Navigating growth and employment: EU’s skills agenda for 2023

The idea of making 2023 the European Year of Skills stems from the intention to strengthen the member states’ competitiveness in the world, with a better focusing on investments, supporting the SMEs and matching employment needs with people’s aspirations and talents. Having relevant skills empowers governance sectors successfully navigate changes in the job market and in sustainable wellbeing economy.   

The European Skills Agenda includes its main component – the “Pact for Skills” – which has been already signed by more than 700 organisations through a dozen of large-scale partnerships within numerous strategic sectors in order to assist the process of upskilling up to 6 million people in the EU member states. In this regard, the Pact for Skills performs its vital role of pooling together public and private organisations to encourage them to make concrete commitments to upskilling and reskilling citizens, both young and adults.

To fulfill its role, the Pact has four key principles: = promoting lifelong learning for all, = building strong skill partnerships, = monitoring skill supply/demand and anticipating skill needs, and = reducing all forms of discrimination while promoting gender equality and equal opportunities.
Besides, the Pact can offer to the states and organisations three dedicated services effective though the following hubs: a) the Networking Hub, where it is easy to find partners and relevant EU tools, e.g. Europass, Skills Panorama, EURES and the European Network of Public Employment Services; b) the Knowledge Hub to organise webinars, seminars and peer learning activities; this hub also provides updates on EU policies and instruments, as well as information on projects, tools, and best practices; and c) the Guidance Hub, to provide information on the EU-wide and national funding opportunities, guidance to partnering with national and regional authorities.
Reference to the Pacts’ website: https://pact-for-skills.ec.europa.eu/index_en

The need for skills’ renewal…
The EU-wide growth strategy, which includes –among other directions – green and digital transitions, is opening new developmental opportunities for governance, political economy, businesses and societies. Only by having the relevant skills the national economy sectors are being empowered to successfully navigate labour market changes and to fully engage in social market economy and sustainability.

= First “renewal direction” is about digital skills; therefore the EU digital strategy consists of four main directions: digital society and digital economy, as well as advanced digital technologies and international cooperation in digital issues.
See more on the strategy in: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies

This part of the skills’ strategy will ensure that nobody is left behind and the economic recovery, and that the green and digital transitions are socially fair and just. A workforce with the skills that are in demand also contributes to sustainable growth, while leading to more innovation and improves companies’ competitiveness.
However, currently more than three quarters of companies in the EU report difficulties in finding workers with the necessary skills, and latest figures from Eurostat suggest that only 37% of adults undertake training on a regular basis.
The Digital Economy and Society Index, DESI shows that 4 out of 10 adults and every third person who works in Europe lack basic digital skills. Over 70% of businesses have said that the lack of staff with adequate digital skills is an obstacle to investment. Europe also faces a shortage of digital experts who can develop cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of all citizens. The 2030 Digital Compass sets the EU target that by 2030, at least 80% of all adults should have at least basic digital skills, and there should be 20 million employed ICT specialists in the EU-27, while more women should be encouraged to take up such jobs.
Source: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/digital-skills-and-jobs

= Second “renewal direction” is about lifelong learning and training; generally, it is also important for the EU member states to reach the European employment rate target of at least 78% by 2030. Thus, education and training providers have to update their strategies in order to boost competitiveness, wide social involvement and “creating talents”.
Fresh impetus shall be given to the following directions in learning and training: a) promoting more effective investment in training and upskilling to harness full potential of the European workforce, and to support people in changing from one job to another; b) making sure that skills are relevant for labour market needs, by also cooperating with social partners and companies; c) matching people’s aspirations and skills with opportunities on the job market, especially for the green and digital transition, as well as for the economic recovery and resilience; specific attention shall be given to activate more people for the labour market, in particular women and young people, especially those not in education, employment or training. Finally, it is vital to attract people from third countries with the skills needed in the EU-27, including by strengthening learning opportunities and mobility and facilitating the recognition of qualifications.
It is notable, that even wide governance sectors’ employers and employees need reskilling as the national priorities are dramatically changing. Many aspects of the present governance and leadership’s operations need “updating” due to the twin transition (in the EU), as well as sustainability and sweeping technology modulations, world-wide. Hence, new generation of leadership is gaining momentum!

= Thirdly, the European strategy for universities, adopted this January, shall be a driving force for educators in the member states. Universities, and the entire higher education sector, have a unique position at the crossroads of education, research and innovation, in shaping sustainable and resilient economies, and in making the European Union greener, more inclusive and more digital.
The strategy already proposed a series of 50 actions that represent a vital component in developing high-level and future-proof skills for a wide range of learners, including lifelong learners.
Modern labor force’s representatives shall be more creative and critically thinking with abilities to contemporary problem solving and active sustainability.
For example, the European Universities alliances will take a central initiative: by mid-2024 the European budget will support up to 60 European Universities Alliances with more than 500 universities across Europe. The goal is to support these “European Universities’ alliances” with the Erasmus+ indicative budget of about €1.1 billion for 2021-2027 by developing and sharing a common long-term structural, sustainable and systemic cooperation on education, research and innovation, creating European inter-university campuses where students, staff and researchers from all parts of Europe can enjoy mobility by create new knowledge together, across countries and scientific disciplines.
There are about 5,000 higher education institutions, 17.5 million tertiary education students, 1.35 million people teaching in tertiary education and 1.17 million researchers in the EU-27 member states. Hence, the “university strategy” intends to support and enable all universities in Europe to adapt to changing conditions, to thrive and to contribute to Europe’s resilience and recovery. It proposes a set of important actions, to support Europe’s universities towards achieving four objectives: = strengthening the EU-wide dimension of higher education and research; = consolidating universities as the “lighthouses of the European way of life” with supporting actions focusing on academic and research careers, quality and relevance for future-proof skills, diversity, inclusion, democratic practices, fundamental rights and academic values; = empowering universities as key actors of change in the twin green and digital transition; and = reinforcing universities as drivers of EU’s global role and leadership.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_365

More information on the university’s strategy in: =Commission Communication on a European strategy for universities; = Commission Proposal for a Council recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation; = Communication on achieving a European Education Area by 2025; and = Communication on a new ERA for Research and Innovation.

General source on the European “skills agenda” in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&furtherNews=yes&newsId=10431&pk_source=newsletter&pk_medium=email&pk_campaign=eu_social_newsletter

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