Cooperation between employment and education authorities and Cedefop to equip Greek people with the skills needed to find and stay in employment was the topic of a seminar on 28 June in Thessaloniki.

The event, a joint initiative by Thomas Händel MEP, Chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and Cedefop, explored how employability could attract more jobs in the labour market.

In her speech, Greek Alternate Minister for Labour Rania Antonopoulou expressed guarded optimism about employment trends in the country despite unemployment remaining exceptionally high at 24.1% (March 2016).

She told the more than 50 participants that the Greek government has taken various measures to boost employment including setting up a skills anticipation mechanism in just eight months: ‘This is just the first step and the system needs improvement, however we can use it to find out what kind of skills the labour market is looking for and focus our resources in training people accordingly.’

Ms Antonopoulou added: ‘We have a rapidly changing labour market with globalisation and with the new targets this government has set in terms of the development strategy for the country. It is only through cooperation and close links with the private sector and with organisations like Cedefop that we will manage to make the transition as best as possible during these very difficult times.’

Cedefop Director James Calleja referred to studies that show the extent of the skills problem created by the economic crisis in Greece. More than 250 000 people have left the country and are currently employed abroad, he said, adding that more than 640 000 people will need to change sector as two thirds of the jobs lost are not recoverable.

‘I strongly believe that the way out of this critical situation must pass through education, training and employment,’ argued Mr Calleja and stressed: ‘Permanent employment nowadays means permanent employability and Cedefop’s aim is to promote employability, help Member States resolve unemployment issues, give people the opportunity to train and develop apprenticeships.’

Cedefop support

In this context, Cedefop has been supporting Greek authorities by reviewing the existing apprenticeship system, monitoring the development of the national qualifications framework and contributing to the national skills anticipation mechanism for the identification of emerging skills and labour market needs and their matching to vocational education and training (VET) supply.

Head of Department for VET Systems and Institutions Loukas Zahilas told participants that ‘Cedefop places particular emphasis on its cooperation with the Greek authorities having a consistently good relationship and providing technical support to the degree its remit and resources allow.’

Kostas Chrysogonos MEP said that Cedefop is now more important than ever. He noted that in Greece there are only 3.6 million active job positions out of a total population of 11 million, with young people and women being the most vulnerable. He added that the seminar could ‘prompt better use of apprenticeship, an excellent way of bridging education and employment.’

Kostadinka Kuneva MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, expressed her wish that Cedefop’s studies be exploited more by European governments and the committee itself.

Minister visit

Ms Antonopoulou visited Cedefop on 29 June to get a first-hand account of the agency’s work by management and experts. Among other issues, they discussed the ongoing thematic country review on apprenticeship Cedefop is conducting in Greece and the agency’s technical support to the skills anticipation mechanism implementation phase.