Building skills and making the best possible use of them is an imperative in the light of the successive crises Europe has been facing, and the European Year of Skills provides a great opportunity to drive change and respond to the permacrisis with 'permaskilling'.

This is the upshot of the exchange of views Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel had with members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the European Union body that represents social partners – employers, trade unionists and social, occupational, economic and cultural organisations.

Mr Siebel presented Cedefop's work in 2022 and its work plan for 2023, the European Year of Skills, for which, building on established lines of work, Cedefop will continue:

  • To take the VET, skills and employment perspective to the digital and green transition and other transformations.
  • To provide evidence-based insights that help countries, regions and social partners deal with the 'permacrisis' that is becoming the new normal.

Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel - exchange of views with the EESC - 30/1/2023

'For Cedefop – he said – the 'skills revolution' should be about expanding learning potential in jobs, closing skills gaps and shortages, alleviating skills mismatches, building up good continuing vocational education and training (CVET) and career support systems, and capitalising on promising mobility opportunities.'

The European Year of Skills comes at a critical juncture and gives Europe an additional incentive to champion people and their skills as the critical link between EU and national policy aims and targets and making real and tangible progress towards them, he added.

In order to achieve that, Cedefop aims to promote partnership approaches and stimulate debate and skills ecosystem thinking, by reaching out to, and interacting with, its stakeholders and widely disseminating its research findings to different audiences.

A fundamental transformation

Mr Siebel pointed out that, while labour markets are always in transition, at this point in time we really see fundamental transformation: labour markets are not only recovering from the pandemic but have also become more digitalised:

'Hence, Cedefop's research work, in fields such as skills forecasting and tracking labour market demand, becomes even more valuable.'

He also outlined research findings on the twin transitions, the greening and digitalisation of the economy, noting that people and their skills ultimately drive the green transition and that young people are often disadvantaged in the job market despite the fact that they possess more advanced digital skills.

Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel - exchange of views with the EESC - 30/1/2023

Analysing some of the conclusions drawn from Cedefop's second European skills and jobs survey, Mr Siebel highlighted that there is an enormous digital learning potential:

  • One in every five EU+ adult workers could benefit from additional training in the most basic of digital skills - navigating the web.
  • Between 30% and 40% of the EU+ workforce can be further trained in fundamental word processing and use of spreadsheets.
  • Between 70% and 90% is trainable for more advanced digital skills, such as database management, computer programming or coding.
  • Knowledge and skills underutilisation at work is another aspect of skills mismatch that needs addressing.

Answering questions from the EESC members, Cedefop's Executive Director, among others, noted:

  • Disruption due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine has led some workers to seek alternative employment and made reskilling a priority.
  • Special research focus will be given to CVET, which is the greater challenge at this point.
  • Entrepreneurship only has to gain from vocational education and training (VET), as the transversal skills it provides foster creativity and innovation.
  • Designing jobs in smarter ways and improving work organisation is vital for workers, businesses and the economy.
  • The European Union seems to react effectively to the demands of the times, as substantial European funds are made available for education, training and reskilling of the workforce.