The field of professional training is one supreme priority for the Israeli economy in the coming years, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
He made these remarks at the Israel OECD Conference on “Skills Beyond School in Israel” which focused on the need for improved vocational education and training (VET) in Israel.
According to Bennett, who delivered the opening remarks at the conference, there is not enough compatibility between what people are studying and what jobs are needed in the Israeli workforce.
The conference was initiated by his ministry's Office of the Director of Employment Regulation and the Vocational Education and Training Bureau with assistance from the Foreign Trade Administration in response to the recent OECD report on post-secondary vocational education and training in Israel.
The OECD report, which was published in April 2014 and presented at the conference, found “serious and growing skills shortages” threatening the Israeli economy.
While the report stated that the Israeli vocational education and training system was diverse, it cited the concerns of employers regarding the inadequacy of vocational skills among employees, the wave of retirements of highly-skilled immigrants from the former Soviet Union which will exacerbate the shortage of trained workers, and the high unemployment rates among Arab-Israeli and ultra-Orthodox populations.
"Despite these growing pressures, there is less vocational provision than in many other OECD countries, and funding in the sector is inadequate and sometimes declining," the report concluded.
As such, the OECD report offered numerous recommendations to improve the “necessary” vocational education and training system in Israel. Among the recommendations, the report cited the need for the government to launch a "strategic expansion" of high-quality vocational education and training programs in partnership with industry and backed by supportive legislation. In addition, the report called to establish a national body comprised of ministries, employers and unions to provide guidance and oversight of the VET system.
“At the end of the day, this report is of no interest unless we implement it,” said Bennett, adding that the Economy Ministry will aim to begin implementation of the recommendations within the next two weeks.
Director of Employment Regulation and Senior Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Economy Michal Tzuk added: “In the past months, we have laid the foundations for cooperative ventures to advance the vocational training system in Israel. We have published a new program of on the job training (OJT), and we have drawn up a joint program with employers in the construction and hotel industries. If we are wise enough to create a greater variety of cooperative ventures of this kind, we will be able to advance the subject of vocational training, and provide suitable solutions for the needs of employers and industry.”
Also speaking at the conference was Prof. Adreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the OECD and founder of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).
“We need to be much better at understanding how the market works. Today's labor market does not only reward you on what you know but on what you can do with that knowledge,” he said.
According to Schleicher, understanding what knowledge and skills drive economic and social outcomes is essential to a fruitful economy. As such, he said that the issue of vocational training and education should be “everybody’s business.”
He cited figures indicating that the number of students in VET programs in Israel was very low when compared to other OECD countries and said that the data revealed that educational qualifications do not always translate into skills, such as literacy and problem solving skills.
Schleicher said the challenge facing every country was how to best transfer a person’s skills into the workforce to enable a productive labor market.
“There is a much wider choice of professions available for people who have not competed 12 years of schooling. Here in Israel you must involve employers in all aspects of the process of training and schooling,” he said. “You must prioritize and ensure that the money goes where it will produce the greatest level of return.”
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