Published 27 June 2014

Other countries efforts to link industry to the education system 

– some examples from the USA, South Korea and India

Access to competence is a crucial factor for growth. To be competitive, employers need to have the right competence in the right place at the right time. In an increasingly globalised world, where changes are taking place ever more quickly, the linkage between the national and regional level is becoming increasingly important: employers’ needs and knowledge need to be transferred more and more rapidly to the education system since yesterday’s needs are not those of tomorrow.

Some observers believe that Sweden’s growth is being hindered by matching problems in the labour market since despite unemployment, competence is lacking in certain areas. Regional competence platforms are a Swedish initiative, intended among other things to match the supply of and demand for competence more effectively.

The present report describes what India, South Korea and the USA are doing to strengthen the education system’s interface with industry and vice versa in order to better satisfy employers’ need for competence in both the short term and the long term. The essential features of each country’s efforts are described briefly below.

A weak government is leading to more private responsibility in India

India, a country with 1.2 billion inhabitants, 65 percent of whom are under 30 years of age, is facing enormous challenges as regards the quality of, and access to, higher education and occupational training. The country has, and strives to, double the number of university students compared to today’s levels by 2022 and at the same time offer 500 million people occupational training. The federal government, state governments and private players have all taken several initiatives in the areas of education and occupational training.

India’s weak public administration forces private players to take greater responsibility to contribute to raising the quality of the education and occupational training that is provided and to promote collaborations between industry and the academic world.

Indian industries and industry bodies see few possibilities to influence how programmes and course content are devised. Partly as a reaction to this, a number of initiatives have been taken where companies or commercial/industrial organisations in collaboration with universities offer certification programmes. When the universities do not have the capacity to meet trade and industry’s needs with regard to competence, companies and industry bodies are out of necessity forced to take greater responsibility for education. They do so for instance by in whole or in part, implementing educational or other kinds of competence development initiatives themselves.

An evaluation of what the Indian government should do to promote collaborations between industry and the academic world and the role that various authorities are to play is currently under way at the federal level. This evaluation, however, has only just begun and the final outcome and any recommendations will take time to materialise. One important issue is how industry-academia collaborations are to be funded.

South Korea is focusing on greater regional influence and stronger ties between industry and academia

Approximately 80 percent of young people in South Korea study at university level, at the same time as unemployment are high among well-educated young graduates. Despite a large supply of well-educated young people, employers say that they have great difficulty finding people with the right competences. Two problem areas pointed out are inadequate quality of programmes or competence that does not match what the employer is looking for. This problem of matching supply and demand of skilled labour is particularly evident in South Korean industries with high rates of change and/or degrees of innovation.

Almost half the South Korean population lives in Seoul and there is an ambition to reduce this concentration of people. The government has initiated a process that aims to move 500,000 individuals to other cities and regions around the country.

South Korea’s regional development policy can be described as “all-embracing” as the regions are generally taken into consideration in all the country’s strategies and by all ministries. A policy shift is ongoing, away from national to regional plans for growth and competence maintenance. This can be clearly seen in several new strategies, economic stimulus packages and simplifications of regulations that have been presented in 2013 and 2014.

Three examples of measures to involve employers in the planning of education and generally increase the relevance of education programmes for employers are: 1) earmarked financial grants to regional universities for collaboration with employers, 2) industry-sponsored university programmes, and 3) industry-linked upper secondary school programmes with apprentice systems.

The government’s intention with these initiatives to increase the relevance of education programmes, especially given the varying regional prerequisites, is both to break the concentration of economic activity to the country’s capital and to reduce employment among young people.

The USA is characterised by individual responsibility and local decision processes

Essentially, all competence development – at least in the sense of education – is local in the USA.  Basic and secondary education are generally managed by the local authorities while university education is managed at state level and many private schools and universities also offer education without public involvement.

There does not seem to be any clear relation between public funding of education in American regions and the population’s educational level. One factor that more clearly appears to determine the availability of competent manpower in a geographical region is instead individuals’ mobility between different states and regions. Regions that can offer an attractive labour market and good living conditions in general can thus satisfy their competence needs to a certain degree without needing to invest specifically in the education system by individuals moving to places where there are qualified, well-paid jobs to attract them. This contributes to even out differences between the supply of, and demand for, competence in different states and counties in the USA.

In America it does not primarily seem to be the supply of education and competence that determines the level of regional availability of competence, i.e. public investment in education does not appear to have any tangible impact on competence levels. It would rather seem that the demand for competence determines regional levels of competence, as skilled labour being attracted to local labour markets where their skills are in most demand and where employers therefore offer the best and most highly paid jobs.

Title
Other countries efforts to link industry to the education system  – some examples from the USA, South Korea and India

Serial number
Direct response 2014:10

Reference number
2014/110

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