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European Skills/Competences, qualifications and Occupations (ESCO)

How to access ESCO?

ESCO is available at https://ec.europa.eu/esco.

What is ESCO and how it works?

Online job portals normally use one classification system and one language. It's difficult to exchange data between them, particularly when the systems are based in different countries. This makes it harder to find the right job abroad.

ESCO identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations in a standard way, using standard terminology in all EU languages and an open format that can be used by third parties' software. It enables users to exchange CVs and job vacancies stored in different IT systems.

The multilingual ESCO classification is:

  • composed of three inter-related pillars covering occupations; skills/competences; and qualifications;
  • linked to relevant international classifications and frameworks, such as NACE, ISCO and EQF;
  • available free of charge to all stakeholders through the ESCO portal.

Who benefits from ESCO and how?

jobseekers – have an easier time finding a job in another EU country, whether they're students, career changers or currently unemployed.

education/training institutions – are able to (1) describe the output of their qualifications with ESCO's skills and competences terminology, making qualifications more transparent and (2) adapt their programmes based on feedback from the labour market.

employers – have an easier time recruiting talent from abroad.

online job portals – such as EURES – The European Job Mobility Portal are able to match people with jobs in all EU member countries, even when CVs and vacancy notices are in different languages.

A new focus on skills

It used to be that you trained for a given occupation (nurse, engineer, auto mechanic, translator, etc.). Within that occupation, individual jobs looked a great deal alike and were performed in similar environments using similar tools.

But nowadays the boundaries between occupational categories are increasingly blurred. They've become less standardised and homogeneous. Within one occupation, the skills needed for a specific job can vary tremendously. The same occupation often relates to jobs that differ by work environment, size of the workplace, the tools & materials used and the end product.

Today, it's their unique skills that jobseekers need to 'sell' and that employers want to see. No longer is the question, are you a fireman? But rather, can you work with a search and rescue dog to find earthquake victims? No longer, have you trained as a chef? But rather, can you cook in front of a TV audience?

Education and training systems are also changing to a skills-centred approach. Rather than describe qualifications with input factors (such as how long it takes to get a degree), they now focus on output: the knowledge, skills and competences obtained. This is reflected in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

A tool for job hunters, employers & educators

The classification of ESCO gives them a common 'language' so they can communicate better. ESCO was developed by the European Commission, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) and a team of stakeholders and external consultants.

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