OECD Skills Strategy

Yesterday, the OECD released its new report on its Skills Strategy: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies.

Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives | OECD Free preview | Powered by Keepeek Digital Asset Management Solution


The strategy is build around three parts:
  I. Develop skills
  II. Activate skills
  III. Putting skills to work
What especially like about the strategy is that it goes well beyond a focus on the individual’s skill set. Yes, there is a discussion of education and training activities — including on the need for both “hard” and “soft” skills and the importance of hands-on workplace training — which goes beyond much of the narrow focus in the U.S. of STEM education and manufacturing-based skills. But what sets this report apart is its treatment of the organizational responsibility for utilizing the skills of the workforce. Some of the recommendations include:
  • Create financial incentives that make work pay
  • Discourage early retirement
  • Facilitate mobility
  • Help local economies move up the value chain
  • Foster entrepreneurship, and
  • Help employers to make better use of their employees’ skills
That last point is of special interest to me. Too often we hear about companies who claim that “workers are our most important asset” and then act as if workers are just another cost. I have long argued that we need policies to help foster the development of high performance work organizations that promote the utilization of worker’s skills and knowledge. In that regard, the report specifically highlights the efforts of the Nordic countries in developing programs and policies to promote workplace change and innovation. [BTW – the Skills Strategy also directly references the OECD Innovation Strategy (see earlier posting)].
Let us hope that policy makers in the U.S. will take a hard look at the OECD report and embrace its broader message. One of America’s greatest competitive advantages is the skill and knowledge base of its workforce. We need to maintain and improve that intangible asset. Doing so will require looking beyond just the individual to the organizational utilization of those skills as well.

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