Communication: A new skills agenda for Europe – working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness

Author (Corporate)
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Series Details (2016) 381 final (10.6.16)
Publication Date 10/06/2016
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Skills are a pathway to employability and prosperity. With the right skills, people are equipped for good-quality jobs and can fulfil their potential as confident, active citizens. In a fast-changing global economy, skills will to a great extent determine competitiveness and the capacity to drive innovation. They are a pull factor for investment and a catalyst in the virtuous circle of job creation and growth. They are key to social cohesion.

Yet the situation in Europe calls for action. 70 million Europeans lack adequate reading and writing skills, and even more have poor numeracy and digital skills, putting them at risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. More than half of the 12 million long-term unemployed are considered as low-skilled. Higher education institutions need to ensure that they equip graduates with relevant and up-to-date skills.

Skills gaps and mismatches are striking. Many people work in jobs that do not match their talents. At the same time, 40% of European employers have difficulty finding people with the skills they need to grow and innovate. Education providers on the one hand and employers and learners on the other have different perceptions of how well prepared graduates are for the labour market. Too few people have the entrepreneurial mindsets and skills needed to set up their own business.

National and regional labour markets and education and training systems encounter specific challenges, but all Member States face similar problems and opportunities. Tackling the skills challenges will require significant policy efforts and systemic reforms in education and training. It will require smart investments in human capital from both public and private sources, in line with the Stability and Growth Pact. The need for reinforced and updated skills also features prominently in the draft outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights presented on 8 March 2016 .

The New Skills Agenda presented today is number one in the list of major initiatives in the Commission Work Programme 2016. It supports a shared commitment and works towards a common vision about the strategic importance of skills for sustaining jobs, growth and competitiveness. This Skills Agenda strengthens and, in some cases, streamlines existing initiatives to better assist Member States in their national reforms as well as to trigger a change of mindsets in both individuals and organisations. It seeks a shared commitment to reform in a number of areas where Union action brings most added value. It is centred around three key work strands:
1.Improving the quality and relevance of skills formation.
2.Making skills and qualifications more visible and comparable.
3.Improving skills intelligence and information for better career choices.

EU-level action alone will not suffice. Success depends on the commitment and expertise of many players: national governments, regions, local authorities, businesses and employers, workers and civil society, and people themselves, taking up opportunities to make the best of their talents. In particular, social partners will have a key role to play in ensuring the Agenda is successfully developed and implemented, and keeps pace with the fast-changing needs of our labour market and society.

See also:
- Proposal for a Council Recommendation on establishing a Skills Guarantee
- Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning and repealing the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning

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Related Links
EUR-Lex: SWD(2016)195: Analytical underpinning for a New Skills Agenda for Europe
ESO: Background information: Ten actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills

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