An inclusive EU Skills Agenda – UNI Europa recommendations

Thursday 9 June 2016

Tomorrow, the European Commission will present its EU Skills Agenda.

Here is what should drive the EU Skills Agenda from UNI Europa’s point of view: inclusion, anticipation and quality employment in a new world of work.

UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig said “An inclusive Skills Agenda means offering and guaranteeing the access to education and training to all citizens in Europe, regardless of age, gender and ethnic origin, especially when it comes to digital skills. With a growing presence of e-solutions, for banking, commerce, health or other services, everyone must be equipped with the skills to use them.”

Inclusive also means that the same possibilities for developing and broadening skills should be guaranteed all workers regardless of their employment status and work arrangements (employees in standard contracts, self-employed workers, bogus self-employed, temporary workers and unemployed).

Without a focus on inclusion, the skills gap will only widen and we would fuel inequality, discrimination and social insecurity. UNI Europa proposes to empower the EU workforce with an enforceable right to paid educational leave, allowing workers to address the frequent retraining needs they encounter in a digital economy.

Another key to a successful and inclusive EU Skills Agenda will be understanding deeper trends, anticipating future conditions and then be capable of adapting the skills of the workforce accordingly. To ensure equality of opportunity and cohesion among the EU workforce, effective cooperation between social partners, governments and VET providers is required at all levels and stages, in order to develop training schemes that effectively address the training needs of all workers, including the rising numbers of a-typical workers. Social partners are at the core of the labour market, therefore a successful skills agenda must foster their ability to fulfill their central role in training the EU workforce.

Skills development and upskilling have to be fully integrated into employment policies. Quality employment leads to quality services. Giving workers of all kinds the continuous opportunity to develop their skills is crucial for ensuring quality services. A progressive EU Skills Agenda must recognise this.

In addition, the distinctive features of the new world of work – digitalisation and non-linear careers – must shape the European policies on skills. The skills needed will be very specific and very diverse. Workers must be supported by strong training and employment policies so they can manage their career in a sustainable way.

The big question is how to finance the education and training needs. UNI Europa stresses that it cannot be expected that workers fund their training and skills development. To develop truly inclusive vocational education and training systems new and sustainable funding models are needed to ensure employer-financed and/or publically funded training that is open to all forms of employment and to the unemployed. The funding models must also take into account the evolution of the labour market as well as the development of new technologies and the mobility of the workforce across sectors and EU member states. Governments and social partners should work closely together on these issues.