Cedefop, in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), hosted an expert workshop on skills and skill mismatch on 29-30 October in Thessaloniki.

Organised by Cedefop expert Giovanni Russo, the workshop brought together some of the most influential researchers working on issues of skills and skill mismatch. Debated topics included the economic and social returns of education and of skills; trends in educational and skill mismatches; skill shortages and impact for enterprises; training, job design and the impact of human resource management policies on skill development and utilisation; and the impact of the business cycle on skill mismatch.

A key objective was to validate and generate new evidence based on the new Cedefop European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey data. Mr Russo presented research that corroborates the importance of job design for effective skill development and utilisation. He noted that his research provides solid evidence that by designing complex jobs, employers stand to gain not only in terms of better utilising the skills of their workforce, but also in terms of their continuous development.

Cedefop expert Konstantinos Pouliakas presented research showing that overqualified EU tertiary graduates receive 24% lower hourly wages relative to similar graduates in matched jobs. His analysis highlights that this wage penalty is driven by poor signalling of information about the value and match of jobs with the qualifications and skills of the overqualified – which calls for better guidance based on labour market intelligence.

Other research based on the Cedefop ESJ survey highlighted that, by complementing formal training, informal training tends to have the greatest impact on the skill development of EU adult workers. Having skill gaps in one’s job can sometimes be regarded as a sign of potential or untapped skills rather than market failure, given that underskilled workers tend to be in more challenging jobs that ensure their continued skill development over time.

In his keynote speech, Professor Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, USA, highlighted that employers' claims of skill shortages tend to mask other underlying factors, such as lack of competitive salary offers.

He presented evidence that the financial returns to higher education are not universal, as degrees from several higher education institutions are now characterised by negative rates of return.

Mr Cappelli noted the value of vocational education and of apprenticeship schemes for providing useful work-related skills to job applicants, considering that employers place a much higher value on work experience at times of recession. He cautioned, however, against the logic of asking from higher education institutions to provide more work-based skills, as such settings are inefficient for this purpose relative to actual workplaces. The role of employers in providing formal and informal training is therefore key for mitigating any skill shortages or gaps.

The workshop programme and the papers presented can be found on the workshop webpage while the presentations are available here.