The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has evaluated the government support measure for vocational introduction employment (VIE). The commission includes evaluating the implementation of the support measure and the quality of training and supervision given in these jobs. In this interim report, Statskontoret has focused on the implementation of the support measure.
Implementation is on the right track, but needs more time
Statskontoret's assessment is that the launch of VIE is largely on the right track, but continued expansion will require more time. Few young people have been hired on VIE so far, and there are several reasons for this. Employers’ awareness of collective agreements on vocational introduction is still low. In addition, the employers who need a new tool to secure their skills provision do not appear to have embraced these agreements. If the investment in vocational introduction is to yield real added value it also needs to reach employers that do not usually hire young people. At the same time, Statskontoret assesses it to be improbable that the original ambition of 30,000 jobs per year will be achieved, even in the long term.
Few vocational introduction jobs in the first 18 months
Government support for VIE has existed since the beginning of 2014. The target group for these jobs are mainly young people who have not previously had any relevant experience in the profession. The support measure came into being following the fact that the social partners in a number of industries had signed collective agreements on vocational introduction. These agreements have similarities to the apprenticeship agreements that already exist in some industries.
The purpose of providing government support to VIE is to facilitate labour market entry and reduce youth unemployment. Up until 30 June 2015, 1,432 young people had been employed for a vocational introduction job with government support. In relation to original expectations, this is a weak result. However, the development is moving in the right direction in many areas, albeit at a slow pace.
Employer awareness of the agreements is still low
There are several reasons for why the number of jobs has not been greater. Statskontoret assesses one obstacle to be that most employers in the relevant industries have low or no knowledge of the agreements. The work of the social partners to disseminate information about these agreements has proven to be time consuming. This is complicated by the fact that the vocational introduction model is complex. Before hiring, there is a lot that employers need to familiarise themselves with. For this reason, it is Statskontoret's assessment that awareness of the agreements will not increase in any decisive manner in the near future.
The primary target group has not been reached
The vocational introduction agreements are aimed at employers who need a new tool to secure their long-term skills provision. These employers do not appear to have embraced the agreements to any greater extent. Many employers think it is too complicated to produce a training plan and assume responsibility for training and supervision. Those who have hired so far are mainly employers already accustomed to hiring young people for workplace learning. Many of these also appear to have seen VIE as a societal intervention rather than a tool for their own skills provision.
Development of operational support will require additional time
The relevant partners on the labour market have initiated long-term efforts to develop support structures for workplace learning. Such support structures might, for example, consist of professional boards that produce training plans and supervisor training in each sector. Statskontoret assesses that the partners' work has the right focus. In the long term, these support structures could contribute to a broader group of employers taking the step of employing someone through vocational introduction. However, it is still too early to determine whether the measures now taken will be sufficient to influence the employers' willingness to take that step. The development has reached different stages in different industries, and it will be some time before the various industries' VIE models are established and the results can be assessed.
Difficult administration for the Public Employment Service
Statskontoret's assessment is that the Swedish Public Employment Service (PES) has implemented its administration of the support measure satisfactorily, under prevailing circumstances. At the same time, the fact that the PES administers the support could risk obscuring the vocational introduction model's apprentice-like purpose. It could also obscure the fact that the social partners have the main responsibility for VIE. This is because regular PES support measures normally are not associated with apprentice-like initiatives run by social partners.
The design of the employers’ application process also creates an unclear division of responsibilities between the partners and central government. It also causes problems in the PES’ processing. The individual administrator must keep track of the terms in all the different collective agreements on vocational introduction and try to assess whether these terms are fulfilled. This is a difficult task, and also something that the partners do not want. It also means that the PES has little opportunity in practice to actively match applicants with vocational introduction jobs.
The social partners at the central level in the industry also have no complete control over the jobs. This is because information about which employers are hiring is protected by secrecy provisions in force at the PES. Statskontoret assesses that this situation could become even more problematic if volumes were to grow. From the partners’ perspective there is a risk of less serious employers gaining access to government support without offering adequate training.
No obvious measure to quickly reach more employers
Statskontoret assesses that the most important issue for the efficiency of a continued investment in VIE concerns the opportunities for getting a broader group of employers involved. If the support is to yield real added value, it needs to reach more employers than those who usually hire young people. However, Statskontoret sees no obvious measure that central government could take to quickly reach a broader group of employers. The best conditions for success are rather offered by continued long-term development work by the social partners, in combination with continued information efforts. This will probably take time, however. A final efficiency assessment must also take into account the effects of the initiative. Statskontoret will return to this in its final report in June 2016.
The Government should increase the role of the social partners
If the Government has long-term ambitions to increase the element of workplace-based training on the labour market, Statskontoret believes that the purpose of VIE needs to be made more explicit. The social partners should also be given an opportunity to take more responsibility for the continued development of VIE. Besides this, there are several practical problems in the employers’ application process that need to be resolved. Statskontoret therefore recommends the Government and the PES to initiate a number of amendments to the application procedure and the regulations.
Statskontoret submits the following recommendations to the Government:
- Amend the application process in such a way that the employer first sends the application to the social partner organisations in the industry, rather than to the PES. The partners can then make an initial assessment of whether the employment conditions have been fulfilled. This role can for example be assumed by a professional board in the sector. If the conditions have been fulfilled, the partners then forward the application to the PES.
- Leave it to the social partners to define what is to be understood by relevant professional experience.
Statskontoret submits the following recommendations to the PES:
- Centralise the processing of applications relating to support for VIE.
- Investigate the possibilities of departing from the requirement for the person being hired to be a registered job seeker.