Regions and cities call for greater flexibility for public spending to improve skills & competences
Investment in human capital could be treated as social investment to support the development of skills in Europe, suggests the European Committee of the Regions in its opinion on the New Skills Agenda for Europe. Led by Marie-Louise Rönnmark, Chair of Umeå City Council (SE/PES), the opinion was adopted in the plenary session on 7 December.
The New Skills Agenda for Europe, launched by the European Commission in June, seeks to address three major challenges: the lack of relevant skills to match labour market needs, the insufficient transparency of skills and qualifications, and the difficulty to anticipate and forecast skills. According to the opinion drafted by Ms Rönnmark, initiatives taken in the framework of the New Skills Agenda could be regarded as a social investment: "This would give greater flexibility when it comes to public spending and the use of EU funding to improve skills", said the rapporteur adding that local partnerships will be essential for the Agenda's swift and effective implementation.
One of the key proposals is the introduction of a Skills Guarantee to help low-skilled adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and progress towards an upper secondary qualification. The Committee highlights the need for more specific goals as regards the level of skills and qualifications to be acquired.
"The offer of taking part in the Skills Guarantee should detail explicit objectives which the low-qualified adult must meet. It should take into consideration the level and nature of skills required by the labour market while using people's existing vocational competences", Ms Rönnmark said.
The rapporteur calls for a clear link between efforts to identify skills and subsequent educational measures in the form of individual study plans, arguing that such plans should be supported at local and regional level by a number of flanking measures. She argues for the full involvement of local and regional authorities, in their role as education and training providers, in the discussions about key competences. The opinion also supports the elaboration of comprehensive national strategies for digital skills.
The review of the European Qualifications Framework aims to a better understanding of qualifications and better use of all available skills in the European labour market. According to the opinion, this should ensure that national qualifications frameworks are updated where appropriate and that reporting follows a standardised format. Furthermore, the rapporteur underlines the importance of skills identification, language introduction and upskilling efforts to promote integration at work and in society of migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers.
To improve the attractiveness and image of vocational education and training, the European Commission are organising this week the first European Vocational Skills Week, with events in Brussels, as well as Member States, EFTA and EU candidate countries. Intervening in the 2016 Adult Skills Conference, held within the framework of the Week, Marie-Louise Rönnmark warmly welcomed the European Commission initiative, stressing that vocational education and training are an invaluable tool for effective personal empowerment, and increased and enhanced labour market participation.
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