The European Year of Skills can set in motion the skilling revolution Europe needs and kickstart a decade of socially just transition, Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel said during Europe Day celebrations in Athens.

The event, organised by the European Commission's Representation in Greece, was dedicated to the European Year of Skills, which officially kicked off on Europe Day (9 May), was part of the European Year of Skills Festival and attracted academics, policy-makers, social stakeholders but also a large number of youths from all over Greece.

Participants had the opportunity to watch via video link with Brussels the message of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who highlighted the European Unions' strategic commitment to developing skills saying:

'Whether you are starting out in your career, are midway through it or you are nearing the end, investing in training is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, because our world is being transformed by technology and by the green transition. And this also creates new jobs and different ways of working that didn't exist even yesterday.'

Listen: European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas on the European Year of Skills

The European Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas, who was the keynote speaker at the Athens event, pointed out that for the first time the discussion on skills needs to move from diagnostics to action, and the European Year of Skills is the moment to do that, especially given the unprecedented level of investment that is being made available for the development of skills.

Mr Siebel took part in a panel discussion titled 'The European dimension of skills in the green and digital transitions', alongside European Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA) Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar, Chris Allen of the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), Ioannis Hadjiyiannis of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) and Aristidis Psarras of the Directorate- General for Migration and Home Affairs – Greece (DG ΗΟΜΕ).

Watch: Jürgen Siebel on the skills revolution and Cedefop's contribution

Cedefop's Executive Director analysed what the green and digital transitions mean for skills, jobs and vocational education and training (VET) and stressed that the European Year of Skills provides an opportunity for Cedefop to share its cutting-edge and policy-relevant evidence.

As Mr Siebel noted, the Agency's research demonstrates three main points:

  • The road to the year 2035 for the European Union will be one of more jobs and more skills-intensive jobs that will require high-level qualifications. Already before that point in time, there will be more high-skilled than medium-skilled jobs.
  • Digitalisation, which was enormously boosted during the coronavirus era, translates into task re-engineering – not massive job destruction. Nevertheless, we see huge upskilling and reskilling needs in relation to digital skills.
  • The European Green Deal is good news for employment overall, with a clearly positive outlook – about 2.5 million extra jobs predicted by 2030. In developing the skills needed vocational education and training can play a pivotal role.

Skills for jobs and jobs for skills

As for the EU policy implications of these findings, Mr Siebel underlined the need to supply more and/or higher skills, but not just that:

'Alongside investing in skills, we also need to upgrade jobs via smarter job design, better work organisation and by giving more people opportunities to use and expand their skills, while on the supply side, we should “get real” about intra-EU mobility and migration.'