On 19 and 20 June 2019, over 400 stakeholders came to Brussels to discuss a shared vision and a long-term strategy on skills for industry in Europe. The high-level conference convened business executives, policymakers, academics and education and training stakeholders to foster dialogue and to agree on priorities and measures, to facilitate the implementation of upskilling strategies.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said in her opening message that "it has never been more important to invest in the skills and abilities of our citizens. To ensure competitiveness, for innovation to thrive, and to attract investment, Europe needs to upskill and reskill its workforce. Skills are necessary to address our policy priorities and horizontal challenges: sustainability, industrial transformation, new forms of work, automation and digitalization, global competition and an ageing population".
The skills for industry strategy must introduce a paradigm shift to the ecosystem of workforce planning, education and training provision for skills development. Massive investment by industry and governments is needed with the support of EU funding. Joost Korte, Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion stressed that Europe needs a skills revolution. Social partners are crucial. Investing in skills development at all stages of life will be essential to leave nobody behind and to make sure we have the skills that will drive innovation and competitiveness. All individuals should benefit from lifelong learning opportunities, as well as from modern education methods using tech-based tools and modern teaching and delivery methods.
Thierry Baril, Chief Human Resources Officer of Airbus, called for joining forces: “It is time to create an international forecasting group together with institutions and education and companies in order to work with a prospective view of the next 5, 10 years on the future of skills.” Calls for closer collaboration resonated with many speakers. Nicolas Schmit, Member of the European Parliament, said that “We have to be able, as business leaders, as politicians, as trade unions, to organise and manage this change for the good of everybody”
EU countries and the EU need to adapt funding programmes for workforce education and training and to provide financial incentives to cope with the rapid technological change and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Individuals and organisations need to be better supported in acquiring new skills. There are many good practice programmes. They should be scaled up to serve significantly more adult learners. Learning from best practices should guide the focusing and improvement of national, regional and European funding programmes and incentives.
Slawomir Tokarski, Director at the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs underlined the utmost importance of the issue of skills, which is reflected in the proposals of the Commission for the future multiannual financial framework. Implementation needs to build on scaling-up proven successes and aim at best practices. There is a need to mobilise relevant financial and funding instruments at all level, and to make them more easily accessible. There is also a strong argument to explore proposals for individual learning accounts and loan system income sharing agreements. Finally, there is a need to better integrate clusters, digital innovation hubs and VET excellence competence centres. The skills issue is a concern for all: a coordinated effort for up-skilling and re-skilling with significant impact is needed.