by universities have generally not been based on academic research or international best practice. Universities typically offer job search advice, advertise vacancies and organise career guidance fairs, but they do not provide one-to-one counselling sessions and skills development seminars, even if these are in high demand among students (Markovič, 2015[36]).

Universities in Slovakia, as in other OECD countries, are autonomous in the organisation of career guidance. However, the MŠVVŠ could improve the offering of career guidance in universities through additional funding and regulatory requirements. Slovakia could take inspiration from Denmark in this regard (Box 3.4).

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Box 3.4. Relevant national and international examples: Strengthening career guidance in schools and universities

Offering a wide range of services: Examples from Slovakia and abroad

The centre for pedagogical-psychological guidance and prevention in Čadca, North Slovakia, has developed the he Čadca Model of Professional Interactive Counselling (Čadčiansky model interaktívneho profesijného poradenstva, CAMIP). CAMIP offers a wide variety of career guidance services, including guidance on how to select a secondary school, advice and practical tips on how to handle entry exams, and an online advisory system that lets students and parents submit their questions regarding career guidance to experts. CAMIP has also organised dedicated job days for six years, where students can learn about different study and career options. These are organised at individual schools in Čadca and are meant to help students and families select a secondary school.

In Norway, educational choice (utdanningsvalg) is a compulsory subject at lower secondary school, from eighth to tenth grade, that aims to reduce the number of students choosing the wrong educational programme, as well as the drop-out rate at the upper secondary level. A week of work placements and courses at the different educational programmes at the upper secondary schools is the most common use of the subject. An evaluation published found that the subject alone cannot help ensure that students make successful educational choices, but that it needs to be complemented by other measures, such as one-to-one sessions and close involvement with families.

In the Austrian BiWi, career counsellors make a conscious effort to bring parents in as partners in their practice through dedicated activities. These include parents’ evenings, during which career counsellors discuss their role in their children’s career choice and provide them with an overview of possible learning pathways and the current situation of the labour market; and parent-teacher conferences that target both parents and teachers of young students with a view to presenting the comprehensive career guidance and information offering.

In the Netherlands, the Jet-Net and TechNet initiatives aim to inspire students at both primary and secondary school to pursue STEM subjects in school and at university. They support schools and companies in developing activities such as guest lectures, company visits and workshops. STEM subject uptake among students at participating schools is significantly higher than the national average.

Source: CPPPaP Čadca (2019[37]), Camip Website, www.camip.sk/ako-si-vybrat-strednu-skolu; EU Stem Coalition (2019[38]), Jet-Net, www.stemcoalition.eu/programmes/jet-net; Musset, P. and L. Mytna Kurekova (2018[35]), Working it out: Career guidance and employer engagement, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/51c9d18d-en; Cedefop (2016[9]), Slovakia: Mismatch priority occupations, Skills Panorama, https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/analytical_highlights/slovakia-mismatch-priority-occupations.

Establishing clear standards for career guidance: An example from Scotland (United Kingdom)

Scotland has a well-developed and comprehensive system of career guidance. The Scottish government funds a national public body, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), to deliver work-based learning, engage employers in learning and deliver career information, advice and guidance (CIAG). The SDS sets clear standards in terms of the type of services received by different users and the information accessible to career guidance counsellors (see Opportunity 1). SDS takes a person-centred approach to the delivery of CIAG, and tailors the provision of support to the unique needs of each student or adult user. It is recognised that some users require more support than others to make a successful transition to work or further learning. To increase equality of opportunity for all, CIAG services target resources at those users who require the most support. A “needs matrix” is used to suggest the level of support need for each user and the corresponding service offer they might receive; this need is then validated to confirm the service offer entitlement.

Source: Musset P. and L. Mytna Kurekova (2018[35]), Working it out: Career guidance and employer engagement, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/51c9d18d-en.

Strengthening career guidance in tertiary education: An example from Denmark

In Denmark, the University Act specifies that universities must offer students at bachelor’s and master’s level guidance about their current programme, including requirements for masters and PhD programmes (completion guidance) and subsequent employment opportunities (career guidance). However, each university is free to decide how and by whom this guidance is offered. Higher educational institutions typically have their own career centres that offer a wide range of career counselling services. For example, Copenhagen Business School’s career centre offers seminars, events, career fairs, networking, help with CV and cover letter writing, and job interview and career clarification.

Source: Eurydice (2019[39]), Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/guidance-and-counselling-higher-education-18_en.

Recommendations for strengthening career guidance in schools and universities

  • Complement reforms to career guidance in schools by implementing clear standards for the compensation of school counsellors, as well as the range of services offered. The MŠVVŠ should develop some standards (e.g. as in Scotland) to ensure that education counsellors in schools have a fixed amount of time (e.g. one day a week) and clear compensation to fulfil their functions. The standards could also define the range of services offered, such as career guidance classes (e.g. in Norway), one-to-one sessions, activities with parents (e.g. in Austria), activities to promote STEM-related subjects (e.g. in the Netherlands), activities with employers (e.g. bringing people into the school to talk about their work and school visits to workplaces) and external seminars/events offered by the CPPPaP (e.g. the CPPPaP in Čadca). The range of activities should change depending on the education level. For example, career guidance classes could be more suitable to primary schools, activities with employers more relevant in VET, and promoting STEM-related subjects more important in general secondary schools. The MŠVVŠ should ensure that education institutions have sufficient funding to deliver career guidance in accordance with the standards.

  • Provide targeted funding and tighten regulatory requirements for career guidance centres in universities. The MŠVVŠ should consider providing some specific funding (e.g. based on student to counsellor ratio) for the provision of career guidance services in universities. It should also consider making the provision of certain career guidance activities (e.g. career counselling classes and seminars) a criterion within the quality assurance system, building on the Danish experience.

Opportunity 3: Strengthening the responsiveness of secondary VET and tertiary education institutions to labour market needs

Students making choices aligned with labour market needs is insufficient to ensure a responsive education system. Education institutions need to supply programmes that align with labour market needs, both in terms of mix (the number of places offered across subjects) and quality (the curricula of these offerings). They also need to deliver effective teaching to ensure that students develop a strong mix of technical and transversal skills (OECD, 2015[40]; 2017[30]; 2019[8]).

This opportunity focuses on improving the alignment of the educational offering of secondary VET and tertiary institutions with labour market needs. This is important in Slovakia in order to close shortages in medium-skilled occupations and mismatches among younger workers (e.g. field of study mismatch). Improving the alignment of the tertiary offering would help minimise shortages among higher-level occupations (such as engineers and ICT professionals), and would help reduce skills mismatches among tertiary graduates.

Improving the alignment of the educational offering depends on the incentives designed by the government and effective collaboration between education institutions and employers (OECD, 2015[40]; 2017[30]; 2019[8]). Incentives could come in the form of regulation (e.g. setting conditions for the accreditation of university programmes) or funding arrangements (e.g. making funding conditional on performance metrics) (OECD, 2017[30]). Collaboration with employers generally involves support in the development of the educational offering (both in terms of the number places offered and curriculum content) and the delivery of work-based learning (OECD, 2019[8]).

These policy levers have different purposes. Funding arrangements and regulation can help ensure that institutions take into account labour market demand in their decision making (OECD, 2017[30]). Support by employers can provide relevant information to institutions to better align their educational offering to labour market needs (both in terms of the number of places offered and the curriculum). Work-based learning complements school or university-based learning by enabling students to develop work-relevant technical skills using up-to-date equipment and work practices, as well as soft skills that are valuable in the workplace (OECD, 2015[40]).

The available evidence suggests that Slovakia has struggled to develop effective financing and regulatory arrangements, as well as strong collaboration between education institutions and employers, both in secondary VET and tertiary education. In the VET system, reforms have recently been introduced to improve funding arrangements, set regulations for the allocation of students across secondary schools, and increase collaboration on curriculum development and work-based learning (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). These reforms will need to be carefully supported going forward. In tertiary education, evidence shows that Slovakia could strengthen employability incentives in the funding formula and should ensure that the recent reforms in quality assurance enable employers to provide meaningful input on the educational offering. Slovakia could also introduce separate governance and funding arrangements for professionally oriented institutions to facilitate the development of professional bachelor programmes with a strong work-based learning component.

Two additional areas likely to be important for Slovakia going forward are the public funding allocated to VET and tertiary education institutions, and measures to support effective teaching.

Evidence suggests that Slovakia could increase the amount of funding for VET institutions, other secondary education institutions and tertiary education institutions. According to the most recent Eurostat data, public expenditure on secondary education is lower than in other EU countries: Slovakia spends 0.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on general upper secondary education, compared to 0.7% across the EU, and 0.6% of GDP on vocational upper secondary education, compared to 1.1% across the EU (Eurostat, 2015[41]). Similarly, according to OECD Education at a Glance data for 2019, both public and overall total spending on tertiary education as a proportion of GDP (0.7% and 1.0%, respectively) are below the OECD averages (0.9% and 1.5%, respectively) (OECD, 2019[42]).

Evidence also suggests that Slovakia could take further measures to improve teaching quality across secondary VET and tertiary education (OECD, 2017[30]; OECD, 2019[15]). As discussed in Chapter 2, high teaching quality in primary and lower secondary schools is hindered by a number of factors, including low salaries, lack of professional development activities and career progression opportunities. These problems likely extend to the secondary VET teaching profession. The government could consider increasing salaries, improving professional development opportunities and career progression arrangements for secondary VET teachers. As also discussed in Chapter 2, teaching in Slovak universities is frequently dominated by traditional methods. The recently introduced reforms in quality assurance could contribute to improve teaching quality in tertiary education (OECD, 2019[15]). However, academic teachers might benefit from additional support for professional development. Strengthening professional development bodies for academic teachers (e.g. the National Forum in Ireland) could help promote more innovative teaching practices in tertiary education.

Supporting recent reforms in secondary VET institutions

The available evidence suggests that Slovakia has struggled to provide adequate incentives to VET institutions and foster collaboration with employers. However, recent reforms have tried to improve the overall performance of the system.

The mix of VET provision – the number of places in different fields of study created by schools – has been mainly driven by student demand. Before the 2016/17 academic year, the funding formula developed by the MŠVVŠ was based on the number of enrolled students and offered similar funding for different study programmes, irrespective of demand in the labour market (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]).

Collaboration with employers has been generally weak and practical training in work-based environments has remained uncommon. Employers’ representatives generally participated on a voluntary basis on the design of national curricula, on adjusting school curricula to local needs, and final examination of learners (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). In the last five to ten years, their influence VET policy has been in gradual increase (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). There have been successful examples of direct collaboration between VET schools and large employers (e.g. Volkswagen), but generalising these good practices and reaching small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has remained difficult (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]). As a result, most work-based learning has been provided in school workshops, often with outdated equipment and weak links to local firms (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]). According to estimates based on official data, only one-fifth of students in secondary VET programmes were offered practical training in work-type environments before the introduction of the recent reforms (Fazekas and Kurekova, 2016[21]).

The government has already introduced three important measures to improve funding arrangements and collaboration with employers. These are important steps in the right direction, but will need to be carefully supported and complemented going forward.

First, the government has introduced changes to the funding formula to better reflect labour market demand for different occupations. From the 2016/17 academic year, some subjects with relatively low labour market demand (forming a so-called “blacklist”) have received 10% less funding per student, whereas some subjects with relatively high labour market demand (forming a so-called “whitelist”) have received 10% more funding per student. Both lists are elaborated in close co-operation with all relevant stakeholders, including the MŠVVŠ, the MPSVR and self-governing regions (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Another process to regulate the allocation of study places across different secondary schools has also been introduced. The process involves the MŠVVŠ, the MPSVR and regional authorities. The MPSVR uses the results from the NPPVTP to indicate the additional labour market needs that should be covered by the inflow of new entrants into secondary schools. Based on these forecasts and on an extensive consultation process, the MŠVVŠ and self-governing regions then allocate study places across school programmes and specific schools (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]).

Stakeholders in workshops, focus groups and bilateral meetings suggested two potential improvements to these new arrangements. Some stakeholders mentioned that the incentives in the funding formula for “whitelist” programmes could become more generous (e.g. 30% as opposed to 10% more funding). The main shortcoming with the process underlying the allocation of study places was perceived to be the over reliance on NPPVTP forecasts instead of a wider breadth of SAA tools (see Opportunity 1). Going forward, the government should rely on the consolidated results from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1) both for the funding formula and the allocation of study places across secondary schools.

Second, from the 2015/16 academic year, the government introduced a dual VET model to increase WBL opportunities (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Under the dual VET model, students of a school-based four-year VET programme with a WBL component (ISCED 354) or three-year programmes (ISCED 353) receive training within companies. The dual arrangement is regulated by two contracts: enterprises sign a contract with the individual learners (or their parents), and a contract is signed with schools to clarify the responsibilities of all parties (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]).

Although the dual regime could contribute to improving work-based learning, it has so far had a slow uptake: in the 2016/17 academic year, fewer than 3% of secondary VET students started a VET programme with a dual arrangement (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). In order to improve the uptake of the dual model, the MŠVVŠ launched the Dual Education and Increasing the Attractiveness and Quality of VET project (Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport, 2019[43]), relying on EUR 34 million in funding from the European Social Fund. The project aims to increase the number of dual VET students to 12 000 by 2020, including by supporting schools in writing performance-based plans, creating sample curricula and reaching out to potential employers. The government has also strengthened financial incentives for the provision of dual VET, with all employers now receiving tax deductions (EUR 1 600 for 200 hours of practical training and EUR 3 200 for 400 hours), and SMEs receiving a subsidy of EUR 1 000 per student (Cedefop, 2018[19]).

However, feedback from stakeholders during workshops and bilateral meetings suggests that several employers, especially SMEs, have remained reluctant to offer training within the dual framework.

To make further progress, Slovakia could use the experience of other OECD countries, such as Switzerland and Austria (Box 3.5). International evidence suggests that tax incentives and subsidies can lead to substantial deadweight losses, i.e. they subsidise training places that would have been provided anyway (Kuczera, 2017[44]). Providing clear information to companies and allowing SMEs to set up training associations to share dual learners can provide alternative ways of increasing uptake of the dual model (Kuczera, 2017[44]).

Third, from the 2015/16 academic year the government introduced 18 “sectoral assignees” to improve collaboration between employers and schools on curriculum development and quality assurance. Sectoral assignees are institutions from the world of work selected from chambers and associations of employers. They are set by legislation to represent employers in different fields of study as professional counterparts to education authorities and experts (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Sectoral assignees approve the curricula developed by VET schools, unless they were developed in direct co-operation with companies under a dual VET model. The sectoral assignees are also required to participate in the quality assurance process. They need to check assignments related to school leaving examinations and they need to participate in the assessment and validation of training institutions, in co-operation with the responsible body with the MŠVVŠ. Going forward, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of sectoral assignees (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Although the responsibility of chambers and professional associations towards respective fields of study is precisely set by legislation, sectoral assignees are unlikely to have sufficient resources to engage in quality assurance, provide feedback on school curricula and offer information to employers (especially SMEs) intending to offer work-based learning (Vantuch and Jelinkova, 2019[10]). Slovakia could use the experiences of other OECD countries, such as Denmark and Norway, to further expand the role of sectoral assignees (Box 3.5).

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Box 3.5. Relevant international examples: Supporting recent reforms in secondary VET institutions

Expanding work-based learning: Training associations in Switzerland and Austria

In Switzerland, the government established vocational training associations (Lehrbetriebsverbünde) through the 2004 Act on VET. These are associations of two or more training firms that share apprentices, with training organised across several firms on a rotating basis. The aim is to allow firms that lack the capacity and resources to provide the full training of an apprentice to be engaged, and to lower the financial and administrative burden on individual firms. The confederation subsidises associations with initial funding during the first three years for marketing, administrative and other costs necessary to set up the joint training programme. After this initial support, training associations are supposed to be financially independent. An evaluation (Resultate Evaluation Lehrbetriebsverbünde, OPET, Bern) found that most firms participating in training associations would not have engaged in training otherwise.

Austria complements training associations with direct subsidies. Companies that cannot fulfil certain standards (e.g. because they are too small or too specialised) may form training alliances (Ausbildungsverbünde) to share apprentices. Alliances of training firms are supervised at the state level by apprenticeship offices (Lehrlingsstellen), but business organisations help to find partners for firms willing to create new training alliances. An evaluation has suggested that training alliances in Austria help to improve the quality of apprenticeship provision. In Austria, tax incentives were abolished in 2008 and replaced by direct subsidies for apprenticeships. The Ministry of Economics and Labour concluded that the tax incentive scheme failed to target companies that would benefit most from additional support for apprenticeships.

Source: Kuczera, M. (2017[44]), Incentives for apprenticeship, https://doi.org/10.1787/55bb556d-en; Kuczera, M., V. Kis and G. Wurzburg (2009[45]), OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training: A Learning for Jobs Review of Korea, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264113879-en.

Involving social partners in VET: Examples from Denmark and Norway

In Denmark, around 50 national trade committees (faglige udvalg) are responsible for 106 VET upper secondary programmes. These are composed of, and funded by, employer and employee organisations. Trade committees update existing and propose new courses; define learning objectives and final examination standards; decide the duration of the programme and the ratio between college-based teaching and practical work in an enterprise; approve enterprises as qualified training establishments; rule on conflicts that may develop between apprentices and the enterprise providing practical training; and issue basic VET certificates in terms of content, assessment and the actual holding of examinations. At the local level, local training committees work closely with colleges to adapt the content of VET programmes to local needs and support colleges with the delivery of programmes, for example by securing work placements for students. The national committees can devolve responsibilities to the local trade committees if decided that they are better led at the local level.

In Norway, social partners sit on 19 vocational training boards, one for each county. They provide advice on quality, career guidance, regional development and the provision in the county to meet local labour market needs. County authorities are also responsible for approving enterprises that provide apprenticeship training. While counties are free to develop their approval procedure, they typically involve social partners from the relevant sector in the process.

Source: Andersen, O. D. and K. Kruse (2016[46]), Vocational education and training in Europe: Denmark Cedefop ReferNet VET in Europe Reports, http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2016/2016_CR_DK.pdf.

Recommendations for supporting the recent reforms in secondary VET institutions

  • Support recent reforms to the allocation of funding and study places in secondary institutions by making full use of the results from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1). The MŠVVŠ and the MPSVR should rely on the consolidated results from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1) both for the allocation of funding and study places. With regards to funding, the MŠVVŠ and the MPSVR should integrate the consolidated results from SAA tools within the consultation process underlying the creation of the “whitelists” and “blacklists”. By relying on the consolidated results from SAA tools, the MŠVVŠ could also consider increasing the amount of extra funding for “whitelist” subjects or introduce different thresholds (e.g. 10% for some subjects and 20% for others). Within the process for allocating study places across secondary schools, the MŠVVŠ and the MPSVR should rely on the consolidated results from SAA tools, as opposed to the NPPVTP forecasts alone.

  • Support the recently introduced dual system by financing employer-led training associations. The government should consider offering incentives to set up training associations (e.g. in Switzerland and Austria) among a group of employers (especially SMEs) to share the costs of organising work-based learning. The MŠVVŠ should evaluate whether tax incentives and subsidies have contributed to increasing uptake of the dual model. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the funding could replace some of the existing tax incentives and subsidies, or be provided in addition.

  • Further strengthen the role and capacity of sectoral assignees in curriculum development, quality assurance and the provision of information. The government should consider setting up local trade committees (e.g. in Denmark) to provide information to local firms, help schools with curriculum development and support self-governing regions with quality assurance. Alternatively, the government could implement these measures through self-governing regions, but closely involve sectoral assignees in the decision-making process (e.g. in Norway).

Strengthening incentives to align tertiary education with labour market needs

Tertiary education institutions across Slovakia have similar financing and governance arrangements. In Slovakia, funding to higher education institutions is distributed through a formula, which is structured around four funding streams (Table 3.6). Each funding stream has a number of components that jointly determine the total allocation within the stream. In line with other OECD countries (e.g. Finland), the funding formula provides a significant share of the total allocation for the delivery of study programmes (57%), and a lower share for the performance of research activity (33%).

The most important component for the responsiveness of tertiary institutions to labour market needs is the adjusted per-student funding, which accounts for 65% of the total allocation for the delivery of study programmes (and 37% of total funding). The adjusted per-student funding heavily influences the number of places offered across different subjects and programmes (by making funding conditional on the teaching staff ratios and the year of study), and the overall alignment of education with labour market demand (by making funding conditional on employability outcomes).

The funding formula applies to all HEIs. There is no differentiation, as in countries such as Finland and the Netherlands, between academic institutions and more practically oriented institutions, such as universities of applied sciences (De Boer et al., 2015[47]).

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Table 3.6. Funding formula in tertiary education

Funding stream

Key components

Share of total funding

Delivery of accredited study programmes

Per student funding (adjusted for teaching staff ratios across subjects, year of study and unemployment rate of recent graduates).

Share of total publication outputs.

Specific allocations for capital and operational costs.

57%

Research or artistic activity

Results of accreditation.

Share of total publications outputs.

Quality of research outcomes.

33%

Social support to students

Fixed per-student amount available for scholarships.

9%

Subsidy for HEI development

Project-based.

1%

Source: Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport (2019[48]), Metodika rozpisu dotácií zo štátneho rozpočtu verejným vysokým školám na rok 2019 [Methodology of Breakdown of State Budget Subsidies to Public Universities for 2019], www.minedu.sk/data/att/14159.pdf.

Governance structures in HEIs are similarly homogenous. Across all public institutions, governance is shared among a number of bodies. Every institution needs to have a rector, a governing board, an academic senate, a scientific council and a disciplinary committee (Table 3.7). The academic senate is the main decision-making body, the governing board plays a supervisory role, and the scientific council has a predominantly advisory role (with the exception of internal regulations and appointment of staff). This structure is largely replicated at the faculty level.

In the current governance structure, employers can play a role in the governing board and the scientific council. However, employers are not currently in the position of contributing to the development of the educational offering. Employer representatives can share relevant information for internal quality assurance purposes (e.g. feedback on course curricula and the employability of graduates) with the scientific council. However, until recently the law did not specify how often scientific councils should meet, whether employer representatives should be members and what their role should be. This has likely affected the effectiveness of the councils. Stakeholders in workshops and focus groups reported that university councils do not frequently meet and do not exert significant influence on the choices made by universities.

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Table 3.7. Decision-making bodies in universities

Body/position

Level of governance

Description

Rector

University

Overall responsibility for managing the university; represents the institution externally.

Governing board

University

Approves the budget for the university, gives consent for legal acts committed by the university and expresses opinions on the long-term direction of the university through annual reports.

Academic senate

University

Approves internal regulations, mergers or the creation of faculties; elects the rector and approves the long-term goals for the university, after prior discussion in the scientific council.

Scientific council

University

Provides advice on the direction of universities to the academic senate and validates internal regulations approved by the academic senate, including in relation to course curricula.

Dean

Faculty

Manages and represents the faculty.

Academic senate of the faculty

Faculty

Elects the dean, approves the draft budget for the faculty and approves the long-term goals for the faculty.

Scientific board of the faculty

Faculty

Approves internal faculty regulations, and discusses and submits proposals regarding the appointment of professors to the scientific council.

Slovakia has already undertaken some initiatives to improve university governance. In 2017-18 it carried out peer counselling on ways to simplify the governance structures of HEIs in conjunction with the European Commission (European Commission, 2018[49]).

As identified in the description of current arrangements, Slovakia has also introduced some changes to the internal quality assurance regime to increase employer involvement.

The 2018 Act on Quality Assurance (QA) in Higher Education explicitly requires every HEI to develop rules for the regular monitoring and evaluation of study programmes in co-operation with employers in the relevant economic sector and other stakeholders. Monitoring and evaluation must take into account five criteria, including how well up-to-date industry knowledge is applied in curriculum content and the employability of graduates (National Council of the Slovak Republic, 2018[50]).

HEI internal QA systems are monitored by the newly created Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education (the Agency). The agency is an independent public institution that carries out external quality assurance checks on HEIs (Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education, 2019[51]). It is responsible for creating overall standards that QA systems will need to meet, as well as designing the methodology that will be used to evaluate these standards.

The agency is currently in the process of designing and seeking public comment on the new standards. HEIs will be required to ask the Agency to assess their internal QA systems at least once every ten years, but the Agency will continuously monitor compliance at least every two years using data from HEI scientific boards at both the university and faculty level. It can also conduct extraordinary assessment procedures as required (National Council of the Slovak Republic, 2018[50]).

These reforms make progress towards aligning the educational offering with labour market needs. It is important to ensure that they are successfully implemented in conjunction with an overall simplification of the governance structure. To succeed in this respect, Slovakia could potentially use the experiences of Austria and Scotland (Box 3.6).

Slovakia could further strengthen incentives to align the educational offering with labour market needs in two dimensions.

First, the current funding formula does not fully incentivise institutions to offer programmes aligned with labour market demand. Per-student funding is based on the unemployment rate of recent graduates (through the so-called KAP coefficient). The adjustment is in line with other OECD countries (e.g. Estonia or Finland) as it contributes up to 2% of total funding (CVTI, 2015[52]), but the use of the unemployment rate as a criterion in the formula does not incentivise institutions to ensure that graduates find a good match in the labour market. Institutions do not receive a “penalty” if they continue to offer courses and/or curricula that may lead to over qualification.

Going forward, Slovakia should consider refining the funding formula to account for wider dimensions of employability (e.g. earnings or mismatch rates), or move towards contract-based funding, as in the Netherlands (Box 3.6). Evidence gathered during the OECD project suggested that some of the changes require better data and more resources, and may prove controversial. However, most stakeholders agreed that it would be important to strengthen financial incentives to improve alignment between the educational offering and labour market demand. The consolidated results from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1) will have an important role in improving data availability for the employability of graduates.

Second, despite reforms in quality assurance, current governance and funding arrangements do not strongly incentivise the development of professional bachelor programmes.

As anticipated in the performance section, Slovakia currently has a marginal offering of professional bachelor programmes with a significant work-based learning component. These programmes could be very important to close some of the observed shortages for high-skilled occupations in Slovakia, such as engineers and ICT technicians, and could contribute to reducing over-qualification rates for current workers through reskilling. A promising example of these programmes from Slovakia is represented by the professional bachelor programme jointly developed by Volkswagen and the Slovak University of Technology (Box 3.6).

In general, professional bachelor programmes combine theoretical study with practical application, include work placements and actively involve employers in curriculum design. Across Europe they are generally offered at levels 5-6 in the European Qualification Framework (EQF). Examples include the dual study programmes in Germany (offered at EQF level 6) and the Italian short-term professional bachelor programmes (offered at EQF level 5) (Auzinger, Ulicna and Messerer, 2016[53]).

Across OECD countries, professional bachelor programmes are frequently offered by separate professionally oriented institutions that have different governance and funding arrangements, such as universities of applied sciences. In these institutions, governance arrangements assign a larger role to employers in curriculum design than in the internal quality assurance process (e.g. the Italian Istituti Tecnici Superiori (ITS) in Box 3.6). Funding arrangements can complement the governance structure by putting a larger emphasis on the employability of graduates than on research activities. For instance, professionally oriented institutions (polytechnics) in Finland receive approximately 3% of funding based on the employability of recent graduates, whereas research oriented institutions (universities) only receive approximately 1% (De Boer et al., 2015[47]). Some stakeholders in workshops and focus groups agreed that establishing professional higher education institutions (e.g. universities of applied sciences) could be important to strengthen the offering of professional bachelor programmes. Slovakia could use the experiences of Italy and the Netherlands to make progress in this respect (Box 3.6). Besides professional bachelor programmes, some stakeholders also reported that Slovakia could strengthen the offering of a wider range of higher VET courses (e.g. professional qualifications offered at EQF level 4) in post-secondary non-tertiary education institutions. They suggested that the offering of these courses could be strengthened both within initial and continuing VET systems.

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Box 3.6. Relevant national and international examples: Aligning tertiary education with labour market needs

Funding arrangements in higher education: Performance-based contracts in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the higher education system has a binary structure comprised of 14 research universities and 37 universities of applied sciences (UAS). The two subsectors have different mandates and are different in size. The main task of UAS is to offer theoretical and practical training with an explicit professional orientation. The UAS sector hosts institutions varying in size and orientation, from small mono-disciplinary to large multi-disciplinary institutions. In 2012, the Dutch government introduced separate performance-based funding arrangements for research universities and UAS. The objective was to combine three goals: raise quality standards, improve access to higher education, and reduce the number of drop-outs. In preparation for the introduction of performance-based funding, universities were required to develop a performance agreement: a strategic plan to outline their ambitions over a five-year period to improve their educational achievement, analyse their current strengths and weaknesses, and formulate targets in areas such as the number of student drop-outs. The plans were assessed by an independent review committee to check that they were ambitious, feasible and aligned with national policy. The agreements were tied to 7% of future educational funding. Performance-based funding helped align national policy with institutional agendas and generated ambitious strategy plans to improve higher education in the Netherlands.

Source: European Commission (2017[54]), Peer Review Poland’s Higher Education and Science System, https://rio.jrc.ec.europa.eu/sites/default/files/report/PSF-Peer_review_Poland__FINAL%20REPORT.pdf.

Enabling employers to provide input on the educational offering: Examples from Austria and Scotland

Trade unions and employers play an important role in Austria within university councils. The primary purpose of university councils is consultative: they offer advice and provide recommendations on the curriculum and the direction and goals of the university, as well as draft the annual resource plan and the goal and performance plan. By law, social partners must sit on these councils. Employees can give input through representatives of the chambers of labour and trade unions who sit on the council, and employers through representatives of the Austrian Economic Chamber and the Association of Austrian Industries.

In Scotland, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) developed a guide to help universities engage with employers more effectively. The guide reviewed case studies and set out success factors to improve co-operation between employers and HEIs. Success factors include setting clear timelines and objectives, having adequate resources, agreeing on a shared set of goals, and setting evaluation mechanisms.

Source: Bottomley, A. and H. Williams (2006[55]), A guide to international best practice in engaging employers in the curriculum, www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/ethemes/employability/employability---best-practice-in-engaging-employers-in-the-curriculum.pdf?sfvrsn=f340f681_14.

Professionally oriented programmes: Examples from Slovakia and Italy

In Slovakia, the company Volkswagen and seven suppliers have developed an innovative four-year professional bachelor programme combining practical training with university level education at the Slovak University of Technology. Students spend three years studying at university and one year working for Volkswagen. The programme received formal accreditation from the MŠVVŠ, although the process took around a year due to its novelty. Volkswagen also reportedly struggled to find a partner university. The programme has yet to deliver graduates and is so far limited in scope: the average intake has been ten students per year.

Other OECD countries have made significant progress in offering professionally oriented courses. For instance, Italy has introduced EQF level 5 professional bachelor courses in 2010 within newly formed education institutions, the Istituti Tecnici Superiori (ITS). There are currently 75 ITS and approximately 350 activated programmes for almost 8 000 admitted students. Graduates have experienced strong employment outcomes: according to the latest monitoring report by the Italian Ministry for Education, 80% of graduates are in employment after one year (compared to 71% for individuals with a bachelor’s and 74% for master’s graduates). The ITS is overseen by a foundation that brings together employers, research centres and subnational authorities. Companies are deeply involved in the governance of the ITS as members of both the participation council, which takes decisions of an administrative nature, and the directive council, which defines course content.

Source: Auzinger, M., D. Ulicna and K. Messerer (2016[53]), Study on higher Vocational Education and Training in the EU, https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=15572&langId=en.

Recommendations for strengthening incentives to align tertiary education with labour market needs

  • Introduce more targeted incentives to monitor the employability of graduates in the funding structure. Once graduate tracking and the consolidated results from SAA tools become available (see Opportunity 1), the MŠVVŠ should strengthen the employability incentives in the funding regime by refining the formula (e.g. by including earnings or mismatch indicators) or moving towards a contract-based model (e.g. in the Netherlands).

  • Consider introducing separate governance and funding arrangements for professionally oriented institutions to encourage the uptake of professional bachelor programmes. The MŠVVŠ could gradually introduce a separate funding model and governance structure to transform some existing universities into professionally oriented institutions (e.g. in Italy and the Netherlands). These professionally oriented institutions could specialise in the delivery of professional bachelor programmes and more applied research (e.g. in the Netherlands). The funding model could provide professionally oriented institutions with stronger incentives to focus on the employability of graduates (e.g. through a greater share of funding being allocated on the basis of earnings or mismatch indicators), whereas the governance structure should allow for a significant level of employment engagement (e.g. in Italy). To gradually introduce this diversification in funding and governance arrangements, the MŠVVŠ could use the research performance of institutions, quality assurance assessments conducted by the newly introduced accreditation agency, and the consolidated results from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1). The gradual diversification of funding and governance arrangements should be accompanied by effective engagement with prospective students and their families, as well as employers. Students and their families need to become familiar with the purpose and offering of professionally oriented institutions, and employers need to be motivated to contribute to the design of programmes, as well as to provide relevant work-based learning opportunities.

Opportunity 4: Moving from “brain drain” to “brain gain”

As seen in the performance section, emigration and brain drain have been a major concern for Slovakia since joining the EU in 2004. Free movement within the EU means that there are no direct policy solutions that Slovakia can undertake to stop emigration and brain drain. Improving the responsiveness of the education system (see Opportunity 2 and Opportunity 3) and the intensity of skills use (see Chapter 4) could help reduce emigration and brain drain in the future by improving the availability of job opportunities in Slovakia.

However, as seen in the performance section, the emigration of Slovaks has slowed down in the last few years. The improved economic conditions have led to an increased inflow of skilled workers (both Slovak and foreign). Going forward, Slovakia could increase its efforts to attract and retain workers from abroad. This could help address skills shortages, especially in the shorter term. While improving information on labour market and skills needs and improving the responsiveness of the education system will take time to exert a significant impact on skills shortages, attracting skilled workers (both foreign and Slovak) from abroad can have a more immediate impact.

Slovakia has struggled to develop a coherent policy response to attract Slovak and foreign workers from abroad. It does not have a single body responsible for overseeing engagement with the diaspora and has not developed a comprehensive diaspora engagement policy. Slovakia has recently simplified procedures to hire non-EU/EEA workers, but it could further improve policies for the relocation and integration of foreign workers.

Attracting Slovak workers from abroad

Emigration and brain drain in recent years mean that a significant share of the Slovak population live abroad: approximately 8% of Slovaks currently live in another country, which is one of the highest shares across OECD countries (OECD, 2019[15]). Encouraging Slovaks abroad to return to Slovakia could have an immediate impact on closing observed skills shortages as they have a knowledge of the local language and culture.

However, relocation to another country is generally influenced by pecuniary and non-pecuniary drivers (Tuccio, 2019[56]). Pecuniary drivers include the quality of opportunities, the tax regime and the future prospects. Non-pecuniary drivers include the family environment, the quality of life and the inclusiveness of the destination country (Tuccio, 2019[56]).

There is limited evidence on what factors push Slovaks to return home. A recent online survey among 200 returnees suggests that private and social motives were more important in driving relocation than economic reasons (Kureková and Žilinčíková, 2019[22]). A survey of approximately 800 Slovaks abroad from the NGO LEAF suggests that the likelihood of returning is positively influenced by having strong social ties with other members of the diaspora (LEAF, 2018[57]). This is consistent with evidence available on other countries. Return migrants typically attribute more importance to non-pecuniary factors. Individuals frequently return to their homes countries, as a result of private and social motives rather than economic reasons alone (Barcevičius et al., 2012[58]).

Countries can encourage return migration through two broad sets of policies: pecuniary incentives and diaspora engagement policies. Countries can offer tax cuts or lump sum payments to make the prospect of returning more attractive. They can also engage with expatriate communities and individuals to reinforce their ties with the home country and provide practical information and support for relocation (Dickerson and Ozden, 2018[59]). Diaspora engagement activities can encourage networking and knowledge exchange between expatriate communities and people in the home country. These can be important to increase access to capital and more innovative technologies and work practices (Dickerson and Ozden, 2018[59]).

Slovakia has made efforts in both policy areas, but the initiatives to date have not been systematic. It has implemented a pecuniary incentives scheme (Podporná schéma na návrat odborníkov zo zahraničia) whereby young (under 40) university educated experts and highly qualified experts (working abroad for more than ten years) can apply to vacancies supplied on a portal by public institutions (e.g. government bodies, public and state universities, the National Bank). If hired they receive a one-off pecuniary reward (EUR 10 000 for young experts and EUR 50 000 for highly qualified experts). However, the scheme’s most recent official implementation report from 2016 states that only eight position had been filled (Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport, 2016[60]), and feedback from stakeholders during the project suggested that the scheme is currently on hold.

The activities on the diaspora engagement front have been fragmented to date. The government has not organised a systematic diaspora engagement strategy, but, as foreshadowed in the description of current arrangements, several government bodies and social partners have been engaging with the Slovak diaspora.

The Government Office for Slovaks Abroad (ÚSŽZ) has been responsible for ensuring that Slovak expatriate communities uphold their national identity, language and culture; however, existing legislation does not allow the institution to focus on services for return migrants (Office for Slovaks Living Abroad, 2019[61]). The Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (Slovenská agentúra pre rozvoj investícií a obchodu, SARIO) has launched a pilot project to provide Slovaks in the United Kingdom with information about specific job positions in the area of ​​business services centres in Bratislava and Košice (SARIO, 2019[62]). The IT Association of Slovakia has organised events in London for Slovak ICT professionals to advertise future opportunities in the Slovak ICT sector (Sita, 2018[63]). The NGO LEAF has organised an internship programme linking highly talented Slovak students abroad and 70 Slovak organisations. Under the scheme, 200 students have completed an internship and 60 have relocated permanently to Slovakia (Box 3.7).

More recently, the Complex Strategy for the Return of Slovaks Working Abroad Back to Slovakia was prepared via collaboration between six Slovak ministries. It was due to be discussed in July 2018; however, the discussion was delayed as there had not been sufficient collaboration among the different ministries (Sita, 2018[63]).

Going forward, Slovakia should aim to do more to attract Slovak workers from abroad. Participants in workshops and focus groups expressed some scepticism towards tax incentives measures. They were concerned that tax incentives might contribute to increase inequalities and make the integration of returning Slovaks more difficult, by creating a divide between them and the rest of the population.

The evidence on the impact of tax incentive mechanisms for return migrants is limited. A recent paper focusing on Malaysia’s Returning Expert Programme found that tax incentives only increased the likelihood of return for individuals who held a pre-existing job offer, while it did not exert any effect on individuals who applied without a job offer. From a cost-benefit analysis perspective, the programme roughly paid for itself, but did not generate net fiscal gains (Carpio et al., 2016[64]).

Given the feedback from stakeholders, and the international evidence, fiscal incentives are unlikely to provide a solution, at least in the immediate term, to attracting Slovak workers abroad back to Slovakia. Instead, the government should design a comprehensive strategy that clearly specifies the allocation of responsibilities and objectives and combines social and cultural engagement activities with talent attraction. Evidence from LEAF suggests potential complementarities between these two areas (LEAF, 2018[57]). Feedback from workshop and focus groups highlighted that the following elements could be helpful within the strategy:

  • Gathering better data about the composition and orientations of the Slovak diaspora (e.g. what would be most important factors for relocating to Slovakia).

  • A clear political commitment from the government that Slovaks abroad are welcome back (e.g. through explicit support of a diaspora engagement programme).

  • A one-stop-shop tool providing information to return migrants, such as job opportunities and dedicated assistance on how to access welfare services upon return.

Slovakia could take inspiration from the recent Global Lithuania engagement programme. Conversely, Estonia’s Bringing Talent Home project highlights the difficulty of developing a targeted relocation programme. Based on the Estonian experience, restricting the programme to “talented” Slovaks alone could generate negative public opinion (Box 3.7).

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Box 3.7. Relevant national and international examples: Attracting Slovak workers from abroad

Reversing brain drain: An example from Slovakia

The Slovak Professionals Abroad Program aims to encourage Slovaks abroad to return home to Slovakia. The programme is part of LEAF, a non-profit NGO that runs a number of educational initiatives for high school students, teachers and young professionals within Slovakia. The Slovak Professionals Abroad Program provides internships and job opportunities for Slovak students currently studying in other countries. Whilst on these internships, students are also able to participate in activities such as workshops, lectures and social events organised by the programme to help build networks and connections within Slovakia. The programme also provides tailored support and job opportunities for Slovaks abroad who already have a few years of work experience. Since 2012 the programme has worked with 114 companies based in Slovakia to provide placements for both internships and full-time jobs. Out of the 165 students who have taken internships so far and finished their degree, 44% had returned to Slovakia by July 2019.

Source: Slovak Professionals Abroad Programme (2019[65]), Slovak Professionals Abroad Programme website, https://spap.leaf.sk/.

Reversing brain drain: Diaspora engagement activities in Lithuania

Lithuania was an early adopter of diaspora engagement strategies and has worked actively to promote return migration. The Global Lithuania diaspora programme, the website I Choose Lithuania and the NGO Global Lithuanian Leaders all work in tandem to engage the diaspora. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Lithuanians Living Abroad manages the Global Lithuania diaspora programme, which runs various programmes encouraging youth and professionals to return and work in Lithuania. Global Lithuanian Leaders brings together an extensive community of 1 700 Lithuanian professionals based in 49 countries to network and share their acquired knowledge and expertise with companies and individuals back in Lithuania. The website I Choose Lithuania provides information to returning diaspora members and anyone else interested in living in Lithuania, to make their arrival and integration into society as easy as possible. Together, these initiatives ensure that Lithuanians abroad are able to easily connect with each other and have incentives to return.

Source: International Organization for Migration and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (2019[66]), I Choose Lithuania website, www.renkuosilietuva.lt/en/; Global Lithuanian Leaders (2019[67]), Global Lithuanian Leaders website, http://lithuanianleaders.org/.

Estonia’s Bringing Talent Home project: A policy with unforeseen consequences

The Bringing Talent Home project was implemented in 2010 to 2012 with the aim of connecting talented Estonian’s living abroad and local businesses needing qualified labour (with foreign experience or multicultural knowledge and skills). The project focused on setting up a website to advertise Estonian jobs (including distance work opportunities) for Estonians abroad and providing useful information for returning talented nationals. The programme was implemented in Estonia for two years and created an unforeseen reaction in the public. It started a significant public polemic regarding the term “talent” that diverted attention from the project’s goals to a discussion on who is and is not included in the talent group, and what kind of people does Estonia should have back.

Source: Birka, I. (2019[68]), Can return migration revitalise the Baltics? www.migrationpolicy.org/article/can-return-migration-revitalize-baltics-estonia-latvia-and-lithuania-engage-their-diasporas.

Recommendations for attracting Slovak workers from abroad

  • Identify or introduce a government body responsible for the implementation of a diaspora engagement programme. The government should identify or introduce one body that is responsible for the diaspora engagement programme (e.g. the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs or the Government Office for Slovaks Abroad). The body should be in charge of all activities related to diaspora engagement, from cultural engagement to return migration policy. It should closely co-operate with, and include representatives from, social partners such as business associations and NGOs.

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for engagement with the diaspora that builds on data on the skills and motivations of Slovaks abroad. The body responsible for the diaspora engagement programme should gather more comprehensive data on Slovaks abroad (e.g. expanding on the LEAF survey), both in terms of skills profile and motivation factors (e.g. pecuniary vs. non-pecuniary drivers). Building on these data the body should clearly specify the objectives of the engagement policy, which could include return migration for some groups, as well as knowledge sharing and networking. Practical solutions could include a one-stop-shop portal for return migrants (e.g. in Lithuania), dedicated assistance in accessing welfare services in Slovakia (as suggested by stakeholders) and internships for university students enrolled abroad (e.g. in the LEAF programme). Tax incentives could be part of the strategy, but only if there is evidence that pecuniary factors are a significant barrier, and after extensive consultation with social partners.

Attracting foreign workers from abroad

As seen in the performance section, Slovakia has recently experienced an increased inflow of foreign workers from abroad, particularly among workers from non-EU/EEA countries (Figure 3.5). However, the foreign population in Slovakia represents 1.2% of the total population (against 9.1% on average across OECD countries), and the average net annual inflow of foreigners remains proportionally very low compared to other OECD countries (Figure 3.5). Increasing the attractiveness of Slovakia to foreign workers could further contribute to closing skills shortages.

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Figure 3.5. Characteristics of incoming skilled workers in the Slovak Republic
Figure 3.5. Characteristics of incoming skilled workers in the Slovak Republic

Source: OECD (2019[15]), OECD Economic Surveys: Slovak Republic 2019, https://doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-svk-2019-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933902776

As with return migrants, the relocation of foreign workers is broadly driven by a combination of pecuniary and non-pecuniary drivers. In the case of foreign workers, the inclusiveness of the destination country can play an important role as a non-pecuniary driver, both from a legal and cultural perspective (Tuccio, 2019[56]).

The inclusiveness of the destination country depends to a significant extent on cultural attitudes, but is also influenced by a range of policy decisions. Favourable permit conditions, including a short duration of the hiring procedures, the right to bring family members and the rapid acquisition of permanent residence, can encourage the relocation of foreign workers (OECD, 2019[8]).

Countries can also provide a range of services to facilitate the relocation and integration of foreign workers and their families. In terms of relocation, recent years have seen a proliferation of websites advertising employment possibilities and providing useful information to skilled foreign candidates (OECD, 2019[8]). To facilitate integration, countries can offer language courses, support for the recognition of qualifications, civic integration courses and counselling services (OECD, 2017[69]). Central governments can also support subnational authorities to develop effective local integration policies (OECD, 2018[70]). These can be particularly important for lower-skilled migrants as they are typically more likely to face discrimination (Tuccio, 2019[56]).

As for return migrants, countries can also rely on pecuniary incentives schemes. These have been adopted mostly for high-skilled migrants, who earn over a certain threshold. For example, Denmark has adopted a reduced tax rate on labour income for the first three to five years of residency (Ifo Institute, 2012[71]).

Slovakia has not made choices in these policy domains that are consistent with increasing the attractiveness of relocating for foreign workers. The 2019 OECD Economic Survey identifies that Slovakia has long procedures (between six and nine months) for hiring non-EU/EEA workers (OECD, 2019[15]). Under these procedures, non-EU/EEA workers need to provide certification of qualifications and diplomas that must be translated into Slovak, a residence permit, and a work permit issued by the employment services that must ensure that there are no Slovak workers available for the vacant post (OECD, 2019[15]).

Slovakia introduced a simplified procedure for occupations in shortage in May 2018 in districts where unemployment is below 5% and for firms with less than 30% foreign workers. The list of shortage occupations is determined using vacancy data from the MPSVR. As identified in the 2019 OECD Economic Survey, the simplified procedure is a step forward, but should be extended to all types of firm and use a more comprehensive set of SAA tools (see Opportunity 1). Slovakia could use the experiences of countries such as New Zealand to further streamline and simplify these rules (Box 3.8).

Slovakia does not offer a one-stop-shop portal covering practical information for foreign workers, unlike other countries (e.g. Estonia, Lithuania or Sweden). The MPSVR has a webpage on the website with some information on work permits, housing and education (www.employment.gov.sk/en/information-foreigners/), but this falls short compared with what other countries are doing.

Dedicated portals can offer valuable support in the relocation process by providing information on skills needs and job offers, and on the recognition of foreign qualifications and online language training (OECD, 2019[8]). To make further progress in this respect, Slovakia could use the experiences of Sweden, Estonia or Lithuania (Box 3.8). In the Slovak case, it will be important to decide whether this portal will be distinct from the portal for return Slovaks that might be introduced as a part of the diaspora engagement strategy. Having one portal might be more cost effective, but it might make the tailoring of information more difficult.

Several participants in workshops and focus groups felt that foreign workers did not receive significant help from the government to facilitate their integration. This is confirmed by international evidence. Slovakia does not offer subsidised language training upon arrival, nor civic integration courses and counselling services for foreign workers (OECD, 2017[69]).

Slovakia also does not offer pecuniary incentives to foreign workers. However, as in the case of return migrants, there is limited evidence on the effect of such incentives on the probability of relocation. Denmark introduced preferential tax rates (for the first three years of residence) for high earning (i.e. in the top 1% of the income distribution) foreign or Danish individuals who decided to relocate to the country. Econometric evidence suggests that adopting these preferential rates has led to a significant increase in the probability of relocation for foreign workers (Kleven et al., 2014[72]). However, given the feedback from stakeholders on tax incentives (see previous section), Slovakia should be cautious in adopting such schemes.

The MPSVR has recently launched a strategy to improve the relocation and integration of foreign workers, the Foreigner Labour Mobility Strategy in the Slovak Republic. The strategy sets goals that would be helpful to make further progress, including improving the MPSVR information portal, increasing outreach activities for foreign workers, and updating the integration strategy for the Slovak Republic (Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, 2018[73]). However, the strategy does not clearly specify how to articulate these goals in a concrete set of policy initiatives. The recommendations below could provide some support to fully develop the strategy going forward.

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Box 3.8. Relevant international examples: Attracting skilled workers from abroad

New Zealand’s system to regulate the inflow of skilled foreign workers

New Zealand pioneered the first expression of interest (EoI) system in 2003 in the context of a wider review of its supply-driven permanent migration system. The introduction of the two-step EoI process moved New Zealand from a policy of passive acceptance of residence applications to a more active selection of skilled migrants. An EoI system is a two-step application process: 1) selection for the pool; and 2) selection to apply. Potential migrants express an interest in migrating to New Zealand and are admitted into a pool if they meet certain criteria, which aim to maximise the economic contribution of migrants. Once in the pool they may be selected and receive an invitation to apply. Candidates who do not receive an invitation to apply to a specific migration scheme are dropped from the pool after a fixed period. Before the EoI system, applications were assessed on a “first come, first served” basis. This led to long queues, which frustrated employers, and left short-term demand unmet. Caps were quickly reached early in the filing period, while higher-scoring applications submitted later entered the queue.

Source: OECD (2019[8]), OECD Skills Strategy 2019: Skills to Shape a Better Future, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264313835-en.

Information portals: Examples from Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania

In Sweden, a portal provides up-to-date information to foreign workers on skills needs and job offers by region, online language training, regulated occupations and recognition of foreign qualifications, as well as the possibility to apply for work permits online. All of this is available in numerous languages. Estonia has developed an official portal dedicated to attracting foreigners to the country. Like Sweden’s portal it provides job offers and has information on visas, housing, healthcare, taxes and other topics of concern to foreigners considering moving to Estonia. Lithuania has made the Work in Lithuania portal available to foreigners in English. Aiming to encourage professionals living abroad to build their careers in Lithuania, the website provides job offers, success stories of people who have already moved to the country and information about living in Lithuania.

Source: Swedish Institute (2019[74]) Working in Sweden webpage, www.sweden.se/work; Enterprise Estonia (2019[75]), Work Estonia website, www.workinestonia.com/; Invest Lithuania (2019[76]), Work in Lithuania website, https://workinlithuania.lt.

Services in support of integration: Examples from Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Portugal and Germany (Frankfurt)

Austria offers various support services for new arrivals regarding the recognition of foreign qualifications, including contact points, an online portal and individual grants for recognition.

In Belgium (Flanders), the third step in the immigrant integration programme is to direct participants to the Flemish employment service (VDAB), which offers job-oriented language courses, including Dutch in the Workplace. In Portugal, vocation-specific language courses are part of the Portuguese for All training scheme available at no cost to the immigrant population. Vocation-specific language courses are available for retail, hospitality, beauty care, civil construction and civil engineering. Vocation-specific language courses are also part of the Intervention Programme for Unemployed Immigrant Workers.

In Germany (Frankfurt), an outreach programme targeted at women with higher qualifications – Start, Change, Get Ahead – assigns highly skilled migrant women a personal mentor. For one year, the mentor shares knowledge, experience and networks with the migrant. Parallel to mentoring, the programme provides professional counselling, upskilling, intercultural training and skills recognition support. Within one year, about half of the participants managed to obtain a job aligned with their qualifications.

Source: OECD (2019[8]), OECD Skills Strategy 2019: Skills to Shape a Better Future, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264313835-en.

Recommendations for attracting workers from abroad

  • Streamline and improve the recently introduced hiring procedures for non-EU/EEA workers. The Slovak government should consider extending the simplified procedure to all firms, but should ensure that the list of shortages information reflects all available information from SAA tools (see Opportunity 1). Going forward, the government could consider introducing an expression of interest model as in other countries (e.g. New Zealand).

  • Introduce a one-stop-shop portal for foreign workers that advertises employment opportunities in Slovakia and supports the relocation process. The MPSVR should introduce an improved portal with job vacancies, information on regulated occupations and recognition of foreign qualifications, as well as an online application process for work permits (e.g. in Sweden). The MPSVR will need to consider whether to merge the portal with the one for return Slovaks (e.g. in Estonia) or whether to have a separate portal (e.g. in Lithuania).

  • Strengthen the provision of services that can support the integration of foreign workers. The government should consider offering a full range of integration services, including recognition of qualifications (e.g. in Austria), counselling (e.g. in Germany), civic integration (e.g. in Belgium) and language training (e.g. in Portugal). The MPSVR will need to ensure that subnational authorities have sufficient awareness and capacity to deliver strong integration strategies at the local level.

Overview of recommendations

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Opportunity 1: Improving the dissemination of information on labour market and skills needs

Strengthening the dissemination of information from SAA tools to all users

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to consolidate results from multiple SAA exercises, and tailor dissemination to different users.

Opportunity 2: Strengthening the responsiveness of students and their families to labour market needs

Improving the direct dissemination of information to students and their families

  • Introduce a one-stop-shop portal that allows students and their families to access information on labour market and skills needs and study opportunities.

  • Consider launching a publicity campaign targeted at students and their families that advertises the importance of using labour market information.

Expanding career guidance in schools and universities

  • Complement reforms to career guidance in schools by implementing clear standards for the compensation of school counsellors, as well as the range of services offered.

  • Provide targeted funding and tighten regulatory requirements for career guidance centres in universities.

Opportunity 3: Strengthening the responsiveness of secondary VET and tertiary education institutions to labour market needs

Supporting recent reforms in secondary VET institutions

  • Support recent reforms on the allocation of funding and study places in secondary institutions by making full use of the results from SAA tools.

  • Support the recently introduced dual system by financing employer-led training associations.

  • Further strengthen the role and capacity of sectoral assignees in curriculum development, quality assurance and the provision of information.

Strengthening incentives to align tertiary education with labour market needs

  • Introduce more targeted incentives to monitor the employability of graduates in the funding structure.

  • Consider introducing separate governance and funding arrangements for professionally oriented institutions to encourage the uptake of professional bachelor programmes.

Opportunity 4: Moving from “brain drain” to “brain gain”

Attracting Slovak workers from abroad

  • Identify or introduce a government body responsible for the implementation of a diaspora engagement programme.

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for engagement with the diaspora that builds on data on the skills and motivation of Slovaks abroad.

Attracting foreign workers from abroad

  • Streamline and improve the recently introduced hiring procedures for non-EU/EEA workers.

  • Introduce a one-stop-shop portal for foreign workers that advertises employment opportunities in Slovakia and supports the relocation process.

  • Strengthen the provision of services that can support the integration of foreign workers.

References

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[46] Andersen, O. and K. Kruse (2016), Vocational education and training in Europe – Denmark. Cedefop ReferNet VET in Europe reports, Cedefop, http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2016/2016_CR_DK.pdf.

[53] Auzinger, M., D. Ulicna and K. Messerer (2016), Study on higher vocational education and training in the EU, European Commission, https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/cf35147d-0a60-11e7-8a35-01aa75ed71a1.

[58] Barcevičius, E. et al. (2012), Labour Mobility within the EU: The Impact of Return Migration, Eurofound, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef1243en.pdf.

[11] Beková, L. et al. (2014), Kariérové poradenstvo v Slovenskej republike [Career counseling in the Slovak Republic], Euroguidance, Bratislava, https://www.uszz.sk/sk/.

[68] Birka, I. (2019), Can Return Migration Revitalize the Baltics? Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania Engage Their Diasporas, with Mixed Results, Migration Policy Institute, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/can-return-migration-revitalize-baltics-estonia-latvia-and-lithuania-engage-their-diasporas (accessed on 11 October 2019).

[55] Bottomley, A. and H. Williams (2006), A guide to international best practice in engaging employers in the curriculum, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, https://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/docs/ethemes/employability/employability---best-practice-in-engaging-employers-in-the-curriculum.pdf?sfvrsn=f340f681_14.

[64] Carpio, X. et al. (2016), Global Migration of Talent and Tax Incentives Evidence from Malaysia’s Returning Expert Program, World Bank Group, http://econ.worldbank.org.

[29] CBS (2019), Microdata: Conducting your own research, http://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/our-services/customised-services-microdata/microdata-conducting-your-own-research (accessed on 13 November 2019).

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