Examining skills forecasting methods to curb unemployment in the Mediterranean region

On 16 and 17 January, in the framework of the Youth Employment in the Mediterranean (YEM) project, funded by the European Union, around 30 participants met at UNESCO, Paris, for a Capacity-building and Planning session on Skills Anticipation.

The aim was to share the knowledge and experience regarding challenges and solutions in the field of skills anticipation, and discuss how to fine-tune the skills anticipation methodology for the beneficiary countries participating in skills anticipation activities in the YEM project: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.

Borhene Chakroun, Director of Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning, UNESCO, opened the meeting for the participants, among which were representatives from national observatories, ministries, the private sector from the Mediterranean region, representative for youth, and five international experts in the field of skills forecasting.

Artificial intelligence – an agile method to predict jobs

The experts in the field of labour market anticipation each presented complementary methodologies to advice the current approaches to skills anticipation and the efficient use of results for improved forecasts of employment and national policies for skills development.

Among them were Nicola Duell and Ben Kriechel from Economix; Camille Courchesne, skills forecasting expert; Véronique Lamblin, prospective scenarios expert; and Hector Lin from JobKred.

Hector Lin, Director at JobKred in Singapore, a company that uses Artificial Intelligence and Data Science to provide real-time labour market information, emphasized the benefits of complementing the traditional qualitative and quantitative skills anticipation methods with artificial intelligence and data science.

“I want to give people a different lens to the ways of doing things. The traditional ways have always been linear, but the limitation of this approach is that it takes too long: often the data is obsolete when published so it becomes impractical. In this workshop, I want to offer a different view by using an agile approach to skills forecasting,” he said.

Agility seems to be the keyword when approaching skills forecasting in today’s rapidly changing labour market. The labour market trends and nature of occupations are quickly evolving, as well are the required skills for employment and entrepreneurship.

If young people and adults are to adapt to those changes, policy-makers are required to provide appropriate solutions and invest in national institutions with updated tools, capacities and knowledge structures, which efficient skills anticipation systems can inform.

Young people at the core of skills forecasting

Maya Attieh, a Water Resource Engineer and representative of the Youth Committee of Ibrahim Abd el Al Foundation for Sustainable Development, emphasized the importance of efficient skills anticipation for young people’s decision-making processes.

“Water resources in Lebanon is a very important topic and we need water resource specialists. But the domain covers many different sectors. In order to guide young students efficiently when they ask: I really like this course, but what can I do with it and is there a job afterwards, it is not possible to respond without specific data from skills forecasting.”

Efficient tools for skills anticipation and the use of results to inform policymaking are important to alleviate the worry that young people in the Mediterranean region might have. These worries are often based on the lack of professional experience when trying to access the job market, or not being sure, if the skills acquired will be relevant upon graduation.

“I want young people to be involved in a learning process and direction that is useful once they graduate. Efficient skills forecasting is what the young people need, because at the end of the day, they are investing in learning to be able to find a job afterwards.”

YEM builds on the achievements of the EU-funded NET-MED Youth project’s Employment Component. It has helped build skills anticipation models and mobilized key national stakeholders, including national institutions, youth and private sector representatives, to understand and employ the results from this exercise in service of policymaking for technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

The YEM project is funded by the European Union and implemented over a three-year period (2018-2020). Its aim is to support youth employment and entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean region by improving skills anticipation and TVET systems.