The "Agenda for new skills and jobs" is one of the seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 Strategy. It proposes actions within four key priorities in order to reach an employment rate of 75% by 2020. In its opinion the EESC broadly welcomes the European Commission initiative but puts forward a number of comments and recommendations. For instance, the Committee finds that the proposed initiative fails to encapsulate the urgent need to create good-quality jobs. It does not constitute a sufficient stimulus to Member States to set more ambitious national goals backed by the necessary investment and structural reforms.
In its opinion, the EESC welcomes the commitment to the renewed European Solidarity Corps (ESC) with an increased budget and target for participation. It also appreciates the merging with the EU Aid Volunteers. The Committee believes that in the future, the EU needs to develop two independent support programmes, one for youth and one for volunteering.
The EESC makes a series of concrete recommendations, such as: 1) the employment strand of the ECS needs to be subject to strict regulation and regular review; 2) there should be no age restriction on the ESC as it should be a support for volunteering; 3) the ESC should be restricted to the not for profit sector; 4)the main civil society platforms in the field (the European Youth Forum and the European Volunteering Centre) should be centrally involved in the regulation and oversight of the ESC.
The EESC believes that the Erasmus for All Programme should be a key instrument for increasing support for education and training in order to enhance citizens' skills, help tackle the high levels of youth unemployment in many Member States, meet the need for qualified labour, and resolve skills mismatches. It is especially important to employ such an instrument at a time of economic crisis and negative repercussions on labour markets.
The EESC recommends that the European Commission and the Member States support further studies and research that would tap the potential of gifted children and young people, aiming to facilitate employment and employability within the framework of the EU and, in a context of economic crisis, enhance specialist knowledge and prevent brain drain. It also recommends that greater consideration be given to each Member State's existing models for and experience in working with highly gifted children, and presents various proposals aimed at improving educational care for children and young people with high abilities.