Upskilling and reskilling of adults is an urgent priority for European policy-makers and stakeholders. Rapidly changing labour markets and multiple challenges, such as digitalisation and its consequences for the future of work, technological changes, the environment, ageing societies and social inclusion, require strong skill foundations and constant updating and acquiring of new skills, knowledge and competences. This is even more relevant now, as our economies and societies are still confronted with the unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 health pandemic outbreak and resulting changes in terms of work organisation and skill needs. Ensuring that every adult has lifelong opportunities to constantly update and acquire new skills to navigate uncertain times and to thrive in their life and career is ever more important.
The above is of even more concern as, according to 2020 Cedefop estimates, there are 128 million adults in the EU-27 Member States, the UK, Iceland and Norway (hereafter referred to as EU-27+) with the potential for upskilling and reskilling (46.1% of the adult population). These adults may present low education, low digital skills, low cognitive skills or are medium-high educated at risk of skill loss and obsolescence. The estimates paint an alarming picture and hint to a much larger pool of talent and untapped potential than the 60 million low-educated adults usually referred as low-skilled.
However, the magnitude of the challenge is not all that European countries are facing. Cedefop work also shows that low-skilled adults are a highly heterogeneous population, comprising people with very different characteristics and needs. The magnitude and heterogeneity of the adult population with potential for upskilling and reskilling as well as the economic and social cost associated with low skills call for a renewed approach to upskilling (low-skilled) adults, both comprehensive and strategic; this should allow the pulling together of various resources and creating synergies from different measures and policies already in place across European countries. A coordinated and coherent approach to upskilling (low-skilled) adults also needs to be able to reach those most at need of upskilling and engage them in the process.
The Cedefop analytical framework for developing upskilling pathways for low-skilled adults has been developed to sustain a unique vision of upskilling pathways: upskilling pathways is about pulling together resources and creating the right synergies for supporting every (low-skilled) adult towards an individual path to empowerment. It is about creating a comprehensive approach to the upskilling and reskilling of the low-skilled adult population. This approach should be able to address their comprehensive needs in a coordinated and coherent manner and ensure that they have all the tools and support to embark on sustainable learning pathways leading to their full potential and fulfilment.
The framework’s value-added aspects involve the development process, its core foundation and its multidisciplinary contents. The development of the framework:
- it articulates a clear grounding in a lifelong learning perspective and is focused on the empowerment of the individual learner/beneficiary;
- it is articulated around important systemic features needed for a coherent and coordinated approach to upskilling pathways for low-skilled adults;
- it unlocks synergies and fosters complementarities across policy areas and practices; and
- It is based on an iterative process integrating both qualitative research and two rounds of stakeholder consultations aimed at gaining important stakeholder feedback and input collected at the first and second Cedefop EESC Policy learning forum on upskilling pathways: a vision for the future.
Building on its work on supporting the development of systematic and coordinated approaches to lifelong upskilling and reskilling pathways of low-skilled adults, in 2020 Cedefop started cooperating with Member States to undertake in-depth thematic country reviews, TCRs, of their national approach to the implementation of the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation. TCRs have a twofold objective:
- At national level, to support the implementation of the upskilling pathways recommendation and to identify country specific strengths and challenges and present a set of policy options for ensuring systematic, coherent and coordinated approaches to upskilling pathways for low skilled adults and to support reforms at the national and/or regional level.
- At the European level, to increase the evidence base which can support policy- and decision-makers in European countries at different levels in designing and implementing upskilling pathways.
Therefore, findings from each country participating in the TCRs contribute in expanding the knowledge on coherent and coordinated approaches to upskilling pathways for low skilled adults across Europe and in enriching it with a higher level of details, including suggestions for factors determining or hampering success of upskilling pathways approaches in different national contexts.
The first round of thematic countries reviews involves France and Italy and will be completed in 2023. Preliminary results from the TCRs in France and Italy were presented during Cedefop and EESC Fourth Policy learning forum on upskilling pathways: a vision for the future and will be available in two country reports published in 2023.
A second round of thematic country reviews on upskilling pathways involving Croatia and Spain was launched at the end of 2022.