Commission kick-starts work on the European Year of Skills

Following the announcement by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2022 State of the Union address, the Commission has adopted today its proposal to make 2023 the European Year of Skills.

The green and digital transitions are opening up new opportunities for people and the EU economy. Having the relevant skills empowers people to successfully navigate labour market changes and to fully engage in society and democracy. This will ensure that nobody is left behind and the economic recovery as well as the green and digital transitions are socially fair and just. A workforce with the skills that are in demand also contributes to sustainable growth, leads to more innovation and improves companies’ competitiveness.

However, currently more than three quarters of companies in the EU report difficulties in finding workers with the necessary skills, and latest figures from Eurostat suggest that only 37% of adults undertake training on a regular basis. The Digital Economy and Society Index shows that 4 out of 10 adults and every third person who works in Europe lack basic digital skills. In addition, already in 2021, 28 occupations ranging from construction and healthcare to engineering and IT had shortages, showing a growing demand for both high and low-skilled workers. There is also low representation of women in tech-related professions and studies, with only 1 in 6 IT specialists and 1 in 3 STEM graduates being women.

To encourage lifelong learning, Member States have endorsed the EU 2030 social targets that at least 60% of adults should participate in training every year, already presenting their national contribution to meeting this target. This is also important to reach the employment rate target of at least 78% by 2030. The 2030 Digital Compass sets the EU target that by 2030, at least 80% of all adults should have at least basic digital skills, and there should be 20 million employed ICT specialists in the EU, while more women should be encouraged to take up such jobs.

The European Year of Skills – boosting competitiveness, participation and talent

With the European Year of Skills, in cooperation with the European Parliament, Member States, social partners, public and private employment services, chambers of commerce and industry, education and training providers, and workers and companies all together, the Commission proposes to give a fresh impetus to lifelong learning by:

  • Promoting increased, and more effective and inclusive investment in training and upskilling to harness the full potential of the European workforce, and to support people in changing from one job to another.
  • Making sure that skills are relevant for labour market needs, by also cooperating with social partners and companies.
  • Matching people’s aspirations and skill sets with opportunities on the job market, especially for the green and digital transition and the economic recovery. A special focus will be given to activate more people for the labour market, in particular women and young people, especially those not in education, employment or training.
  • Attracting people from third countries with the skills needed by the EU, including by strengthening learning opportunities and mobility and facilitating the recognition of qualifications.

To meet these objectives, the Commission will promote upskilling and reskilling opportunities, for instance by highlighting relevant EU initiatives, including EU funding possibilities, to support their take-up, implementation and delivery on the ground. Events and awareness-raising campaigns will also be organised across the EU to support mutual learning of partners in up- and reskilling. The proposed Year also aims to help to further develop skills intelligence tools and promote tools and instruments for increased transparency and easier recognition of qualifications, including qualifications awarded outside the EU.

To ensure the coordination of relevant activities at national level, the Commission calls on Member States to appoint a national coordinator for the European Year of Skills.

EU initiatives to support skills development

For the European Year of Skills, we can build on the many EU initiatives already ongoing to support skills and increase their take-up, including:

  • The European Skills Agenda is the framework for EU skills policy cooperation and will continue to help individuals and businesses develop more and better skills and to apply them.
  • As part of the Skills Agenda, under the Pact for Skills so far, more than 700 organisations have signed up and 12 large-scale partnerships in strategic sectors have been set up with pledges to help upskill up to 6 million people.
  • The Structured Dialogue with the Member States on Digital Education and Skills.
  • The Commission has also proposed new initiatives to address EU skills shortages and improve migration cooperation. The roll-out of an EU Talent Pool and of Talent Partnerships with selected third partners will help match the skills of candidates to work in Europe with labour market needs. This is a key deliverable under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
  • The New European Innovation Agenda, adopted in July, proposes a flagship initiative and set of actions to create the right framework conditions for our talents.
  • The European strategy for universities, adopted in January, proposes a series of 50 actions that are key to develop high level and future-proof skills for a wide range of learners, including lifelong learners, for them to become creative and critical thinkers, problem solvers and active and responsible citizens.
  • The EU Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition tackles the digital skills gap by bringing together Member States, social partners, companies, non-profit organisations and education providers to raise awareness and encourage organisations to take different actions to encourage digital skills training such as taking a pledge to boost digital skills.

EU funding and assistance to invest into skills

Significant EU funding and technical support is available to support Member States’ investment in up- and reskilling, including:

  • The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) with a budget of more than €99 billion for 2021-2027 is the EU’s main instrument for investing in people.
  • The Recovery and Resilience Facility can support Member States’ reforms and investments, including in the area of skills and jobs. In the national recovery and resilience plans endorsed by the Commission and the Council so far, around 20% of the social expenditure is dedicated to “employment and skills”.
  • The Digital Europe Programme’s €580 million for development of advanced digital skills. It provides strategic funding and, among others, it supports the development of a skilled talent pool of digital experts, while at the same time enhancing cooperation between EU Member States and stakeholders in digital skills and jobs.
  • Horizon Europe underpins skills for researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators notably through its Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the European Innovation Council and the European Institute for Technology.
  • Erasmus+ with a budget €26.2 billion supports, amongst others, the personal and professional development of learners, staff and institutions in vocational education and training through funding mobility activities and partnerships for cooperation across Europe. It also funds European Universities which are pioneering the development of micro-credentials for training, up-skilling and re-skilling.

Additional programmes that can support skills development include the InvestEU programme, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for displaced workers, the European Regional Development Fund, the Just Transition Fund, the European Solidarity Corps, the Programme for Environment and climate action (LIFE), the Modernisation Fund, the Technical Support Instrument, and the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument.

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