Realising Slovenia’s bold vision for skills

by Andreas Schleicher 
Director, Directorate for Education and Skills

Small in size but not in its ambitions, Slovenia has a bold vision for a society in which people learn for and through life, are innovative, trust one another, enjoy a high quality of life and embrace their unique identity and culture.

So how does a country of 2 million people, with an export-oriented economy still recovering from the financial crisis, realise such ambitious goals?

People’s skills – what they know and can do with what they know – are at the heart of all countries’ prosperity. Technological change, globalisation and population ageing all magnify the importance of people’s skills. Recognising this, Slovenia embarked on a journey involving nine government ministries and offices and over 100 stakeholders to map Slovenia’s main skills challenges.

A series of interactive workshops in Ljubljana in 2016 provided a unique forum in which educators, employers, students, employee representatives, government officials and others discussed Slovenia’s skills challenges and opportunities. Participants underscored the need to encourage young people to be independent and creative thinkers. They wanted to make Slovenia more attractive to high-skilled workers, a place which embraces a culture of entrepreneurship and makes co-operation between government and citizens the new way of working.

Slovenia’s nine skills challenges

The OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Slovenia, published today, builds on these insights as well as comparative data and policy analysis from the OECD, the European Commission and national sources. The report identifies nine skills challenges for Slovenia as it seeks to achieve its economic, social and environmental ambitions.

People need to develop skills for economic and social success in an ever-changing world, early in life and through life. The report concludes that Slovenia faces the challenges of:

  • Equipping young people with relevant skills for work and life
  • Improving the skills of low-skilled adults who did dot have the kind of educational opportunities their children now enjoy

Creating conditions in which people want to work and firms are able to hire will be essential to Slovenia’s future prosperity. When it comes to activating its skills supply, Slovenia will need to tackle the challenges of:

  • Boosting employment for all age groups
  • Attracting and retaining talent from Slovenia and abroad

Promoting workplace cultures, practices and systems that spur workers and employers to put skills to use in workplaces can lead to higher wages, job satisfaction and labour productivity. Here, Slovenia faces the challenges of:

  • Making the most of people’s skills in workplaces
  • Using skills for entrepreneurship and innovation

Finally, Slovenia must ensure that the overall settings of the skills system – governance, information and financing – work coherently to achieve the best possible skills outcomes. This requires:

  • Inclusive and effective governance of the skills system
  • Enabling better decisions through improved skills information
  • Financing and taxing skills equitably and efficiently

Moving from diagnosis to action

Slovenia can now build upon this strategic assessment of the national skills system to develop an integrated set of actions to tackle its skills challenges.

The report identifies three themes emerging from this work that can help to frame future action:

1. Empowering active citizens with the right skills for the future: Slovenia, like other OECD countries, is grappling with the question of which skills are most essential for economic and social success in the future. There is no definitive answer to this question. Yet success will likely require that people develop a portfolio of cognitive, socio-emotional and discipline-specific skills that equip them to continue learning, interact with others and solve increasingly complex problems. A responsive and resilient national skills system will be essential. Slovenia needs to do a better job of ensuring that all actors play their part in creating, using and responding to high-quality information on skills needs.

2. Building a culture of lifelong learning: Ensuring that all actors – individuals, employers, educators, policy makers and others – believe and are invested in the value of learning at every stage of life will be crucial for the future prosperity and well-being of Slovenians. How adult learning is delivered and supported needs to be rethought, to make it accessible to all while demonstrating to individuals and employers the tangible benefits of upskilling and reskilling throughout life.

3. Working together to strengthen skills: The experience of the National Skills Strategy project in Slovenia has not only confirmed the value of co-operation between different ministries and stakeholders, but the importance of making this co-operation more systematic. The surest path to improving skills outcomes will be to work together today, based on a shared vision for the future.

Building on the significant momentum achieved during the Diagnostic Phase, Slovenia now has a unique opportunity to mobilise government and stakeholders to take concrete actions to improve skills outcomes. The OECD stands ready to accompany Slovenia in its next phase of the journey towards prosperity and well-being, building on the skills of its people.

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Photo credit: Slovenia High Resolution Future Concept @Shutterstock

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