The pioneering research that Cedefop is undertaking to detect emerging skill needs in European labour markets and the policy implications of Cedefop’s European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey were showcased at two international events held in Washington on 2-5 November.

At a conference on using big data to inform labour market policies, organised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Cedefop’s Head of Department for Skills and Labour Markets Pascaline Descy introduced participants to the agency’s new web-scrapping tool of job market vacancies. Since 2014, Cedefop has explored the use of a new tool for extracting information on skills and job requirements from online vacancies posted by employers in five EU countries.

Ms Descy highlighted that, although big data hold considerable promise for policy-makers to shape better and more responsive education and training policies in the future, policy-makers should be cautious as such data may be biased. She noted that information collected on the basis of advertised job vacancies are not ‘skills profiles’ of occupations but ‘dating profiles’ – they capture what skills employers reveal to ‘lure’ potential job candidates at a given point in time, not necessarily the skills needed to do the job. 

In her speech, Ms Descy warned that ‘even though real-time job market data offer quick and fast insights into the world of work, using such data must be combined with information derived from traditional statistical surveys, such as the Eurostat surveys or Cedefop’s European skills and jobs survey.’

Ms Descy and Cedefop expert Konstantinos Pouliakas also presented the ESJ survey results at a seminar organised by the World Bank at its Washington headquarters. During the seminar it was acknowledged that skill mismatch is a global issue of concern.

Mr Pouliakas said that a significant part of the EU countries’ human capital investment is not being effectively utilised in workplaces, adding that ‘if overqualified tertiary graduates were simply underachieving students who have rightfully entered into lower-skilled jobs, then this would not be an issue of concern for policy.’

However, Cedefop’s ESJ survey has measured the tasks and skill needs of the jobs of adult EU employees, so policy-makers now have a better insight on whether EU jobs effectively utilise workers’ skills or not. Mr Pouliakas noted that ‘our analysis clearly shows that the job tasks of overqualified tertiary graduates are more similar to those of their lower-educated co-workers, who have an upper secondary degree, than to those of their classmates who found jobs matching their skills. This proves that if we fail to focus on demand policies to raise the productivity of EU jobs, we may only be training smarter workers to do second-rate jobs.’

Cedefop and the World Bank also engaged in a series of knowledge-exchange events, aimed at improving their capacity to further develop future skill surveys and to strengthen the skills matching systems governance of both EU and developing countries.