There is more and more talk about the need to correlate education systems to the requirements of the labor market, this being not only a national policy priority, but also a European and global one. The economic and financial crisis of 2007-2008 left deep traces at European level in terms of youth unemployment and inactivity rates, and these traces do not seem to have been erased so far.
The extent to which initial education leads to the employment of young people and especially to their adequate employment has become one of the dimensions of the quality of education systems. Obtaining a qualification required by the labor market, leading to a fast and (ideally) adequate employment is promoted as a solution to increasing the difficulties and obstacles that young people face in the transition from school to work.
The labor market knows a very fast pace of development and change, in accordance with the dynamics of economic development. Under the impact of globalization and the extensive use of new technologies, which are changing at an ever-increasing rate, new occupations appear, and the old, traditional ones change their content at an alert pace. These changes, and especially the pace at which they occur, require education systems to anticipate what the labor market will require when new graduates leave the education system and enter the labor market. However, as the pace of change increases, the anticipation of developments is achieved over shorter time horizons (3-5 years), sometimes insufficient to project an educational cycle, and these projections may have a higher or lower level of confidence.
Vocational training does not end at the end of initial education, becoming necessary to develop systems of continuous vocational training to support the training of adults throughout life, to increase their employability and adaptability to rapid changes in the content of occupations and in general on the labor market.
Education, employment and social protection policies operate in the same macroeconomic context and in the same socio-cultural context. Different macroeconomic contexts and experiences (including historical and political) of a nation lead to different economies, characterized by different levels of productivity, added value and innovation, different mechanisms of dialogue and social partnership, different characteristics of the demand for labor force in terms of knowledge and skills and last but not least by different policy decisions on education, labor market and social protection reforms.
The need to increase the relevance of initial training to the requirements of the labor market is practically generated by the need to increase productivity and well-being. A well-trained workforce and in line with the demands of the economy is a productive workforce, which can support the development of a competitive and diversified economy (ILO, 2011) and implicitly sustainable social protection systems. However, the solution of all problems is not at the level of the education system. Labor market institutions must also be adequately developed and all actors must work together to create adequate mechanisms for generating well-being. For example, even if the young labor force leaving the education system is adequately prepared, if employment legislation is far too protective, curbing the entry of outsiders into the labor market, then human capital losses are inherent and the benefits of adequate education are exploited. only partially. Also, the public employment service must be efficient, precisely in order to facilitate a better and faster meeting of the demand with the offer, especially at the level of the groups of young people who have lower levels of employability.
The theme of this paper is deeply interdisciplinary, prioritized in public discourse especially by policy makers, and promoted as a panacea for most of the problems of the education system or the insertion of young people on the labor market. It is a topic that is based mainly on empirical data / approaches, although there are theoretical frameworks developed in recent decades, but not integrated in a unitary approach. There are theoretical and methodological frameworks developed both in economics, but also in sociology, management, marketing, etc.
Non-correlation is intrinsic to the way economies work, but there are no studies to conclude on the level of imbalance that could be considered natural, benign, and what is that level of imbalance from which the economy, individuals (companies or individuals) or communities are affected by its negative consequences.
The correlation between the educational offer and the labor market demand is approached differently depending on the level of studies considered: secondary level - vocational and technical education and tertiary level. If when we talk about correlation in secondary education there is consensus on how to approach and the importance of the topic, at the tertiary level the problem is still quite disputed: turn the goal of correlating universities into simple providers of training for employers (Harvey, 1999) .
I would like to emphasize that my position on the issue of the correlation between demand and supply does not agree with the need for educational institutions, of any level, to aim to deliver only specific skills. Economic contexts are changing, and are changing rapidly, so that what today facilitates a rapid insertion on the labor market in a very short time will lead to inadequacy and eventual dismissal. However, they support the need for cooperation between educational institutions, training providers and social partners so that everyone knows very well their role and responsibilities in the process of providing quality education, but also useful, facilitating a rapid insertion on the labor market and further adaptation. to work contexts as diverse as possible.
Who are the beneficiaries of an adequate process / mechanism for correlating demand and supply? The analyzes on the correlation between the educational offer and the labor market demand subscribe to a broader approach to provide real and credible information to all interested actors, so that they can make different choices. If the information is real and reaches those interested, then their choices will be rational and will be able to sustain a productive economy, which can generate well-being (ETF, CEDEFOP, ILO, vol.1., 2015).
Parents, for example, will be able to know how long it takes to qualify for a job, but also where or how much to look for, so they can recommend a career path appropriate to their child's expectations and profile, when they need to choose their specialization. . Adults will also be able to know which of the occupations related to the one they hold are the ones that have a higher search on the labor market, information that is extremely necessary, especially during periods of unemployment and professional retraining.
Companies, on the other hand, will know which is the profile of the graduate who could best meet their need for qualifications, or, when aiming for relocation, if in the destination region they will have a properly qualified workforce and which to can recruit.
Educational institutions could adequately establish their schooling figures, but also the educational offer, so that they can meet the requirements of new niches on the market, or not adequately covered by the already existing educational offer. Counseling and career guidance services, if they had the necessary information, could more accurately guide children and young people to different trades, professions, sectors, etc.
Public employment and vocational training services could develop plans and strategies with greater relevance for existing needs and so that those trained have a better chance of (re) integration into the labor market.
Information about the labor market and the benefits of education on the labor market can contribute to a better allocation of labor, and thus, can lead to a more productive economy, a more efficient use of public investment in education, and why no, to more informed choices of the labor force, to the reduction of the risk of abandonment or discouragement both in relation to education and to the labor market.
Why do we need correlation between supply and demand? Each of the factors I discuss in the first chapter is an argument for the need for greater relevance of the educational offer to the requirements of the labor market. There are those factors that impose the permanent adequacy of educational institutions and the labor market to an economic and social reality also in permanent and rapid change.
Although it is an interdisciplinary topic, it should be mentioned that economics is more visible as a contribution to its level (Kucel, 2010).
Why is this topic relevant to me? I have been working since 2002 as a sociologist at the National Institute for Scientific Research in the field of Labor and Social Protection - INCSMPS, and since 2012 I am part of the department "Education, training and connection with the labor market". It is part of my efforts to develop a career in scientific research and I hope that by going through the stages of doctoral and postdoctoral programs I have become better at what I do. Therefore, my goals by participating in this program and choosing this topic are closely related to my career goals for the future.
The research questions of the paper, to which I answer in detail in chapters 3 and 4, each of them being constituted by theoretical and empirical approaches, can be summarized, as follows:
- Is there a connection between the institutional configurations of a certain educational regime and the educational and career path of individuals, after leaving education?
- How did the post-communist states evolve from the perspective of educational regimes? To which typology of education and lifelong learning does Romania belong?
The research questions were elaborated during the doctoral program, they gradually generating each other. The first research question is the one that guided me the rather difficult process of identifying a theoretical framework, which I wanted par excellence sociologically, a theoretical framework to help me build a methodological apparatus for analyzing how it is built educational offer. The second research question, however, came naturally through the scientific literature, Romania, as well as many other post-communist states lacking it.
The way I sought to answer these research questions, no matter how generous, so difficult, is influenced by my experience in the field, working for more than 10 years in the institute, but also by the opportunity to hold seminars for the course. of social policies, an activity that gave me reflections on the connection between general, academic and specific competencies. The fact that I insist so much in the paper on the importance of general high level competencies as a basis for the development of specific high level competencies, this being practically the central idea of my paper and which I try to argue from different perspectives, both theoretically and empirically , is a direct consequence of the seminar experience occasioned by the doctoral program.