On April 5 and 6 in Paris, France, WDQC Director Bryan Wilson participated in an “Expert Workshop on Strengthening the Governance of Skills Systems,” held by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). OECD is an international organization consisting of 35-member countries. OECD asked Bryan to speak on “integrated information systems for skills,” and fully supported his participation.
OECD’s mission is, “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” OECD conducts research, develops policy recommendations, and sometimes facilitates agreements between governments. One of OECD’s four areas of focus is skills, ensuring that, “people of all ages can develop the skills to work productively and satisfyingly in the jobs of tomorrow.”
The OECD Center for Skills has worked recently to advance skill strategies in more than ten countries. Through this experience, the Center has learned how nations struggle to develop a systemic approach to skill policies. Four main challenges are: poor coordination among government agencies and levels of government, lack of collaboration with stakeholders, inefficient financing mechanisms, and lack of effective data and information systems. OECD is now proceeding to identify good policy practices to address these four challenges.
The purpose of the Expert Workshop was to provide feedback to OECD regarding their draft document outlining good policy practices in these four “dimensions”. Being aware of WDQC’s work, they invited Bryan to speak as one of two external experts on good practices around workforce data and information systems. In all, the meeting was attended by 10 external experts, 22 OECD staff, and a representative of the European Commission.
Many of the draft document’s points about workforce data and information systems would be familiar to an American audience: the need for accessible data for decision-making, the usefulness of longitudinal information systems, the need for cross-program data and data that crosses levels of government, and information on skill supply and demand. The document suggested that mechanisms to support information systems include: bodies for coordinating workforce information across agencies, results-based management and accountability, and regular evaluations and transparent reporting of results.
In his comments at the Workshop, Bryan appreciated that OECD included integrated workforce data and information systems as one of four “dimensions” to systemic skills policies. He offered some suggestions for additions to the draft document.
Information systems should enable better decision-making among three primary sets of actors: policymakers, institutions or providers, and consumers. As briefly mentioned in the document, to create integrated information systems, governments should establish longitudinal data systems that collect administrative records on program participants, administrative records on employment and earnings, link the records together, and are capable of aggregating information on individuals over time. A robust system must be based on individual unit data.
Governments should establish data tools that take data from longitudinal information systems and present the information in ways that are actionable by policymakers, institutions, and consumers. There should be dashboards designed for policymakers that show the key characteristics (such as costs and participant demographics) and educational and labor market outcomes of programs, using consistent methods and metrics to make the results easier to understand and to facilitate coordination across programs.
There should be transparent reports for consumers that show key characteristics and outcomes of programs of study at local institutions or providers, again, using consistent methods and metrics so that information is comparable, and consumers can make more informed decisions. There should be institutional feedback reports that similarly provide information on characteristics and outcomes of institutions and their programs of study, so that they may make more informed decisions about program improvement. Finally, there should be supply and demand reports that compare the number of newly trained workers per year to the number of job openings per year by field of study and level of education or training.
To implement these things require addressing certain challenges (a somewhat different list than in the draft document):
- Creating administrative record-based information systems that are inclusive of all types of providers of skills training and the different types of credentials they produce, and comprehensive records of employment and earnings;
- The use of consistent metrics, horizontally and vertically across programs;
- Getting policy-makers to use the information to inform their investments in skills training and other decisions; and
- Wide and effective dissemination of consumer information.
As OECD’s project continues, Bryan offered to connect OECD staff to examples of good practices from American states.