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The way we work, learn, take part in society and lead everyday life changes constantly in line with technological developments, global and demographic challenges. The right skills help individuals to adjust to these changes and ensure their well-being while contributing to society, productivity and economic growth.

Today people need to be equipped with a variety of skills ranging from basic skills, such as literacy, numeracy and digital, to vocational or technical skills as well as entrepreneurial skills and transversal skills, such as foreign languages or the ability to learn and take initiative.

Europe today faces a number of challenges:

  • An unacceptably high proportion of Europeans – one in five – are still struggling with reading and writing, and more have poor numeracy and digital skills. A significant share of migrants and asylum seekers lack basic skills and have a poor knowledge of the host country language, hence are at high risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.
  • Many in Europe cannot find a job because they do not have the right skills or they are working in jobs that do not match their talents. Indeed, 30% of higher education graduates are working in jobs which do not need a university qualification.
  • At the same time, 40% of employers cannot find people with the right skills to fill their vacancies, and too few people have the preparation, mind-sets and competences to set up their own businesses or look for new opportunities.

Education and training in Europe is the competence of Member States. National and regional labour markets and education systems are faced with their own specific challenges but Member States face similar problems and opportunities. That is why European initiatives for skills aim to mobilise all European stakeholders along the following lines of action:

  • Understanding Skills
  • Developing skills
  • Showing skills

In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, country specific recommendations related to skills development are addressed to a high number of Member States each year to guide their national policy making. Support for developing National Skills Strategies in conjunction with the OECD is available to help Member States design concrete policy responses, while EU funding (the European Social Fund, Erasmus+, the Youth Employment Initiative, EGF, Horizon2020, EaSI, EFSI, COSME) helps to put policy designs into practice.

The Commission has proposed a series of policy actions in the past to address key challenges and issues regarding skills including New Skills for New Jobs and Rethinking Education.

The Commission adopted a new and comprehensive Skills Agenda for Europe on 10 June 2016. The Skills Agenda proposes ten actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills.