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REPORT 03/2015 on professional competences and employability, adopted by the Council in ordinary session on 21 October 2015

The Council considers that economic transformations are causing occupational changes for which measures are needed to prevent long-term unemployment from becoming structural and imbalances from forming between the supply of workers and the demands of companies, thereby hampering job creation.In western economies a polarisation is occurring in employment, with bigger shares being taken by more highly qualified jobs and at the same time by jobs with low or intermediate qualification levels. In all events this polarisation is a trend which may be acted upon by means of reducing the share of low-qualified jobs and increasing that of higher and intermediate ones. In the Spanish case this polarisation is also present, though Spain’s employment is on average less well qualified than in the main EU countries.To resolve the imbalances hampering job creation we need to promote employability, understood in a broad sense involving a range of stakeholders and policies (education, active employment, economic and sectoral policies) so as to promote the creation of jobs of quality.Companies’ job offers have moved on from the traditional concept of tasks and skills to that of roles and competences. Beyond candidates’ knowledge, as demonstrated by qualifications or professional experience, companies demand competences such as commercial aptitude, team spirit or proficiency with languages or new technologies. Hence the importance of enhancing professional competences – a concept going well beyond formal qualifications. The Council also notes that for 77% of companies, experience is the main factor when recruiting a candidate. Thus mechanisms such as in-work training are essential for facilitating the shift between education and work.The successive education law reforms show the need for greater stability in the broad outline of education policy based on a wide social and political consensus, guaranteeing coordination and cooperation across the various levels of government with responsibilities for education and employment. Governance in the education and training system should take more account of employability issues, with participation mechanisms catering for the various stakeholders. Given the highly diverse measures adopted in recent years, an integral assessment needs to be made of their effects on medium and long-term trends in employability as part of governance in the education and training system and active employment policies, with the participation of the social partners.The Council points to the need for measures to reduce the school dropout rate as well as dropouts from vocational training, such as an individual register of pupils and students to monitor their attendance, performance-linked monetary incentives for students to help them remain in the system, and also incentives to encourage companies to collaborate more closely with training centres.The Council stresses the importance of providing stable structures for workers’ lifelong learning, refocusing public resources on the sectors with the biggest gaps between training and jobs. The Council notes that despite the increase in training provision meeting the demands of or subsidised by companies in training for employment, involving nearly 30% of private-sector firms, this growth stalled in 2014. Accordingly the reasons for this situation should be investigated. In particular there has been less presence in training of small and mid-sized companies.In training demanded by companies, the supply and demand of vocational competences needs to be better matched, based on the detection of workforce training needs, planning of training and utilisation of the resources available in the system. The Council highlights the role of contracts in training and apprenticeship and notes that there are not many trainee contracts, which ought to be a formula for acquiring practical experience and entering the labour market.The jobs of university graduates are below their qualification level in 52.5% of cases, which represents an over-qualification rate well above the European average of 41.5%.In graduate qualifications we find an undue concentration in some fields and lower performance in others such as mathematics, in an imbalance that may originate in pre-university education.The Council advocates greater coordination in university policy, with strategic planning of study programmes so as to anticipate mismatches in qualifications and competences between employment supply and demand. Resolving these mismatches will involve not only education policy but also science, innovation, industrial, regional development and other policies, and in all events the links between universities and business need to be tightened.The Council judges it is necessary to substantially develop the procedures for assessment and accreditation of professional skills acquired through experience at work and the resulting offering of complementary instruction as required for obtaining a vocational training qualification.Job-matching is the chief instrument for suiting supply to demand in employment and for identifying the competences possessed by workers along with those which would be required to get a job. The Council stresses the role that the public employment services should play on the job market and considers that this role is currently very limited, and moreover points to the need for sufficient funding and efficient use of the resources available.