At a conference on adult learning, organised by the European Commission in Vilnius (9 and 10 December), Cedefop Director James Calleja took part in a panel discussion debating what skills and means should be used to equip adults for the 21st century.

‘We need to remind ourselves that key competences are the main indicator of what skills people need to enter and sustain their position in the labour market,’ said Mr Calleja.

These include 'traditional' competences like mother tongue, foreign languages, basic competences in maths and science, and digital competence, but also more 'transversal' ones such as learning to learn, social and civic competence, initiative taking and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression.

Speaking about the means required to make adults more employable, Mr Calleja identified political will, financing, visibility and two structures – physical (training provision) and content (EU policies and European tools).

He added: ‘Only skills enhance employability and can guarantee employment, so adult learning is not an option in today’s labour-market context – it’s a necessity. Organisations such as Cedefop and other VET-related institutions, although they cannot provide lifelong employment, are obliged to offer structures for lifelong learning.’

According to the Cedefop Director, ‘it’s not too late to equip people for the 21st century because we are at the start of it, but the words we need to focus on are joining forces, action and skills/competences.’ He noted that highly skilled jobs will increase from 36.5% in 2000 to 44.1% in 2025 and 90% of jobs will require qualifications.