EESC-Cedefop forum points to the need for an urgent and coordinated response to low skill levels in Europe

On 5 and 6 November, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) held the Third Policy Learning Forum (PLF) on upskilling pathways. It brought together social partners and government and civil society representatives relevant to this area, who warned that the current pandemic might further accelerate the changes in the world of work already brought about by the digital revolution, making upskilling and reskilling ever more relevant.

Participants in the PLF therefore stressed the urgency of implementing the upskilling pathways, the legislative proposal adopted as a Council Recommendation in 2016. This forms the building block of the EU Skills Agenda, aiming to equip all Europeans with the skills required to participate in the labour market and unlock their full potential to thrive, both as individuals and as members of society.

According to research by Cedefop, 128 million adults in Europe will have to update their skills or gain new ones in order to keep or get a job that corresponds to their competences and skills levels. This is the total figure for the EU-27, Iceland, Norway and the UK, and corresponds to a staggering 46.1% of the population.

"We need to emphasise that what we are offering is a part of a survival kit, both for workers and for employers, because business will not be as usual. Strong skills are a driver for competitiveness at EU level, and also for the personal and professional fulfilment of individuals," said the president of the EESC Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, Laurenţiu Plosceanu.

"We have to ensure that every adult has lifelong opportunities to update existing skills and acquire new ones to help them navigate uncertain times and thrive in their life and career", said Jürgen Siebel, executive director of Cedefop, adding that upskilling and reskilling systems should also take into account the needs of firms, which are an important part of the equation for achieving ambitious goals.

The third PLF took a closer look at experiences in designing and implementing Upskilling Pathways in Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands, where governments have set ambitious targets with comprehensive strategies, as well as introducing reforms in lifelong and adult learning that are already bearing fruit.

The PLF also explored the Portuguese government's programme that has managed to boost the availability of adult training in a country where, as of 2016, half of the population had not completed secondary education. (ll)