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What is the role of public employment services in the future of work?

By Helen Metcalfe
Dec 11, 2019
5 MIN. READ

The future of work is evolving rapidly due to climate change, demographic changes, globalization, and advances in technology. Public employment services (PES) play a key role in supporting jobseekers to make successful transitions to employment and from one job to the next.

But how do PES adapt when the current norms of the labor market are outdated? The International Labour Organization recently called on governments, employers, and workers’ organizations to come together to develop a new approach to the labor market.

PES must support jobseekers in finding long-term employment and empower them to forge their own career paths. Here are several key areas where their role is particularly useful in preparing jobseekers for the future of work.

Deliver joined-up services with other organizations

Working with other organizations can benefit the design, development, and delivery of joined-up services aimed at specific groups of jobseekers. Undertaking focus groups or user testing in the development stages—or putting in place systems for providers to deliver specialist solutions—can boost the efficiency and effectiveness of services.

PES can work with specialist organizations to promote their services and support specific target groups of jobseekers. This can include:

  • Organizations representing specific groups of jobseekers, such as youth or disability organizations, to gain insights and improve reach.
  • Providers of wider services—such as housing, healthcare, and social services—to identify and tackle wider barriers to employment.
  • Specialist training providers deliver adapted, targeted training that takes into account jobseekers’ actual needs and contributes to delivering support services that matter.

Delivering joined-up, holistic services to those most in need can help to tackle the root issues of unemployment. In time, this can also provide a better life to those who are the most disadvantaged in society. 

Offer career guidance and lifelong learning

The concept of a “job for life” is dying out and is likely not to exist in the future. Workers will make more transitions from one job to another than in previous generations. PES can take on an enhanced role to support workers with successful transitions by providing career guidance and lifelong learning opportunities. This can include:

  • Offering career guidance to students before they leave compulsory education.
  • Locating PES in the premises of other organizations, or in one-stop-shops to raise the profile and accessibility of their guidance services.
  • Working with employers to guide and support workers to new employment in cases of redundancy.

This new role provides jobseekers and workers with skills and tools so that they can take control of their careers. The future of work demands that jobseekers can access career guidance and lifelong learning whenever they need it.

Multi-channel delivery

The way that we access and consume information is changing quickly due to new technologies. Jobseekers can now apply for jobs easily—wherever they are, whenever they like, and by whatever means they want.

Providing services through different channels allows jobseekers to access and consume information and support in the ways that best fit their needs. PES need to adapt the accessibility of their services to meet these new expectations. This includes:

  • Maintaining face-to-face services in a traditional job center setting.
  • Expanding opening hours, or offering late night openings, so that those with work or other commitments can access services after 5pm and over the weekends.
  • Providing counseling services online.
  • Developing online chat bots to assist website users.
  • Improving websites so that they are user- and mobile-friendly.
  • Working with employees, start-ups, and small businesses to develop new, advanced online services.
  • Adapting areas of each office to the needs of a particular group to make the environment less formal and more welcoming.

PES can divert specific target groups to specific access points. This can free up resources and make it quicker for jobseekers to find the right job. In some countries, PES offer digital savvy jobseekers access to online counselling services

Offer new forms of work

Digitalization has created new forms of employment via the rise of the “gig economy.” While these jobs don’t offer full protection to workers, they do open up flexible working to a global workforce. In general, all workers need to access these opportunities is a laptop and a good wi-fi connection. This means that workers in remote areas can access some of the same work opportunities as those located in cities. In other cases, workers only require access to a mobile phone and mode of transport to be hired.

PES may wish to alert jobseekers to opportunities in the gig economy as viable employment options. This means that the types of information and guidance offered will need to change in order to include new employment options, and to inform jobseekers of workers’ rights.

Alternatively, some PES in Europe and Central Asia are starting to encourage jobseekers to set up their own businesses. Jobseekers can receive training and support on developing business plans, dealing with suppliers, and growing their business. By supporting entrepreneurial opportunities for jobseekers, governments can invest in the next generation of businesses and future economic prosperity.

Investing in services offers long-term value

Modernizing PES will contribute to a better functioning labor market. Support for jobseekers and workers can help to break the cycle of unemployment and provide lifelong skills that put them in charge of their future.

This has the potential for significant long-term return on investment for governments. Jobseekers and workers will be able to make successful transitions with less intensive support—and they will be less likely to return to unemployment and social welfare.

PES need support from governments to deliver services at the front line of the future of work. If changes are made now, future generations will be able to take advantage of improved public support and greater employment opportunities.

By Helen Metcalfe

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