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					        Issue Paper for the “European eSkills Forum” (eSF)

                   "eSKILLS PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS"
           - Associative economics of multi-stakeholder partnerships
                  for e-skills development and certifications -

                        eSF meeting, Brussels, 24 March 2004


Introduction

In the Lisbon Declaration of March 2000, the European Union advanced the strategic
goal that Europe should become the world‟s most competitive knowledge-based
economy by 2010. Securing Europe's future economic growth depends on the
existence of human capacity with the necessary e-skills. Development of knowledge
economies and information societies requires not only coordination of national and
international policies, but also active partnerships between public institutions, private
companies, and other social partners1.

In March 2003 the European Commission established the European eSkills Forum
(eSF) to foster consensus regarding the policy challenges in the field of e-skills. This
paper forms part of the ongoing discussions of the eSF and is intended to serve as
the basis for discussion on the fourth and final eSF priority, “Public Private
Partnerships” (PPPs) or “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships” (MSPs)2 for ICT skills
development.

The document will clarify some of the key issues associated with PPPs in education
in order to understand the role MSPs can have in improving the skills and education
system of the EU; to consider some basic definitions and clarify terms; to identify
some of the pre-conditions for success; and to sketch out some possible policy
recommendations to ensure that MSPs can successfully harness all available
expertise and resources in support of a shared goal.




1
  a multitude of references about public private and/or multi-stakeholder partnerships exist, see for
example: the UK Department for education and skills PPP website http://www.dfes.gov.uk/ppppfi/, or the
German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) PPP website:
http://www.gtz.de/ppp/english/; see also the Guidelines for successful PPPs by the European
Commission/DG Regional Policy, January 2003, including legal and regulatory structures and financial
implications (http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/regional_policy/sources/docgener/guides/ppp_en.pdf ) a
selected bibliography is attached to this paper
2
  Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and Multi-stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs) for ICT or e-skills
development are used throughout this paper as equivalent terms
                                                   2


Continuous learning in a knowledge-based society

Innovate or fall behind. This is the simple fact for firms, individuals and societies
today in an increasingly competitive, global and knowledge-based economy, also
called the “k-economy”.

The capacity to grow Europe‟s economy depends on the competitiveness of its
businesses and the quality of its human capacity. Knowledge-based employees are
increasingly the focal point of the workforce given their ability to drive innovation or
apply technologies and business practices in ways that improve competitiveness.

Acquiring, generating, and exploiting knowledge are key determinants of success for
companies, individuals, and educational institutions. For individuals, a firm‟s need to
continuously learn means that they must exhibit a commitment to lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning, in turn, requires a learner-centered educational model. This is the
bottom line of the knowledge-based economy and it places new demands on society
as a whole. The new demands on people, in turn, have far-reaching implications for
education and training.

The monopoly of formal institutions in learning has broken down. In Europe, “the
distinctions between traditionally segregated systems of general education (at
primary and secondary levels), higher education and vocational training have begun
to blur in response to changing social, economic and political realities. This means
that education and training systems at all levels are now based on new learning
philosophies, approaches and contexts, and must cater for new learner profiles and
needs. The challenge for the EU Member States is to ensure coherence and
articulation between different forms of provision at national level whilst maintaining
their diversity and capacity to respond to diverse needs.” 3

The rise of “parallel universes”4 between informal, industry-based education and
formal, government-supported education, particularly in ICT, highlights the blurring of
what were formerly distinctive realms of learning. With the rise of “autonomous
standards” embodied in industry-based training and certification there is “substantial
uncertainty” throughout Europe about education services between the state and
economy, and about what standards to set, how to validate such standards, and how
to strengthen coherence between different approaches5.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships for education and training offer the potential to bridge
these parallel universes and to respond to the call by the July 2003 daft EU
Constitution to stimulate “cooperation on training between educational or
training establishments and firms” to “facilitate adaptation to industrial
change”6.




3
   Cynthia Deane and Watters, Elizabeth, Towards 2010 - Common Themes and Approaches across
Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training in Europe, background research paper for the
Irish EU Presidency Conference, 8 March 2004, p. 3
4
  Adelman, C. A parallel universe, in: Change, v. 32, no. 3, May-June 2000; see also: Ingo Krampen et
al. Education as a Public Service in Modern Civil Society between State and Economy, effe working
paper (European Forum for Freedom in Education), November 2003 (see: http://www.effe-eu.org)
5
   Jens Bjornavold, European Commission, DG Education and Culture, Validation of Non-Formal and
Informal Learning in Europe, and Duvekot, Ruud, Kenniscentrum EVC, Netherlands, I, you, they and
VPL – The broad perspective of validation of non-formal and formal learning, Vilnius, 13-14 February
2004
6
  article III/183 of the (draft) EU Constitutional Treaty of July 2003; and the eSCC Hamburg Declaration,
24 October 2003 (http://www.comptia.com/sections/publicpolicy/documents/Hamburg_Declaration.pdf )
                                              3


The challenge ahead

In light of these forthcoming constitutional changes, “the challenge for the EU and the
EU Member States is to maintain consistent levels of high quality education and
training provision in tandem with its policy to make learning opportunities available on
a lifelong and life-wide basis. This requires an easing of the tensions that can be
observed in current policy and practice, including, for example

   increasing access and improving quality
   maintaining positive diversity and ensuring coherency, flexibility and stability
   state regulation and institutional autonomy
   meeting individual needs while responding to those of society and the economy7”.

The question of interest then is: How can government, industry, and educational
institutions create innovative partnerships that reinvent ways to provide people the
capabilities they need to actively and continuously participate as partners of
economic growth in a k-economy?


Partners of economic growth

This partnership must carry the message that “workforce development is economic
growth” and it must continuously ask the question “what knowledge and skills are
relevant to effect economic growth?” It must leave behind the concept of “skills gap”
and consider instead the concept of a “performance gap”8.

Rather focusing on whether there are enough people to fill open jobs which will
increase and decrease depending on the business cycle, framing issues in terms of a
performance gap provides a way to measure a continuous problem in a knowledge-
based economy. It also provides government and educational institutions a platform
to constructively question: (1) whether the identified gaps in performance are truly
due to knowledge and skill issues, (2) the relevance of the identified knowledge and
skills, and (3) the manner in which firms and industries defined the relevance of the
identified knowledge and skills.

To provide individuals the knowledge they need to participate as partners of
economic growth in a k-economy, a potential partnership must also find impact-
laden, effective, and efficient ways to enable knowledge flow between industry and
educational institutions. This overarching need, in turn, translates into requirements
for:

       defining what knowledge and skills are relevant for companies, for whole
        industries, and/or for industry clusters
       defining a mechanism for disseminating information regarding what
        knowledge and skills are relevant to firms, industries, and/or industry clusters
       a need to provide individuals the capability to acquire and/or signal the
        acquisition of the relevant knowledge and skills – regardless of how they were
        acquired; and
       a coherent system to guide relevant individual professional development to
        meet the needs of employers and society.




7
 C. Deane and Watters, E., op. cit., p. 13
8
  see: CompTIA A Learning and Certification Blend that Binds: Defining Certifications’ Role in
Recognising Learning, 2004 (forthcoming), pp. 56
                                               4


Multi-stakeholder partnerships to bridge the “parallel universes”

The ability of society to enhance the development and maintenance of education
systems capable of meeting the changing needs of its users, the pupils, and of the
ICT-embedded industry, and the society as a whole, is coming under ever closer
scrutiny. The wide-ranging demands placed on traditional education systems,
including improving quality, promoting equity, and ensuring accountability mean that
governments alone may no longer be able to meet all these challenges.

Public education is increasingly seen as being ineffective in resource allocation and
incapable of acting quickly. Because the public sector has to operate within the
boundaries of rules, procedures and regulations established to protect the “public
interest”, it is often inherently conservative, and hence may be incapable of reacting
quickly to changed educational needs and societal expectations. This state of affairs
may mean that, over time, the services offered and standards attained may be below
what is required.
The concept of multi-stakeholder partnership is one solution to bridge the “parallel
universes”. For this reason it has been attracting increased interest among
policymakers, business, and educational institutions over recent years. By utilising
and combining the respective strengths and resources of the different actors, and
compensating for each other‟s respective weaknesses, partnerships represent an
important new strand of public policy development.
The joint approach can enable governments to overcome inherent structural
deficiencies and define new ways of solving known problems for the public good.
PPPs and/or MSPs build on the idea that the private sectors can complement,
supplement and extend services provided by the public sector by increasing the
available resources.


Digital Opportunity Initiative

Evidence strongly suggests that, in order to reap the benefits of ICT at a national,
regional or sector level, it is necessary to create a new form of collaboration that
involves the full range of actors in the public and private sectors in a process that is
inclusive, open and participatory. 9
MSP strategies are not universal. Countries face different circumstances, priorities
and financial means, and should therefore adopt different strategies accordingly. A
comprehensive framework, however, can assist in determining a strategy regardless
of what goals have been established, since coordinated action is always likely to
yield more effective results.

MSPs can be built at every stage of the value chain for continuous learning (see
Figure 1). The MSP process, by its nature, involves actions taken by a number of
different stakeholders. Enhancing the impact at each stage of the supply chain will
require not only a greater focus on the interplay of complementary components, but
also coordinated action among diverse stakeholders and an inclusive policy to benefit
from the synergies created by harmonising bottom-up approaches - that is to say, the
process by which the approach is arrived at and coordination undertaken is equally
important for success.




9
    Creating a Development Dynamic, Final Report of the “Digital Opportunity Initiative” (United
Nations/UNDP, Markle Foundation, and Accenture), July 2001, section 3.2
                                                     5
Figure 1 The MSP process


                                                                                         Career
                              Create/                                  Match            Pathing
        Market                 Deliver              Certify           Workers              and
     Information                                   Learning                             Lifelong
                              Training                                With Jobs
                                                                                          Skills
                                                                                        Develop-
                                                                                          ment



The MSP process needs to address potential barriers and resistance, put in place
transitional mechanisms to address trade-offs and create positive incentives for
change that leverage the creative potential of the different actors, allowing them to
work on the basis of both established as well as new roles and responsibilities. This
process will vary from country to country as each attempts to translate the strategic
framework into action leading to tangible results.

EU Member States‟ ICT strategies can no longer be pursued in isolation but must be
positioned within the European and global context, while simultaneously addressing
the needs and opportunities emerging from the local context. Just as the value of a
network expands with each additional member, the opportunities provided by the
global network economy and society increase as nations and communities across the
globe participate more fully.

To summarise, implementing a MSP for action involves bringing new ideas to the
table, creating processes to build consensus about national and international
priorities and addressing barriers in the different areas through some combination of
advocacy, consultation, incentives, reforms, transitional mechanisms and the
formation of strategic “compacts” or frameworks. 10




                                                         Figure 2 Translating Framework into Action


A strategic framework developed by a MSP, such as the one in Figure 2, can help
guide stakeholders in investing in and implementing strategies which take advantage
of the potential of ICT to accelerate e-skills development and a knowledge-based
economy.




10
     Creating a Development Dynamic , op. cit., section 3.3
                                           6


Benefits of multi-stakeholder partnerships

Such partnerships should not, therefore, be considered an end in themselves but as
an important new strategy for delivering improved services. Neither do they occur by
chance. MSPs involve substantial commitment from all stakeholders involved and
hold out the prospect of major benefits. The following are some of the benefits to
different stakeholder groups commonly attributed to PPPs or MSPs in e-skills
development and education:

For the public sector

   More widespread provision of computer literacy, basic as well as professional e-
    skills, ensuring wider productive participation and co-operation of citizens in the
    knowledge-based society
   Enhancement of existing curricula to fit modern needs. Students will be able to
    leave formal education channels with workplace ready-skills
   “Future-proof” education by providing a mechanism to constantly update curricula
    in response to actual industry needs and societal requirements
   Provide students of a knowledge-based society with new alternative channels of
    educational achievement
   Closer alignment of supply and demand in skills, reducing wastage and
    increasing employment rates
   Increased regional development through workforce mobility across Europe and
    beyond
   New approaches to delivering e-skills to SMEs without the need for extensive
    public investment in the learning infrastructure and content
   Multiplication of training centres and training environments giving citizens
    maximum access to training opportunities, whatever their current status.

For the students

   Enhancement of just in time learning and lifelong learning opportunities
   Updated curricula mean acquisition of current, real-valued e-skills
   Public funding for recognised e-skills qualifications through certifications means
    lower barrier to meet real e-skills needs
   Greater employment chances as new workplace e-skills can be acquired outside
    of the actual workplace.

For industry

   Workplace-ready employees
   Closer match of supply and demand reduces need for costly re-training on the job
   Supply of workforce no longer dependent on national boundaries
   Reassurance that, in an age of workforce mobility, personal training investment
    will not be handing an advantage to a competitor.
   Greater visibility and promotion of industry-based e-skills certifications.


What is “public”, what is “private”?

The public sector includes various government institutions or agencies at national,
regional and local levels. Depending on the country concerned and the level of
decentralisation, these entities will enjoy more or less autonomy. The state
traditionally both pays for and provides education.
                                                     7
The private sectors may include for-profit and not-for-profit organisations,
professional associations and individuals, as well as voluntary groups and NGOs. 11
Within the context of multi-stakeholder partnerships, profit-oriented as well as non-
profit organisations have become, like the state, payers and providers of alternative
education channels. This complex network of inter-relationships makes it even more
critical to identify where the interests and aims of the different actors coincide, and
where they diverge.

Clearly, “public and private sectors” operate under different principles and
philosophies. Each have their own objectives and strategy to develop, as well as their
own weakness. The notion of multi-stakeholder partnership, however, implies that
multiple public and private partners share the benefits and responsibilities of their
collaboration. Thus the private sectors should be mindful of its social responsibilities
while the public sector should be careful to create a legal and regulatory framework
which will encourage partnerships between different stakeholders.


Typology of multi-stakeholder partnerships for e-skills development

In general terms, a PPP is a different form of sharing of responsibilities between the
private and the public sectors, with different forms of PPP generally situated on a
continuum running from “in-house provision” to “outsourcing”, and “competence
delegation”12. PPPs thus offer alternatives to „privatisation‟ (through divestiture of
government assets) by combining or associating the social responsibility,
environmental awareness and public accountability of the “public sector”, with the
finance, technology, managerial efficiency and entrepreneurial creativity of the
“private sectors”13.

While PPPs are commonly considered an appropriate vehicle for financing long-term
relationships involving the construction and/or operation of buildings or major
infrastructure projects, including ICT equipment, they are relatively unused to
develop the content side of e-skills education14.

This actual situation reflects the fact that intangible deliverables such as educational
content are significantly more complicated to manage than physical assets like bricks
and mortar. It reflects, too, lingering sensitivity around the involvement of private e-
skills providers (profit or non-profit oriented) in traditional public education systems.

With regard to the e-skills content, the key issue relates to the manner in which
“private” content is made available through the “public” education system. Currently,
formal (governmental) and non-formal e-skills education providers continue to occupy
entirely separate universes.

PPPs in the e-skills content domain would therefore offer ways and means to bring
together the commercial, informal (open, distance or adult learning) and formal
(state-recognised) ICT training sectors, including government education departments
and formal education institutions, in order to promote the use of ICT industry and
other non-formal training and certification within standard education and training
frameworks. Such an approach would ensure that public sector delivered e-skills
remained up to date and relevant to the students, and would provide industry with a
supply of workplace-ready workers.
11
   see the proceedings of the ADB seminar Public-Private Partnerships in Education, Tokyo, 29 May – 7
June 2000: http://www.adbi.org/PDF/ess/PPP%20in%20education.PDF
12
   see e.g. the eLearning Industry Group / European Investment Bank workshop Role of Public Private
Partnership for eLearning in Europe, November 2002
13
   for a discussion of „privatisation‟ and „liberalisation‟ of education services vs „deregulation‟ see: Ingo
Krampen et al. Education as a Public Service in Modern Civil Society between State and Economy, effe
working paper, November 2003, op. cit.
14
   see Role of Public Private Partnership for eLearning in Europe, op. cit., ibidem
                                                           8


  The different roles for e-skills PPP partners

  A potential e-skills partnership requires leveraging the strengths of each partner.
  Such a partnership should define the roles of the multi-stakeholder partners in terms
  of their possible different contributions to the major three elements of human capital
  management (e.g.: impact, effectiveness, and efficiency). In particular, such forms of
  partnership take advantage of the strengths of each partner and leverage these
  strengths to ensure a coherent whole15.

  Business partners

  The role of industry in this partnership should be to ensure that the performance
  standards (associated with industry certifications) emanating from the industry are
  valid signals of behaviours, knowledge and e-skills associated with those behaviours
  and that they are relevant to industry-valued performance components, leading to
  greater alignment between curriculum and industry needs and increased
  marketability of the certifiable knowledge and e-skills.

  Academic and educational partners

  The role of educational institutions should be to ensure that learning offerings and
  credentials they confer remain relevant to industry and society as a whole. One way
  to do so is to align their curriculum with the performance standards provided by
  industry, and then allow the resulting curriculum to define the appropriate use of valid
  industry-based certification tools as accountability measures.

  Government partners

  The role of governments should be to ensure that they introduce policies that provide
  individuals with the opportunity to attain real valued e-skills. This could mean

       direct investments in learning offerings, in particular industry-based certifications,
        that result in the attainment of portable certifications – those that are accepted by
        many hiring organisations and across a wide geographical area and borders
       direct investments in individuals‟ quest to get certified or
       loans that supplement current merit- or needs-based financial aid and fiscal
        incentives to individuals who want to pursue learning opportunities that result in
        industry-based certifications.

                       Competitiv e Adv antage

       Impact               Value Chain
                                                       Role of Industry: Focus on development of performance
                                                       standards associated w ith pivotal talent pools.

                            Talent Pools


                          Aligned Action               Role of Educational Institutions: Focus on ensuring that
Effectiv eness                                         learning offerings effect change in pivotal talent pools.
                          Human Capacity


                         Learning Offerings            Role of Government: Focus on relationship betw een level
  Efficiency                                           and quality of learning offerings and resources spent in
                                                       providing services.
                            Inv estments


                                                                 (1999)
  Adapted with permission f rom John W. Boudreau & Peter M. Ramstad


  15
    taken from CompTIA A Learning and Certification Blend that Binds: Defining Certifications’ Role in
  Recognising Learning, 2004, op. cit, p. 64
                                                 9


The underlying theme of multi-stakeholder partnerships is to ensure that individuals‟
commitment to continuous learning is supported by a partnership amongst
educational institutions, industry, and government. Its primary purpose is to assure
that individuals have the most up-to-date knowledge and e-skills. At the heart of this
endeavour are (private or public) educational institutions, primarily because they
serve as a channel for effecting change in individuals‟ knowledge and e-skills.



                                          Key Drivers of ICT Educational Success


      Perspective              Impact                  Effectiveness            Efficiency


     Private Sector       Utility and Validity       Validity of Learning      “Hiring” Cycle
                           of Performance            Against Standards
                               Standards


      Educational             Alignment                Accountability       Development Cycle
      Institutions


     Policymakers             Alignment                Accountability       Program Congruence


      Individuals           Marketability              Transferability          Portability


                                                                                   16
Key Certification Levers of Success as a Function of Stakeholder Perspective

The key to this proposed partnership is its ability to support knowledge flow between
industry and educational institutions. Performance standards and government
support are considered knowledge enablers in this partnership context because of
their influence in the identification of relevant knowledge and e-skills requiring
attention and their ability to influence the flow of information between private or public
educational institutions and industry, respectively.


Political returns on investment associated with the use of industry-
based e-skill certifications

Credential portability – Industry-based certifications are widely sought, accepted, and
utilised by employers across Europe and worldwide primarily because industry-based
certifications provide employers multiple benefits and mobility.

Knowledge and e-skill transferability – Individuals possessing industry-based
certifications are able to be functionally productive for different undertakings with
similar knowledge and e-skill requirements either across local reach or across
Europe and beyond.

Economic development growth – A well-credentialed workforce is a powerful
economic development tool to attract and retain new businesses/industries seeking


16
  from: CompTIA A Learning and Certification Blend that Binds: Defining Certifications’ Role in
Recognising Learning, 2004 (forthcoming) op. cit., p. 66
                                           10


to hire and retain already trained workers possessing immediately transferable e-
skills.

Worker mobility – Individuals holding industry-based certifications are able to make
EU Internal Market work-oriented relocations with greater career stability, economic
security, and personal mobility. Individuals are provided with a more solid foundation
to pursue continuous improvement and lifelong learning.

Education and training congruence – Preparation for particular roles or jobs is
congruent across a geographical area when all involved educational providers align
their learning objectives and curricula with industry-based certifications relevant to
those roles or jobs. This will promote educational and training programme
congruence that would result in a strong foundation for consistent and successful
workforce development initiatives anywhere in the region.


Some examples of multi-stakeholder PPPs for e-skills development

Recognition of vendor certifications in the United Kingdom
One of the most relevant examples for public recognition or endorsement of vendor
qualifications by a national education system comes from the UK. Within today‟s UK
education system, more than 100 publicly accredited “Awarding Bodies” offer
qualifications to schools, colleges and training providers. The “Qualification and
Curriculum Authority” (QCA) is responsible for accrediting all these qualifications,
which thus become eligible for government funding. In recent years, the QCA has
chosen to accredit a multitude of industry-based e-skills certifications, either vendor
specific or vendor neutral certifications for use within the public education system.

Rather than accrediting these certifications on a stand-alone basis, vendor
certifications complement National qualifications as part of a wider certification, e.g.
as optional units. The awarding authorities have discretion to decide how they will do
this, and are free to chose and to adopt vendor certifications.

Basically, three approaches, adopted by “Awarding Bodies”, can be identified:

   Vendor certifications are fully integrated into qualifications, and use vendor tests.
    Award of a national certification also entitles the holder to the vendor certification
    since public unit learning outcomes match vendor learning outcomes.
   The Awarding Body uses its own curriculum (which includes, encompasses, or
    covers the vendor curriculum), but issues its own qualification. The candidate is
    then eligible to take the vendor certification at a reduced price.
   The Awarding Body uses its own curriculum (which covers the vendor curriculum)
    but issues its own certification which indicates that, in addition to achieving the
    level required to obtain the government award, the candidate has the e-skills
    required to be successful at taking individual vendor certifications.

Recognition of vendor certifications in the Netherlands
ECABO (Dutch National Body for Vocational Education) is charged with developing
and maintaining a qualifications framework in the Netherlands.

In the area of e-skills, ECABO has developed a set of occupational competences in
association with industry and educational institutions. E-skills are defined with
reference to a framework classifying horizontal (generic, soft) and vertical (sector-
                                              11


specific) skills, so that the “soft” component of e-skills is similar to that required in
other parts of the labour market.

ECABO has also developed an international blueprint which maps how various
international certifications (A+, MCSE, CCNA, ECDL) fit into an overall ICT
curriculum comprising both “soft” skills and work experience across all levels. This
approach could offer a first indication of how international e-skills certifications can be
mapped across the EU and in EU Member States.

The Cisco Networking Academy Programme (CNAP)
The CNAP is a PPP between governments, educational institutions, social partners
and industry, in particular Cisco, created to teach students how to design, build and
maintain computer networks. Students study content, designed by industry, and can
provide final proof that they have mastered the materials by passing a test which
grants an industry-acknowledged Cisco Certified Networking Associate certificate.

In 2000, the Hungarian Ministry of Education committed to create a new “National
Vocational Qualification” (NVQ) based on the first 4 semesters of the CNAP. A joint
project manager was employed to oversee the collaboration between the Ministry
and the private sectors. The result was the first NVQ developed solely by industry
and formally recognised by the national education system of a European country
(and EU Member State as of May 2004).

As well as being an important response to the e-skills gap, the up to date content
meant that the national curriculum was closely in line with industry needs. The
development processes also mean that the Hungarian NVQ supports life-long
learning.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)17

The “European Computer Driving Licence” (ECDL) is an internationally-recognised,
vendor-neutral, end-user computer skills certification. It has more than 3.5 million
participants and is currently available in 135 countries.

Belgium recently launched an initiative aimed at bringing ECDL certification to the
unemployed. Both the Flemish and Walloon governments operate a scheme whereby
job-seekers can participate in ECDL programmes and work toward certification free
of charge. VDAB, the Flemish unemployment agency, started its ECDL project a year
ago and has since set up 12 Test Centres in Flanders, with ECDL considered a
powerful tool in helping people to find a job. Special “Training Cheques” can also be
used by those already in employment to buy half price vouchers for IT training,
testing and certification, with ECDL one of several possibilities on a list of supported
programmes. Employees can order the vouchers online or they may be purchased at
any VDAB centre.

The eSkills Certification Consortium (eSCC)18
The eSCC is seeking to establish a multi-stakeholder partnership of government,
industry, and education stakeholders to develop a European framework which will
allow the recognition of industry and other non-formal certifications within formal
national educational and vocational training systems across Europe.

17
  see the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) Foundation website (http://www.ecdl.com)
18
  see: http://www.comptia.com/sections/publicpolicy/escc.asp. Founding members include CompTIA,
CISCO Systems, Microsoft, and the European Computer Driving Licence Foundation (ECDL)
                                                  12




An eventual “EU e-Skills Meta-framework” will permit mutual recognition within the
EU of public qualifications and vendor certifications gained within the workplace
across different national education systems, all the time respecting national
differences and preferences in the organisation and operation of the education
system.

Such an appropriate EU meta-framework will thus provide an agreed environment
and common parameters within which different national and sub-regional (e.g.
German Länder) authorities can approve and validate non-formal certifications and
qualifications, so that workplace e-skills become a common EU value.

In doing so the framework should aim to enhance the e-skilled workforce across
Europe by associating “public and private” e-skills education channels and ensuring
that the most up-to-date and relevant e-skills are taught at school and university.
Such an objective also supports other EU public policy goals such as workforce
mobility and the creation of a “knowledge-based society for all”.

eSCC actions: Summary of possible e-skills partnership options19


       The establishment of a political framework for the public recognition and/or
       endorsement of industry-based and other non-formal e-skills training and
       certifications can be achieved through either formal accreditation of such training
       schemes and diplomas, the delegation of training and qualification competences
       to private and autonomous institutions or any other appropriate means.

       The exact mechanism remains to be chosen, according to the specific and local
       conditions. Three major options can be identified:

          Public sector review – an agency is established with a mandate to map,
           review and formally approve private sector courses. Once rubber-stamped in
           this way, institutions providing the course would be eligible for public sector
           promotion.
          Industry self-regulation - ICT training channels agree to design courses in
           line with prior set educational guidelines and priorities laid down by
           governments.
          De-facto recognition – a formula allowing ICT training courses developed by
           industry in response to specific skills and performance gaps to receive instant
           public sector recognition.

       Any concrete solution will require endorsement or implementation at a national
       level or province level, and within the relevant EU Member State framework. As a
       first task it will be important to develop an overview of the different national
       frameworks, and the actors involved in developing the certification and
       qualification function.

       A further step will be an EU Meta-Framework to facilitate pan-EU recognition of
       certifications in support of employee mobility, and to promote exchange of best
       practices between stakeholders in the field of e-skills.




19
     see the eSCC Terms of Reference (annex): http://www.comptia.com/sections/publicpolicy/escc.asp
                                         13




Australian IT Skills Hub

“Leading a United Agenda for ICT Skills”

The Australian “IT Skills Hub” represents a single, united body that will take
responsibility for e-skill development across the entire education and training
spectrum, from secondary schools to higher education and industry-based
certification.

The IT Skills Hub is governed by a Board comprising senior executives from some 30
organisations representing employers, associations and educators that play a unique
role in uniting all stakeholders on a common industry-led agenda for action. The
backing of these organisations ensures a focus on the right issues in e-skill
development in Australia.

The Australian IT Skills Hub has identified the following five strategic objectives as
key to improving e-skills and global competitiveness:

      Industry Attractiveness - Making ICT a top career choice
      Skills Supply - Creating the e-skills pool for the future
      Workforce Development - Realising the potential of e-skills to improve
       productivity, innovation and business performance
      Intelligence - Anticipating and communicating future e-skills needs
      Life Skills - Improving quality of life through e-skills.

National Skills Standards Voluntary Partnership (US)

An interesting industry-led example for a successful multi-stakeholder partnership is
the US National Skills Standards Voluntary Partnership. In this case, CompTIA
was chosen by the US “National Skill Standards Board” to lead the research and
development of skill standards for use by the industry, the public workforce system
and education.

CompTIA was entrusted with managing a MSP of more than 65 representatives from
industry, education, employee organisations, associations and public interest groups
to serve as the advisory committee to oversee and confirm that the standards are
congruent with current practices in the industry.

The research process implemented by the partnership included subject matter
experts, focus groups of workers and a national online validation survey involving
more than 2,000 front-line workers, supervisors and trainers. The partnership
followed the process that CompTIA and other industry-based certification bodies use
to create high-stakes, legally defensible standards and certifications.

The major difference between the “Voluntary Partnership” and other skill standards
efforts and processes is the comprehensive nature of its research which goes
beyond just convening subject matter experts. It also covers the widespread
validation of the standards by front-line workers and supervisors nationally; a
continuous improvement process that maintains the standards to current industry
norms; and their endorsement by industry, academia, labour and public interest
groups resulting in industry-driven standards that can be used by all.
                                            14


One of the lessons of this experience is that e-skills „standards‟ by themselves are
not useful. They must be implemented by “middleware” tools that put the standards
into the context of the user whether it is an employer, employee, student, educator or
curriculum developer. To this end and as a practical example CompTIA created the
“TechCareer Compass” (TCC)20 to house and disseminate the standards data
developed by the MSP to provide a means to access and use the e-skills standards.


Allocation of public resources

The MSP model for e-skills development (including the Private Finance Initiative/PFI)
raises some important financial issues for policymakers in the EU and EU Member
States. There may, for example, be wrong expectations of significant transfer of
financial resources from the private sector into the public. Rather, industry-based and
other non-formal training providers are seeking recognition from the public sector for
their current efforts in training Europe‟s workforce through their certifications.

Aligning formal educational channels with industry and other non-formal training and
certification thus means that public resources will be diverted towards external
providers, through financial support offered to either the provider or the student for
the benefit of the public good.

Related financial arrangements can take a variety of forms from outright ownership of
the products developed from an e-skills PPP by one of the parties to a system
whereby the public entity can contribute to the development of standards, maintain
them in the public domain and keep a royalty-free license to the output of a PPP for
specified public uses while private partners can own and distribute the proprietary
products they develop with their own capital from the standards.

Facilitating eligibility for public funding, including fiscal incentives, for institutions,
employers and employees who choose to provide or to take recognised courses
would be an effective solution to encourage further positive developments in the field
of certification. Better allocation of existing public resources to confront the e-skills
performance gap would leverage the existing knowledge, experience and energy of
the commercial training market, and stimulate private and corporate investments that
can advance public goals.


Key principles of sustainable partnerships for e-skills development

In general, the success factors of MSPs include:

      Mutual trust and shared perceptions –
       Complementary strengths, reciprocal accountability, joint decision-making and a
       regular exchange of information; mutual support, constructive advocacy and a
       notion of mutuality with give-and-take for all stakeholders involved;
      Clearly articulated goals, transparency and sustainability –
       Equitable distribution of costs and benefits, performance indicators and
       mechanisms to measure and monitor performance, based on long-term




20
     see: http://tcc.comptia.org/
                                                 15


     contractual commitments, clear delineation of responsibilities and a process for
     adjudicating disputes21;

    Consider whether the correct conditions exist for a successful PPP. –
     It is important to establish whether the basic preconditions for a PPP apply. Have
     previous initiatives by individual stakeholders been shown to fail? Does the
     complexity of the e-skills performance problem demand a joint approach?

    Clear understanding of partners’ motives and expectations –
     It is essential to identify potential costs and benefits of such a partnership to the
     public and private sector actors. A partnership will require co-operation between
     the various stakeholders and a willingness for a strong and long-term
     commitment to contribute to the achievement of a common shared objective in a
     sustainable contractual framework. The self-interests of the partners should be
     mutually reinforcing.

    Consider the value / risks of a PPP compared to available alternatives. -
     PPP participants may have a number of other options open to them which could
     achieve the same objectives as a PPP. Their degree of commitment to the PPP
     will be influenced by the extent to which they have undertaken needed risk
     analysis and have evaluated these alternatives and concluded that PPPs remain
     a preferred option.

    Ensure that the respective e-skills and competences of the partners are
     complementary –
     A PPP brings together distinct entities associated in a joint cause. Where
     different strengths can be combined, the mutual dependency will ensure a more
     durable and sustainable partnership.

    Ensure adequate and appropriate staffing –
     A PPP, by nature, implies a blurring of traditional boundaries between different
     social functions, staff and their responsibilities. Staff allocated to work within a
     PPP should be from departments or units that reflect the core „business‟ or
     purpose of that partner, rather than a secondary function, in order to maintain
     relevance and sustainability. PPPs should further evaluate opportunities for staff
     secondments to partner organisations, or dual roles for single individuals within
     two or more partners.

    Agree on the need for and type of a written partnership document –
     The exact shape of the PPP contractual document will depend on the project
     undertaken and the make up of the partnership. The partnership or association
     document will identify some of the principles considered above, including
     objectives, vision, funding, and responsibilities.

    A sustainable and flexible contractual environment –
     The shared objectives can only be achieved with mutual trust. Public partners
     must be certain that risk-averse private partners will stay committed to any
     agreement, and that their support is not temporary or ad-hoc. Private partners
     need a consistent and stable regulatory and financial environment to justify their
     ongoing commitment, and flexibility in any PPP contractual arrangement.

21
  Lister, Sarah. Power in partnership? An analysis of an NGO’s relationships with its partners, London
School of Economics, Centre for Voluntary Organisation, International Working Paper, Number 5, March
1999
                                           16


    Governments and legislators should strike a balance between a regulatory
    framework that ensures accountability and one that stifles innovation or value-
    and merit-based decisions.

   Quality assurance, transparency and accountability –
    The public and the private partners should be accountable for the services they
    provide to enable prospective clients to exercise their freedom of choice.
    Governments should ensure that relevant procedures are in place to monitor and
    evaluate the results of the partnership, Such analysis should attempt to identify
    the specific added value generated by the partnership compared to the likely
    alternative outcomes had the individual partners pursued their own separate
    activities.

   Provision for dynamic updating of educational content –
    Educational content for the e-skills domain is under constant evolution.
    Partnerships must be flexible enough to allow curricula to respond to changes of
    concepts and perceptions for the needs of teachers, pupils and users.

   Manage public perceptions –
    It is essential that any multi-stakeholder PPP has the trust and support of the
    public. An e-skills partnership should attempt to overcome negative perceptions
    associated with business and other private involvement in education, particularly
    as they relate to competition between external suppliers. Impartiality of content,
    transparency, co-operative interaction of partners, etc will reassure citizens and
    the society at large that the partnership is in the public interests.


Future perspectives for e-skills development

A further step towards improved management of e-skills should be an establishment
of a European framework allowing the recognition of industry-based and vendor
neutral e-skills certifications within formal national educational and vocational training
systems across Europe. In a wider skills context, this framework would embrace the
idea of enhanced human capacity in the workforce through teaching and learning.

A European e-skills meta-framework developed in cooperation with and supported by
industry, would act as a reference guide for national and regional frameworks and
encourage their convergence. This occupational matrix, within which different
national and sub-regional (e.g. German Länder) authorities can approve and validate
non-formal certifications and qualifications, would ensure that workplace e-skills
become a common EU value.

In doing so the framework should aim to enhance the e-skilled workforce across
Europe by associating “public and private” e-skills education channels and ensuring
that the most up-to-date and relevant e-skills are taught at school and university.
Such an objective also supports other EU public policy goals such as workforce
mobility and the creation of a “knowledge-based society for all”.

Furthermore, as pedagogy and learning play a crucial role in the development of e-
skills, the European framework could be extended to include related soft skills along
the lines of the Lifelong Learning and apprentice models. Recognition for mentoring
or for aiding learning of colleagues in the e-skills framework would ensure that skilled
individuals could pass on new information as soon as it becomes available, thus
increasing the flexibility of multi-stakeholder partnerships and reinforcing the
framework for e-skills development.
                                           17




Actions

   Research appropriate policy, legal, financial and institutional frameworks
    for multi-stakeholder partnership development –
    Such research could support governments in removing political, institutional,
    fiscal and other regulatory barriers and financial risks for private participation in
    education, and create innovative policies, institutional set-ups and legislation
    which encourage the development of partnerships in e-skills domain.

   Review existing regulations and model PPP contracts -
    Consider amending those regulations that block or inhibit private-public
    partnerships in e-skills education and training.

   Tax exemptions, credits and financial incentives –
    Financial means should be considered to encourage investment in education by
    profit and not-for-profit organisations.

   e-Skills PPP centre or forum -
Establish a forum or centre for sharing knowledge and pooling resources for joint
activities related to e-skills private-public partnerships. The forum and centre would
facilitate ongoing exchange of best practices and lessons learned from concrete
project implementation, and help develop economies of scale
 Support professional development and PPP capacity building -
    The relative lack of public knowledge and experience in this domain means that
    the adoption of PPPs in the e-skills education and content domain may rely on a
    few leading public sector initiatives, taking the risk to invest time and resources. A
    more even distribution of experience is needed. Public sector actors should be
    encouraged to dedicate resources to examine the potential offered by PPPs.

   Research into linguistic / semantic differences –
    Compare content, standards and curricula in the different education systems of
    Europe, with a view to ensuring that certifications map across borders and across
    education systems while respecting local education needs and traditions.

   Educate e-skills stakeholders –
    The adoption of multi-stakeholder PPPs in the delivery of e-skills content implies
    significant changes in traditional education structures and in the development of
    alternative education and training channels. Therefore, all stakeholders
    concerned need to be involved continuously in the changes and opportunities
    inherent in such a paradigm shift.


Conclusions

   Given the complexity of the operating environment for multi-stakeholder PPPs in
    education, it is important to state that there is no single ideal-type multi-
    stakeholder PPP for e-skills development. The “right” relationship is the one that
    best meets the needs of the partners in the local context, in developing regions or
    others. One size does not fit all. The EU, EU Member States, and sub-regional
    provinces or other local entities should beware of attempting to define too rigidly
    any contractual structure or mandatory or other preferences in the pursuit of a
    sustainable and replicable delivery model for the provision of e-skills.
                                               18




    Substantial political support is needed to explain the changes implied by PPPs
     potential for the EU and EU Member States in the e-skills content.

    Comprehensive and integrative partnership projects, such as projects for a
     “European ICT Career Development System and ICT Career Portal”22, could
     serve best to deliver the applied economics of multi-stakeholder partnerships for
     e-skills development in Europe and beyond.

    A major initiative – preferably through a multi-stakeholder forum on European e-
     skills – is needed in view of the Tunis “World Summit on the Information Society”
     in 2005 given the importance of non-discriminatory funding and support for
     education and knowledge for development and competitiveness and the weight
     put on capacity building in the previous Geneva summit in 2003.


                                         ___________




22
  see the e-skills framework presentations at the e-Skills Industry Certifications workshop of the
European Commission, DG Enterprise, Brussels, 24-25 March 2004
                                          19




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                                     20


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