EU Member States should increase public investment in lifelong learning, with a special focus on the education of adults, and should allocate more funds for learning in non-formal and informal settings, in which learners can develop softer skills, such as critical thinking and teamwork, or character traits, such as leadership and curiosity.  

It is increasingly recognised that, as well as basic literacy and digital skills, people will need these soft skills to adapt to the impact of global digital and technological advances. These advances are currently transforming the world of work and the skills profiles of many occupations so quickly that it is often difficult to predict what skills will be needed in the future.

This was a point made in an EESC exploratory opinion requested by the Croatian EU Presidency. It also urged EU countries to earmark targeted funding for the continuous upskilling and reskilling of the most vulnerable groups in society to equip everyone – without distinction – with new skills tailored to jobs of the future.

The opinion's rapporteur, Tatjana Babrauskienė, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had clearly shown that learning could quickly adapt to changes in circumstances: "When life returns to 'normal', society should draw lessons from this e-learning experience and continue to develop these approaches and skills and invest enough in them, to enable every learner, whatever their social situation, to get involved and benefit from them."

Co-rapporteur Pavel Trantina emphasised the importance of integrating different learning environments into education, training and lifelong learning policies in order to promote learners' individual and unique potential. The EESC called on the EU and national authorities to address and these proposals and support them financially. (ll)