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Policy to Action - Help the search for inspiring initiatives like FIT

George Ryan's picture
Submitted by George Ryan on Fri, 2012-06-15 12:42

We need to find more inspiring initiatives that are proven to work well and start to seriously put policy into action in more EU member states.

We (FIT) are one example which has a 13 year track-record and is proven to be effective and value for money based on its results (8,500 into jobs) and evaluation outcomes - see our post at http://daa.ec.europa.eu/comment/1704#comment-1704

We need to establish a peer group / network of proven initiatives to inform scaling up actions.

Please help me to find peer initiatives - just post your comments, leads or ideas on this. Many Thanks!

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clara.centeno@ec.europa.eu's picture
Submitted by clara.centeno@e... on Fri, 2012-06-15 15:18

Dear George,
From the EC JRC IPTS (Institute for Prospective Technologicla Studies) we have been following your initiative for some time with great interest.
It would be interesting to know in this set up,
1) if you are aware of any similar initiative taking place in other EU country
2) How easily you think such an initiative could be replicated in other countries / contexts?
3) Or what parts / concepts / models of the initiative could be replicated?

Many thanks!
Clara Centeno

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George Ryan's picture
Submitted by George Ryan on Fri, 2012-06-15 16:54

Hi Clara,
Thanks for responding to my post. I will try to give a brief response to your questions.

1. Are you aware of any similar initiative taking place in other EU country?

From our experience there are very few similar initiatives in other EU countries. I was impressed with one that I visited last year in Brussels which is similar but on a much smaler scale than FIT. You may already know of it? It is called Interface3 http://www.interface3.be/ and targets women who gain ICT skills in areas such as web development. It has an excellent director Laure Lemaire. I can introduce her to you if you do not already know her.

2. How easily you think such an initiative could be replicated in other countries / contexts?

We strongly believe that FIT can be replicated in other countries and indeed that it is essential for this to be pursued for both ecomic and social reasons. Our belief is based on a number of factors.

We have worked to replicate FIT in the UK, in fact Northern Ireland to be specific, The VET system is very different to that of Ireland but the problem is almost the same - the traditional system does not effectively engage marginalised individuals with high aptitude in serious skills development. We have reached the point where senior government ministers believe that they should consider piloting FIT in disadvantaged areas where the 'peace dividend' has not been experienced and inter generational unemployment is endemic and youth participation in the labour market is unacceptably low.

3. Or what parts / concepts / models of the initiative could be replicated?

The FIT model can be perceived as disruptive by existing VET systems and providers in that it challenges the 'old way of doing things'. It can be more comfortable for the existing system of VET provision to believe that marginalised long term unemployed people are not capable of succeeding in high skills training programmes and that this is the explanation for why they are not coming forward as participants. An important aspect of the FIT initiative is that key influencers challenge this perception and instigate, sponsor or mandate change. These can be major companies / employers or senior politicians or policy advisors.

In some case they can also be representatives / spokespersoins for disadvantaged communities who demand initiatives such as FIT when they become aware that they are missing out on such practical and life changing solutions.

We belioeve this aspect is quite suitable for highlighting through the Digital Agenda Assembly and its follow on actions. In a sense knowledge is power and many politicians, policy makers and suffering communities may demand change when they know approaches such as the FIT initiative have proven to be successful elsewhere.

The practical elements of the FIT initiative are replicable, some of which are:
- The Activation Process developed by FIT is a critical component
- The 'wrap around' support model is equally important
- The close engagement of industry is achievable and must be taken on board
- The skills ecosystem analysis aspect is more replicable than it ever before with ICT now effectively a global marketplace and ICT skills shortages growing in most countries.

Hope this short answer is useful.
George Ryan

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mpailthorp's picture
Submitted by mpailthorp on Sun, 2012-06-17 10:05

Microsoft has for a long time supported projects - including FIT and Interface3, access in libraries (with and in addition to Gates Foundation efforts) and many variants across greater Europe - both encouraging and supporting jobs focus and appropriate replication much in line with critical elements George astutely outlines. Moreover, to encourage more of such sharing and scaling, we have invested in Telecentre Europe as a forum for peer sharing and action. We encourage others to invest as well, with some success (Liberty Global and Accenture notably stepping up), but certainly more is needed and Microsoft (as a corp) can only do so much. We hear a lot about the need for impact assessment and various efforts are underway, but are slow in coming. In light of the urgency now for more impactful action, what needs to be done differently to move this agenda forward?

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ian_cli's picture
Submitted by ian_cli on Sun, 2012-06-17 10:56

Hi
I'd like to reiterate that Telecentre-Europe already has this remit: to share proven good practice, and connect the best networks so as to scale the impact. George, I'm hoping you will be in Brussels next week? it would be good to connect to tell you more about how we do this.
Ian

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George Ryan's picture
Submitted by George Ryan on Mon, 2012-06-18 10:52

Hi Ian - thanks for your comment and would love to meet up. I am in Graz from Wednesday through Firiday at the 'Age on Stage' conference but we invite you and any other Telecentre Europe colleagues to visit us here in Dublin any time. Ireland has the EU Presidency from Jan to June 2012 and we are considering having some promotional activity linked to that so we will let you know as the plans develop for that. Best Wishes for your meetings in Brussels - George.

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George Ryan's picture
Submitted by George Ryan on Mon, 2012-06-18 11:46

Agree about 'Impact Assessment' comment by Melissa Pailthorp from Microsoft, see her post http://daa.ec.europa.eu/comment/1822#comment-1822 and I want to comment on an aspect of this that we are frequently asked about which is -

'HOW HAS THE EFFECT OF TRAINING ON EMPLOYABILITY EVOLVED THROUGHOUT THE CRISIS?'

The placement rate (this is the term FIT uses for people who get a job after a course) does naturally go down in a recession especially when it is severe.

However FIT has developed a 3 strand strategy for that:

a) We still prioritise job outcomes and try to enhance those by internships and work experience periods which can lead to jobs. Then there are still vacancies in the labour market due to some sectors still experiencing growth and to job churn which still takes place even in as recession.

b) We encourage interested participants to progress into the next level of skills training or ‘further education’

c) We offer people support for up to three years after they complete their training course

Using these approaches we aim to achieve the job placement rates that are more like what FIT has achieved (around 75%) in a normally performing economy but over an extended period of three years.

FIT decided to track the outcome of a two sets of courses finishing in 2010 and 2011 in a ‘waterfall’ fashion i.e. compare the current outcomes of groups who finished in successive years.

We chose the sample set by picking all of the FAS/FIT courses in those years which gave us a nice sized sample of about 1,000 people who entered ‘FAS/FIT’ training courses in those two years. FAS is the national training agency and collaborates closely with FIT.

We are midway through the three year follow on support period for the cohort which finished in 2010. So it is a piece of research which will continue for another two and a half years which will bring us to the point in time that the group finishing in 2011 will have received three years of follow on supports from FIT.

But I can share the data that we have at this stage (up to 8th May 2012) which is summarised beolw.

Job placement for the group finishing most recently in 2011 was 34.5% (a further 14.6% progressed to further education giving an overall progression of 49% to date).

Job placement for the group finishing a year earlier i.e. in 2010 was 42.0% (a further 19.4% had progressed to further education giving an overall progression of 61% to date).

Although there are a number of data sets that can be reviewed the above are quite illustrative of the pattern we are observing.

The pattern is that with FIT supports progression to jobs increases over time. In the case above the extra year post completion for the 2010 finishers meant 42% were placed compared to the more recently completed 2011 finishers with 34.5% placement into jobs at this point. We believe the 7.5% difference is a trend that will continue i.e. placements into jobs will increase over three years with FIT supports. With more of the cohort completing their next step further education over the three year period they are also available to seek jobs.

This finding is a very significant especially in a recession and shows that positive impact can still be achieved for example with the strategies FIT has adopted.

I think this is a key policy question and governments and the EU Commission must have evidential based recommendations that support strong impact and value for money for any public investment strategies.

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stylianosm's picture
Submitted by stylianosm on Mon, 2012-06-18 19:21

I believe it is critical to have evidents & metrics on the success of every effort to strengthen employment such as these that you present, George. It's not enough to train but also monitor if this this learning intervention actually met its goal.

Is there an aggregation services or even a ..scoreboard measuring the effectiveness of projects and initiatives on skills & jobs around Europe?

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George Ryan's picture
Submitted by George Ryan on Tue, 2012-06-19 16:53

Evidence, Metrics, Impact are critical - you are absolutely right Stylianos!

There has been some research done on this which you may already be familiar with. One such study is the 'Vienna Study on Inclusive Innovation for Growth and Cohesion: Modelling and demonstrating the impact of eInclusion - Cristiano Codagnone1, March 2009, Department of Social and Political Studies, State University of Milan.

The background to the study is the 2007 Communication on eInclusion which stressed the potential tangible and quantifiable benefits estimated in its supporting Impact Assessment. The author of the monograph, stated that the study is firmly rooted in these policy antecedents and represents an important progress toward evidence based eInclusion policy making and impact measurement.

However the study found there were no instruments and only a few examples of robust evidence, metrics and impact assessment. One of the positive exceptions was the FIT initiative which is discusseed in the study. See one of the conclusions below:

Build measurement capacities among eInclusion practitioners:

'It has been shown, however, that lack of measurement capacities among eInclusion practitioners has produced so far, except for a few countries (most notably the UK and Ireland), little demonstration of tangible outcomes and cost/benefits monetised analysis. ........... It can be safely stated that in the practice of eInclusion measurement and evaluation activity is considerably lagging behind similar fields such as eGovernment and eHealth.'

There are other relevant and interesting conclusions which are worth reviewing.

Did you look at epractice.eu and within it the community 'eInclusion policy, analysis and practice'? Maybe it was once hoped to contribute to benchmarking practice but it seems to be mostly sharing in reality so may have limited value in relation to evidence and impact assessment.

We need the Digital Agenda to develop some concrete steps if we believe evidence, metrics and impact assessment are integral to making progress. I believe member states would be more interested and convinced by such tangible and reliable evidence, metrics and impact assessments. This could help dissemination of the Digital Agenda and move more of the energy and action from the centre (Brussels) towards member styates / regions.

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