EU urges member states to improve populations’ skills with new 10-point action plan

By on 13/06/2016
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The European Commission has called on member states to boost the quality of skills and their relevance for the labour market after studies showed that 70m Europeans lack adequate reading and writing skills and 40% of European employers report that they cannot find people with the right skills to grow and innovate.

To increase skills levels, promote transversal skills and find ways to better anticipate the labour market’s needs, the commission on Friday launched the Skills Agenda for Europe which features ten actions to be completed this and next year.

Actions to be implemented immediately include a skills guarantee to help low-skilled adults in Europe acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and progress towards an upper secondary qualification.

Open to people both in work and out of work, the guarantee would provide to adults who lack an upper secondary school qualification firstly, a skills assessment, giving them the chance to identify their existing skills and their upskilling needs; secondly, a tailored learning offer, adapted to the specific needs of the individual and of local labour markets; and thirdly, opportunities for the validation and recognition of the skills they acquire.

The agenda also proposes a review of the European qualifications framework for a better understanding of qualifications and to make better use of all available skills in the European labour market.

The review will provide support to better describe, develop, assess, validate and compare key competences and related skills, in formal, non-formal and informal learning environments.

Special attention will be paid to entrepreneurial skills (helping people be more creative, proactive, opportunity-oriented, and innovative), including encouraging policies for all young people to have a practical entrepreneurial experience before they leave school.

The plan also includes the “Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition” bringing together member states and education, employment and industry stakeholders to develop a large digital talent pool and ensure that individuals and the labour force in Europe are equipped with adequate digital skills; and the ‘Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills’ to improve skills intelligence and address skills shortages in specific economic sectors.

EU vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, said: “In this fast-changing world we need to invest in Europe’s greatest asset: our people.

“People need a broad set of skills to fulfil their potential both as active citizens and at work. Skills are vital for prosperity, jobs, growth and sustainable well-being.

“Our new Skills Agenda aims both to make sure that no-one is left behind, and that Europe nurtures the high-end skills that drive competitiveness and innovation.”

Commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “We need to invest more in skills in Europe.

“The most competitive countries in the EU, and in the world, are those that invest most in skills and 70 million Europeans are at the risk of falling behind.

“Stronger investment in skills is vital for strengthening competitiveness and boosting growth.

“And most of all, it is crucial to help people to realise their professional dreams and goals and reach their potential. I invite Member States, social partners and businesses to work together with us and make this New Skills Agenda for Europe a success.”

Asked what the cost will be to EU member states to implement the agenda, an EU spokesperson said that the interventions of the European Investment and Structural Funds – the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – will inject over €30bn (US$34bn) to support skills development between 2014 and 2020, and that the ESF programme can support implementation at national level with up to €79bn (US$89bn) being allocated to priorities for education, training and lifelong learning, social inclusion, and employment.

Other existing EU funds available to member states which also meet the objectives of the agenda include the Erasmus programme; the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), Horizon 2020, as well as the EIB and other financial actors and products, including the European Fund for Strategic Investments, to boost private sector investment in skills development.

The spokesperson also said that any investment in skills would result in a substantial positive net return on such investment, adding that “estimates by Cedefop show that a one percentage point increase in the intermediate skills of the adult population, could boost the GDP per capita growth rate by 0.99 percentage points” and that “based on the latest available Cedefop skills forecasts, if no additional action is taken, the share of low-qualified adults within the working age adult population in the EU would be 18.6% in 2020 and 16.6% in 2025.”

Click here for more information on the plan

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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