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 confronted with the unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 health pandemic outbreak. Measures of social distancing implemented to curb the spread of the virus, are deeply affecting labour markets, both in terms of job losses and in terms of new organisation of work through new technologies and digital means. 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 recent 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:
- is based on an iterative process integrating both qualitative research and two rounds of stakeholder consultations;
- is grounded in a lifelong learning perspective and focused on the empowerment of the individual learner/beneficiary;
- is in line with the principles and frame of reference provided by the Upskilling pathways recommendation;
- involved the continuous organic coordination of Cedefop knowledge and expertise in the Department for learning and employability, in the fields of adult learning, early leaving from education and training, financing adult learning, lifelong guidance and outreach, validation and recognition of prior learning, and work-based learning;
- was derived from an analysis of interesting systemic features found in a selection of good and interesting practices
The next step will be to apply the analytical framework in a selection of countries who agree to participate in thematic country reviews specifically focused on upskilling and reskilling pathways. There will also be further follow-up involving the analytical framework during the forthcoming Third policy learning forum on upskilling pathways: a new vision for the future. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to share the latest developments in upskilling pathways, including their knowledge, innovative experiences and practices, challenges and inspirations, with a focus on the identification of key areas for action.