In November 2016 the OECD presented an in-depth analysis of Sweden’s system for skills assessment, anticipation and response. Even though Sweden has become a leader among OECD countries in collecting information on current and future skills needs, several areas of improvement have been identified to tackle skills mismatch.
One third of Swedish companies claim they have difficulties in finding workers with adequate skills to fill vacancies. In parallel, Sweden faces challenges in putting the skills of migrants to use. Systems to asses and anticipate what skills are, and will be, required may be used to develop the provision of VET and meet labour market needs. The OECD analysis looks into how Sweden collects and uses information on skills needs, as well as incentives for training providers and participants to respond to changing skills needs.
Some of the strengths of the Swedish system of skills assessment and anticipation identified by the OECD are the sound statistical information collected and constructive dialogue between stakeholders. Statistics Sweden and the Swedish Public Employment Service (PES), as well as other organisations, are involved in identifying skills needs. Relying on more than one data source reduces potential biases and broadens the scope of the analysis. Also, the PES and the National Agency for Education cooperate in disseminating the results of the skills assessment and anticipation analysis. For example, the website Gymnasieinfo.se contains information about VET programmes in secondary school and possible vocational outcomes and the situation on the labour market for different vocations and skills.
The OECD report also highlights areas of improvement, some related to the structure and provision of VET. Examples of key policy recommendations for Sweden are:
- both regional and sectoral skills anticipation and assessment analyses should be developed further;
- more resources should be devoted to increasing the counsellor-to-student ratio in smaller schools and municipalities and to streamlining counselling activities;
- more stable funding schemes should be designed to provide a better link between upper-secondary VET and higher VET;
- the visibility and reputation of VET should be improved by building stronger links between employers and education providers and by showing positive career prospects for VET graduates.
Many of these recommendations are in line with current national initiatives and policy decisions. For example, the National Agency for Education offers training geared at teams of teachers, counsellors and school leaders, highlighting the need for a whole-school approach by integrating career counselling into the teaching of different subjects already in compulsory schooling. To improve the attractiveness and quality of VET, and to reflect on modern professions and working life, the government joined forces with employers and employee organisations in declaring 2016 as the Swedish year of VET. This work will continue during 2017 and coming years.