The only certainty is uncertainty itself
An important, challenging and yet an intriguing question to ask is: How effective is current labour market research in identifying skills shortages and gaps and the statistical models to use to illustrate the shape and nature of employment profiles in the future? It’s an important question to ask, as it is essential to refine and enhance the statistical techniques that are used today in order to improve the predictions and monitoring of future labour market dynamics. Labour market information and data provides the foundation upon which much of a government’s planning and subsequent expenditure is based and has a significant influence on future policy and predicted expenditure on such critical areas as technical and vocational education and training.
The massive transitions and transformations occurring in the current rapidly changing global labour markets must surely require more sophisticated statistical techniques. The global labour market is becoming even more volatile as technological innovation continues to accelerate. The transitions and transformations in the global economy include:
Ø Demographic trends e.g. the increasing proportion of an aging population of workers in many industrialised nationsbecause of decline in birth rates compared with higher birth rates in many emerging economies
Ø Changing career and work profiles i.e. multiple careers throughout people’s working lives coupled with different modes of working e.g. part-time and home based working
Ø Increased world-wide mobility of the workforce
Ø Impact of changing cycles of out sourcing e.g. companies pursuing cheaper labour markets
Ø Changes in company structures resulting from mergers and acquisitions resulting in more complex human resource legislation and regulation
Ø Increasing influence of multi-national companies and enterprises.
In such a changing and increasingly complex global environment more effective statistical techniques and modelling methods are urgently required. New measurement instruments and databases, which can more effectively match, identify and articulate with this new emerging global trading and economic landscape must be developed. In addition more relevant information involving greater attention to cross-occupational sectors and international data and indicators are essential in order to illuminate and inform business and political policy making. One immediate problem here is that the large multi-national companies will be reluctant to share business sensitive information. Problems caused by the current market research could include:
Ø Inadequate knowledge of what competences, skills and knowledge will be required in the future
Ø The resultant mismatch between the products of education and training and the needs of the employers
Ø The resultant growing complexity and inability to achieve a balance in the supply and demand equation
Ø The inability to monitor and capture the knowledge half life of a number of disciplines e.g. IT
A number of statisticians (1) have argued that the current labour market approaches and subsequent analysis represents a classic case of measurement without knowledge. One such commentator, Garonna, has observed; “Measurement gaps and the lack of quality data are the main obstacles to shedding light on the crucial set of relationships between the acquisition and accumulation of knowledge and labour market performance”. One of the intriguing aspects currently is that we have more data from a wide range of disparate and disconnected sources but this does not necessarily provide more reliable, valid and meaningful information. More accurate and accessible statistics and information are necessary to inform international and national labour market intelligence within the global context.
Bearing in mind some of the earlier disasters in this country when using so- called workforce planning e.g. teachers, doctors and the trades such as plumbing, one wonders why many of the current techniques continue to be used to inform future labour markets. Recent surveys and reports highlighting current and future skills shortages in this country still seem to be using the more traditional statistical techniques. This will I fear have serious consequences for the future ability of the educational and training systems to produce a workforce that will compete in the global economy and match the needs of employers.
(1) Carlson, B, A. (2001). Education and the labour market. Serie dessarroolo,114 UN
(2) Garonna P et al, (2001). Achieving transparency in skill markets. International Labour Organisation. Milan