We live in a time of multiple and multi-dimensional transitions. The green and digital transitions, the demographic change and the COVID-19 pandemic are reshaping our way of life and work. These changes highlight the need for a paradigm-shift on skills. A novel European skills agenda will drive the twin transition and ensure recovery from the social-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 1 July 2020, the European Commission published a Communication, titled
"European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience". The
European Skills Agenda builds on the
New Skills Agenda adopted in 2016 and delivers on the European Pillar of Social Rights and notably its first principle spelling out the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning. It is also firmly anchored in the European Green Deal, the new Digital Strategy, the new Industrial and SME Strategies. It will be followed by further proposals and initiatives in the field of education, lifelong learning, as the European Education Area and the European Research Area. The Communication aims at
strengthening sustainable competitiveness,
ensuring social fairness and
building up resilience to react to crises. In order this agenda to take place lifelong learning must become a reality for all and skilling for a job a guiding principle. Most skills policies are competence of the national governments and regional and local authorities. Nevertheless, Europe has an important role to play as it supports Member States to enact similar policies that cover the building blocks of the Skills Agenda.
Also on 1 July 2020, the Commission published a proposal for a
Council Recommendation on
vocational education and training (VET) for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. The overall objective of the Communication is to modernise the EU's VET policy, to meet the large upskilling and reskilling needs driven by the common ambition to be fit for the challenges of the 21st century (the future of work and skills, automation, digitalisation of production and services, transition towards a more digital and greener economy) and in particular to support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to building a more sustainable, fair and resilient European Union.
Both Communications, as part of the Commission's policy package to help Europe's lead the twin transitions towards climate neutrality and digital leadership. It sets out a range of actions to support all players of relevant stakeholders, including big and small companies, innovative start-ups, research centers, service providers and social partners.
The aforementioned European Commission's Communications will be the subject of a dedicated new CoR opinion, for which the SEDEC Commission has appointed its Mr
Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP) as rapporteur.
The opinion is scheduled for adoption at the SEDEC Commission meeting of 25 November and at the Plenary session of 2021.
By means of this written consultation, Mr Borboly would like to consult relevant stakeholders and gather their input to explore the following questions:
- The communication does not consider the role of local and regional authorities (LRAs), whereas the previous one dated 2019 (COM(2016) 381 final) clearly identified the roles and ambitions of LRAs. What are the main areas of action and planning we should focus on to help the Commission concentrate on local and regional issues too?
- The European Green Deal has consequences for employees in most sectors with high energy consumption, while employees have a minor effect on energy use and the energy mix of the company they work for.
- How can policies help employees gain a clear understanding of the changing world and see clearly that they should seek new opportunities and build resiliency?
- Should regional territorial strategies and Green-Deal-related pacts refer to skills policy and the investments the region needs?
- In most Member States, LRAs play a major role in funding education and developing skills-related policies. Are LRAs ready to take on tasks related to the fast-tracking of EU funds in the form of pilot projects, the formulation of local and regional strategies and action plans, and increased financing for new initiatives?
- In some less well-off regions and in disadvantaged communities, access to digital tools can be an issue and there are still areas with poor internet access. What can the EU and the LRAs do to join forces and tackle these locally embedded problems, which are hardly reflected in general regional or national data?
- During the current pandemic, most education systems have responded quickly and flexibly to new challenges, and some Member States have rapidly accelerated the digitalisation of education.
- Is there equal access to the new means of education and training for all?
- Are there any obstacles in the area of the language rights of ethnic minorities?
- Do we have proof that the new initiatives and means have had a positive impact on access to education and training for all?
- Vocational and technological education both need practice and are mostly connected to places and educational facilities, much more so than digital, language and other soft skills. Can we already identify best practices in some regions that can inspire new initiatives in other regions?
- The pandemic and the Green Deal are the main drivers of change in the European economy. Changes are welcome when it comes to targeted outcomes on the environment and on the future of European economic development, but it is clear that both of these affect and threaten sectors like car manufacturing, heavy industry and power generation. Is there sufficient funding and support for recovery, resilience-building and new skills related to education and training in all regions?
- There is a risk that Just Transition Fund (JTF) support will be allocated to a limited number of regions, mainly to businesses and infrastructure in some Member States, without LRAs really being involved in designing the JTF's implementation framework. Do we need guidance from the Commission, devised together with the European Committee of the Regions, that could help LRAs to take part in such a consultation, that could highlight the need for local and regional action for the Member States, and that could boost investment in skills-related policy areas?
- Teachers, trainers, students and pupils need new behavioural skills in the rapidly digitalising worlds of education and training.
- Is there enough evidence that teachers and trainers have the requisite skills and have adapted to the new situation?
- Are we sufficiently addressing the emerging issues related to pupil and student participation in education and training?
- Can we identify local and regional best practices related to the new challenges in teacher training?
- Do we have evidence of whether the new digitalised means of education and training take into account the psychological and personal development needs of different age groups?
- Europe fast tracked the funds needed for research focused on treating COVID-19 patients and for the development and testing of the vaccine we all need. Is there already research funding and support in all regions for local issues related to the triple challenge that the pandemic, the green transition and digitalisation pose to access to traditional and new skills? What role should LRAs play in this respect?
You are kindly invited to contribute to this consultation by sending your replies to the questions above, or any additional comments, to email@example.com until 31 December 2020. Your answers should be drafted in English or French.