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European Year of Skills 2023: Skills shortage threatens cohesion and socially fair transitions, local leaders warn  
​​ Without massive plans for skills upgrade and social cohesion, the green and digital transitions will fail, representatives of EU regions and cities warned in an exchange with Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, today at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). Local and regional leaders stressed that the European Year of Skills 2023 should translate into more financial and political support for local and regional authorities to develop training, upskilling and reskilling policies that are adapted to the needs of each territory.​

Developing skills is one of the four pillars of the Green Deal Industrial Plan presented by the European Commission on 1 February. The green and digital transitions are bringing with them new skills requirements and transforming labour markets and entire sectors of economy. At the same time, there are currently mismatches in the labour market, with some workers struggling to find stable jobs and companies in demand for positions they are unable to fill. For example, the decarbonisation of road transport will have a profound effect on the specialised workforce in the automotive and supply industries, which calls for urgent upskilling and retraining of 2.4 million workers in Europe by 2030.

The varying skilling and re-skilling uptake across Europe risks leading to skills gaps and skills mismatches, which in turn weakens territorial cohesion and accelerates brain drain from less-performing regions. The Committee fully backs the European Commission's efforts to tackle these challenges, including the Talent Booster Mechanism which was presented in the Harnessing Talent in Europe's Regions communication from 17 January. The European Committee of the Regions is calling for particular attention to be given to the role that local and regional authorities play in skills development and the need to financially support them to achieve the EU goals, in particular given the contribution of the European Skills Agenda to the achievement of the EU Social Pillar objectives .

Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "2023 as the European Year of Skills reflects the urgent need to invest in people. Attention must be paid to those vulnerable workers directly affected by the green and digital transformations, but also to those territories that face a harder combination of factors to build a just transition. Cities and regions represent the level of governance where the link between education, training, skills and the job market is the strongest and, therefore, should be properly financed and supported in this field."

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: "We need a complete shift in mindset when it comes to how we approach training in Europe. Skills programmes are not a cost; they are an investment. It is imperative that European businesses - from SMEs to large corporations - have the talent they need to thrive; and that individuals feel empowered to embark upon lifelong learning. Under the Pact for Skills, companies are pledging to train large numbers of people, and new courses are being launched all the time. I call on regions to join this effort and make commitments to identify regional skills gaps and how to fill them."

Dragoş Pîslaru (RO/Renew E.), Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament, said: "The European Year of Skills represents the momentum for rethinking the way we invest in skills, developing our human capital and implementing new approaches that can correspond to our changing needs. This objective is now more pressing than ever before with ongoing labour market transformations and the transition towards a green and digital economy making it an imperative. Matching skills to quality and better paid jobs will guarantee the competitiveness of European labour markets. Localising skills is our best option to move forward and walk the talk of our ambitions. We need to enlarge the European Pact for Skills in order to reach more people at regional and local level. We need a local pact for skills, local strategies for employment and one-stop shops and local hubs for skills development. The best possible place to invest in skills is in cities."

Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Chair of the CoR’s SEDEC Commission, said: “The local level is becoming increasingly important in implementing skills management and often has a more innovative approach . B y putting people at the heart of lifelong learning policies, we can achieve further improvements in the effective deployment of resources for the development of education and training. The focus will be on reaffirming the need for investment in skills to unlock better opportunities for all, and especially for young people.”

More information:

Local and regional representatives from across Europe shared their experiences on upskilling and reskilling initiatives during the debate which took place at the CoR plenary session on 9 February. Examples of best practices from local and regional level can also be seen in this video clip.

The European Committee of the Regions adopted its resolution on the European Year of Skills in December 2022. It underlines that local and regional authorities have key responsibilities for education and training policies, and they play a strategic role in the fields of employment policies. Cities and regions represent the level of governance where operational links between education and training institutions and the labour market are the strongest and should be financed, implemented and followed up. Following a call in the resolution, Commissioner Schmit has proposed to involve the CoR in the work of the national coordinators appointed by Member States for the European Year of Skills.

The resolution underlines the impact that EU Cohesion Policy can have on skills, especially through the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), helping to identify and strengthen strategic areas of action, promoting social cohesion, helping all citizens to reach their potential as well as meet their professional expectations, and overall ensuring a long-term positive impact on EU competitiveness.

The CoR considers that an additional objective of the European Year of Skills should be to minimise brain drain and optimise brain gain in order to contribute towards greater territorial cohesion. In the Harnessing Talent in Europe's Regions communication published on 17 January, the European Commission presented a new Talent Booster Mechanism which aims to support EU regions affected by the accelerated decline of their working age population to train, retain and attract the people, the skills and the competences needed to address the impact of the demographic transition. European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica is expected to address the next CoR plenary in March to discuss the implementation of this initiative.


Lauri Ouvinen

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