Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

European Skills Agenda

The European Skills Agenda pursues a real paradigm shift in skills to take advantage of the green and digital transitions and support a prompt recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, by:

  • strengthening sustainable competitiveness, to achieve the European Green Deal and putting its digital and industrial strategies into practice
  • ensuring social fairness, putting into practice the first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights: access to education, training and lifelong learning for everybody, everywhere in the EU
  • building up resilience to react to crises, based on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic

Context

The rapid shift towards a climate neutral Europe and digital transformation is changing the way we work, learn, take part in society and lead our everyday lives. Along with the demographic change, these are challenges that can be turned into opportunities. Europe can only grasp these opportunities if its people develop the right skills.

The Commission launched the first Skills Agenda in 2016. Its ten actions are all being implemented and the new European Skills Agenda builds on them.

However, there is currently a need to boost action. The environmental challenge calls for a strong commitment – a proper European Green Deal as set out in December 2019, which recognises the role of skills in reaping the benefits of the ecological transition. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that digital skills are not just an asset for career progress. They are essential to work, to study, to access goods and services, to keep in touch, have a say and support each other. It has also made clear that there is a wide digital skills gap in Europe.

The pandemic has also had a dramatic impact on employment. Millions of people in the EU have lost their job or experienced significant income loss. Many will need to acquire new skills and move to new jobs in a different sector of economy. Many will need to upskill to keep their job in a new work environment. For many young people, entry in the labour market will be very challenging.

In this context, following the European Digital Strategy, the new Industrial and Small and Medium Enterprise Strategy and the Recovery Plan for Europe, on 1 July 2020 the Commission adopted

The Skills Agenda in detail

The European Skills Agenda includes 12 actions organised around four building blocks: 

  • A call to join forces in a collective action:
    • Action 1: A Pact for Skills
  • A strategic set of actions to ensure that people have the right skills for jobs:
    • Action 2: Strengthening skills intelligence
    • Action 3: EU support for strategic national upskilling action
    • Action 4: Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience
    • Action 5: Rolling out the European Universities Initiative and upskilling scientists
    • Action 6: Skills to support the twin transitions
    • Action 7: Increasing STEM graduates and fostering entrepreneurial and transversal skills
    • Action 8: Skills for life
  • Tools and initiatives to support people in their lifelong learning pathways:
    • Action 9: Initiative on individual learning accounts
    • Action 10: A European approach to micro-credentials
    • Action 11: New Europass platform
  • A framework to unlock investments in skills:

Objectives

The European Skills Agenda sets four ambitious objectives to be achieved by 2025, based on well-established quantitative indicators. 

Indicators Objectives for 2025 Current level (latest year available) Percentage increase
Participation of adults aged 25-64 in learning during the last 12 month (in %) 50% 38% (2016) +32%
Participation of low-qualified adults 25-64 in learning during the last 12 months (in %) 30% 18% (2016) +67%
Share of unemployed adults aged 25-64 with a recent learning experience (in %) 20% 11% (2019) +82%
Share of adults aged 16-74 having at least basic digital skills (in %) 70% 56% (2019) +25%

Funding

Putting into action the paradigm shift in skills promoted by the European Skills Agenda and achieving these objectives will require massive investment in skills.

The Recovery Plan for Europe proposed by the Commission in May 2020 makes available significant resources for skills related activities.

EU investment in skills

Programme Investment (in billions of euros)*
European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) 61.5
Erasmus 16.2
InvestEU 4.9
European Globalisation Adjustment Fund 1.1
European Solidarity Corps 0.8
Digital Europe 0.5

*Resources from the Recovery and Resilience Facility specifically for skills investment cannot yet be estimated

The European Skills Agenda also envisages a framework to unlock national and private investments in skills.

The Commission will explore how fiscal frameworks can better support investment in human capital and skills and promote enhanced reporting on human capital by large companies. Together with national statistical offices, the Commission will work on more transparent skills reporting in national accounts and statistics.

In cooperation with the European Investment Bank group, the Commission will explore innovative financial mechanisms that may promote skills investments.

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