Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Upskilling Pathways - New opportunities for adults

Close to 70 million Europeans struggle with

  • basic reading and writing
  • calculation
  • using digital tools in everyday life

Without these skills they are at higher risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.

The Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways was adopted by the Council in December 2016. Based on information provided by the Member States, the Commission published in February 2019 a staff working document taking stock of their implementation plans and progress.

It aims to help adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent (level 3 or 4 in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) depending on national circumstances).

Who is it for?

Upskilling Pathways targets adults with a low level of skills, e.g. those without upper secondary education and who are not eligible for Youth Guarantee support.
They may be in employment, unemployed or economically inactive, with a need to strengthen basic skills. Member States may define priority target groups for this initiative depending on the national circumstances.

What support will be available to individuals?

To boost access to and take up of quality learning opportunities, adults with low levels of skills would have access to Upskilling Pathways in three key steps.

  • Step 1 – Skills assessment

This is to enable adults to identify their existing skills and any needs for upskilling. It may take the form of a "skills audit": a statement of the individual's skills that can be the basis for planning a tailored offer of learning.

  • Step 2 – Learning offer

The beneficiary will receive an offer of education and training meeting the needs identified by the skills assessment. The offer should aim to boost literacy, numeracy or digital skills or allow progress towards higher qualifications aligned to labour market needs.

  • Step 3 – Validation and recognition

The beneficiary will have the opportunity to have the skills she or he has acquired validated and recognised.  

How will it work?

Delivery will build on existing structures and vary across Member States. Many countries already offer elements of Upskilling Pathways and can build on this as they implement this new initiative in cooperation with social partners, education and training providers, and local and regional authorities etc.

Delivering the initiative will be based upon

  • effective outreach,
  • guidance
  • support measures.

How will the EU give support?

The Commission will support Member States in implementing the Upskilling pathways. Financial support could be provided through the

Beyond the €27 billion ESF funding to be invested in education, training, skills and life-long learning, from 2014 to 2020, a further € 21.2 billion are available for social inclusion and €30.8 billion for sustainable and quality employment. Member States planned to reach out to around 8 million low qualified individuals through ESF only, through the education and training funding.

European Pillar of Social Rights

The Upskilling Pathways initiative is a key building block of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which promotes

  • equal rights to quality and inclusive education,
  • training and life-long learning

in order to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems.

The New Skills Agenda

Adult education and training is a crucial component of the Commission's long term strategy.

Upskilling Pathways is the main legislative proposal of the "New Skills Agenda for Europe". The Agenda is a key policy priority for the European Union for 2017, adopted on 10 June 2016. It includes 10 proposed actions to be taken in the next two years.

Growing together

The Electronic Platform for Adult Learning (EPALE) is a multilingual open membership community for

  • teachers
  • trainers
  • researchers
  • academics
  • policy makers
  • anyone else with a professional role in adult learning across Europe.

As well as a wealth of information about good practices, EPALE hosts "Communities of Practice" - online groups where people with similar interests from the adult learning sector can get together to make a difference by building a common space for exchanging information, opinions, and good practices. Here you can join the community of practice on Upskilling Pathways.

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