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The Employer’s Dilemma: Employer engagement and progress in vocational education and training reforms

Employer engagement is a critical part of vocational education and training (VET). However, we know little about forms of employer engagement in the implementation of VET reforms. Employers can be advisors, or can be given roles and responsibilities throughout the cycle of VET processes: helping design curricula, providing workplace training during VET application, and providing feedback or initiating updates. The latter approach asks much more, but the former creates a prisoner’s dilemma where participating firms risk losing their investment to poaching from refraining firms. In the higher-engagement model, employers coordinate with other companies in their sectors and invest, then have the opportunity to earn returns—often during the training period. We follow eight international VET reforms through their first year. We find that cases where employers are highly engaged make more progress, excepting powerful top-down reforms. High employer engagement seems riskier because of the greater investment by firms, but the returns it generates lets high-engagement reforms sidestep the prisoner’s dilemma and improve implementation progress.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3929/ethz-a-010799048
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Paper provided by KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich in its series KOF Working papers with number 16-423.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2016
Handle: RePEc:kof:wpskof:16-423
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 1-9.
  2. Samuel Muehlemann & Juerg Schweri & Rainer Winkelmann & Stefan C. Wolter, 2007. "An Empirical Analysis of the Decision to Train Apprentices," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 21(3), pages 419-441, 09.
  3. Wendy V. Cunningham & Paula Villaseñor, 2016. "Employer Voices, Employer Demands, and Implications for Public Skills Development Policy Connecting the Labor and Education Sectors," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 31(1), pages 102-134.
  4. Robert Lerman, 2013. "Are employability skills learned in U.S. youth education and training programs?," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-20, December.
  5. Stefan C. Wolter & Samuel Mühlemann & Jürg Schweri, 2006. "Why Some Firms Train Apprentices and Many Others Do Not," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 7, pages 249-264, 08.
  6. Werner Eichhorst & Núria Rodríguez-Planas & Ricarda Schmidl & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2015. "A Road Map to Vocational Education and Training in Industrialized Countries," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(2), pages 314-337, March.
  7. Edward P. Lazear, 2009. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(5), pages 914-940, October.
  8. Thomas Bolli & Ladina Rageth, 2016. "Measuring the Social Status of Education Programmes: Applying a New Measurement to Dual Vocational Education and Training in Switzerland," KOF Working papers 16-403, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
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