Thessaloniki (GR), March 2010 - The need to develop fully integrated skills policies for education and training, employment, and innovation at all levels was a dominant theme in the workshop Skills and competence to overcome the crisis, which Cedefop co-organised with MEP Ole Christensen on 02 March at the European Parliament in Brussels.
All parties recognized the importance of anticipating skills needs and the role that forecasts such as those produced by Cedefop play. But as several participants said, general forecasts need to be fleshed out by sectoral and regional studies in order to establish the precise nature of the changes in the supply of and demand for skills and to find the most appropriate ways of financing and designing the necessary upskilling for various target groups, such as older workers, migrants, and early school leavers.
Ole Christensen said that the present crisis, which has affected all European countries, has raised some questions about how much further structural reforms need to go. The concept of flexicurity championed by Denmark, despite significant successes, is now coming under criticism. "In some instances, the effect of flexicurity policies has been to lower mobility. But mobility between countries and sectors is crucial if we are to fill job vacancies. The new term we are hearing now is 'mobication' - mobility and education."
Mobility was a theme also raised by Odile Quintin. "We must invest in initiatives that have stood the test of time. That is why President Barroso presented to the Parliament the large-scale 'Youth on the Move' initiative, which aims to make learning mobility a standard part of every degree and every career, and of lifelong learning."
She also drew attention to the issue of financing, pointing out that Europe is lagging behind its competitors. Noting particularly the large drop registered in in-company training between 1999 and 2005, she said this puts European competitiveness at risk. "We need investment in high-quality education and skills development, even in times of financial constraints".
Commissioner Andor particularly emphasised the value of integrating policies. "Skills are a cross-cutting priority. It will not make any sense to design education and training without knowing what skills people will need in tomorrow's labour market. And we will not be able to tackle current unemployment without including education and training for all our citizens." For this, he said, "we need to integrate policies on long-term employment, social inclusion, and global economic competitiveness".
This is the idea behind the Europe 2020 Strategy, launched by the European Commission on 03 March in Brussels. The Strategy, as Commissioner Andor underlined, "has the development of skills at its heart". Referring to the New Skills for New Jobs initiative, to which Cedefop also contributed, the Commissioner noted that it was launched just before the crisis hit our economies and labour market. "In hindsight", he said, "the renewed emphasis on skills could not have come at a better moment."
The issue of financing was picked up by Jozef Niemiec of the ETUC, who said there is little point in stressing the importance of skills unless we are willing to devote the funds necessary for training. "If there is no investment, then skills development is simply not a priority." Particularly if we look at developments in the BRIC countries - how much they are devoting to skills development - we will see that "the issue of financing training is crucial if Europe is to leave the present crisis behind."
Cedefop's complete forecast on skills, including national forecasts, will be published in the spring.