Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Skills for industry

Skills for industry

Disruptive technological change is changing the face of industry on a global scale. To continue to prosper, European enterprises have to be competitive, and the skills of our workforce are key here. That is why we are working to increase the EU talent pool and help people acquire new skills, with a focus on new technologies.

Skills are at the heart of industrial policy. Innovation comes from the creativity and skills of individuals. There is a global race for talent and our workforce needs to acquire high-level skills and continuously improve them to boost employability and fuel competitiveness and growth.

While investment in new technologies offers the opportunity to re-shore manufacturing in Europe, a lack of skills will create a bottleneck in this process. There are increasing skills gaps and mismatches related to digital and high-tech key enabling technologies. Enterprises are reporting difficulties in finding employees with these skills. Skills needs must be better anticipated to manage change, nurture new types of work and strengthen social cohesion.

What the European Commission is doing

The goal is to increase the EU talent pool and foster the acquisition of new skills with a focus on new technologies. High-tech skills and related leadership capabilities are crucial for European businesses large or small. EU actions aim at benchmarking policies, monitoring trends and the supply and demand, scaling up best practices, better focusing funding programmes and incentives, promoting greater professionalism, curriculum guidelines, specialised skills (including big data, the Internet of Things and cyber-security) and multi-stakeholder partnerships in synergy with the Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills and the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition.

New Skills Agenda for Europe

The New Skills Agenda adopted in June 2016 aims to ensure that Europeans develop appropriate training and skills. It aims to bridge the skills gap by equipping people with the necessary skills and upskilling the existing workforce. Between 2015 and 2025 opportunities will grow for highly-skilled people (+21%), while stagnating for medium-skill levels and declining for the low skilled (-17%). Depending on the country and occupation, 25-45% of jobs will be subject to automation. This is why upskilling and reskilling are indispensable.

Blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills

The Blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills is one of the key actions of the New Skills Agenda. It is a new strategic approach that aims to mobilise a wide range of stakeholders to upskill and reskill the workforce

Pilot implementations of the Blueprint started in January 2018 in the following sectors: automotive, maritime technology, textile, clothing, leather and footwear, space and tourism. Additional sectors have been added for a second wave of implementation, which started in January 2019: construction, steel, additive manufacturing, and maritime shipping. A third wave will be launched in January 2020 (selected sectors include microelectronics, batteries for electro-mobility, defence technologies, energy value-chain digitalisation, energy-intensive industries, and bio-economy (new technologies in agriculture).

The leaflet Blueprint in a nutshell gives a concise overview of the initiative.

Digital skills

In December 2016 the Commission launched the ‘Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition’. It builds on the results of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs 2013-2016 and the EU e-skills strategy. EU countries are invited to develop national skills strategies and to establish national digital skills coalitions. Stakeholders are invited to make pledges to reduce the digital skills gap in Europe. 

The Digital Opportunity traineeship initiative offers cross-border traineeships for up to 6,000 students and recent graduates. It runs between 2018 and 2020 and aims to provide the opportunity to get hands on digital experience in fields demanded by the market.

IT professionals

The demand for IT practitioners is on a solid growth track. It is estimated that the number of IT practitioners in the EU should grow from 8 million in 2015 to 8.7 million in 2020. It is also estimated that the gap between demand and supply will reach 500,000 in 2020, down from the 756,000 estimated in December 2015. This reflects an increased supply from education and vocational training. Almost 240,000 IT graduates keep entering the labour market each year, and more than 100,000 new IT practitioners enter without a formal degree (‘lateral entries’).

In June 2017, a conference on IT professionalism focused on the development and implementation of a European Framework for the IT profession (more information and final report), and how different countries worked to implement IT professionalism initiatives in the area. The presentations from the conference are available. 

The European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) is a reference of the skills required in the IT workplace. It uses a common language for skills and proficiency levels that can be understood Europewide for all types of organisations who need to take decisions on recruitment, career paths, training or assessment. It is a European standard developed and maintained by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).

KETS skills

Key enabling technologies (KETs) are important innovation drivers in many sectors of the economy and they are essential to Europe's industrial policy. The ability to exploit KETs is very dependent on the skills of current and future employees, and the number of people who want to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects) and work in KETs domains.

It is estimated that 9% of the 953,000 additional KETs professionals needed between 2013 and 2025 will require leadership skills. European industrial companies report considerable challenges in finding individuals who possess a strong technical background, strong business sense and strategic vision. These skills are particularly important for 'mid-level' leaders, i.e. leaders of groups and specific project teams.

New curricula need to stimulate multidisciplinary orientation and entrepreneurial agility. On-the-job training needs to maximise the exposure of the workforce to relevant job experiences. Much good practice already exists that builds on these principles and this needs to be adopted on a broader scale.

Leadership skills

High-tech savviness is increasingly required in leadership positions. People who combine business expertise, high-tech acumen and leadership skills are rare. Leaders who can exploit new technologies so that companies and industry can excel in their business operations are crucial for the high-tech economy.

In January 2017 at the conference on high-tech and leadership skills, it was estimated that there were 600,000 ‘digital leaders’ in 2015. A conservative growth scenario suggests a need for 694,000 digital leaders in Europe in 2020 and 805,000 in 2025. Around 60% can be found in business units other than the IT department. This scenario requires Europe to generate around 20,000 additional digitally-skilled leaders per year until 2025.