Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Upskilling Pathways - New opportunities for adults

Close to one fifth of adult Europeans struggle with

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

About the same amount of adult Europeans (around 22%) only obtained a lower secondary education level at most.

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

For that reason the European Council adopted the Recommendation on Upskilling pathways in 2016.

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).

Based on information provided by the Member States, the Commission published in February 2019 a report taking stock of their implementation plans and progress.

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 national circumstances.

Support to individuals

To boost access to and take up of quality learning opportunities, adults with low levels of skills should 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 does it work?

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

Delivering the initiative is based upon:

  • effective outreach,
  • guidance,
  • support measures.

EU support to Member States

Mutual learning

The Mutual learning workshops are capacity-building events funded by the EaSI programme to support Member States in the implementation of the Upskilling pathways recommendation by building up national networks:

  • 2017/2018 edition with the participation of Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.
  • 2018/2019 edition with the participation of Belgium (French-speaking community and Flanders), the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia.

Each delegation was led by representatives of Education and/or Employment ministries and composed of other key stakeholders such as adult learning providers, public employment services, social partners and the European Social Fund’s managing authorities and supported by an independent country expert.

Implementation of Upskilling pathways – EaSI calls

The European Commission has also launched dedicated calls for proposals under the EaSI programme. Awarded projects can be found on the Awarded grants section of the website.

Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP)

Member States can also submit projects for structural reforms, in line with Upskilling pathways implementation, through the Structural Reform Support Programme, managed by the Secretariat General of the European Commission.

In addition, the EU supports those implementing the Upskilling pathways through:

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 education and training funding under the ESF.

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 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 Skills Agenda for Europe, adopted on 10 June 2016.

Growing together

The Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) is a multilingual open membership community for adult learning professionals in 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.

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