Following the announcement by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2022 State of the Union address, the Commission submitted its proposal on the European Year of Skills to the co-legislators last October.
During the European Year of Skills, the Commission, the European Parliament, Member States, social partners, public and private employment services, chambers of commerce and industry, education and training providers, workers and businesses will work together to promote skills development, thereby improving professional and life opportunities for people.
This will enable Europe to become more competitive by boosting its workforce, and ensuring that the green and digital transformations and the economic recovery are socially fair and just.
The green transition could create up to 1 million additional jobs in the EU by 2030, however companies are often struggling to find workers with the right skills: labour shortages in key sectors and jobs for the green transition doubled between 2015 and 2021. In addition, 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.
The European Year of Skills will help to address the skills gap, for instance by leveraging national efforts and also highlighting existing and new EU initiatives, including EU funding possibilities, to support their take-up, and promote the organisation of skills-related activities and events across the EU.
The European Year of Skills will pursue four main objectives:
- promoting investment in training and upskilling, enabling people stay in their jobs or find new ones
- ensuring skills match the needs of employers, by closely 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
- attracting people from outside the EU with the skills needed
Planned initiatives and activities
The Year will be celebrated with a European Year of Skills Festival on 9 May 2023 – Europe Day. The festival will link skills-related activities taking place concurrently across Europe. The Skills Year will run until May 2024, with many actions and initiatives to be launched and promoted.
The focus will be on the implementation of existing instruments. However, a number of new EU proposals will be adopted to underpin ongoing efforts and further boost skills development across the Member States. Examples include:
- The Commission will adopt a digital education and skills package to improve digital skills, education, and training.
- Following its recent evaluation, the Commission will propose an update of the European Quality Framework for Traineeships to strengthen the quality of traineeships and support the training and labour market participation of young people.
- The launch of the EU talent pool will facilitate international recruitment and provide opportunities for qualified third-country nationals to work in sectors identified as of strategic relevance at EU level, notably by facilitating the matching between vacancies in the EU and skilled non-EU third-country nationals.
- The Commission will propose an initiative to renew the learning mobility framework. This will enable more learners and educators than before to study and teach abroad.
- The Commission will propose an initiative to improve the recognition of qualifications of non-EU nationals in order to attract workers with the skills needed.
- In addition, the roll-out of Talent Partnerships with selected non-EU partner countries will help identifying skilling and training needs, to enhance mobility opportunities and legal pathways to the EU.
- As part of the Pact for Skills, industry, vocational and education providers, social partners, public employment services and others will create more partnerships to commit to training and investing in the reskilling of workers. Partnerships for onshore renewable energy, heat pumps skills and energy efficiency are in the making.
- As announced in the Green Deal Industrial Plan, the Commission will propose to establish Net-Zero Industry Academies to roll out up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries for the green transition like raw materials, hydrogen and solar technologies.
- The Commission will launch a Cyber Skills Academy aimed at increasing the number of professionals trained in cybersecurity to close the growing cyber talent gap. The Academy will bring together existing initiatives to close the cyber skills gap and respond to the needs of the cybersecurity job market.
- In the area of research and innovation, and as part of the European Research Area, a new framework for research careers will be introduced. This will include measures to enhance working conditions, improve skills and mobility and facilitate recognition of the profession.
- The Deep Tech Talent Initiative, a flagship initiative under the New European Innovation Agenda, will help train 1 million pupils, students and professionals in the ‘deep tech’ fields by 2025.
- The Making Skills Count Conference on 8-9 June will showcase initiatives that increase both the value and visibility of skills.
- The European Digital Skills Awards 2023 aim to reward projects and initiatives that are helping to bridge the digital gap. Applications are open and winners will be announced in June.
- The European Vocational Skills Week 2023 from 23-27 October will shine a spotlight on how vocational education and training is key for people of all ages.
- EU Code Week from 7-22 October 2023 is a grassroots initiative bringing coding and digital literacy to everybody in a fun and engaging way.
The political agreement reached by the European Parliament, Council and Commission is now subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council. To ensure the coordination of the European Year’s activities at national level, the Commission called on Member States to nominate a national coordinator.
Member States have endorsed the EU 2030 social targets according to which at least 60% of adults should participate in training every year, already presenting their national contribution to reach this target. This is also important to meet 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 will also contribute to the Green Deal Industrial Plan to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry and support climate neutrality.
Several EU funding instruments such as the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Digital Europe Programme, Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ are available support Member States’ investment in up- and reskilling.
The full programme of activities and further information can be found on the dedicated European Year’s website.