WCC Expert Interview: Colombian PES

On the sidelines of the NASWA International Workforce Development Week in Washington DC in November 2019, WCC arranged an interview between Miguel Peromingo, independent Public Labor Market expert, and Angi Velasquez, Director of the Public Employment Service of Colombia. The interview touched on some surprising and unique features of the Colombian public employment landscape.

In the interview, Ms. Velasquez compares the Colombian Public Employment landscape with that of other countries. Unlike most Public Employment Services (PES), the Colombian PES comprises both private and public organizations. In total, the network comprises 250 service providers with more than 700 points of contact. Given this diversity, it is not surprising that establishing a common strategy within the network has proven difficult.

Because the Colombian labor market consists mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises, one of the many challenges Ms. Velasquez and her colleagues face is effective collaboration with employers.

Another challenge, one which Colombia does share with the rest of the world, is digitalization. In this context, Ms. Velasquez and Mr. Peromingo also discuss the functionality of Colombia’s current PES digital labor market platform, leading to the 2020 goal of becoming the country’s main source of information on employability through a new, to be developed, labor market platform.

Watch here the full interview:

PEPTalk 9: Competences, Occupations – can they work together?

On November 14 we presented another PEPTalk. This time the guest speakers were Karin Hackensöllner-Ali & Bettina Huber from the Austrian PES (AMS). They showed the importance of working with competences in addition to occupations when trying to find a jobseeker a suitable job.

Finding jobseekers suitable jobs based solely on previous occupations can be rather difficult. But when mapping jobseekers’ competences to their past occupations, the matching system can cast the net wider, look for occupations that fit a similar set of competences, and turn up potential jobs that would not have been found otherwise.

From WCC’s side Ludger Weller, who cooperates closely with AMS on matching matters, highlights the benefits of leveraging this knowledge in other parts of a comprehensive matching system as well.

To watch the webinar on-demand please click below:

When we started with the PEPtalks we had an audience of 20 to 30 live viewers. We are delighted to see that this last PEPTalk had 146 live viewers from as far as Malaysia. Another 122 signed up to view the webinar later. As it is an interactive webinar, we also invite the viewers to ask questions that get answered during the webinar. But with so many viewers there were more questions than we could answer during the webinar. Of course, such a complicated subject can’t fully be discussed in only 45 minutes. That is why we are glad that AMS has agreed to host a one-day workshop on the subject in their offices in Vienna early next year. Already 42 people have shown their interest in attending that workshop.

We are happy that our initiative is gaining recognition by a growing group of people from Public Employment Services all over the world. And we invite people from a PES to be our guest speaker in one of the next PEPTalks so that this exchange of knowledge will benefit all PESses and make them more effective in finding jobseekers a sustainable job and improve the wellbeing of the population at large.

PEPTalk 8: How advanced technology improved job matching at VDAB

The PEPTalk of June 2018 focused on Profiling, which allows us to divide people into target groups based on predetermined rules and to subsequently provide these groups with more targeted matches, guided by an AI-driven knowledge model. In the upcoming PEPTalk of March 26, you will learn how VDAB, in close cooperation with WCC, has put advanced AI techniques to use in their daily practice, with the aim of taking their job matching to a higher level.

Using AI techniques in order to improve job matching is not simply a matter of using an off-the-shelf algorithm and then expecting miracles – VDAB uses highly targeted AI techniques for very specific purposes, in a process in which there is also close collaboration with domain experts. Ria Deketele will present how VDAB is now using data analysis and machine learning to determine relevant target groups of jobseekers that require more tailored matching strategies. You will learn how by means of a qualitative tuning process, specific rules and matching criteria have been applied in order to improve these jobseekers’ chances in the job market. You will also learn how the effects of this tuning can be quantitatively evaluated by means of data analysis. Finally, you will learn how talent expectations and company culture information can potentially enrich the match process even further.

Below you can watch on-demand our PEPTalk on ‘How advanced technology improved job matching at VDAB’. 

PEPTalks are live & interactive: we encourage you to ask questions during the web

PEPTalk 7: Skills assessment app using ESCO and AI

Self-service skills assessment using a smart app based on ESCO and AI!

Apart from MySkills in Germany, there is another new approach to help refugees finding a job quickly. It is an app that helps them in their own language to assess the skills they have gained through past experiences. It uses the ESCO taxonomy including over 13,500 individual skills and nearly 3,000 occupations, as well as state of the art artificial intelligence to match individuals to occupations and generate job-specific applications.

The resulting skill profiles can then be used by individuals, employment services, education institutions, and others, and integrated into existing career and education services. Mr. Ulrich Scharf, Managing Director of Skilllab will explain how it works and how a PES can use it to improve the chances of refugees in finding suitable work more quickly and efficiently.

PEPTalks are live & interactive: we encourage you to ask questions during the webinar.

Click below to see the webinar on demand.

For more information on the skilllab application please contact Ulrich Scharf at  u.scharf@skilllab.io

Want to learn even more? Also watch our previous PEPTalk about ESCO.

ESCO is the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations. ESCO is part of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The ESCO classification identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations relevant for the EU labour market and education and training. It systematically shows the relationships between the different concepts.

Free workshops for PES professionals

How would you like to learn from the world’s most innovative PES, hands-on, straight from the source, and free of charge?

We are organizing two workshops around the topics discussed in our most recent PEPTalks – the webinars that encourage knowledge exchange between PES.

Both workshops will be held on the same day:

Thursday, September 20, in Utrecht, the Netherlands

You are welcome to join either, or both!

Interested? Please fill out this form before August 31.

The morning session will focus on MYSKILLS. This German PES project helps people with a distance to the labor market find work by creating an objective record of their professional skills. The workshop will be presented by the PEPTalk’s guest speaker, Anja Block from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

The afternoon session is about using AI and segmentation to improve match results. An AI-driven approach enables PES to influence jobseeker advice, resulting in more fitting matches.

You can read more about these topics or re-watch the PEPTalks here:


PEPTalk 6: AI & Segmentation


PEPTalk 6: PES-influenced job advice

One size does not fit all

Imagine an 18-year-old and a 55-year-old with the same skills.

A job matching algorithm might offer them the same job. But we all know that they should each get different advice. Advice that takes into account their differences as well as their similarities.

There is a way to provide fitting advice without having to hand-tailor it for every single jobseeker. WCC calls this Perspectives. Here’s how it works:

Target Groups for tailored advice

During enrollment, the system registers data such as age, gender, location, education, and experience level. Based on this knowledge, each jobseeker is assigned to a well-defined target group. The advice people in this target group receive is based on a sophisticated AI-driven labor market knowledge base.

Now here’s the most interesting part: Public Employment Services can influence this advice. For example, because they want to align the advice for a specific target group with an ALMP, or because the jobseeker is in a geographic area that needs a different approach than the average.

In the 45-minute PEPTalk webinar on June 25, WCC’s Marcel Bakker will discuss PES-influenced AI-driven job advice in more detail and explain how to implement this approach. He will be joined by Ria Deketele from the Belgian PES VDAB, who will discuss the matter from the PES point of view: what is VDAB already doing in this area, and what are their plans?

To view this webinar:

Case Study: the Australian PES System

The Australian employment services industry is unique. No other country in the world has managed to build a Public Employment Services sector in which the front-line work is entirely carried out by non-government organizations contracted by government. Australia’s innovative system was praised by the OECD and incites the interest of government organizations around the world.

close-up of several kangaroos

Australia’s innovative outsourcing of Public Employment Services in the late 1990s initially attracted some criticism. Were the Australians converting the plight of the unemployed into a private money-making opportunity? Was their government abdicating responsibility? Such fears proved unfounded and unjustified.

Australian employment services are one of the most closely monitored industries in the world, with market competition forces simulated by stringent and relative performance standards upon which the continuance of an individual provider’s contract entirely depends. 

Contracted employment services providers are held accountable to a strict compliance framework. Contract cycles are short, with under-performing companies losing the right to re-tender. In the first 20 years, the market condensed from over 300 providers to under 50. A ‘Star Ratings’ system determines the relative success of providers in achieving employment outcomes through a complex calculation that takes into account size and geographical location of allocated sites, characteristics of the local job markets, and characteristics of the provider’s jobseeker case load. Providers scoring 2 or less out of 5 are deemed ‘under-performing’.

Remuneration for the provider also mostly depends upon successfully placing jobseekers in work, and in most cases the placed client must remain in employment for at least 26 weeks. The administrative burden for providers is considerable, and the rewards are hard-earned.

An advantage of this system design is that it focuses provider efforts at a local level on achieving successful employment outcomes. It is responsive to changing labor market conditions and attracts a mix of innovative service models delivered by small and large organizations, not-for-profit and private companies, and specialist and broad-based services. The system’s effectiveness depends on information conduits between government and providers, as well as  on sophisticated data and analysis of labor markets.

Read more about the unique Australian PES system in this free chapter of Managing Workforce Development:

Labor Market Partnerships

The environment in which PES operate is being reshaped by fundamental changes resulting from demographic shifts, new technologies, and globalization. Workers can now expect many job transitions throughout their careers, meaning they will have to continuously develop their skills. In many emerging and developing economies, these structural transformations are occurring against a backdrop of high levels of underemployment and informal types of employment. Poor labor market outcomes contribute to rising inequalities not only in terms of income, but also in terms of access to quality employment opportunities. In addition, labor productivity growth has tended to decline in both advanced and developing countries since the mid-1990’s, partly as a result of demographic change and mismatch between the supply and demand for skills.

Key challenge for PES: inclusion of people with a distance from the labor market

To tackle these complex labor market conditions, PES must widen the range of their responsibilities. While job brokerage and the provision of labor market information remain core activities, PES must evolve if they are to contribute to the broader objectives of boosting labor market participation, stimulating job creation, promoting inclusive growth, and raising labor productivity. The best way to do that is by connecting jobseekers, employers, and other labor market actors.

Recently, PES have had to operate under continued austerity measures, which means that services have to be delivered more efficiently without compromising quality. At the same time, PES often only have a small market share in terms of vacancy coverage and access to key labor market information. This means PES need to engage with a range of actors to share know-how, expertise, and resources, and to offer complementary services to jobseekers and firms.

In this context, the real question is not so much why, but how PES should cooperate with other actors such as government departments, regional and local authorities, private firms, employer’s associations, unions, and non-profit organizations.

This free chapter of Managing Workforce Potential will review how these forms of cooperation can be most effective. It argues that the local level is often the most pertinent for setting up partnerships, and that the adoption of appropriate governance mechanisms is a key success factor for such partnerships.

Public-Private Partnerships

Reshaping National and Global Employment Services Markets

The modern Public Employment Service no longer functions as a single national operator. Public-private partnerships are reshaping employment services markets around the world. Why should PES work together with private partners, and more importantly, how should they form and build these partnerships?

This free chapter of Managing Workforce Potential provides at least 4 convincing arguments for PES-private partnerships, explores the many possibilities, and ends with an inspiring business case in the ‘Mayan Riviera’ in Mexico.

The Sharing Economy

What is the sharing economy, and what are its implications for employment services? Also referred to as the ‘gig economy’ and ‘Uberization’, the sharing economy is a system of business models that bring individuals together to share their resources with strangers, all of whom are – and this is the key – enabled by a third-party digital platform.

crowd of people walking on a zebra crossing

Today, sharing economy architecture can be found for almost anything. We are most familiar with structures such as Airbnb (accommodation) and Uber (transportation), also known as the ‘rides and rooms’ industries. However, locally and globally, people are also sharing “meals, power tools, dog kennels, boats, driveways, bicycles, musical instruments, even excess capacity in their rucksacks” (McLean 2015). The Internet, mobile technology, and social media platforms have brought about this economic and cultural shift. From one’s living room, global markets can not only be accessed, but participated in fully.

If this is altering our traditional business models, then certainly it is changing the nature of work. How are we to understand ’employment’ in the social economy? The disruption in traditional business structures raises practical questions for Public Employment Services and their partners. Does employment in the sharing economy fit the usual “supply and demand” scenario we have served over the years? And if the sharing economy is a dimension of the labor market, are conventionally-designed Public Employment Services and partners evolving to successfully place and support people in this new world of work?

There’s no shortage of research attempting to find answers. In this free chapter of Managing Workforce Potential, Natalie Branosky, explores and explains the sharing economy’s impact on Employment Services: