Overview of the Estonian approach
Skills anticipation in Estonia has to date been primarily based on the annual employment forecast conducted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (Majandus- ja Kommunikatsiooniministeerum). In recent years, however, Estonia has invested substantially in reforming its skills anticipation process, including the newly launched OSKA system of labour market monitoring and skills forecasting. OSKA, which was launched in 2015, produces data to supplement the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications’ forecasts.
The Ministry’s forecasts are quantitative in nature, relying primarily on data provided by Statistics Estonia (Statistikaamet). The OSKA programme subsequently incorporates further qualitative and quantitative assessments in order to augment these forecasts and produce deeper insights into skills demand, supply and mismatch for the coming five to ten years. In this regard, OSKA is intended to provide a holistic system of skills anticipation, by incorporating both the employment forecast made by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and offering a deeper analysis of individual sectors by utilising expert knowledge drawn from stakeholders and social partners. The OSKA programme is funded in part by a grant from the European Social Fund (ESF) and is implemented by the Ministry of Education and Research (Haridus- ja Teadusministeerium). The Estonian Qualification Authority (Kutsekoda) is responsible for the daily administration of the programme. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Social Affairs (Sotsiaalministeerium) and the Ministry of Finance (Rahandusministeerium) also contribute to the project, along with various representatives of other organisations.
In addition, various other independent bodies, such as trade unions and employers’ confederations, also conduct skills anticipation exercises. These are not carried out on a regular basis and tend to have a narrow focus. Enterprise Estonia (Ettevõtluse Aredamise Sihtasutus), for instance,carried out studies on manufacturing sectors prior to the introduction of OSKA. The foresight activities which were administered by the Estonian Development Fund (Eesti Arengufond) until its dissolution also produced several in-depth studies of specific growth sectors.
The forecasts conducted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications have to date been mainly used to formulate vocational education policies. They have thus served to provide a guide for policymakers in deciding upon the content of education programmes delivered by the state.
With the arrival of OSKA, the overall goals of the skills anticipation activity have been revised. The information provided by the process is now intended not only to advise on educational policy, but also to provide an information base that will be of use for career counselling services and in qualification design. Furthermore, the process also aims to improve the dissemination of results by closely involving relevant stakeholders in skills anticipation.
The OSKA process, and the role of the governing bodies that administer it, are codified in the amended Professions Act (2015) and by Ministerial Order (2015).
The following authorities are to some extent responsible for the administration of skills anticipation activity:
The Estonian Qualification Authority
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
The Ministry of Social Affairs
The Ministry of Education and Research
The Ministry of Finance.
The OSKA Coordination Council is comprised of representatives from the four ministries and various stakeholder organisations. Its role is to select the economic sectors to be studied for each year; commission new analysis and/or research; approve the results of sectoral reports; submit an overview of skills needs to the government; make recommendations to other governmental bodies or institutions on how to best meet the skills needs of the labour market; and to prioritise among sectors and occupational groups. (1)
The establishment of around 24 sectoral expert panels is also planned. These panels will follow developments within their area of expertise, including assessing the employment forecasts made by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and other entities working on behalf of the OSKA Coordination Council. The current aim is to cover all economic activities (i.e. sectors) every five years. As of 2016, five sectoral expert panels had been established with a further six planned for each subsequent year.
The role of stakeholders
The main stakeholders in skills anticipation activity are employers, trade unions, education and training institutions, and various third-party organisations that have an interest in skills. However, until this point, the limited tradition of social partnership in Estonia and the lack of formal inclusion of stakeholders in the skills anticipation process has meant that stakeholders’ contributions to policymaking have been limited. Consequently, stakeholders have not shown much interest in participating in skills anticipation activity.
With the deep involvement of stakeholders in the governance of OSKA, this looks set to change. Before the implementation of OSKA, the role of stakeholders was limited to providing comments on the forecasts made by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. With the OSKA system now in place, the role of stakeholders has expanded considerably. The OSKA system guarantees stakeholder input in policymaking through the OSKA Coordination Council, which has the power to offer recommendations with regard to labour market and educational policy. It also has the power to determine which sectors receive a greater focus in OSKA, and comments on the assessments used by policymakers in decision-making.
The implementation of this system has both increased the involvement of stakeholders and created a systematic process by which they can provide input into skills anticipation. Representatives from employers and trade unions have seats on both the OSKA Coordination Council and the sector skills councils. Representatives of educational institutions also have a sizeable role in the process. Additionally, the process places an emphasis on the input of sectoral experts – who are usually representatives of key stakeholder institutions – in its assessments of skills needs and supply.
The results of the skills anticipation activity in Estonia are intended for use by policymakers, education and training institutions, career and student counsellors, and other interested parties. The information is intended for use by policymakers in determining the curriculum for state-run schools and adult training programmes – such as those run for unemployed people by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The information is also used by policymakers in assigning budgets to different educational sectors and institutions. Career and student counsellors can use the results to improve their advice and guidance.
Funding and resources
The OSKA system has been allocated a budget of around €2.9 million for the period 2015–2018. Of this amount, up to 85 per cent will be financed by the ESF while the remaining 15 per cent will be financed by the Estonian government, specifically by the Ministry of Education and Research. (2). If a decision is made to continue the programme once ESF funding has come to an end, three ministries (the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Social Affairs) will cover the costs.