Overview of the Dutch approach
The Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (Researchcentrum voor onderwijs en arbeidsmarkt, ROA), a research institute at Maastricht University, is responsible for conducting and publishing bi-annual general labour market forecasts. This six-year outlook is prepared under the Project Education and Labour Market (Project Onderwijs en Arbeidsmarkt, POA), which is funded by several national ministries, public sector organisations, and a private human resource consulting firm.
In addition, the ROA conducts regular surveys to monitor school-leavers and analyse their first steps into the labour market. The Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UWV) studies labour trends and conducts analyses using data from Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS), their own datasets collected from individuals seeking unemployment benefits, as well as the ROA labour market forecasts. UWV publishes a short-term two-year labour market forecast at sectoral, regional and national level to facilitate transparency and enable a better match between employers and job seekers. (1) CBS not only provides data on the labour market but also publishes its own reports and analyses of historical data. Finally, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (Centraal Planbureau, CPB) periodically publishes short and medium term economic forecasts, which include information on the labour market (employment, labour supply, and unemployment) (2) as well as detailed reports on topics related to skills and skills mismatch.
In the Netherlands, there is also a tradition of forecasting within specific sectors. These forecasts are usually short-term but still provide a detailed view of trends and developments within these sectors. The recently established Cooperative for Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (Samenwerkingsorganisatie Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven, SBB) collects information on demand for, and supply of, skills in labour markets for intermediate vocational education. These data also incorporate the ROA forecasts. There is close cooperation between SBB, ROA, and UWV. Many sectoral level organisations also publish facts and figures for the benefit of their members as well as others. One example of these exercises is the analysis ROA conducts on the Dutch metalworking and electrical engineering sectors at the request of Stichting A+O Metalektro. (3) Using CBS data, the research consultancy ABF has developed an information system (HERMES) for analysing labour supply and demand in several sectors.
Skills anticipation in the Netherlands seeks to provide labour market stakeholders with information on possible skills mismatches so that the market can proactively establish policies to avoid them. In addition, skills anticipation aims to answer more specific questions, such as how to attract personnel into various occupations or whether any occupations may become redundant within certain sectors or industries.
The overall approach to and activities of skills anticipation is also intended to inform policymakers within the education system, so that they design programmes and qualifications that are as relevant as possible to the needs of the Dutch labour market. The information generated by skills anticipation exercises is therefore to be used on a regular basis to review curricula and decide if new types of training or educational programmes should be offered.
No information is available on the regulatory framework underpinning skills anticipation in the Netherlands. The SBB has a legal mandate to provide information to intermediate vocational education institutions and to businesses about the labour market, professional development and the effectiveness of the education system’s output.
Since 2013 the Sustainable Public Finances Act (Wet Houdbare Overheidsfinanciën) prescribes CPB forecasts as the official basis for the central government’s annual fiscal budget. (4)
Skills anticipation is the responsibility of the following ministries:
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
(Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, OCW)
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
(Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, SZW)
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
(Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, BZK)
The Ministry of Economic Affairs
(Ministerie van Economische Zaken, EZ)
The OCW takes a leading role, although SZW is also active. Together the two ministries are also responsible for ensuring there is a match between the education provided in the Netherlands and the qualifications needed in the labour market. The SBB is subordinate to the OCW, and advises the ministers for OCW and for EZ about the match between the vocational education and training (VET) system in the Netherlands and the labour market. The UWV is subordinate to SZW.
The CPB is subordinate to the EZ but the institution is mostly independent, being completely autonomous in its choice of projects. The role of the ministry in regard to the institution is thus relegated to appointing the director and providing its budget.
The role of stakeholders
The main stakeholders are employers, trade associations, and education and training institutions. These stakeholders all serve to some extent to augment the outputs of the system by providing comments and, in some cases, additional data. Many sectors produce their own skills assessment, most of which are usually commissioned by stakeholders within them. These analyses are used by the national ones offering more detailed insights in each individual sector.
At the national level, stakeholders are usually involved in policy making in some way, for example by being consulted on new laws or regulations. In addition, the SBB also hosts sector-specific knowledge centres (Kenniscentra), which provide input and commentary on new laws and regulations. There are also various other projects or workshops that involve stakeholders conducted on an ad hoc basis. (5) One example, cited by the ROA, is the Techniekpact project, which is an ongoing collaboration between three ministries (OCW, SZW, and EZ) and a large number of regional and sectoral stakeholders. The project aims to support and increase education within the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields in response to projections of a large shortages in these areas over the coming decade.
At the regional level, the most important contacts are between the various VET institutes (which are members of the SBB) and various smaller and medium sized local businesses. These institutions and businesses work closely together, both in designing solutions to cope with foreseeable skills mismatches as well as in developing new policy responses.
In Dutch politics, there is a long-held tradition of trying to reach a consensus between all related parties and stakeholders. As such, the relevant stakeholders are usually included in some form in the creation of policies that affect them. In addition, the Netherlands also has a long tradition of producing sectoral skills projections. These exercises are usually conducted or commissioned by stakeholders within each sector, either by individual organisations or consortia of the most relevant players within the industry. Such sectoral analyses serve to augment the more general assessments of the ROA, the UWV, the CBS and the CPB by offering a more detailed look at these specific sectors. Additionally, the presence of sectoral projections greatly increases the dissemination of information since the entities that undertake these studies usually have very close ties to the labour market within each sector.
Young people and jobseekers are the main target groups who will benefit from the information provided by skills anticipation, as they will be able to base their educational choices on labour market information. In particular, the general labour market prognoses published under the POA explicitly aim to inform students about labour market prospects in their studies or career choices, and education institutes about the relevance of their programmes to the labour market. (6) It is also intended for employers, who can use the data to proactively respond to any possible trends or mismatches in the market. Furthermore, different groups of policymakers can also benefit from additional information on the labour market when making decisions on which education or training programmes to establish, abolish or amend.
Funding and resources
The POA is funded by the OCW, the SZW, the BZK, the EZ, Randstad Nederland (a human resource consultancy firm), and the SBB. The ROA’s sectoral research on the metalworking and electrical engineering sector however, is fully funded by the trade association, A+O Metalektro Foundation.
The UWV is financed by the SZW and the SBB by the OCW. Both the CBS and the CPB are funded by EZ.
As for other sector specific exercises, they are usually funded by stakeholders within each sector.