Gone are the times of learning a trade early in life and holding it with very few changes.
Nowadays, jobs may change fairly often. Digital skills and a willingness to change jobs are valuable assets on the job market. Unfortunately, EU statistics don't seem to indicate that these are widespread. 40% of the EU population is below par in digital skills, and only 11% of adults pursued lifelong learning.
In Romania, the situation is even worse: 74% of the people aged between 16 and 74 lack basic digital skills, while only 1% of the adults pursued continuous professional education. The situation has come to the attention of trade unions, which are concerned about the weak match between the content of school curricula and labor market demands.
Here is Bogdan Hossu, head of the Cartel Alfa national trade union confederation: “It is noticeable that interest for digital skills is very low among young people who opt for higher education. This shows that early education is not enough to provide information on the structure of the market and the adequate perspective on a future job. Today's Romanian education is fairly ineffective. We have some recommendations from this point of view. One refers to working together with the labor market, which should occur through the intermediary of employers and unions. At the same time, continuous education of adults is still a major issue, with great difficulties and malfunctions.”
Obviously, one solution is a closer collaboration between education and labor market regulation. Here is Labor Minister Dragos Paslaru: “An old-fashioned mentality still prevails. In other words, the education system is believed to be responsible with shaping and regulating skills. We have a system that is still the bone of contention in the relationship between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor, which is absurd. For the last month, I started talking to the Minister of Education, who is very open in this regard, that of institutional cooperation. So far we have not managed to collaborate properly in an institutional framework, we have not managed to create an effective link between the government and the private sphere, and we have not managed to create an effective link between the central and local spheres. There's more work to be done.”
Should inter-ministry cooperation function, it should be in dual learning, the involvement of employers in vocational education. The Education Ministry has taken certain steps, according to Margareta Ivan, an adviser to the education minister: “The concern of the Education Ministry right now is this dual model that has been debated this year, and will soon reach a final point by pushing through legislation opening the door for dual vocational education with an emphasis on practice and more involvement from employers.”
In addition, the curriculum for the secondary school system, recently launched, introduces computer classes as early as secondary education. Basic IT&C skills are fundamental requirements in most jobs, according to Raluca Predoi, a manager with a multinational corporation: “This is one of the most important technical skills we are looking for. As soon as a person is hired, communication occurs on-line. This continues in most tasks, from communication to self-reporting of results on the job. However, we don't believe these skills are properly developed in schools. For instance, even though there are classes for this in school, using Microsoft Excel spreadheets is below our expectations, which are not so high to begin with.”
As for working with the education system in order to train future employees, Raluca Predoi admits that her company has not had problems: “The company I represent is interested in the academic environment, in terms of higher education graduates, and equally in vocational training, since we have a manufacturing facility. In both cases, we have worked very well with universities, and have signed partnerships with vocational schools. We do have a dialog with government entities, but these have not reached a level of maturity.”
In order to encourage the dialog between institutions involved in job training, the European Commission has introduced a new agenda for improving the teaching of job skills and improving access to the labor market. (translation by C. Cotoiu)