• 1 year 9 months ago

The European Education, Training and Youth Forum took place in Brussels on 20-21 October. The Forum brought together 400 participants from the 33 countries participating in Erasmus+  to discuss the New Skills Agenda for Europe and explore how it can connect education, the labour market and society.

Adopted in June 2016, the New Skills Agenda for Europe aims to encourage the development of skills and competences from early on in life. Improving skills levels and educational are essential to increasing employability and create fair, inclusive and sustainable societies.

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, opened with a statement on the dual role of skills. Skills both make people employable throughout life but also help them play an active role in society. He also emphasised the importance of volunteering and its potential to equip young people with skills relevant throughout their lives.

Opening panel

The opening panel featured:

  • Representatives from the European Parliament (Andrea Bocskor Committee on Culture and Education, 1st Vice Chair)
  •  Future Council Presidencies (Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment of Malta and Maris Lauri, Minister of Education and Research of the Republic of Estonia
  • European Commission (Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Michel Servoz, Director-General for DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion)

Setting out the political and strategic vision for the Skills Agenda, key messages from the panel included:

  • Social and economic policies are necessary to help create a future that works for young people
  • Education and training should not solely be aimed to provide specific technical skills but to equip young people with life skills such as creativity, problem solving and cultural awareness
  • Education must reflect today's society that requires not only transitions between jobs but between careers
  • Skills Guarantee can help train unemployed people lacking in basic skills
  • Lifelong learning must adapt to the needs of an aging society

Work sessions

Three Work Sessions addressed implementing initiatives of the New Skills Agenda for Europe, its future initiatives and key competences including transversal skills. Participants emphasised the importance of several themes:

  • Non-formal and informal learning is central to personal development
  • People need to be ready to learn throughout their lives
  • We need to better understand what skills are needed for the labour marker
  • More diversity and more flexibility is needed to keep students in higher education
  • Graduate tracking at EU-level is needed to be able to assess if formal education and training matches the needs of European economies
  • Soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving will always be in demand from employers

Implementing initiatives: the role of stakeholders - diagram from the the Forum

Future initiatives - diagram from the the Forum

Key competences including transversal skills - diagram from the the Forum

A specific session looked at the need for a review of the 2006 Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. The rapid economic, social and technological change that has occurred in past 10 years together with the persisting issues of low basic skills necessitate its review. Clarity on how social and civic competences are defined, closer synergies between formal and informal learning and a more practice-oriented approached were proposed for the review.

Social inclusion

The Forum was a chance for feedback the ongoing effort to make education systems more inclusive. Mobilising education to promote EU common values and inclusion, as a way to prevent violent radicalisation is an EU priority. Stakeholders were able to voice their concerns on the lack of common vision on how to make education more inclusive, the need to equip teachers with skills to deal with diversity in the classroom and the importance of paying attention to the individual needs of the learners.

Interactive stakeholder panel

Through online voting, participants were able to vote on how they perceive the implementation of the Skills Agenda and its Ten Actions.  Panelists included Olivier Blanc (Nespresso Belgilux), Blazhe Todorovski, (European Students' Union), René Van Schalkwijk (EUProVET) and Anusca Ferrari, (European Schoolnet). Feedback from participants showed that:

  • Over half see themselves involved in the Skills Agenda in a disseminating role
  • More than two-thirds see their potential role as improving the quality and relevance of skills formation
  • Graduate Tracking was perceived as the action most likely to contribute to advancing skills intelligence

Ten actions for the New Skills Agenda for Europe - diagram from the the Forum

Closing panel

The closing panel addressed the way forward for the Skills Agenda and included Thiébaut Weber (European Trade Union Confederation), Maxime Cerutti (Business Europe), Márcio Barcelo (European Youth Forum), Detlef Eckert (DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion) and Sophia Eriksson Waterschoot (DG Education and Culture). Panel members argued that:

  • Education systems should focus on teaching people how to learn and not the skills needed in an unknown future job market
  • Education should focus on the  learner and be for life and not just job-specific
  • Closer cooperation is needed between education and employers
  • Young people need to be prepared not only for the labour market but for society more broadly
  • Education and training of low-skilled workers is a shared responsibility between education, employers and unions

The Forum closed with a video message by Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Employment. Jens Nymand Christensen, Director-General for DG Education and Culture, concluded by highlighting the need to reflect on essential skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, that will always be useful and in demand.


Forum highlights

Flash reports