The research program of the GOVPET Leading House addresses specific forms of governance in so-called collective skill formation systems found in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. In the first research phase, the Leading House sought to understand how decentralised cooperation in skill formation works and explored ways in which private sector stakeholders can be encouraged to make a long-term commitment to cooperate. Starting in 2020, the second research phase further investigates these questions but puts on emphasis on two issues that are crucial and at the same time under-researched in relation to the governance of collective skill formation systems: technological change and immigration.
Research has not yet answered the question whether collective skill formation systems can adapt (fast enough) to the needs of the knowledge economy. If they cannot, firms may no longer turn to VET to meet their training needs. In addition, it is unclear whether technological change will complicate the reconciliation of social inclusiveness and economic efficiency. More ambitious and knowledge intensive programs may need stricter entry requirements, thereby de facto becoming inaccessible to academically less inclined students. This issue might be further compounded by the rise in immigration and the arrival of large numbers of youths with educational records that are not easily validated in rigidly organized occupational systems. At the same time, though, the immigration of individuals, in particular skilled ones, might also serve as a competition to VET systems, as firms increasingly opt to recruit from this pool of workers rather than train themselves. As a result, immigration influences strategic employer coordination, as immigrants might serve as alternative to trained domestic workers or as strategic employer coordination is used to protect to occupations against the entry of immigrant workers.
The research project is structured in three research areas. The first research area, “Reconciling strategic employer coordination and social solidarity in the face of structural pressures”, asks how skill formation systems can cope with structural pressures such as technological change and immigration without compromising either strategic employer coordination or social solidarity too much. It thus explores the tension between maintaining high levels of strategic employer coordination and high levels of social solidarity.
The second research area, “Adapting skill formation systems to the knowledge economy”, asks how skill formation systems based on strategic employer coordination can adapt to the knowledge economy. This includes questions about what kind of skills firms want in the knowledge economy and about the recruitment strategies firms use. In this context, there is an important link to immigration because (high-skilled) immigrants are an important alternative to training. At the same time, collective actors involved in training might rely on occupational protectionism to neutralize this competition.
The third research area, “The integration of immigrants into skill formation systems”, explores the numerous challenges related to the inclusion of immigrants into skill formation systems. The challenges include the coordination between different government agencies, the balance between the requirements for enhanced accessibility and the quality of the certificates, the kind of support young immigrants need to receive or the certification of skills acquired in the immigrants’ home countries.
Overall, the Leading House broadens and deepens our understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and conditions for successful decentralised co-operation. It also analyses how the overarching objective of social inclusion is considered in the governance of collectively organised VPET systems.