Skills for Work: Knowledge Sharing Forum on Development Experiences: Comparative Experiences of Korea and Latin America and the Caribbean
Ryu, Kirak; Moon, Hanna
This study investigates Korea's success in the area of skills development and what role the Korean government played during the stages of Korean economic development since the 1960s. Major achievements connected with the Korean skills development system over the last few decades are described and evaluated. However, it is worth noting that the Korean system has confronted challenges, arising from rapid changes in the economic and social environment that have put the sustainability of its current skills development system into question. In this regard, this study also analyzes the direction the Korean skills development system is moving toward and makes policy recommendations concerning how current challenges may be better handled. In doing so, the notion of lifelong skills development is derived. This notion signals a shift away from a government-led, supply driven model towards a locally based, demand-driven model, in order to align the supply of education and training programs with the needs of local business, and the improved effectiveness of Korea's skills development system over the coming years. The Korean government has played a key role in establishing the skills development system over the last few decades. Government intervention in skills development has addressed both the public and private sector. In the public sector, government initiatives established vocational education and training institutions in response to rising demand for skills, and according to economic development strategy. In the private sector, government legislation established regulations and institutions that incentivized private employer investment in in-plant training by providing financial support (e.g., levy-exemption) until the late 1990s, with the levygrant system under the Employment Insurance Act effective since 1995. These measures helped employers to bear costs related to training prospective and existing employees. Additionally, national qualification systems helped job seekers to undertake vocational training, which was in high demand throughout the labor market. This paper briefly describes challenges and concerns connected with establishing a lifelong skills development system in Korea. The analysis will focus on how the existing government-led VET system may be transformed into a public-private partnership based model that provides better VET programs. Additionally, the VET system needs to foster lifelong employment or employability rather than lifelong jobs, which was previously the cornerstone of the Korean employment system. Regarding career development, policy intervention needs to disestablish the "monorail" career trajectory of school-work-retirement, in favor of diversified careers by establishing flexible and competency-based qualification systems. This paper also describes some examples of instances of application of the lifelong skills development system in Korea. In-depth case studies are carried out regarding the development and application of National Competency Standards, the local-industry tailored skills development system, and reform of secondary vocational education focused on specialized vocational and Meister Schools in Korea. However, the Korean central government must still perform a significant role in managing and monitoring skills development. It should continue to use policy to foster public-private partnership in skills development, as local municipalities and sectoral stakeholders are yet to develop their own capabilities in this area. In addition, National Competency Standards (NCS) and regional Human Resources Development (HRD) committees need to further develop their roles and functions in order to better meet the diversified demands of business and employees and adapt to rapid technological and organizational changes. To further expedite the fine-tuning of skill policy in rapidly changing markets, forecasting skill demand and supply requires further attention, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the demand and supply of skills.