How Employment and Training Agencies Can Help Create More and Better Jobs

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on April 5th, 2013

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We had already written here on what we could expect URBACT to bring at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) LEED (Local Economic and Employment Development) conference on jobs and growth, which took place in Ireland on the 26th and 27th of March 2013.

Here is a report by Mike Campbell, URBACT thematic expert on the workshop on how employment and training agencies can help put in place more and better jobs.

Dublin and Kilkenny were the excellent locations for this near global event for almost 200 people, policy folk and practitioners, on how to implement change at the local level in order to secure jobs and growth. A wide ranging (some might say disparate) forum of ideas, practices and innovations, the 9th in this important annual series organised by the OECD’s LEED programme.

I was one of the speakers in the workshop on how local employment and training agencies can secure a more joined up approach to jobs and growth. An ideal opportunity then for me to explain something about the Urbact Capitalisation programme in general, and the ‘more jobs better cities’ theme in particular, which focuses on just this issue. Melody Houk from Urbact was also in the workshop, along with the LEED programme Director Sylvain Giguere. Other presenters were an economist from Northern Ireland, a policy analyst from the USA and an employment services manager from Australia. Around 30 people were there, with those contributing to the discussion coming from, inter alia, Italy, France, Ireland, Australia and Russia.
Most of the contributions focused in reality, not so much on creating jobs and encouraging growth than on how to bring the unemployed more successfully into work: vitally important, but on it’s own wholly insufficient to the task of economic recovery and creating more jobs for the unemployed to actually fill!

A strong theme was the importance of ‘metrics’: to measure performance, what has been achieved, and ultimately, success. If these can also be made ‘common’ across the multiple agencies involved ,or at least, be agreed for the locality as a whole, then this ‘mutual accountability’ would be a powerful incentive to, and mechanism for, more coherent and better aligned actions by different stakeholders. To achieve this, however, means securing that agreement, creating ownership of it and embedding these within a coherent strategy: a much more difficult task. Some were of the view that this is all better achieved in a competitive environment, where agencies are held to account for their performance and where outcome based payment by results drives improved outcomes( eg in Australia), a different view from that in some European countries.
Other ways of encouraging a more joined up approach that were touché upon, included public funding used as a fiscal incentive; understanding ‘what works’ and encouraging it’s adoption eg through networks; and thinking about governance structures too. Melody reminded us of the importance of ‘external’ drivers in kick starting action where/when it was stalled, using an outsider to encourage dialogue and early collaboration, which can then be built upon internally. Other issues to arise included: the importance of ‘skill matching’, in both meeting employers’ needs and those of individuals; the impact of migration on jobs and who gets them; and how labour policy more generally needs to connect to economic development policy.

My own initial contribution was to draw attention to URBACT and it’s capitalisation programme and to sketch out the key components of our ‘city action on jobs’ framework, which aims to provide a coherent, comprehensive, ‘whole system’ approach to jobs and growth, creating an integrated way of ‘ thinking and doing’ policy at the local level. This is designed to achieve better outcomes through policy and delivery alignment by addressing three inter-related sets of issues: jobs and the economy; people and the labour market; and the connections between them. The framework can be used as a ‘reflection’ tool to review existing local approaches, stimulating new thinking for the new times our economies, labour markets and governance structures are in, not least fiscal austerity and, in most of Europe at least, low growth and a shortage of jobs. It should prove valuable to participants at this event and to cities around Europe as they seek to adapt to these new times through innovation in their policies and practices.

We did perhaps not see enough of such new thinking and new experiences in the workshop, if we are to succeed in helping to create the new jobs and economic growth we need to secure future prosperity for our citizens in the future. This requires,in my view, a greater focus than in the past on productivity and competiveness, on business success, a commitment to more ‘job rich’ growth, better quality jobs, as well as cost effective ways of bringing the unemployed ‘back in’ to the labour market and connecting them to job opportunities. And it needs a cross cutting focus on building ‘connections’ within localities between all the stakeholders; between the localities and the ‘outside world’; and in the governance arrangements between them, if we are to succeed better in the future than in the past. All this is perhaps common sense. But ,as Voltaire once rightly said ‘ Common sense is not so common’. It is surely the task of URBACT, and the LEED programme, to make it so.

Mike Campbell, URBACT Thematic Expert

Interested to read more? You can find the presentations from this workshop on the conference website.

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