On March 7th, the Swedish Council presidency and European Parliament negotiators finalised an agreement on a European Year of Skills for the period 9 May 2023 until 8 May 2024.
Welcoming the initiative, the Swedish minister for education, Mats Persson, stated: ‘This European Year comes at the right moment. There is need for action to fill labour shortages and help people find quality jobs. The European Year of Skills is the perfect tool to encourage public and private, national and European initiatives that put skills centre-stage’.
The green and digital transitions are opening up new opportunities for people and the EU economy. At the same time, such transitions are also triggering important labour market changes which result in new needs in terms of workforce skill. It is therefore necessary to support workers by creating conditions to help them keep up with such new requirements.
Indeed, more than three quarters of companies in the EU report difficulties in finding workers with the necessary skills, and latest figures from Eurostat suggest only 37% of adults undertake training on a regular basis. The Digital Economy and Society Index shows that 4 out of 10 adults and every third person who works in Europe lack basic digital skills. Additionally, already in 2021, 28 occupations ranging from construction and healthcare to engineering and IT had staff shortages, demonstrating a growing demand for both high and low-skilled workers.
In response to this need for upskilling and reskilling, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the European Year of Skills during her State of the Union address on 14 September 2022: ‘We need much more focus in our investment on professional education and upskilling. We need better cooperation with companies, because they know best what they need. And we need to match these needs with people's aspirations. But we also have to attract the right skills to our continent, skills that help companies and strengthen Europe's growth’.
The overall objective of the European Year is to promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling, with the aim of boosting the competitiveness of European companies and creation of quality jobs. It will do this by; showcasing skills development opportunities and activities across Europe, fostering easier recognition of qualifications across borders, bringing organisations and people together to share their experiences and insights, and outlining how EU initiatives and funding possibilities can help in this endeavor.