Modern education efforts for skills in digital and green transition

The EU member states are trying to solve problems connected to shortages of skills needed presently due to both post-pandemic syndrome and modern challenges affecting active pace of EU-wide digitalisation and green transition. Recent review visualizes some policies and employer practices in the EU states used to mitigate general skills shortages and those connected to the lack of specific workforce qualifications, like IT, digital, SDGs, etc.  

The EU report examines responses to “new workforce” shortages at the national policy level and at the corporate level, i.e. looking at companies’ reflection on shortages in sectors and occupations during 2020-21. Thus, national measures and responses to shortages are categorised by the government and corporate actions (generally and in specific sectors) and by the general policy measures aimed at reducing labour and/or skills shortages.
Using the typology of measures to address different drivers of labour shortages developed by Eurofound in 2021 as a starting point, the report summarises the types of responses by the national policy decision-makers and employers. It includes such measures as: a) tackling skills shortages through training, monitoring labour market needs and matching education and training with the existing workforce’s demand; and b) addressing labour shortages through attracting and retaining external labour and activating available national resources.
For example, the report underlined that prevalent policy in the states to resolve labour shortages is: a) through active migration policies to attract foreign labour (in 11 EU states), b) corporate sectors and employers’ organisations mostly through use of wage increases (policy in 12 EU states), and c) improving working conditions (in other EU member states).
Present review was prepared a year ago by the European Centre of Expertise (ECE) in the field of labour law, employment and labour market policies (covering over 50 pages) and made public only in March 2023 (for references, see note below).

“Overlapping” policies
It was noted that due to some “overlapping” factors among various types of policies used to address skills and/or labour shortages, the “demand-distinction” definition has been “imperfect”.
Hence, the review’s summary concludes that:
= the EU member states are adopting and implementing measures to better match the labour market changes for students, employees, jobseekers and those inactive in employment. Thus, 17 EU member states roll out digital skills initiatives and in about 11 member states put forward initiatives on green skills development. The majority of EU states (18 members) are taking action to promote access and participation in education while one third of EU governments (or 9 states) put the emphasis on improving forecasting mechanisms.
= The dominant approach that employers use to address skills shortages, reported in all EU member states, is through their own on-the-job and off-the-job trainings (often used by large companies) or through publicly funded training schemes.
= Cooperation with a wide range of labour market and education and training actors is also seen by employers in all EU member states as key to improve matching between the workforce skills and labour market needs.

     Note: General reference: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi; more information on the EU policies in http://www.europa.eu. There are also important links: = CEDEFOP: European Skills Index: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/events-and-projects/projects/european-skills-index-esi; = CEDEFOP: Forecasting Skills Demand and Supply http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/events-and-projects/projects/forecasting-skill-demand-and-supply; = CEDEFOP: Online Vacancy Tool for Europe (Skills-OVATE): https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/tools/skills-online-vacancies; = CEDEFOP: National instruments for skills matching: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/8129; = EURES Labour Market Information National Level: https://ec.europa.eu/eures/; = EUROFOUND: European Company Surveys: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/surveys/european-company-surveys. And a general link to EU publications at: https://op.europa.eu/en/home

Vital educational role
It is well-known that education is key to helping people navigating in modern increasingly complex and interconnected world: national education systems play a focal role in fostering knowledge and skills among young people and provide inclusive learning opportunities in attracting people from other parts of the world.
Also important is the role of education/training providers: most teachers are confident in their ability to teach in multicultural settings; though, lack of adequate professional skills hampers the process. Thus, few teachers recognized having received training on teaching in multicultural and multilingual settings.
Generally, most European students attended schools with positive multicultural approach among teachers. There is, definitely a strong link between students learning activities at school and having more positive intercultural attitudes. Also, speaking two or more languages was positively associated with awareness of global issues, interest in learning about other cultures, respect for people from other cultures and positive attitudes towards immigrants.
On average across OECD countries, 50% of students reported learning two or more languages at school, 38% reported learning one foreign language and only 12% reported not learning any foreign language at school. The largest share of students (more than 20%) who reported not learning any foreign language at school were observed in Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Scotland. By contrast, in 42 countries, more than 90% of students reported that they learned at least one foreign language at school.
All kind of innovation in higher education is benefiting workforce’s specialization in national education models: thus, new global convention on acknowledgement qualifications helps flexibility’s process in modern societies. Most of all in developing higher education “fit for the future”, in creating more flexible provisions for “instant degrees” with micro-credentials, as well as moving towards more joint degrees studied at multiple institutions. The European Universities Initiative, with students doing one part of their degree in one university and other parts in other institutions within the same alliance could serve as a positive example.
More on the “global convention” in: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20230303090257531&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GLNL0729

Vocational education and training
It is recognized that labour market needs are most positively approached through vocational education and training (VET): it encourages people of all ages to develop their skills in line with the strategic member states’ digital-green transition. Presently, the main direction in adapting to changing labour market is on higher VET (post-upper secondary school level) and “ordinary” VET skills for green and digital transitions. In particularly through establishing a culture of lifelong and continuous digital education, promotion of digital learning platforms, as well as in implementation of sustainable VET structures.
The EU supports vocational education and training through its funds in the 2021-27 period by increasing attention with the European Social Fund Plus and Erasmus+, as well as in up- and re-skilling, which shall be a priority investment in the states. It has never been more important for VET providers, companies, trade unions, governments and other partners to deliver relevant skills for lifelong learning.
According to the Commission’s proposal on extended VET (July 2020), this kind of training shall be more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital age and the green transition. VET accounts for about half of the upper secondary graduates in the EU and helps in preparation of young people to successfully enter labour market through up-skilling and re-skilling: a) for people in employment to help them to continuously upgrade their skills, adjust them to the changing work requirements or negotiate job changes, and b) for the unemployed to help them acquire the skills needed to re-enter the labour market. More generally, VET empowers “the learners” with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to thrive in their professional, social and personal development.
The situation in VET was further aggravated during pandemic by the fact that practical training – in form of work-based learning and apprenticeships – has been suspended in most sectors. VET proposals were included in other Commission initiatives, such as the ‘European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience” and the Communication on youth employment support as a bridge to jobs for the next generation.

References to: https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/cedefop_community_apprenticeship_experts_synthesis_h ow_are_european_countries_managing_apprenticeships_to_respond_to_the_coronavirus_crisis.pdf

The European Vocational Skills Week: six-year history
The European Vocational Skills Weeks have become an integral part of the VET-Skills Weeks in local, regional and national organisations in the EU states with numerous events and activities emphasizing the benefits of VET and its crucial role in the lifelong learning. These “weeks” provide young learners with the initial skills they need for a fulfilling career and creating the means for adults to build on existing skills (up-skill) and develop new skills (re-skill) throughout their lives. Over 781 associated events and activities have already been registered in 38 countries, reaching more than 1.6 million people.
The “weeks” initiative was launched in 2016 by the European Commission, in the context of the New Skills Agenda for Europe and has since become a platform for VET stakeholders all around Europe to exchange ideas and good practice.
The overall objectives of the VET-Week are to showcase the many ways VET can help young people and adults to “discover their talents” and prepare them for the Europe’s economy of the future; and to demonstrate to employers the enormous benefits of investing in human resources by supporting the initial training of young people, as well as the up-skilling and re-skilling of adults.

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_2029; more information in the following links: European Vocational Skills Week 2020 website and European Vocational Skills Week-2020 map.

 

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