In the framework of this opinion a hearing (Changes and prospects for the metal working industry) was organized in Barcelona, Spain, on 31 May 2010.
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Gist of the opinion
The metalworking industry is absolutely key in the move towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy, in line with the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy.
The EESC calls upon the European Commission to take due account of this branch of the downstream industry with regard to its own organisation and in allocating human resources, and to improve the level of the industry's representation and contacts in DG Industry and Entrepreneurship and DG Trade.
Skilled personnel, anticipating training needs, and ensuring the sector connects with young people:
Given the average size of companies, it is increasingly important to have sufficient availability of skilled personnel. Measures to combat the shortage of skilled personnel represent a key issue.
The EESC calls upon the Commission to consider the possibility of carrying out a Europe-wide study on the education and technical skills needed in the metalworking industry in order to anticipate training needs.
More European research funds should be dedicated to the metal producing and metalworking industries and in particular to materials technologies and nanotechnologies. The EESC recommends that when determining the structure of the 8th Framework Programme, the European authorities, and particularly the European Commission, should do all they can to facilitate general access to projects.
The metalworking sector suffers from a "non-image". Providing an adequate image for the sector and its opportunities is a task for the industry, and would also benefit from support from the authorities.
Both DG Trade and DG Industry and Entrepreneurship should have sufficient knowledge of the metalworking industry and adopt a balanced approach when taking measures that have an impact on companies in the sector.
There is a clear interest in developing a vision for the metalworking sector, based on the various clusters present throughout the European Union.
The EESC would welcome a stronger emphasis on the need to provide adequate liquidity mechanisms for the manufacturing industry, especially for SMEs in this sector. This could lead to better practices across Europe.