The education that people acquire before entering the labor market, as well as the training they receive on the job, are determinants of human capital accumulation. However, direct measurements of investments in education and training are not necessarily a good proxy for workforce skills. Variables such as years of schooling or hours of training received are unlikely to provide accurate assessments of skills and competencies, especially in the presence of wide variations in quality and learning. Moreover, gaps in the standard variables (i.e., years of education and training) widen over time, because skills and competencies change rapidly and are increasingly complex. More in-depth knowledge about how to assess work skills is therefore essential.
It has also been shown that the diverse skills required for success in the labor market do not end with the competencies and knowledge traditionally assessed by standardized performance and academic achievement tests. Thus, prioritizing skills and competencies over years of training is what will ultimately impact the productive development of countries.
In this context, conducting these assessments and monitoring their results are important for several reasons: first, to determine country workforce potential; second, to determine the skills needed by the workforce–essential for developing strategies to boost the productivity of people who are already employed and for redesigning systems for training young people looking to enter the labor market with the skills needed by the productive sector; and finally, for monitoring the growth of human capital in countries and ascertaining the effects of policies designed to improve the skills of the workforce. Failure to do so entails very high costs that include lagging productivity, slow economic growth, limited efficacy of the resources allocated to education and training, underutilization of a country’s human capital, and more.
In response to these demands, recent years have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of surveys and instruments for assessing workforce skills, including those of a socioemotional nature. These surveys and instruments differ in their content, objective, and methodology, focus on skills with similar names but different content, and respond to different needs.
This guide reviews the principal instruments and surveys developed for assessing workforce skills. Its main objective is to consolidate the existing information and provide an overview of the different types of instruments available. It is also intended to help readers understand and navigate the vast universe of surveys and instruments for assessing skills in adults. For each instrument, it presents a general description, comparisons with other instruments of the same type, and an analysis of its applicability to the region.