copy the linklink copied!4. Fostering greater participation in adult learning

This chapter provides an overview of the Slovak Republic’s adult learning system and specific recommendations to foster greater participation. Slovakia’s economy has shown strong performance, which is reflected in low unemployment rates and rising wages. However, Slovakia faces high risks of job automation, and its degree of economic openness makes it vulnerable to external trade shocks and fluctuations in foreign demand for Slovak products and services. In this context, adult learning is an essential tool to shield the Slovak Republic against these risks and to lead the country to higher levels of development and well-being. This chapter identifies three opportunities to raise participation in adult learning: improving the governance of adult learning, increasing participation among adults out of work, and supporting the capacity of employees and firms to engage in adult learning.

    

copy the linklink copied!Introduction: The importance of fostering greater participation in adult learning in the Slovak Republic

Across the OECD, adults with lower literacy and numeracy levels are far more likely than those with higher levels of skills to have lower earnings and employment rates, report poor health, feel excluded from political processes and to report not having trust in others. There is also a growing need to upgrade and reskill regularly in adulthood in the context of technological change, more frequent transitions between jobs, the growth of non-standard forms of work (and by extension less access to employer-sponsored training) and the lengthening of working lives (OECD, 2019[1]).

The Slovak economy is strong and is catching up with higher-income countries (OECD, 2019[2]). Employment and wages are growing and the unemployment rate is historically low, dipping below 7%. Nonetheless, Slovak production and exports are concentrated in a small number of manufacturing industries, and the economy relies significantly on the electronic and automotive sectors. For example, machinery, transport equipment and manufactured goods account for over 76% of total merchandise exports, and these sectors also provide work to a quarter of all Slovak employees.

This high degree of specialisation and agglomeration has allowed the development of clusters, which although have been relevant in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI), are a source of vulnerability. The risk of automation is particularly high in Slovakia, with the OECD estimating that about 34% of workers already face a high risk of seeing their jobs automated, and another 31% face significant changes in their job tasks due to automation. This is the highest share among OECD countries for which data are available (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018[3]). This high risk of automation is felt in Slovak workplaces, with 60% of Slovak employees expecting that several of their skills will become obsolete.

The strong reliance on exports in a small number of sectors makes Slovakia –and the Slovak population–vulnerable to international trade shocks. Trade openness, defined as exports and imports as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), is high, and almost 60% of employment is embodied in foreign final demands, one of the highest among OECD countries. The population is ageing rapidly and working lives are lengthening (see Chapter 1).

In this context, adult learning is and will continue to be essential for boosting the skills of adults, and can generate a range of personal, economic and social benefits (Box 4.1). More effective adult education and training will be needed to maintain or increase the level of skills to keep pace with these rapidly changing conditions.

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Box 4.1. What is adult learning?

Adult learning encompasses any education or training activity undertaken by adults for job-related or other purposes, and includes:

  • Formal education or training: education or training activity that leads to a formal qualification (at primary, secondary, post-secondary or tertiary level).

  • Non-formal education or training: education or training activity that does not necessarily lead to a formal qualification, such as on-the-job training, open or distance education, courses or private lessons, seminars or workshops.

  • Informal learning: learning that results from daily activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. It may be unintentional from the learner’s perspective.

Adult learning is therefore “life-wide”, occurring in the following diverse contexts:

  • Education and training institutions: traditional providers of formal education, such as schools, colleges or universities, or specialised adult or continuing education and training centres. They may be public or private institutions.

  • Workplaces: typically as informal learning or non-formal education and training. It can also include the work-based learning component of formal education.

  • Community: typically as informal learning or non-formal education and training through participation in civic and cultural activities, social networks, sports, volunteering activities, etc.

  • Homes: typically as informal learning through interactions with family members, reading books, Internet use, watching television, listening to the radio, etc. It may also involve formal or non-formal education and training via online or correspondence courses.

For the purpose of this chapter, adult learning refers to a range of learning activities (whether informal, non-formal or formal) undertaken by adults after leaving initial education and training, and that is expected to have some effect on performance and productivity at work.

Increasing participation in adult learning has been set as an important objective by the current government (see Manifesto of the Government of the Slovak Republic 2016-2020) (The Government of the Slovak Republic, 2016[4]). It has also been set as a goal by the European Union (EU), as described in the Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways (The Council of the European Union, 2016[5]), and in the Education and Training 2020 Strategic Framework, which targets a minimum participation rate in adult learning of 15% by 2020. It is also stressed in the first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

This chapter will provide analysis and recommendations for fostering participation in adult learning, especially among marginalised and disadvantaged groups (e.g. unemployed, low skilled) and among workers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The following section provides an overview of the Slovak adult learning system, describes how it is organised and identifies the key actors and their responsibilities. It also assesses the main trends and performance. The last section conducts a detailed assessment of the selected opportunities and provides tailor-made policy recommendations in these areas.

copy the linklink copied!Overview and performance of the adult education system in the Slovak Republic

Overview of the Slovak adult education system

Adults can obtain a professional qualification recognised by the state mainly through non-formal accredited further education and training programmes. These programmes have the objective of supplementing, updating or extending the qualifications required for pursuing professional activities. After completing these programmes, participants obtain a certificate with nationwide validity that certifies the acquisition of relevant competences. These certificates, however, do not lead to a “higher level of education” (stupeň vzdelania) as defined in Slovak Law, which distinguishes educational levels from qualifications (kvalifikácia). While the former are granted by institutions in the initial formal education system (e.g. universities, schools, vocational education and training [VET] schools), the latter are acquired non-formally in further education and training institutions.

These qualifications can be used to signal the possession of certain competences to employers. Some qualifications entitle the person to apply for a trade licence in occupations regulated by the Trade Licensing Act no. 455/1991 (e.g. auditors, tax advisors, stockbrokers), which require a formal certification of the competences in order to start a new business or work in the field.

Adult education can be provided by state schools (e.g. secondary vocational schools, conservatories, higher education institutions) and non-school educational institutions (e.g. private providers, non-governmental organisations [NGOs]). In order for certificates granted by private institutions to be officially recognised by the state, the programme needs to be accredited by the Accreditation Committee for Further Education, which the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport (MŠVVŠ) is responsible for. All accredited educational programmes are registered in the Further Education Information System, which can be accessed publicly.

The financial costs of participating in adult education programmes is usually covered by participants; however, jobseekers may participate at no cost. The Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ústredie práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny, ÚPSVR) –the Slovak public employment service– can use European Social Funds (e.g. the REPAS programme, detailed below) to finance the education of jobseekers in the context of active labour market polices (ALMP). Some funds are also available for employed persons to participate in accredited further education. Such education usually takes place as a part of large national projects supported mainly by European sources (e.g. the CVANU programme).

Adults who have reached the age of 18, have completed compulsory schooling, and who can demonstrate more than five years of experience in certain fields can also receive formal recognition of the competences acquired through practical experience. For this purpose, Slovakia has set up a system for the validation of professional qualifications. Accredited institutions, such as professional organisations and higher education institutions, can certify the competences of adults through a formal examination carried out by an examination board. The examination has theoretical and practical components, and successful completion leads to a certificate. The competences required for each qualification are specified in the Slovak Qualifications Framework (SKKR), which has been linked to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). Currently, there are over 30 qualifications for which the recognition process is available, including mason, carpenter, electronic engineer and butcher. The full list is available through the Further Education Information System.

Regarding the provision of education and training for jobseekers, the main competences are assumed by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic (MPSVR) – the provision of such training is one of its ALMP. Two main MPSVR programmes have been in place since 2014 to facilitate the smoother transition of jobseekers to the labour market: REPAS and KOMPAS (Štefánik, 2018[6]). Both are co-funded by the European Social Fund and provide funding for jobseekers to participate in training provided by external providers. REPAS focuses on the provision of retraining courses for eligible jobseekers, with the ÚPSVR covering 100% of the training cost, as long as the price of the training course is within the financial limits specified for different categories of training. All applicants must be registered as jobseekers prior to applying in order to be eligible. After taking the initiative to look for the type of occupational activity for which they want to qualify, the jobseeker presents the counsellor in a regional ÚPSVR office with a form describing the training programme and indicating its cost, duration and the relevant requalification provider. The duration of the training can vary from a few days up to six months. The counsellor assesses the suitability of the training course with the needs of the local labour market, as well as against the career goals of the jobseeker. During the validation procedure, the price of the training course is also checked. Other specific conditions, such as the duration of unemployment or the current level of qualifications, are also assessed and can play a role in the validation procedure. For instance, disadvantaged jobseekers, defined by Act no. 5/2004 (for instance those registered as a jobseeker for 12 consecutive months), are favoured in the evaluation process by being awarded more points by default. If the request is validated, the local labour office signs a contract directly with the training provider. The entire training cost is then reimbursed directly to the provider ex post, on the condition that the candidate successfully finishes the training. Participants receive a certificate accredited by the MŠVVŠ upon successful completion of the training. The KOMPAS programme focuses on developing the jobseeker’s core competences, such as communication, computer, entrepreneurial, language, or basic literacy and numeracy skills (Eurydice, 2019[7]). Participants who successfully complete the course receive a certificate of completion.

In 2018, REPAS+ and KOMPAS+ programmes were launched, building on the pilot REPAS and KOMPAS projects, and as a policy response to the European Commission’s recommendations on Upskilling Pathways (The Council of the European Union, 2016[5]). Under the reformed programmes, the ÚPSVR also provides a daily allowance of EUR 4.64 to each participant to cover their travel and subsistence costs during the training. Since the launch of the REPAS programme, more than 15 000 jobseekers (8% of all jobseekers) have been trained, of which 15% were low skilled. Care services (19.5%), accounting (15.5%), security (7.8%), acquiring a lorry driving license (7.7%) and welding (5.21%) are among the most popular choice of courses. According to the data available, the KOMPAS+ project has trained 2 247 jobseekers (1% of all jobseekers), of which 37.5% were low skilled, since 2018. In 2017, 51% of REPAS/KOMPAS participants were employed within six months. Despite these positive signs, the fact that there are only a few quality control mechanisms, other than direct feedback from candidates, needs to be highlighted; mainly with respect to the KOMPAS project, where accreditation is not a prerequisite.

In 2017, the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family was tasked with ensuring an annual requalification of roughly 5 000 jobseekers to cater to the needs of the automobile industry. This decision was taken in the context of the need to address pressing labour market shortages, especially in the automobile sector, where thousands of qualified workers are required. Against this backdrop, the MPSVR launched the Ready for Work project, with a total budget of more than EUR 30 million. This project is being implemented by a consortium of two private training firms in co-operation with a privately run academy specialising in dual education founded by Volkswagen, Siemens, Matador and the Bratislava Self-Governing Region. Conditional on successfully passing a final exam, 20 000 registered jobseekers are expected to have been requalified by 2021 (UPSVR, 2019[8]).

Employed adults and workers can participate in education and training activities in their workplaces. These activities are usually paid by the employer, although there is the possibility to obtain financial support from European or state sources. These courses are typically provided by private trainers or institutions, although large companies and businesses often have their own teachers and trainers.

Adults who have not completed mandatory school education have the chance to enrol in second chance programmes organised at the local level by schools or other recognised providers across the country.

Cultural and educational institutions, such as the National Enlightenment Centre, the Slovak National Museum or Slovak National Gallery, also provide non-job-related adult education and organise lectures, debates and seminars that are open to the public. There are also 17 universities of the third age in Slovakia across 13 cities that provide special interest education to pensioners. However, because of high demand from other age groups, the admission age is sometimes adjusted to as low as 40 years-old. Lectures are given mainly by university teachers, and students pay fees that range between EUR 40 to 100 per semester.

Other ministries play a role in the adult learning system; for example, the Ministry of Health provides further education for physicians and professionals in the health sector, and the Ministry of the Interior oversees training activities for civil servants.

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Table 4.1. Main adult learning actors in the Slovak Republic

Role in the adult learning system

Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports (MŠVVŠ)

Sets out the main legal and policy framework. The main practical activities are centred around the accreditation of education programmes and the information system of further education.

Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (MPSVR)

Adopts and implements measures to combat unemployment, support employment and social inclusion via mainly national projects funded through EU funds. The projects often contain adult learning activities (e.g. requalification) and are implemented in the regions.

Ministry of the Interior

Responsible for the further education of staff in public administration.

Ministry of Health

Responsible for the further education of physicians.

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

The Slovak public employment service. It has 46 branches across the country.

State Institute for Vocational Education (ŠIOV)

National contact point for Europass, EPALE, ECVET, EQAVET, EQF, EPALE and national co-ordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning.

Training providers and associations

Responsible for delivering training.

Performance of the Slovak Republic

The literacy and numeracy skills of adults are comparatively strong in the Slovak Republic. In the Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Slovak adults score 6 and 13 points more in literacy and numeracy, respectively, than adults in the OECD on average. The numeracy scores of Slovak adults are comparatively stronger than their literacy skills, which is in contrast to the average across the OECD, where literacy skills are usually stronger. Overall, the share of Slovak adults scoring low in numeracy and/or literacy is almost 10% lower than in the OECD on average (OECD, 2016[9]). However, where many OECD countries have experienced a rapid increase in skills performance over time, with large differences in skills outcomes between generations, the Slovak Republic has only experienced a marginal difference in outcomes between generations.

At the same time, many adults in Slovakia do not have the right skills to succeed in an interconnected, digital world. According to the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) data, fewer than 35% of Slovak 25-34 year-olds score high in problem-solving in technology rich environments, compared with an OECD average of almost 45%. The lack of digital skills manifests itself more among less educated adults in Slovakia than among their counterparts with similar educational levels in the OECD. Fewer than 3% of Slovak adults with below upper secondary education, and fewer than 20% of Slovak adults with upper secondary education, have above average digital problem-solving skills, compared to 7% and 23%, respectively, on average across the OECD. The number of Slovak adults (22%) with no computer experience is more than double the OECD average (10%) (OECD, 2016[9]).

Despite the significant need to improve the skills of Slovak adults, which will be crucial for the economy to thrive in the future, participation rates in adult education and training are among the lowest in the OECD: 32% participated in formal and/or non-formal education in 2012, compared with 50% for OECD-PIAAC countries as a whole (Figure 4.1). Similarly, Eurostat (2019[10]) notes that in 2018, 4% of the Slovak population aged 25-64 reported participating in formal and non-formal education and training in the last four weeks, compared to an EU average of over 11%. The participation of this age group in formal and non-formal education and training over the last 12 months (46.1%) is roughly in line with the EU average (45.2%). However, the participation of Slovak adults aged 55-64 (30.3%) is lower than the participation of those aged 25-34 (54.3%) – which is a common trend across the EU – as well as lower than the EU average (32.9%) (Eurostat, 2019[11]).

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Figure 4.1. Slovak adults participate less in adult learning than the OECD average
Adult participation in formal and/or non-formal education, 2012/2015
Figure 4.1. Slovak adults participate less in adult learning than the OECD average

Source: OECD (2019[12]), OECD Skills Surveys: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (database), https://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075336

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Figure 4.2. Hours in non-formal education per participant/per adult, and participation rate in non-formal education (2012 or 2015)
Survey of Adult Skills, 25-64 year-olds
Figure 4.2. Hours in non-formal education per participant/per adult, and participation rate in non-formal education (2012 or 2015)

Note: Year of reference for Chile, Greece, Israel, Jakarta (Indonesia), Lithuania, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia and Turkey is 2015. Year of reference for all other countries is 2012. Countries and subnational entities are ranked in descending order of the average number of hours participants spent in non-formal education in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Source: OECD (2016[13]), Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2016-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075355

Slovak adults participate less intensively in adult education than adults in other countries. As shown in Figure 4.2, the average number of hours per participant in non-formal education activities is among the lowest across OECD countries. According to the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) data, Slovak adults spend 34 hours less per year on adult learning than adults in other OECD countries, on average. Overall, the number of hours per year of non-formal education per adult in Slovakia –including participants and non-participants– is exactly half that of the OECD average (54 hours per adult on average across OECD countries).

The barriers to increased participation in further education and training in Slovakia remain diverse and high. Being too busy at work and lacking adequate employer support are the main obstacles to participation, as identified by 33% and 14% of Slovak adults, respectively. These barriers are identified as larger obstacles in Slovakia than in the OECD on average, with Slovak adults reporting the lack of employer support twice as many times as their OECD counterparts, according to the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) data. 33% of Slovaks reported being too busy at work as an obstacle to participation in adult learning activities, compared to 29% in the OECD on average. The Slovak Republic also has one of the highest differences in participation rates between those with and without young children (OECD, 2019[1]). Adults in Slovakia also lack the necessary motivation to participate more than other adults in the OECD. The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) data show that while 64% of Slovak adults did not participate in formal and/or informal education, and did not want to do so, 26% participated, but did not want to.

OECD data shows that Slovakia’s adult learning system is lagging behind in terms of inclusiveness. In the inclusiveness index calculated in OECD (2019[14]), which measures participation gaps between disadvantaged and more advantaged adult learners in terms of their socio-demographic characteristics and employment or contractual situation, Slovakia ranks the second worst among all OECD countries, only coming before the Netherlands. Slovak adults who would benefit the most from adult learning participation are participating the least. For instance, low-skilled Slovak adults are much more likely to not participate than their high-skilled counterparts. At the same time, low-skilled Slovak adults are almost at the bottom of the ranking in terms of participation in adult learning among OECD countries: only 13% of adult Slovaks with level 0/1 literacy participate in formal and/or non-formal education and training, compared to an OECD average of almost 30% (Figure 4.3).

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Figure 4.3. Less-skilled Slovak adults participate less in adult learning than higher-skilled adults
Share of adults (25-65 year-olds) participating in formal and/or non-formal education and training by literacy level, 2012 or 2015.
Figure 4.3. Less-skilled Slovak adults participate less in adult learning than higher-skilled adults

Source: OECD (2016[13]), Education at a Glance 2016: OECD indicators, https://doi.org/10.1787/eag-2016-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075374

In a similar vein, and as in all PIAAC-participating countries, Slovak adults employed in SMEs are less likely to participate in formal and non-formal job-related learning than those employed in large firms (Figure 4.4). Furthermore, the gap in the likelihood of participation between Slovak employed and unemployed adults is the largest within the OECD, and unemployed adults in Slovakia are the least likely to engage in adult learning among all OECD countries (Figure 4.5). There is an even larger gap in participation in adult learning between employed and long-term unemployed adults Slovaks, and workers with temporary contracts participate less in training activities than those with permanent contracts (OECD, 2019[14]). Therefore, fostering greater participation in adult learning will be particularly important for those who are less skilled, unemployed, working in an SME or temporary contract workers in Slovakia.

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Figure 4.4. Slovak workers in SMEs participate less in adult learning than workers in large firms
Percentage of adults (25-64) participating in formal and non-formal job-related learning
Figure 4.4. Slovak workers in SMEs participate less in adult learning than workers in large firms

Note: SMEs are firms which employ fewer than 250 employees.

Source: OECD (2019[12]), OECD Skills Surveys: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (database), https://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075393

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Figure 4.5. Unemployed Slovak adults participate in adult learning significantly less than those employed
Percentage of adults (25-64) participating in formal and non-formal job-related learning
Figure 4.5. Unemployed Slovak adults participate in adult learning significantly less than those employed

Source: OECD (2019[12]), OECD Skills Surveys: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (database), https://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075412

copy the linklink copied!Opportunities to foster greater participation in adult learning in the Slovak Republic

The OECD team, in consultation with the MŠVVŠ, identified the following opportunities to foster greater participation in adult learning in Slovakia:

  1. 1. Improving the governance of adult learning.

  2. 2. Increasing the participation among adults out of work.

  3. 3. Supporting the capacity of employees and firms to engage in adult learning.

Opportunity 1: Improving the governance of adult learning

Increasing participation in adult learning requires a policy framework that is well co-ordinated. In order to encourage adults to participate in learning and education over their life course, a clear definition of adult learning, as well as its importance, needs to be acknowledged across all levels of government and society. Furthermore, a clear connection between government goals and policies, as well as a consensual, coherent, long-term vision supported by an unambiguous division of responsibilities, is necessary for the functioning of an adult learning system that is capable of easily attracting and retaining participants.

Slovakia should therefore focus its efforts on improving the governance of its adult learning system by:

  • Further improving its long-term adult learning strategy.

  • Improving co-ordination across ministries, levels of government and stakeholders.

Further improving the Slovak Republic’s long-term adult learning strategy

During the first decades of the modern independent existence of the Slovak Republic –1989 onwards- the policy area of adult learning received limited attention within the government’s economic and social agenda. Before 1989, under the communist regime, the educational system in Slovakia (still Czechoslovakia) was centrally planned and put significant emphasis on universal access to formal education. At that time, the dropout rate from schools was low and the enrolment rate in formal education was relatively high. Aside from certain occupations that required continuous learning and training, such as doctors and lawyers, adult education was neither explicitly targeted nor developed as a policy area, and the concept of adult learning was almost non-existent.

After the transition to a free market system in the 1990s, and especially after accession to the European Union in 2004, adult learning received renewed attention in Slovakia, as in most EU and OECD countries. The EU Memorandum on Lifelong Learning in 2001 in particular constituted a watershed moment, as Slovakia was a candidate for EU accession and benefited from the strong support of national policy actors regarding EU initiatives. Slovakia joined the consultation process of the Lifelong Learning Memorandum, which led to Slovakia's first National Strategy for Adult Education.

The first strategic document addressing adult education was the National Programme of Education and Training in the Slovak Republic for the Next 15-20 Years (“Millennium”), which was approved in 2001. Millennium outlined the basic principles for reforming education and training, such as the organisation of education, the establishment and financing of schools, responsibilities for defining the national and school curricula, training of teachers, and linkages of VET with the labour market. It also formally introduced the concepts of lifelong learning and further education, encompassing formal, non-formal and informal education taking place in institutions (e.g. VET), workplaces and the society.

Since 2001, Slovakia has adopted several lifelong learning strategies, including the 2004 Framework Strategy on Lifelong Learning, the 2007 Strategy on Lifelong Learning and Guidance, the Act on VET no. 61/2015, and the 2011 Lifelong Learning Strategy. This last strategy was preceded by the Act on Lifelong Learning no. 568/2009, which sets the basic legislative framework that prevails today, such as types of further education, the main institutions involved, and the principles of accreditation of institutions. The 2011 Lifelong Learning Strategy was matched by an action plan for the 2012-2014 period, which was reviewed in 2016. Table 4.2 summarises the most relevant strategies and initiatives on lifelong learning in the last two decades.

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Table 4.2. Strategies and initiatives covering lifelong learning in the Slovak Republic

Objectives

Year

National Programme of Education and Training in the Slovak Republic for the Next 15-20 Years

Outlines the basic principles for reforming education and training.

2001

Act on Employment Services no. 5/2004

Contains provisions for education and training for labour markets and specifies the conditions for financing training programmes for those in and out of work.

2005

Strategy on Lifelong Learning and Guidance

Develops of an open system of lifelong learning, a system of lifelong guidance, the Lifelong Learning Act, implementation of an information system for lifelong learning and lifelong guidance, and creation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

2007

National Programme for Learning Regions

Links lifelong learning and the needs of regional labour markets by networking all relevant stakeholders in public administration, education and employment sectors.

2007

Act on Lifelong Learning

Defines the types of further education and the main institutions involved, and the principles of accreditation of institutions and programmes.

2009

Lifelong Learning Strategy

Aims to focus on the development of the key skills and competences of individuals, thus enabling them to raise their qualifications and support their personal growth.

2011

Operational Programme Human Resources

Strives to support the development of human resources and lifelong learning and their full integration into the labour market to improve their social situation

2014

The National Employment Strategy until 2020

Stresses the fact that lifelong learning is an essential precondition for maintaining employability, and that effective links between formal, non-formal and informal learning and teaching form the basis for effective lifelong learning.

2014 

Act on Vocational Education and Training

Sets out the fact that VET schools can also become “Centres of Vocational Preparation” and provide training programmes in accordance with the Act on Lifelong Learning.

2015

Upskilling Pathways (European Commission)

Seeks to help adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills, based on the 2016 Recommendation of the European Council. Slovakia hosted and participated in an international mutual learning workshop in 2018, followed by the publication of an implementation report.

2016

National Roma Integration Strategy until 2020

Seeks to improve the socio-economic status of the Roma population by expanding employment opportunities on the labour market, building human capital through better education and healthcare, and increasing their empowerment and participation in social and civic activities.

2016

Government programme for 2016-2020

Announces new Act on Lifelong Learning.

2016

National Programme for the Development of Education (“Learning Slovakia”)

Aims to provide a long-term concept of education content from pre-primary education, through primary and secondary education to higher education, as well as further education, focusing on personal development and the acquisition of the knowledge and skills required for being successful on the job market.

2017

Intelligent Industry Action Plan for the Slovak Republic

Seeks to support companies by creating better conditions for the implementation of digitalisation, innovative solutions and enhanced competitiveness through the reduction of bureaucratic burden, modification of current legislation, definition of standards or co-financing of research. Contains a set of 35 measures to be implemented by the end of 2020.

2018

Slovakia has struggled to deliver what has been formulated in these strategic documents, and workshop and focus groups participants highlighted that the current policy instruments are insufficient to fulfil Slovakia's aspirations to develop a strong adult learning system. For example, financing mechanisms to support the participation of adults in learning or training activities are almost non-existent, even though the 2011 Lifelong Learning Strategy highlighted the need to create financial tools to support further education.

This disconnection between goals and policies is compounded by the fact that almost 20 years after Millennium, the policy discourse on adult learning still lacks a consensual view, and the system is perceived as highly fragmented. Furthermore, there is no clear vision about the adult learning system that Slovakia needs, its goals, architecture, and the right mix of policies to be put in place. This view was echoed by stakeholders and government officials who participated in OECD workshops and focus groups. They highlighted the fact the public awareness about the importance of lifelong learning is limited, and that measures to support adult learning are marginal and non-systematic. Moreover, all lifelong learning strategies have historically been formulated at the national level, and with limited regard for the fact that differences in terms of the need for adult learning exist between different Slovak regions. At the local level, several learning activities, usually carried out by VET schools under the name of further education, continuous education or re-qualification, have taken place (e.g. self-governing regions, districts or municipalities); however, these activities have not been formally recognised in the current adult education framework, and further contribute to fragmentation of the system. A successful vertical co-ordination mechanism, such as in Finland (Box 4.2), could be well-placed to address the gap.

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Box 4.2. Relevant international example: Vertical co-ordination mechanism in Finland

Finland’s multi-level governance reforms, underpinned by targeted support from sectoral ministries, have driven collaboration between local areas and regions on education and training services.

The PARAS reform in Finland was a multi-dimensional reform that included municipal mergers, inter-municipal co-operation for service provision (in particular in the areas of healthcare and education), and better governance in urban regions. In merging or co-operating municipalities, the reform also had an impact on managerial practices (organisational restructuring, introduction of new practices, etc.). Decisions to merge or co-operate were taken on a voluntary basis.

Legislation to support the reform was enacted in 2005 and 2007, and the implementation of the first phase of the reform was planned over 2007-08. Legislation introduced quantitative thresholds to be reached for healthcare and education provision. Municipalities or inter-municipalities authorised to provide basic education services had to have at least 50 000 inhabitants. The local authorities involved could agree that the functions of co-management areas would be conducted jointly or by one local authority on behalf of one or more other local governments.

Municipalities and urban regions had to submit their reports and implementation plans to central government by the end of August 2007. In 2008, central government evaluated the reform progress, based on supplementary information submitted by municipalities. The reform was implemented between 2009 and 2012. As decisions were voluntary, each municipality/urban region implemented (or not) its plans at its own pace. In 2009, the central government submitted a report to the parliament on the reform to restructure municipalities and services. At the end of the reform period, a questionnaire was sent by central government to municipalities to find out what decisions they had taken within the framework of the reform.

The establishment of quantitative thresholds for education services drove collaboration and was supported by a joint project by the Ministry of Education and Culture and education providers to ensure structural and economic support for education and training across regions. One criticism of the threshold was that in urban regions it risked encouraging wealthy “inner-ring” municipalities to co-operate with central municipalities while maintaining their own services.

Source: OECD (2017[15]), Multi-level Governance Reforms: Overview of OECD Country Experiences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264272866-en.

Recommendations for further improving the Slovak Republic’s long-term adult-learning strategy

  • Unify existing strategies and initiatives into one coherent lifelong learning strategy. Current initiatives are not integrated and do not offer a coherent and co-ordinated response to the challenge of strengthening the adult learning system and increasing participation. The adult education sector has been waiting for a new strategy on lifelong learning and further education since 2014 when it was first mentioned by the MŠVVŠ. The government should give high priority to this new endeavour, which should unite the various elements of adult learning and be accompanied by a clear and actionable implementation plan. Adult education should be co-ordinated with other national policies that indirectly tackle the knowledge, skills and competences of adults.

  • Emphasise the governance, financing and equity aspects of adult learning in the new lifelong learning strategy. The new strategy should focus on three important aspects. First, emphasis should be placed on the governance of adult education, to better foster collaboration between ministries, levels of government (e.g. regions) and stakeholders (see the next section). This could build on the co-ordination mechanisms set in motion by the national co-ordinator for adult learning. Second, financial aspects of adult education should be given high priority by establishing clear mechanisms and incentives to increase participation (see Opportunity 3 for detailed proposals). Finally, the strategy should address the existing inequalities in access to adult education and set up concrete actions to reach marginalised groups and increase training among SMEs and firms facing a higher risk of automation.

  • Explicitly acknowledge in the new lifelong learning strategy that the need for adult learning is greater in certain Slovak regions. Adult education policy should continue to be addressed as a national policy. However, there are significant differences between regions that need to be considered in the new strategy. For example, Slovakia has recently developed implementation plans for the least developed districts in the context of the Act no. 336/2015. These plans provide targeted support to disadvantaged districts and cover a broad range of policies. In line with efforts made in the context of work related to Upskilling Pathways, these plans should also cover adult learning and be aligned with national level policies. Box 4.2 describes a vertical co-ordination mechanism between local areas and regions on education and training services in Finland.

Improving co-ordination across ministries, levels of government and stakeholders

Adult education policy is inherently complex. This complexity is reflected in several dimensions. First, there are a large number of ministries, agencies and bodies involved in the design and implementation of adult education polices (see Table 4.1). Second, adult education targets very diverse groups of adults such as those who are inactive, long-term unemployed, jobseekers, and employees in the public and private sectors. Third, there is a broad range of education providers, including second-chance schools, private providers, NGOs, universities and VET schools. Fourth, adult education has a strong regional and local component, with Slovak regions differing significantly in ways such as economic activity and the educational attainment of the population. Finally, the financing of adult education comes from multiple sources including state budget, employers, individuals or European Social Funds (ESF).

This complexity requires good governance arrangements to ensure that policies are delivered effectively, as is called for under the European Agenda for Adult Learning. Both vertical and horizontal co-ordination have been identified as critical for well-functioning adult learning systems (OECD, 2019[1]; 2019[14]). Similarly, effectively engaging stakeholders in the policy cycle can bring multiple benefits, including more legitimacy and a better alignment of adult education with labour market needs.

Horizontal – inter-ministerial – co-ordination is key for ensuring that policies designed by different ministries have minimal overlap, address gaps in adult learning provision and are mutually reinforcing (OECD, 2019[14]). Overall, the MŠVVŠ assumes a key role in policy design and in the monitoring of policies in the area of adult education. The implementation of programmes and activities has been carried out directly by the MŠVVŠ, the State Institute of Vocational Education (ŠIOV) and, for number of years until recently, the National Institute of Lifelong Learning. Since 2018, ŠIOV has assumed a key co-ordination role for the lifelong learning agenda.

Slovakia has a mix of institutionalised and informal mechanisms for inter-ministerial co-ordination. The most standard co-ordination process is in the form of cross-sectoral consultations on strategic documents across different ministries that take place before a strategic document is presented for policy approval. For example, the development of a new national or sectoral strategy, or the implementation of a complex project, is typically preceded by a cross-ministerial consultation. Each ministry or relevant agency designates a representative to participate in a pre-assessment process. These processes typically produce outputs such as policy recommendations, budgets and action plans. This co-ordination mechanism allows every relevant actor to contribute to the policy design process. A good example of how this co-ordination works in practice is the advisory group established in the context of the Upskilling Pathways initiative, which also builds on the arrangements set in motion by the national co-ordinator for adult learning. Successful international examples of horizontal and vertical (across different levels of government) co-ordination can be observed, for instance, in Norway and Ireland (Box 4.3).

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Box 4.3. Relevant international example: Horizontal co-ordination in Norway and Ireland

Norway is generally regarded as one of the leading countries in terms of developing and using the skills of its people. In order to respond effectively to its challenges and improve governance arrangements, the Norwegian government, represented by several ministries, together with social partners, the voluntary sector and adult learning associations, as well as representatives of the Sami ethnic minority, committed to implementing the Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy 2017-2021 (Nasjonal Kompetansepolitisk Strategi), which included implementation of the Skills Policy Council. According to its mandate, the council’s purpose is to follow up on the strategy and to continue to promote co-operation between the involved stakeholders. This includes regular discussions and advice on current skill policy issues, regular reports on the strategy partners’ own policy measures to implement the strategy, as well as potential revision of the strategy if needed.

In practice, the council acts as an advisory body to all involved stakeholders, with the goal of co-ordinating and improving existing and new policy measures in the field of (public as well as non-public/social-partner provided) skills policy. The minister of education chairs the council, thereby providing the opportunity for all stakeholders to influence policy making at a very high level. Most importantly, and in contrast to other tripartite councils in Norway, it does not have a decision- or policy-making function, and only gives non-binding advice. The council meets three to four times a year in sessions that last around two hours.

One main benefit of the Skills Policy Council is that it oversees and applies a holistic approach to a previously very fragmented policy area. It can therefore identify overarching challenges and help to develop more comprehensive policy solutions, instead of addressing just specific parts of the system. In addition, it has strengthened co-ordination and co-operation and acts as a forum for diffusing expertise within the area of skills policy. Even though there had been co-operation with social partners before the establishment of the Skills Policy Council, it was more infrequent and ad hoc on specific issues, rather than systemic and on overarching issues.

Ireland established its National Skills Council (NSC) and nine regional fora in April 2017, in follow up to the National Skills Strategy to 2025. This infrastructure and regional co-ordination mechanism addresses both horizontal and vertical governance mechanisms, as well as stakeholder engagement.

The NSC is chaired by the minister for education and skills and is made up of officials and private sector organisations, firms and agencies. The mandate is to oversee research and to advise on the prioritisation of identified skills needs and how to deliver on these needs. It also promotes and reports on how education and training providers respond to these needs.

The regional fora are nine regional managers who are single points of contact for employers in the region and in charge of promoting regular collaboration between employers and the education and training system at the regional level. These managers provide a cohesive structure for collaboration between employers and training providers, as well as support for employers in understanding and accessing training and higher education opportunities. They also strengthen the links between education and training providers by planning and delivering programmes within their respective regions.

Source: OECD (2018[16]), Skills Strategy Implementation Guidance for Portugal: Strengthening the Adult-Learning System, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264298705-en; OECD. (forthcoming[17]), Strengthening the Governance of Skills Systems.

Although adult education falls primarily under the competence of MŠVVŠ in Slovakia, there are areas in which co-ordination with other ministries, most notably the MPSVR, is crucial. For example, the MŠVVŠ is responsible for co-ordinating and drafting the different strategies of lifelong learning, and takes the lead on co-ordinating and implementing important policies (e.g. the National Qualifications System, the quality assurance process, the system for the validation of skills). However, the effectiveness of such policies heavily depends on the degree of co-ordination with the MPSVR, which is in direct contact – through labour offices – with most potential beneficiaries, such as jobseekers or those who are unemployed. However, workshop participants and stakeholders noted that co-ordination between the MPSVR and other ministries, especially the MŠVVŠ, is far from optimal. According to participants, the interactions between the two ministries do not occur with necessary frequency, and establishing stable working relationships is difficult.

Stakeholders involved in adult learning, such as training providers, civil society or NGOs, are well placed to understand the skills and training needs of adults because of their proximity to learners. Developing mechanisms for co-operation between these stakeholders and the government can help align adult learning programmes to local needs, facilitate the sharing and replication of good practices, and improve the quality of training (OECD, 2019[14]).

Slovakia performs relatively well in terms of engaging stakeholders, who are generally invited to participate in national consultation processes. Given that many procedures for public consultations are in place from a formal point of view, Slovakia ranks highly on the OECD Regulatory Indicators Survey that measures stakeholder engagement in developing primary laws in the executive government (OECD, 2018[18]). Taking into account the methodology, transparency, systematic adoption, and oversight and quality control of stakeholder engagement, Slovakia scores the second highest among all OECD countries. For every legislative and non-legislative proposal submitted to the government, including legislative intents, public consultations are required. All drafts submitted to the government are automatically published on the government consultation portal at the same time as being submitted for inter-ministerial comment. Fifteen working days are usually allowed for comments from the date of publication on the portal. Should 500 or more individuals or organisations support a particular comment, ministries must respond by providing written feedback, which becomes part of a file submitted to the government for discussion (OECD, 2015[19]). For example, a broad range of stakeholders were actively engaged and represented in the ESF-funded project for the creation of the National Qualifications System (NSK) (Vantuch, 2016[20]). The NSK benefitted from input from 24 sectoral councils representing employers from different regions and economic sectors, as well as members of the academic and educational community, among others.

There is a government council for NGOs, which is chaired by the Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Government for the Development of Civil Society. However, in practice it is more geared towards discussing general policies or strategies on co-operation with NGOs, rather than towards finding out the views of NGOs on specific policies or regulations (OECD, 2015[19]).

Despite the high degree of inter-ministerial consultation and meaningful stakeholder engagement throughout the policy design process, co-ordination during the later stages of the policy cycle seems to be absent in adult education policy. Specifically, there seems to be limited inter-ministerial co-ordination and stakeholder engagement in the implementation and monitoring phases. Workshop participants and stakeholders who participated in focus groups indicated that once a strategy is published or an agreement is reached, implementation is carried out almost in isolation only by the responsible body.

Recommendations for improving co-ordination across ministries, levels of government and stakeholders

  • Introduce cross-sectoral co-ordination during the implementation and monitoring stages of policy/programme cycles. Cross-sectoral, and specifically inter-ministerial, co-ordination would be more effective if it covered all stages of strategy/programme cycles. Slovakia should expand the co-ordination initiatives that take place at the end of the policy cycle by building on the earlier stages of consultations. Co-operation and co-ordination in later stages would not only lead to better results, but are important learning mechanisms to improve the delivery capacity of the public administration. While there is no universal, clear format for how cross-sectoral, inter-ministerial co-ordination is best organised to function adequately in all contexts, international examples can provide guidance. Box 4.3 illustrates mechanisms used effectively in Norway and Ireland.

  • Reinforce co-ordination with regions and districts. Cross-sectoral co-ordination can be extremely effective when combined with vertical co-operation across different levels of governments. Bottom-up initiatives that respond to region-specific problems should be accommodated and fostered through cross-sectoral efforts in order to support locally driven adult education opportunities. For instance, nine regional fora were established by the Irish government in the follow-up to Ireland's National Skills Strategy to 2025, which fostered vertical and horizontal co-ordination as well as stakeholder engagement (Box 4.3)

Opportunity 2: Increasing the participation among adults out of work

As highlighted in the performance section, low participation rates in adult learning among unemployed adults, and even more so among those who are long-term unemployed, can be observed in Slovakia and across the OECD. Slovakia has the smallest share of unemployed adults participating in formal and non-formal job-related learning among all OECD countries (OECD, 2019[14]). Similarly, Cedefop (2016[21]) notes that Slovakia has the smallest share of unemployed adults in adult learning (1.6%) among all EU countries, which is significantly below the EU28 average of 9.6%. In addition, the gap between the participation of unemployed and employed Slovaks in adult learning is one of the largest in the OECD. The participation of Slovaks out of work in adult learning is thus integral for increasing overall participation levels in Slovakia. Continued education and training as a way of re/upskilling presents important gains at an individual level through increased employment prospects and the related economic and mental well-being; however, the government also reaps important benefits in the form of a better qualified workforce, a lower unemployment rate, a stronger and more resilient economy, and reduced pressure on the welfare state.

As a result, Slovakia should concentrate its efforts on increasing participation in adult learning among adults out of work by:

  • Providing high-quality and accessible training.

  • Strengthening the outreach of labour offices.

Providing high-quality and accessible training

Slovakia has set ambitious employment targets for 2020 to decrease the long-term unemployment rate to below 3% (6.7% in 2018) and raise the employment rate to 72% (68.6% in the first quarter of 2019, according to OECD data). With the current historically low unemployment rate, and with the labour market tightening, one of the main challenges will be decreasing the long-term unemployment rate –especially among the Roma population. 6 out of 10 unemployed adults have been unemployed for 12 months or more, while the average unemployment duration in Slovakia is more than 30 months, the highest across all OECD countries (Kahanec and Sedlakova, 2016[22]; OECD, 2019[23]). Slovakia also aims to lower the unemployment rate among those who are low skilled and increase the labour force participation of women aged between 25 and 35 who have children. To achieve this goal, Slovakia is heavily relying on ALMP.

However, ALMP spending is among the lowest across OECD countries (OECD, 2019[24]), accounting for 0.16% of GDP in 2016, which is significantly lower than the OECD average of 0.36% (Figure 4.6). In addition, ALMP spending is dominated by demand-side programmes; for example, roughly 75% of ALMP spending is on employment incentives, which is almost three time as large as the OECD average (27.7%). As highlighted in the European Commission report, Taking Stock of Implementation of Upskilling Pathways (European Commission, 2019[25]), one of the most problematic aspects of ALMP spending in Slovakia is that most funding comes from the ESF, which may not be a stable source in the long term. Workshop and focus group participants noted that the strong reliance on ESF prevents Slovakia from properly designing a long-term strategy to tackle employment-related issues through ALMP.

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Figure 4.6. Expenditure on ALMP is low in Slovakia, and investment in training is limited
As a percentage of GDP
Figure 4.6. Expenditure on ALMP is low in Slovakia, and investment in training is limited

Note: For Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, data refer to 2015. OECD data on public expenditure on labour markets are based mainly on information about individual labour market programmes appearing in state budgets, and the accounts and annual reports of bodies implementing the programmes.

Source: OECD (2019[24])Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Futurehttps://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264311992-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934075431

ALMP spending on education and training is one of the most effective solutions to tackle unemployment in the long term; however, in Slovakia only 6.3% of total ALMP funding was spent on education and training and programmes in 2016. This share lags significantly behind that of OECD countries (35%), some of which, such as Denmark, put significant emphasis on education and training related ALMP (Box 4.4).

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Box 4.4. Relevant international example: Education and training focused ALMP in Denmark

As part of the vocational training and education initiatives in the 2014 Employment Reform, Denmark decided to re-emphasise the focus on education and training within the context of ALMP. The goal was to boost the educational level of those unemployed with the lowest and fewest skills, while focusing on the provision of education and training that reflects labour market needs.

The right to six weeks of vocational training from the first day of unemployment was introduced for low-skilled and skilled unemployed adults, provided that they are members of an unemployment insurance fund. The training is mainly offered through government administered adult vocational training programmes (AMU) targeting low-skilled and skilled workers. These programmes are designed to reflect labour market needs, and are primarily focused on specific sectors and job functions.

Social partners (through 11 continuing training and education committees, each responsible for a different labour market sector) play an important role in designing the specific programme offer.

DKK 100 million (Danish kroner) has been allocated to public employment services (PES)/jobcentres to facilitate purchasing short vocational training programmes for all unemployed adults. To ensure that these programmes can answer labour market demands, social partners within the eight regional labour market councils decide what kind of short vocational training programmes the PES/jobcentres are allowed to finance with the help of the additional resources.

Unskilled unemployed adults over the age of 30 who receive unemployment benefits will be given the chance to apply for and complete one of 107 vocational training programmes. These programmes must be made available to those unemployed within the benefit period of two years, and a specific agreement between the unemployed person and the PES/jobcentre must also be in place. Unemployed adults will have to “pay” for these vocational programmes through a reduction of their unemployment benefit. However, they are also offered a loan that allows them to draw the full unemployment benefit rate while the education lasts, but which is to be repaid upon the completion of their course.

Those unemployed over the age of 30 will be eligible to have their non-formal and informal competences assessed to give credit for acquired competences. Recognition of prior learning by competence assessment programmes (RKV) will also support the composition of the participant’s individual training plan, including one or several adult vocational training programmes.

Source: Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (2018[26]), Vocational training and education initiatives in the Employment Reform (2014), https://star.dk/en/active-labour-market-policy-measures/vocational-training-and-education-initiatives-in-the-employment-reform-2014/.

Kahanec and Sedlakova (2016[22]) highlight that Slovakia has been persistently spending one of the smallest amounts of GDP on education and training related ALMP among EU member states: only 6.3% of all Slovak jobseekers were supported through training and education programmes, or 12.4% if pilot REPAS programmes are taken into account (Hidas, Vaľková and Harvan, 2016[27]). As discussed, REPAS and KOMPAS are the two main programmes of the MPSVR to facilitate the transition of jobseekers to the labour market. Both are co-funded by the European Social Fund under the Operational Programme Human Resources (2014-2020). The average co-financing rate of the programme’s relevant priority axis is almost 84% in Slovakia (Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, 2014[28]). REPAS and KOMPAS provide funding for jobseekers to participate in training provided by external providers. The introduction of REPAS in 2014 boosted participation in training activities among jobseekers, with recent evaluations showing a positive effect on participants’ employment (Štefánik, 2018[6]; Petráš, 2018[29]) and indicating that the probability of finding a job after the training is between 3 to 4 percentage points higher than if participants had not enrolled in the training. The results show, however, substantial heterogeneity: the programme’s effects appear strong in occupations such as private security services or forklift operation, and non-existent in others, such as welding or beauty services. Nevertheless, the overall cost-benefit ratio of the programme is positive.

Despite these successes, education and training opportunities for jobseekers face several challenges. First, and despite the proven impact on trainee outcomes, the quality of training can be further improved. Since 2010, training delivered in the context of ALMP is regularly procured. Some studies show, however, that the introduction of a procurement process coincided with a decline in the quality of training, as measured by the effect on probability of finding employment after having received training (Bondonio and Nemec, 2015[30]). This view is shared by ÚPSVR officers interviewed as a part of the study by Bondonio and Nemec (2015[30]) Workshop and focus group participants also noted that in public procurement processes, the training provider offering the lowest per-trainee price tends to have a high chance of winning the call for tender, while quality factors are not sufficiently weighted.

Second, there are challenges in terms of the relevance of the training provided. When jobseekers register with ÚPSVR they may request to participate in training by completing a “re-qualification request”. In this request participants are free to choose the type and area of training programme. Sometimes the choice can be suggested by a career counsellor, although counselling services available at ÚPSVR are limited (Ministry of Finance, 2017[31]). After an initial assessment, participants may be allowed to undertake the requested training. Therefore, the nature and relevance of the training largely depends on the quality of information that the jobseeker possesses, which in many cases can be limited. As agreed by counsellors in labour offices, low-skilled adults have difficulties in identifying viable and relevant training paths.

Third, training is not easily accessible for those who need it the most – the low skilled. For example, the number of participants in adult education provided by ÚPSVR is the lowest in regions with the highest numbers of low-qualified jobseekers. The financial resources of ALMP are not directed towards the “hardest employable” groups: for every euro directed at long-term unemployed adults, Slovakia directs 50% more to those who are short-term unemployed (Hidas, Vaľková and Harvan, 2016[27]). Moreover, the dominant ALMP measure targeting those who are long-term unemployed is the programme “Activation Works”, which aims to promote and maintain the working habits of the long-term unemployed by placing jobseekers in jobs for 10-20 hours a week. However, this programme has been associated with a significant stigmatising effect, resulting in negative employment effects after participation. Finally, jobseekers in remote areas do not have easy access to transport to participate in training activities or to a computer to search for information.

Recommendations for providing high-quality and accessible training

  • Direct a greater share of ALMP spending to labour market relevant training and education. Slovakia should gradually decrease the share of expenditure on income maintenance and employment incentives for those unemployed, and reallocate these resources to training related activities. This measure, which does not require an increase in total expenditure, would increase accessibility to adult education among those who need it the most, fostering in turn their participation (Štefánik, 2018[6]). These measures should also address basic skills gaps in the adult population. Considerable efforts to reorient ALMP towards education and training have been undertaken in many countries, for instance Denmark (Box 4.4).

  • Increase resources for ÚPSVR counselling services to expand access to training for unemployed adults, especially those long-term unemployed and with low skills. Enhancing the capacity of ÚPSVR to provide customised counselling services is crucial for ensuring that jobseekers undertake relevant training. More resources should be paired with improving information collection about jobseekers at the moment of registration (Ministry of Finance, 2017[31]). It is important that counsellors have access to past unemployment records and employment history, which would allow a more rigorous profiling and segmentation of jobseekers while offering them more meaningful training opportunities, such as in Australia (Box 4.5).

Strengthening the outreach of labour offices

There are two main challenges to better connecting Slovak labour offices with all adults in Slovakia: first, the offices have insufficient coverage and capacity; and second, there are institutional constraints related to their mandate. Despite the introduction of REPAS in 2014, the coverage of training is still limited. With REPAS the number of jobseekers participating in ALMP-financed training increased almost tenfold, from 1 629 participants in 2013 to 15 306 participants in 2016 (Štefánik, 2018[6]). However, still only 9% of all Slovak jobseekers participate in training (an increase from 1% in 2011). At the same time, the legal mandate of labour offices limits their scope of work and service provision to those registered as jobseekers.

Despite recent efforts to improve the resourcing of ÚPSVR, its capacity still needs to be enhanced (OECD, 2019[2]). Several studies have highlighted the insufficient capacity of ÚPSVR to effectively provide the services required by jobseekers. The current network of 46 regional ÚPSVR offices is not enough to cover all relevant areas of the country. Many unemployed adults, especially those living in remote or rural areas, still face significant transport barriers to access regional offices and to regularly attend training or counselling services. The success rate of the ÚPSVR (measured as the percentage of jobseekers removed from their system and thus placed in the labour market) is 24% on average, although significant regional differences remain. ÚPSVR effectiveness is negatively affected in disadvantaged areas with high levels of unemployment, where there is more administrative workload per counsellor (Hidas, Vaľková and Harvan, 2016[27]).

This limited geographical coverage of ÚPSVR may prevent unemployed adults, especially those in isolated regions, from registering as jobseekers in the first place. At the same time, although part of the burden of the insufficient number of labour offices could in theory be shared by municipalities and regional governance offices, their own capacities, lack of knowledge, awareness and non-existent tradition of providing services (and especially training) to jobseekers, act as obstacles. These barriers often discourage municipal actors from applying for EU funds to support and potentially develop their activities in this field, and are exacerbated by the perceived complexity associated with applying for and handling funds provided by the EU.

The Slovak government has taken concrete steps to improve the capacity of ÚPSVR. For example, the 2013 administrative reform, Effective, Reliable and Open public Administration (ESO), allowed ÚPSVR and its regional branches to make significant management improvements, such as integrating the ÚPSVR Directorate-General and labour office branches. This allowed for more effective administration of labour market policies, more efficient staff allocation across and within labour offices, as well as the establishment and reinforcement of labour offices as points of first contact. In the context of the implementation of the 2014 Act on Assistance in Material Need, ÚPSVR received EUR 9 million and expanded its network considerably. It hired 840 workers to increase its capacity to connect with the programme’s recipients (Kahanec and Sedlakova, 2016[22]). In addition, and within the context of improving the system of public employment services, reducing the number of clients per counsellor by further increasing the numbers of personnel acting as points of first contact is planned. The introduction of performance related competitive wages for counsellors, and stronger analytical and prognostic capacity accompanied by a monitoring and evaluation framework, is also foreseen (Kahanec and Sedlakova, 2016[22]). This will be of particular importance, especially as ÚPSVR is reported to have limited analytical capacity (Kahanec and Sedlakova, 2016[22]).

Overall, these reforms recognise and try to address the fact that human resources within labour offices in Slovakia pose a challenge, which is exacerbated by the fact that the type of services needed by low-skilled unemployed adults are complex and labour intensive. For example, providing guidance and counselling services requires specialised knowledge and expertise, and following jobseekers from the moment of registration until they find a job typically involves significant face-to-face interactions and personalised services, which current ÚPSVR officers are not always capable of delivering. According to the latest data, the number of registered jobseekers per counsellor is 2 280, taking into account the aforementioned reform efforts (Kahanec and Sedlakova, 2016[22]), which is too high to provide high-quality and meaningful counselling services. Thus, improving the capacity and efficiency of ÚPSVR officers, together with broadening the geographical coverage and outreach of ÚPSVR offices, will be crucial, especially with respect to providing support and personalised services to long-term unemployed adults, low-skilled workers or those living in geographically isolated areas. To achieve this goal, some countries, such as Australia, rely on automatized quantitative tools. The Australian Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI), described in Box 4.5, uses a combination of administrative data, questionnaires and a statistical model to predict the likelihood of remaining unemployed for another year after registering as a jobseeker.

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Box 4.5. Relevant international example: The Job Seeker Classification Instrument in Australia

Australia implemented its Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI) in 1998 to target efforts at those who need the most support. It was one of the first countries to develop such a quantitative tool.

The JSCI is based on a model that predicts a jobseeker’s likelihood to remain unemployed for another year after commencing in employment services. The information for relevant factors is collected through a combination of administrative data (from the income support application) and a questionnaire completed by the jobseeker. The JSCI calculates a score for each jobseeker that helps allocate them to different service streams that will provide the level of support they need to find and keep a job. The JSCI also includes “triggers” that indicate a need for an additional assessment (the employment services assessment) to identify if the jobseeker has complex or multiple barriers to employment. These triggers, such as medical barriers or alcohol abuse, may result in a specialist more closely reviewing the jobseeker’s circumstances and work capacity to determine if they are better suited to one of the main service streams (for the most complex) or to an additional service stream dedicated to jobseekers with disabilities.

The JSCI questionnaire includes 18 to 49 questions. Generally, a jobseeker with a higher level of disadvantage will have to answer more questions. The main 18 factors involve age and gender, work experience (e.g. paid seasonal or irregular work), jobseeker history (e.g. duration of income support), educational attainment, vocational qualifications (e.g. not useful vocational qualifications), English proficiency, country of birth, Indigenous status, Indigenous location, geographic location (e.g. extreme disadvantaged employment region), proximity to a labour market (e.g. remote area), access to transport, possibility to contact them by phone, disability/medical conditions, stability of residence, living circumstances (e.g. lone parent with young child), ex-offender status, and personal factors (anger issues, caring responsibilities, domestic violence, drug treatment programme). The JSCI relies on the self-disclosure of jobseekers in answering the questions, which means that the quality of the data is largely dependent on their honesty and objectivity. Some more sensitive questions are voluntary and the jobseeker can decline to answer them (Indigenous status, refugee status, disability and medical conditions, criminal convictions and personal factors). Nevertheless, the government invests a lot of time and effort to ensure fulsome disclosure by using behavioural economics techniques, guidance for interviewers and user-centred design of the questions. Jobseekers are encouraged to fully disclose their circumstances to ensure that they receive the most appropriate employment services and support.

Source: OECD (2019[32]), Strengthening Active Labour Market Policies in Italy, Connecting People with Jobs, https://doi.org/10.1787/160a3c28-en.

The legally defined mandate of the ÚPSVR in Slovakia limits the scope of their work to only target those unemployed and registered as jobseekers. Services provided include informational, guidance and expert advice related to occupational choices, qualifications required for relevant jobs, adaptation to a new work environment, accessing unemployment benefits or participation in different ALMP programmes. Registering at a local labour office in the place of permanent residence is not an obligation for each Slovak citizen after the termination of an employment relation, which means that unregistered unemployed or inactive groups are not targeted by the ÚPSVR and cannot benefit from any services that they provide.

Recommendations for strengthening the outreach of labour offices

  • Integrate municipalities into the employment registration process to expand access to training opportunities for hard-to-reach groups of unemployed adults. Given the insufficient coverage and capacities of labour offices in Slovakia, municipalities, with adequate support, could temporarily take responsibility for jobseeker registration, which is currently assumed solely by local labour offices. With the roles split in this way, the public employment service would have more potential overall to reach more unemployed adults, especially those living in hard-to-access areas and prevented from registering by considerable transfer costs or family responsibilities. For example, greater responsibility was given to municipalities in support of jobseekers in Japan, where legislation in 2000 allowed local governments to implement other employment measures and provide regular job-matching services. Since then, municipalities and prefectures have become key players, managing Job Cafés (small-scale employment service offices for young jobseekers), employment and work preparation centres for single mothers, as well as job-creation projects (OECD, 2013[33]).

  • Consider the use of data driven processes and tools to increase the capacity and efficiency of labour offices. The work of ÚPSVR officers could be complemented by the use of quantitative tools to support internal processes. For example, quantitative tools using jobseekers’ background information and work history could be used to predict outcomes, such as the risk of falling into long-term unemployment. These tools, in combination with officers’ judgment and expertise, could improve the screening of jobseekers and be used to offer personalised services that are better adapted to jobseekers’ needs. For example, Slovakia can look at the Australian Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI), which is described more extensively in Box 4.5.

Opportunity 3: Supporting the capacity employees and firms to engage in adult learning

Although the participation of employed adults in adult learning is higher than among those unemployed in Slovakia, it is also unequal, with workers most in need of continuous education and training participating considerably less. For instance, while Slovak adults working in SMEs participate less in adult learning than employees of large firms, the participation of Slovak SME workers is also low by international comparison. Only five other OECD countries report having lower participation of SME employees in adult learning. However, interviews with workshop and focus group participants revealed that even the training provided to adults in large companies tends to be firm specific, and fails to develop the general human capital and basic, transferable skills of Slovak workers.

Various barriers to the inclusive participation of workers in adult learning in Slovakia have been identified through desk research and stakeholder surveys. According to these insights, an important step forward will be to remove the financial barriers that individuals and firms face through the provision of financial incentives. However, financial support provided by the state in this area is almost non-existent, with most current financial schemes targeting those (registered) unemployed, as highlighted in the previous opportunity.

To address this gap, the MŠVVŠ is currently analysing the introduction of individual learning accounts and a tax allowance for companies that invest in training their employees in support of continuing education. These are identified as Measure 106 within the Implementation Plan of the National Programme for the Development of Education (“Learning Slovakia”) (Ministry of Education, 2019[34]). If well designed and implemented, such a financing mechanism could increase the participation of workers in adult learning and boost the supply of relevant skills in general, as well as contribute to increasing the inclusiveness of participation. The main trade-off in the design of such a subsidy scheme is the simplicity of a universal approach (with lower administration costs, but possibly higher deadweight loss) vs. greater targeting (with increased administration costs and possibly reduced take-up, but also reduced deadweight loss).

In the context of ongoing analysis of the new financial instruments, Slovakia should seek to maximise its potential to increase inclusive participation in adult learning by:

  • Designing targeted incentives that reflect labour market needs.

  • Targeting tax exemptions at SMEs.

Designing targeted incentives that reflect labour market needs

Measure 106 of “Learning Slovakia” considers introducing an individual learning account (ILA) scheme to foster participation in adult learning. ILAs are one type of asset building mechanism – similar to a bank account – to finance learning activities. The first ILA scheme emerged in the late 1990s as an alternative to traditional subsidies. They are designed to finance future learning activities. The government, employers and individuals can contribute to the account, the funds of which can be used at any time by the beneficiary. The MŠVVŠ will run a pilot programme from 2020 to 2027, with a total public investment of over EUR 15 million. In the pilot programme, EUR 200 will be allocated in each account for individuals to use to finance further education (Ministry of Education, 2019[34]). The introduction of Slovakia’s ILA pilot programme signals a step in the right direction towards better incentivising adults to participate in training. Should evaluation be encouraging, Slovakia will expand and adopt the scheme permanently after 2027. However, details of the programme have not yet been made public. Workshop and focus group participants also noted that the project is still in its design phase, and that there is neither a concrete implementation plan nor additional details about how it will work in practice. For example, it is not clear who and what training will be eligible and how the effectiveness of the programme will be evaluated. Despite the lack of details about the concrete plan for an ILA in Slovakia, it is important to consider the pros and cons of this scheme in order to take concrete actions to maximise its effectiveness (see recommendations section).

The main advantage of ILAs is that they allow employee entitlement to training to be decoupled from the employer. By owning the ILA, the entitlement to training can be transferred from one job to another. It empowers employees by giving them the freedom to choose the type and timing of training, the training provider, as well as the amount invested (OECD, 2017[35]). This has the potential to improve the alignment of training with labour market needs, provided that individuals have access to sufficient information, advice and guidance. Moreover, subsidies targeting individuals, as opposed to employers (such a tax deduction), tend to be more effective in targeting vulnerable groups. Various international examples of countries that direct incentives at vulnerable groups, such as Finland, Belgium, or Latvia, are described in Box 4.6.

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Box 4.6. Relevant international example: Targeting incentives at vulnerable groups

Certain groups face more barriers than others in terms of skills investments. These groups also tend to be those most affected by changing skills demands. Such groups include low-skilled and low-wage workers, migrants, minorities, people with disabilities, young and older workers, the long-term unemployed, and some parents. Given that many advantaged groups are likely to invest in their own skills without the help of public subsidies, governments can reduce deadweight losses of incentive programmes by targeting schemes at those who need them most.

The vast majority of incentive programmes for vulnerable workers focus on the individual as the main beneficiary (rather than the employer). Access to programmes is frequently restricted based on a number of characteristics such as age (e.g. 45-64 in case of the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers in Canada); income and wealth (e.g. the extensive means test of the Kyushoku-sya Shien Seido programme in Japan); skill (e.g. maximum upper secondary education for Alternate Training in Wallonia, Belgium); the presence of children (e.g. the Transitional Benefits for single parents in Norway); and disability (e.g. the Australian Mobility Allowance). In Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander), Canada (Aboriginal) and Israel (Arab and ultra-Orthodox men and women), a large number of subsidies are available for individuals from minority backgrounds. Some programmes are open to a wide number of vulnerable groups simultaneously (e.g. the Allowance for Course and Course-related Costs in Austria), while others target individuals with multiple barriers (e.g. the Nodarbin to personu profesion l s kompetences pilnveide, SAM 8.4.1) programme in Latvia, which prioritises employed persons aged 45+ in low-wage occupations). Some programmes, while open to everyone, provide greater support to vulnerable groups. For example, in Finland, the Ammattitutkintostipendi scholarship for qualified employees is 15% higher for individuals with no qualifications.

Source: OECD (2017[35]), Financial Incentives for Steering Education and Training, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264272415-en/.

If ILAs are not well designed they can give rise to a number of disadvantages. First, their implementation may imply significant administrative costs. For example, the Slovak government plans to invest more than EUR 15 million in ILAs, which would benefit a maximum of 78 200 individuals. However, it would need to plan from the outset the managing costs of the ILA. Second, in order to steer choices towards labour market relevant training, it is important that ILAs are accompanied by strong guidance provision, as highlighted in Opportunity 2. For example, in England, 85% of workers did not receive any information or guidance to assist them with their choice of learning, and 73% had not considered more than one provider before starting their course (OECD, 2017[35]). In the Netherlands a similar scheme named “Levensloopregeling” was used disproportionately less by those who needed it the most (Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, 2011[36]). For this reason, it is crucial that an ILA is paired with a strong information system that provides support and guidance to employees. Third, international experience shows that ILAs are more likely to be used by high- than low-skilled workers, if not accompanied by extra incentives targeting the latter category. Finally, the 2001 scheme in England, for which no quality assurance arrangements were put in place, was discontinued because of reports of providers manipulating the scheme to pocket the subsidy without any real course content (BMBF and OECD, 2005[37]). Therefore, it is vital that robust quality assurance that certifies the providers is in place. The Slovak Accreditation Committee for Further Education would be the natural candidate to take on this role in the context of ILAs.

It is worth noting that there seems to be a renewed interest in ILA type schemes, even in countries that have abandoned previous similar schemes (e.g. the Netherlands is reviving this instrument after a wide public consultation).

Recommendations for designing targeted incentives that reflect labour market needs

  • When piloting an ILA scheme, consider the different enabling conditions that are prerequisites for successful implementation. The scheme should be accompanied by strong guidance and quality assurance systems. Special attention should also be given to vulnerable groups (see examples of how different groups can be targeted in Box 4.6). Evaluation measures should be put in place that allow for regularly reviewing the extent to which the scheme fulfils its intended policy objectives.

  • Training subsidies should be spent on approved training courses only. A multi-stakeholder and inter-ministerial committee should define and approve the list of eligible training courses from which beneficiaries could choose. The selection of training courses should be aligned with labour market needs (see Chapter 3 on skills assessment and anticipation exercises) and pass strict quality control (ex ante accreditation matched with ex post quality control). Training qualifications should be linked to the Slovak Qualifications Framework (SKKR), and participants should receive formal recognition of the skills acquired.

Targeting tax exemptions at SMEs

Slovakia’s National Programme for the Development of Education (“Learning Slovakia”) also considers introducing a tax allowance for companies that invest in training their employees (Measure 106). Slovakia would allow companies to deduct 25% of the cost of training from their taxable base. Therefore, for every EUR 100 invested in training, the taxable income of companies would be reduced by EUR 25. At the current Slovak company tax rate of 21%, this incentive would reduce companies’ tax payments by EUR 5.25 (21% of EUR 25). This tax allowance would be introduced and piloted along with the aforementioned ILA (see previous section).

Tax allowances targeting companies can be effective mechanisms to boost participation in adult learning among employees. Many employers do not invest in training for their employees (especially those low skilled) due to lack of resources, and this constraint is usually higher among SMEs. Employers may also not want to invest in training and the development of employees’ general skills because of the risk of poaching, as they would lose their investment if workers leave for another company after undergoing training.

A tax incentive as proposed in Slovakia can alleviate these problems. Targeting employers –rather than workers as in an ILA scheme– might be more effective, as they may have better knowledge about the skills that workers need, meaning that the selected training may be well aligned with labour market needs. With enough flexibility regarding choice, training may contribute towards filling relevant skills gaps at the sectoral or local level. The implementation cost of a tax exemption would be low as it would build on the existing tax system.

Potential problems that Slovakia could face when introducing the tax exemption include the risk that companies will use it to finance training that they would have financed even in the absence of the tax benefit. In this case, the exemption may create large deadweight losses, which have been well documented in the literature (Oosterbeek, 2013[38]). This is the reason why, for example, the Netherlands and Canada are replacing tax incentives for education and training with direct subsidies (OECD, 2017[35]). As noted by several workshop and focus group participants, a significant share of training investment is directed at courses on safety regulations compliance, or on courses that develop specific skills to manipulate equipment. In this context, significant deadweight losses will arise if the tax exemption is predominantly used to finance this type of training activity as it would have been funded anyway. Therefore, the tax deduction should apply to approved training courses only. For instance, within the context of the individual learning voucher scheme in place in Upper Austria, the government mandates using the vouchers only for training provided by an organisation with a quality seal (Box 4.7).

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Box 4.7. Relevant international example: The quality seal for individual learning vouchers in Upper Austria

The Government of Upper Austria supports the participation of employees in adult learning courses by means of an individual learning voucher, the Bildungskonto. While these vouchers are open to employees in general, they are targeted primarily at low-skilled and low-educated adults. Since the government wants to ensure that the vouchers are spent on education and training of appropriate quality, it introduced a requirement for the vouchers to be used only for training provided by organisations with a quality seal.

The process of awarding quality seals (Qualitätssiegel) was introduced in the 1990s as an initiative of the Adult Education Forum, an umbrella organisation of all non-profit providers operating in the region. The forum developed a catalogue of criteria related to the nature of training, the qualifications of management and instructors, the curriculum, physical facilities, and feedback from students. Based on these criteria, certified auditors examine different aspects of an organisation seeking a quality seal. All original 15 members of the Adult Education Forum have passed these audits, as have 260 affiliated regional and local institutions. Since the pass rate has been almost 100%, the quality seal operates less by denying seals of approval than by providing criteria that organisations should meet. Since 2000, profit-oriented private adult education institutions that are not members of the Adult Education Forum can also take these audits and earn the quality seal, as 75 non-member institutions in Upper Austria have done. The criteria for awarding the seal are continuously updated.

Source: OECD (2012[39]), Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264177338-en; OECD (2005[40]), Promoting Adult Learning, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264010932-en.

Survey data show that in Slovakia, as in most countries, large firms invest significantly more in training workers than SMEs (OECD, 2019[14]). Large firms not only face lower financial barriers, but also lower non-financial barriers (e.g. information) than SMEs (see Chapter 5 on the barriers faced by SMEs in the context of the adoption of high- performance workplace practices). For this reason, there is a risk that the tax exemption would favour large rather than small companies. The international experience with tax deductions shows that they are difficult to target and that deadweight losses can be significant. Slovakia should design the system carefully to limit such losses, encourage SMEs to participate more, and promote training for low-skilled adults. Numerous OECD countries already provide incentives targeted at SMEs, as described in detail in Box 4.8.

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Box 4.8. Relevant international example: Approaches to support training in SMEs

Many OECD countries run programmes targeted exclusively at SMEs. Some are designed to help SMEs overcome cost barriers (e.g. Chèque Formation in Wallonia, Belgium; Profi!Lehre and Weiter!Bilden in Austria; and the Consortium for HRD Ability Magnified Program [CHAMP] in Korea), while others specifically seek to help them grow and become more competitive through skills investments (Industry Skills Fund in Australia; KMO Portefeuille in Flanders, Belgium). The Formação-Ação in Portugal focuses on a particular barrier to SME growth – management skills.

Some programmes are open to firms of all sizes, but provide larger subsidies to SMEs. For example, the Crédit-Adaptation in Wallonia (Belgium) offers EUR 6-7 per training hour to large firms, and EUR 9-10 to SMEs. In France, employers with fewer than 250 employees receive an additional EUR 1 000 subsidy if they take on an apprentice. In Finland, the precision training offered as part of the Joint Purchase Training covers 30-50% of the costs, depending on the size of the company. In Japan, several programmes provide greater subsidies to SMEs, including Career Keisei Sokushin Joseikin (which covers half the training costs of SMEs, compared to just a third for large firms); Career-up Josei-kin (which provides larger wage subsidies and higher ceilings on training costs for SMEs); and the Subsidy for Securing and Developing Skilled Construction Workers (which covers 90% of the cost of training for SMEs, compared to 50% for larger firms). In Latvia, training support for enhancing the competitiveness of enterprises covers 80% instead of 60% of the costs of general training, and 45% instead of 35% of the costs of special training when the firm is an SME. In Poland, grants awarded through the National Training Fund cover 100% of the costs of lifelong learning for micro-enterprises, compared to 80% for all other firms.

Another approach is to provide more flexibility and/or simpler procedures for SMEs. For example, in the Canada Job Fund Agreements, employers can apply for up to CAD 10 000 (Canadian dollar) in government contributions toward the direct costs of training, such as tuition and training material; and they are required to contribute, on average, an additional one-third to these training costs. However, small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can benefit from more flexible funding arrangements, such as the possibility to count wages as half of their employer contribution, or can contribute a minimum of 15%.

Source: OECD (2017[35]), Financial Incentives for Steering Education and Training, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264272415-en.

Recommendations for targeting tax exemptions at SMEs

  • Consider differentiated tax exemptions for SMEs. To allow the tax benefit to target those most in need of training, allow SMEs to deduct a greater amount of training costs from their taxable base (as in Malta) or limit the tax benefit only to SMEs. An alternative solution would be to allow a greater deduction if the companies train low-skilled workers; however, this would involve higher administration costs as it would be more complex to verify. Box 4.8 provides examples of financial incentives targeting SMEs.

  • Limit tax deductions to non-wage costs only. If wage costs – salaries paid to workers while they undergo training – can be deducted from the taxable base, firms will have incentives to provide training to their high-skilled employees as their salaries are higher and therefore the tax benefit will be larger. The focus, however, should be on low-educated and low-skilled workers. For example, the Netherlands and Austria have adopted this approach (OECD, 2005[40]).

  • Tax deductions should only apply to approved training courses. Similar to the recommendation related to the ILA scheme (see previous section), Slovakia should create a list of training courses for which the tax deduction would be applicable. This would minimise the risk of firms training workers in non-transferable skills through training mandated by the law (e.g. safety), and maximise the impact and value-added of the training. Austria has already adopted a quality oriented approach to training courses within the context of its individual learning voucher scheme (Box 4.7).

Overview of recommendations

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Opportunity 1: Improving the governance of adult learning

Further improving Slovakia’s long-term adult learning strategy

  • Unify the existing strategies and initiatives into one coherent lifelong learning strategy.

  • Emphasise the governance, financing and equity aspects of adult learning in the new lifelong learning strategy.

  • Explicitly acknowledge in the new lifelong learning strategy that the need for adult learning is greater in certain Slovak regions.

Improving co-ordination across ministries, levels of government and stakeholders

  • Introduce cross-sectoral co-ordination during the implementation and monitoring stages of policy/programme cycles.

  • Reinforce co-ordination with regions and districts.

Opportunity 2: Increasing the participation among adults out of work

Providing high-quality and accessible training

  • Direct a greater share of ALMP spending to labour market relevant training and education.

  • Increase resources for the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ústredie práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny, ÚPSVR) counselling services to expand access to training for unemployed adults, especially those long-term unemployed and with low skills.

Strengthening the outreach of labour offices

  • Integrate municipalities into the employment registration process to expand access to training opportunities for hard-to-reach groups of unemployed adults.

  • Consider the use of data driven processes and tools to increase the capacity and efficiency of labour offices.

Opportunity 3: Supporting the capacity of employees and firms to engage in adult learning

Designing targeted incentives that reflect labour market needs

  • When piloting an ILA scheme, consider the different enabling conditions that are prerequisites for successful implementation

  • Training subsidies should be spent on approved training courses only.

Targeting tax exemptions at SMEs

  • Consider differentiated tax exemptions for SMEs.

  • Limit tax deductions to non-wage costs only.

  • Tax deductions should only apply to approved training courses.

References

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