On the basis of extensive statistical and documentary analysis, as well as in-depth discussions with industry experts during the Workshop of 3-4 November 2008, this study reaches a number of conclusions.
The electro-mechanical industry is, for the most part, strong, competitive and vital to the health of the EU economy. As a largely capital goods industry, however, it is particularly subject to cyclical fluctuations in the economy, as well as continuing productivity gains. Hence, while the industry is expected to recover without lasting damage from the current economic crisis, employment levels will continue to decline.
The skills of the work force are rising, with a growing demand for highly qualified staff, but there are important differences between Member States, most especially, but not only,between the EU15 and EU12 countries. These differences reflect the nature of the industry in the different countries. The process of acquiring the skills and competencies needed, however, also differs between countries, reflecting the education and training systems in place.
Even with the development of a European qualifications framework (EQF), the pattern of competence development and skill delivery in this sector will remain essentially national for some time to come, and it is not realistic to attempt to offer detailed, as opposed, to general guidance about the directions in which particular national institutions should develop and adapt.
At the same time, given the extent of common underlying developments as regards technology, organisation and the nature and structure of demand, there is considerable scope and potential for trans-European co-operation in the form of ‘mutual learning’ and the transfer of ‘best practice’ regarding changing skill and competence needs and the ways of responding to these. This could perhaps be based on the ‘open method of co-operation’ approach developed by the EU for inter-governmental co-operation and exchange of experience as regards employment and social policy.