The post-pandemic recovery and the transition to green, digital and fair economies will take a ‘skills revolution’, and that brings vocational education and training (VET), particularly continuing VET (CVET), centre-stage, Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel told a seminar organised by Universidad Complutense Madrid on 19 July.

Speaking to, and answering questions from, a group of academics, social partner representatives and experts at the event, Mr Siebel analysed the value of VET as a tool to help drive recovery and optimise labour market prospects in Europe. He highlighted the EU’s policies in the area, such as the renewed European skills agenda, the efforts to build a European education area, the Green deal initiatives and the updated digital education action plan which aims to support VET in providing the required skills and competences.

The Cedefop Executive Director stressed the importance of well-functioning apprenticeship programmes that will ensure that what young people learn will match skills in demand, with employers contributing to the costs of preparing the next generation of workers across broad occupational sectors.

‘It is through such balancing of interests, driven by strong social partnership, that millions of young people can be protected from the economic consequences of the pandemic,’ he said.

Talking about the significance of lifelong learning, Mr Siebel pointed out that, already before the pandemic, a Cedefop study estimated that 46% of the workforce in the EU-27, Iceland, Norway and the UK would require upskilling and reskilling. This need, he added, is becoming more pressing by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which are deeply affecting labour markets both in terms of job losses and restructuring of work through new technologies and digital means.

VET vital to meet policy targets

Mr Siebel underlined that achieving the EU's ambitious skills policy targets greatly depends on how companies relate to skill development. He mentioned the Pact for skills, one of the actions under the European skills agenda, as a shared engagement model that encourages regional industry partnerships to pool expertise, resources (e.g. shared training) and funding towards concrete up- and reskilling actions. ‘It is a crucial initiative to encourage investment in skills, but needs to attract more participation from employers,’ he remarked.

Skills intelligence the key to the future

As for the role of CVET in the context of planning the recovery, he noted that, while higher participation of adults is important, it is per se not the solution: what we need is a systematic approach to lifelong skill development sustained by well-functioning learner-centred CVET systems. 'And to that end, skills intelligence is of paramount importance if we are to help align learning opportunities with companies’ needs and people’s aspirations.'

‘Cedefop has provided skills intelligence to the EU for over a decade and coined this term long before its full potential was widely acknowledged; now, quite expectedly, we find it at the heart of the 2020 European skills agenda and the post-2020 EU policy framework for VET,’ he said, adding that skills intelligence and social partner involvement are instrumental to prepare for future labour market demands in the European Union.