Fostering skills development in the EU for more sustainable, resilient, and fair societies

In her 2022 State of the Union address, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed 2023 the European Year of Skills. This thematic year is set to give a fresh impetus to fostering skills that match people’s aspirations but also match with the changing needs of the labour market in the EU by promoting professional training, reskilling, and upskilling.

An adequate skill offer is a precondition for well-functioning and inclusive European societies and economies. Demographic and technological changes, changing global trade patterns, and the green transition are rapidly altering the needs of our labour market. Moreover, the past few years have been challenging for Europe: the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, and persistent political upheavals have highlighted the need for improved strategies and measures to respond to the new reality. Against this background, the skills gap in the workforce is becoming more evident: 77 % of EU companies are now reporting difficulties in finding workers that possess the skills they require.

All these challenges bring skills development to the fore, introducing a new parameter to the approach Europe needs to take. The European Year of Skills officially began on 9 May 2023 and will run for 12 months, supporting skills-related actions and initiatives across Europe, and bringing together workers and businesses with the common goal of creating fairer and more resilient societies.

In line with initiatives such as the European Skills Agenda and the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Year of Skills aims to promote education in and for the labour market, including skills relevant to ensuring a fair green and digital transition, while encouraging an inclusive approach to education and lifelong learning. European Year of Skills initiatives include the EU Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, the EU Talent Pool and the European Strategy for Universities, which offer resources in targeted fields and help connect skills to current market needs.

Boosting the EU skills strategy

This results pack showcases the work of 13 research projects funded under Horizon 2020 working within the context of the European Year of Skills. The aim of the pack is to contribute to an evidence-based debate on the challenges associated with skills development, such as ensuring that skills are relevant to societal needs, matching the aspirations and skill sets of job seekers to opportunities in the labour market, assessing the impact of new technologies and increasing the attractiveness of the EU market to workers from abroad.

The thematic collection provides succinct summaries of the main insights from the projects and is aimed at a varied audience of academics, policy makers, civil society organisations, and interested citizens. Project results so far attest to the importance of investing in the workforce as a vehicle for reinforcing Europe’s position in the world. The aim is to deliver on the Commission’s priorities, in particular the European Green Deal and A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, ensure alignment with principles outlined under the European Pillar of Social Rights, and create an economy that works for the benefit of all citizens.

Supporting skills development and use in the EU – 13 ways

BEYOND4.0 investigated how companies reap the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution while also looking ahead to the exciting opportunities heralded by Industry 5.0. One of its most interesting findings was that effective digital transformation does not rely on digital skills only, but rather on their integration with non-digital skills such as problem-solving.

The digital revolution has led to significant advances, but it also poses risks when it comes to people’s safety and privacy. ySKILLS set out to predict which children and adolescents in Europe are more at risk of ICT negatively affecting their wellbeing, and to understand how digital skills can function as resilience builders against these risks.

HECAT developed a tool that will help address the skills gap. The technology will assist public employment services and job seekers in making informed decisions regarding labour market conditions, skills acquisition, and access to sustainable employment by linking skills to occupations and desired job qualities to opportunities. The technology was tested successfully in two pilot sessions in Slovenia.

The constant changes in the labour market demand that workforce skills stay aligned with market needs. The mission of the PILLARS project was to show how to acquire these skills via transforming the way education systems disseminate relevant knowledge. Among key findings was that skills acquired even late in life may lead to new opportunities.

EUROSHIP carried out a comprehensive study focusing on living standards and poverty in the EU. The aim was to create a clear framework encouraging policy interventions that support citizens’ access to social rights, including improving young adults’ skills and increasing their job prospects.

CHAMELEONS focused on creating a new educational model for doctoral students to improve their learning experience as well as employment prospects in academic and non-academic environments. The model focused on developing transferable skills such as communication and planning, and encouraging networking opportunities.

DocEnhance, on the other hand, developed a range of materials focusing on transferable skills training aimed at students with advanced degrees to help facilitate their transition into employment. Each course comprises three modules, focused on open education, interdisciplinarity and mobility.

prodPhD proposed multidisciplinary teaching and learning methodologies that will allow the introduction of entrepreneurship education in any PhD programme, providing students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to become entrepreneurs.

The EURAXESS Hubs pan-European network utilises existing digital infrastructure to offer support across three areas: academic environments, non-academic contexts, and scientific entrepreneurship. The toolkits designed offer participants the opportunity to boost their transversal skills, such as networking, significantly improving their career trajectories.

Supporting cutting-edge environmental research is at the heart of the EU’s sustainability goals. InnoRenew CoE is a state-of-the-art research facility dedicated to the development of open science, aiming to introduce innovative solutions to complement and expand the existing tradition and skills of the forest sector in Slovenia.

MIRNet focused on institutionalising migration and integration research by establishing the Migration and Integration Research Centre in Estonia. The aim was to improve migration and integration research skills, which will help inform migration policy development and implementation at various levels.

MIMY focused on young third-country national migrants with a view to helping them discover how they can increase their skills sets to better integrate into society. Improving their language, maths and digital skills proved to be beneficial in increasing their job prospects. Their first-hand accounts will be used to shape policy recommendations.

Finally, the NANO4TARMED consortium aimed to provide researchers with training on the writing of scientific papers and project proposals, strengthening their scientific profile. The long-term goal of the project is to design and implement new approaches to the development of advanced nanocarrier systems for anticancer drug delivery.

Source: European Research Executive Agency | News (