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Cedefop newsletter No 59 (April 2016) – Focus on skills
James Calleja Cedefop Director
As part of our regular newsletter provision, we will be offering you periodically an overview of Cedefop’s work in a particular area. This first edition focuses on skills. It aims at highlighting Cedefop outputs that can spearhead revision or updating of national and local policies or implementation of new ones.
Commissioner Thyssen’s visit to Cedefop on 22 April reinforced our agency’s role in supporting the new Skills agenda implementation. Effective communication with our stakeholders is essential in sharing information and knowledge that could have a positive impact on developments in VET, qualifications, and skill needs and anticipation.
The European skills and jobs survey insights and outcomes from Cedefop events can serve in rethinking education and training programmes, so that learning meets the needs of the individual and the economy better. Skills are high on the European political agenda because the number of citizens lacking basic skills to support their lives is unacceptably high. Cedefop will continue working assiduously to reduce skill mismatch and promote employability and competitiveness.
Skills formation plays a key role in the European growth strategy. Skills, however, take time to develop. They require workplaces affording learning opportunities and workers readily capitalising on those available. Cedefop expert Giovanni Russo notes that ‘workers bring to the job knowledge, skills and competence and their personal attitudes to learning. When workers are placed in a stable organisational environment with challenging jobs and opportunities to learn, skills will develop.’
Cedefop research shows that 29% of the European Union adult population suffers from qualification mismatches, mostly as overqualification. Cedefop expert Konstantinos Pouliakas notes that 'about a quarter of tertiary education graduates work in jobs below their qualification level; this is a waste of public resources and a taint on the value of further education.'
What has been the impact of the economic crisis on skill mismatch? Is there a cost in getting the unemployed quickly into any job? Why is skill mismatch prevalent among the EU workforce? To answer these and other timely questions on skill mismatch, Cedefop carried out the European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey. The findings caution that the prolonged economic downturn is threatening the long-term potential of the EU’s human resources. A greater share of recent job finders has entered into jobs that need lower qualifications and skills than their own. The unemployed also run a greater risk of misplacement into jobs of lower skill intensity. Closer stakeholder collaboration and policy action is needed to generate not only more skills but also, crucially, better jobs for better-matched skills.
The global crisis has increased unemployment in the EU to unprecedented levels, yet many employers claim they have difficulties finding skilled workers to fill their vacancies. This report shows that most vacancy bottlenecks arise because of factors other than general skill deficits, including job offers of poor quality. Genuine skill shortages affect a small group of dynamic, internationally oriented European enterprises in specific economic sectors. To mitigate skill bottlenecks, European companies must commit to offering high-quality apprenticeship places and good-quality jobs. The role of vocational education and training in developing creativity and entrepreneurial capacity in the European workforce will be crucial.
This study reviews recent policies and practices aiming to tackle unemployment through addressing skill mismatch in the EU-28 Member States. It examines skill mismatch policy instruments aimed at reducing unemployment as well as measures to prevent it. While much research and analysis on mismatch exists elsewhere, it is the first comprehensive study that maps actual skill mismatch policies and practices in the EU. In-depth case studies help identify promising features of policy practices and contribute to better understanding of impact.
Highlights from Cedefop's conference on maximising skills for jobs and jobs for skills in Thessaloniki (7-8 December 2015). The aim of the conference was to stimulate discussion and identify key policy priorities, challenges, and applicable solutions to skill mismatch, with particular emphasis on the role of public-private partnerships and of supportive public policies.
The European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey, the first European survey on skill mismatch, examines drivers of skill development and mismatch in relation to the changing complexity of people’s jobs. We have asked employees with different academic backgrounds to tell us how their skills are matched to their jobs - or not - and an employer why he has difficulty recruiting the right people.
Ownership of machines is key if they are to be used for everyone's benefit, argues Professor Freeman. In 25 to 50 years we will see massive changes. People must acquire basic programming skills from an early age to survive in the robot age, says the US academic.
Cedefop’s Skills Panorama team has introduced a new section on ‘Matching skills and jobs’, offering a series of indicators on skills and labour market mismatches, including the key indicators from Cedefop’s European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey. The new indicators allow the user to gauge issues around skill mismatch such as underskilling, underutilisation of skills or skills obsolescence among employees in the European Union.
A blog on the Skills Panorama website argues that, as automatisation and new technologies are here to stay, it is strong and trusted partnerships among stakeholders that can provide suitable and sustainable responses to skill mismatch and changes in the labour market. While technological change tends to come at the expense of jobs in the very short run, the consensus among economists was that the indirect effects of higher productivity would benefit household income. But recent research has challenged this consensus.
A Skills Panorama blog attempts to explain why Europe should worry about skills, looking at how the global economic map is shifting. Alongside traditional competitors such as Japan, the US and the Asian ‘tigers’, a new generation of emerging economies is seeking to compete with Europe in the high-end service and product markets. Does this bode well for Europe’s competitiveness? And why are skills critical factors into the equation?
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