The research did identify some evidence of impact, including possible indirect effects, such as ways in which qualifications frameworks have improved general understanding of education and training systems, or contributed to standardizing provision, which might in the long-term improve how qualifications are used in labour markets.
The clearest relationship between a qualifications framework and the labour market was seen in France, where the framework could be seen as a codification of reasonably good relationships through not just a qualifications framework but also collective bargaining agreements. There was some evidence, corroborating the 2010 ILO study, that qualifications frameworks had contributed to creating greater coherence and greater understanding of qualifications in a country or sector, although for three of the countries in the study the frameworks were only operational in TVET systems, and did not cover all TVET provision.
As the 2010 report highlights, analyzing qualifications frameworks is complicated; impact analysis of most education and training policies are contested and complex, and one seldom enjoys the existence of a clear base line with well-developed indicators and comprehensive data. Nonetheless, inferences can be drawn. For example, while there is considerable rhetoric surrounding the importance of the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications with regard to labour mobility in the region, the fact that most countries in the region do not use the qualifications calls this immediately into question. Similarly in Tunisia, where very little development of the qualifications framework has happened in the last five years, in the context of substantial political upheaval, it is straightforward to infer that there has not been significant labour market impact of the framework.
The qualifications frameworks reviewed in this study were generally part of attempts on behalf of governments to improve the structure of qualifications and programmes available in different industrial sectors, as well as to raise the status of TVET. In this context it may be important to note that qualifications frameworks for TVET generally seem to function differently to comprehensive frameworks; the former tend to consist of competency-based training qualifications (often called NVQs—National Vocational Qualifications), while the latter relate to all qualifications. Where comprehensive frameworks are operational, there are some tensions between the TVET component of the framework and the rest of the framework, and where comprehensive frameworks are under construction, this tension seems to be a major sticking point. Other attempts to raise the status of TVET explored in the current study included increasing the general education component of TVET courses; building higher levels of TVET provision or creating quotas for students from TVET or further education and training in universities; attempting to change labour market rules; and creating policies to encourage training.
Most of the countries seem to have made considerable achievements in their TVET systems. There were good systems of provision in place, and a sense of dedication and committment from providers and government institutions. Much seems to have been achieved through strong government support for provision, and development of curricula and assessment systems to support implementation of the qualifications framework. Only in France, where labour markets were the most regulated and collective bargaining had the widest reach, were there clear relationships between qualifications and work. There was some indication of relationships between qualification levels and work in Tunisia, and an attempt to introduce such relationships in the public sector in Sri Lanka.
A key insight, corroborating the 2010 study, is the importance of building and supporting institutions, not only to improve educational provision but also because these institutions play an important role as labour market intermediaries. The importance of process and consensus building was also clear.
Similar to the 2010 study, we found instances of support from certain bodies representing employers and/or industry, as well as instances of lack of employer involvement or belief in this type of approach. In general we found little evidence of trade union involvement, with the exception of France.
The framework which emerges from this study as the most successful in terms of labour market relationships is the French National Register for Professional Certificates. Like the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework in the 2010 study it may be the most difficult framework to replicate, because of the long-term incremental policy reform process of which it was a part, the strong educational institutions in France, the specific and historical relationship between social partners, and the regulation of labour markets, including the inclusion of training levels in collective bargaining agreements.
Evidence of difficulties associated with implementing qualifications frameworks was found. However, in general, except for Tunisia, these were less severe than many found in the previous study. This seemed to be due to a more organic relationship with existing qualifications systems in the countries, and a less rigid notion of how a qualifications framework is supposed to work, building on existing systems and approaches instead of just trying to replace them. Having said that, it is not evident—and this is perhaps the reason for the lack of serious problems—that the qualifications framework per se is a major focus in the system in many of the countries. Other reforms were seen as equally or more important in achieving some of the desired goals: for example, while in many countries qualifications frameworks are cited by policy makers as key mechanisms to ensure educational progress, in Sri Lanka the government has enabled educational progress by creating more and different types of educational provision, and the framework seems to be a relatively minor aspect of this. This perhaps reflects a more mature view about what can realistically be achieved by qualifications frameworks in their own right.
Despite lack of clear evidence in their favour, there was broad support for qualifications frameworks in all the countries from policy makers and stakeholders, and there continues to be strong donor support as well as support from international organizations for the building and implementation of qualifications frameworks.
One of the clearest findings, explored in Chapter 4, is how different qualifications frameworks are around the world. This research corroborates the argument of the 2010 study that serious consideration of policy priorities as well as the sequencing of policies is important, particularly for developing countries. The incremental development of qualifications frameworks, building on existing systems, and not making unnecessary changes where there is trust in and understanding of systems and qualifications, are also important. Perhaps most importantly, the study clearly demonstrates the importance of the holistic approaches to the reform of work and of TVET systems, which the ILO has supported in principle for many years.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Labour market impact of National Qualification Frameworks in six countries