New directions in the EU’s political economy for skilled workforce

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The EU member states agreed with the Commission’s proposal on the EU-wide social targets by 2030; according to these targets at least 60 percent of adults should participate in training every year, with adequate national budget contributions; to reach this target, the EU has several funding instruments available to support the states in up- and reskilling efforts. Important as well is that the states have to meet employment rate target of at least 78 percent by 2030 to meet the “twin transition” targets.

This year is nominated by the Commission as the European Year of Skills; during the year (which will run until mid-2024), the EU institutions, the member states, social partners, public and private employment services, chambers of commerce and industry, education and training providers, workers and businesses will work together to promote skills development, thereby both improving professional opportunities for people and increase states’ resilience. Besides, these efforts will enable the EU-27 to become more competitive by boosting its workforce development according to modern challenges (e.g. through green and digital socio-economic transformations) and stimulate socio-economic recovery and streamline national political economy’s patterns.
According to the Commission’s plan, the 2023-Year of Skills will pursue four main objectives: 1. Promoting investment in training and upskilling, enabling people stay in their jobs or find new ones. 2. Ensuring available skills to match the needs of employers, by closely cooperating with social partners and companies. 3. Matching people’s aspirations and perspective skill-sets with opportunities on the job market, especially for the green and digital transition and the economic recovery. 4. Attracting people from outside the EU with the skills needed for the Union’s optimal growth.
To ensure the coordination of the European Year’s activities at national level, the Commission called on Member States to nominate a national coordinator.

Main new political economy’s directions
Two main directions are presently visible in the national and the EU-wide political economy: digital transition and green growth’s patterns.
= For example, green transition in the states could create up to 1 million additional jobs by 2030; labour shortages in key sectors and jobs for the green transition doubled between 2015 and 2021. In addition, the EU statistics shows that 4 out of 10 adults and every third person in the states presently lack basic digital skills. The European Year of Skills will help to address the skills gap, e.g. by leveraging national efforts and highlighting the EU initiatives aimed at EU funding to support and promote the organisation of skills-related activities. However companies even now are often struggling to find workers with the right skills. As part of the general green transition strategy, the Year of Skills will also contribute to the Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support climate neutrality. Several EU funding instruments such as the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Digital Europe Program, Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ are already available to support the member states’ investment in up- and reskilling.
= Most vital in the skills-year is the digital agenda: the 2030 Digital Compass is aimed at providing for at least 80 percent of all adults at least basic digital skills by 2030; besides, there should be 20 million employed ICT specialists in the EU-27 states with more women encouraged to take up such jobs.
Reference to:

Focal points in the skills agenda’s implementation
The Commission’s recommendation is to turn the states’ education policies towards existing and new teaching instruments and activate national efforts in boosting skills development.
Some advises and initiatives include:
= adopting digital education and skills package to improve digital skills, education, and training.
= Commission will update the European Quality Framework for Traineeships to strengthen the quality of traineeships and support the training and labour market participation of young people.
= launching the EU “talent pool” to facilitate international recruitment and provide opportunities for qualified third-country nationals to work in sectors identified as of strategic relevance to the states’ needs, notably by facilitating matching between vacancies in the EU and skilled non-EU third-country nationals. In addition, the roll-out of “talent partnership” with selected non-EU partner countries will help identifying skilling and training needs, to enhance mobility and legal pathways to the EU.
= Commission will initiate renewal of learning mobility framework to enable more learners and educators to study and teach abroad.
= Commission suggests improvements in recognition of qualifications of non-EU nationals in order to attract workers with the skills needed.
= Industrial sectors together with vocational and education providers, social partners, public employment services, etc. are recommended to create more partnerships to commit to training and investing in the reskilling of workers, as part of the EU’s Pact for Skills. For example, some partnerships for onshore renewable energy, heat pumps skills and energy efficiency are already in the making.
= the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies, as is suggested in the European Green Deal Industrial Plan, to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programs in strategic industries for the green transition (like raw materials, hydrogen and solar technologies).
= the Commission will launch a Cyber Skills Academy aimed at increasing the number of professionals trained in cybersecurity to close the growing cyber talent gap; the Academy’s goal is to close the cyber skills gap and respond to the needs of the cybersecurity job market.
= In the area of research and innovation, as part of the European Research Area, a new framework for research careers will be introduced to include measures to enhance working conditions, improve skills and mobility and facilitate recognition of the profession.
= Within the “Deep-Tech-Talent Initiative” under the New European Innovation Agenda, about one million students and professionals in the “deep-tech-fields” will be trained by 2025.
= The Making Skills Count Conference (8-9 June) will showcase initiatives to increase both the value and visibility of skills.
= The European Digital Skills Awards 2023 is established to reward projects and initiatives that are helping to bridge the digital gap; applications are open and winners will be announced in June.
= The European Vocational Skills Week-2023 (23-27 October) will showcase most optimal ways in vocational education and training for people of all ages.
= The EU Code Week (7-22 October) will serve as the collection of basic initiatives in bringing coding and digital literacy to everybody in a funny and engaging way.
Reference to the Commission’s press release at:

      The EII’s opinion: it’s true that the member states have to make additional efforts in empowering people to learn skills that are in demand on the greatly transforming labour market. The process is both new and complicated for the member states’ education providers. Of course, the Commission’s initiative is a timely one to address the lack of skills needed to tackle modern global and European challenges, including all specters of sustainability and circular economy on top of twin EU transition directions.
However, the new initiative cannot be fully implemented during a year or even several years: the member states’ education policies have to elaborate adequate national education and training policies according to national priorities and political economy’s patterns and growth. No doubt, the two main EU’s directions in skills (green and digital) are the most important presently, but the states also need to elaborate long-term education strategies aimed at tackling constantly growing crises and challenges.

A “helping hand” in this regard could be a new book prepared recently by the EII; more in: Modern Educational Revolution: Challenges and Solutions (by E. Eteris and O. Sparitis). – LAP, 2022.-144 pp. In: . Book’s version in seven languages in:

Additional information in the following Commission’s weblinks: = European Year of Skills; = Website on European Year of Skills; = Press release: Commission kick-starts work on the European Year of Skills; = Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Skills 2023.


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