New strategies, legislative developments and activities: Skills, learning and employability – Q1 2014 (EurWORK topical update)

Lifelong learning national strategies

Skills, lifelong learning and employability continue to receive significant attention from governments and social partners in many EU Member States. Some countries have taken important steps to establish or reform national strategic guidelines regarding learning and skills over the next several years.

In Estonia, the government approved the new Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020, which encompasses all areas of education and all levels. The new strategy aims to provide learning opportunities for all citizens according to their needs and capabilities throughout their lives. Some notable objectives of the strategy include:

  • a changed approach to learning – facilitating social development, critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship;
  • competent and motivated teachers and school leaders;
  • achieving compatibility between learning opportunities and the needs of the labour;
  • development of digital learning.

In Bulgaria, the Council of Ministers approved the new National Strategy for Lifelong Learning for the period 2014–2020 (Act No. 12 of 10 January 2014), which aims to achieve the European goal of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The strategy addresses all levels of education, including pre-school, higher education (including vocational education and training), adult education and validation of informal education and learning.

Legislative developments on skills

There were also important legislative developments in Member States regarding skills.

In Italy, Law 99/2013, enacted in August 2013, introduced a measure to foster acquisition of work-related skills by students by earmarking €10.6 million for facilitating access to traineeships for university students enrolled in the academic year 2013–2014. It also extended opportunities for vocational traineeships and designated €168 million on traineeships for young people aged between 18 and 29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) residing in southern Italy. The law addresses a number of issues raised by the European Commission’s fourth country-specific recommendations for Italy, with the aim of facilitating access to education, reducing early school-leaving and promoting the transition of young people from school to work.

In February 2014, the French parliament adopted a law on vocational training, employment and social democracy. This piece of legislation is significant because it implements the national interprofessional agreement of 14 December on vocational training which includes provisions on reforming apprenticeships.

With a view to extending lifelong learning services, improving the quality of such services and increasing the number of lifelong learners, the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science approved a decision to re-establish the Non-Formal Adult Education Council. The council regulations were approved by the government in March. The council will submit recommendations on strategic objectives and the development of adult education and promote cooperation among organisations representing the interests of public authorities, employers and employees. Active participation of the social partners is expected to improve the match between the supply of adult education courses and labour market demands.

Activity in some EU Member States

Norway, Denmark and Finland: Social partner inputs

Social partners and collective bargaining continue to play important roles in the development of vocational education and training reforms in Norway, Denmark and Finland. As a part of the collective bargaining round for 2014–2016, the trend-setting industries in Norway asked the Minister of Education and Research to ensure that labour migrants improve their language skills and to increase the number of skilled labour migrants through education and skills evaluation. The Minister announced that he would look at vocational studies in order to increase recruitment to them and the number of students completing the courses, in close cooperation with the social partners.

In Denmark, after a failure in 2012, talks on reforming vocational education resumed in 2013, and a tripartite agreement was finally reached in February 2014. The agreement foresees more prominent participation of social partners in some measures, such as the design of practical training courses. In Finland, from 2014 onwards, companies regulated by co-determination agreements have to prepare a personnel and training plan that evaluates the professional skills of their entire staff as well as changes needed in vocational skills and their causes. If a company has not put a training plan in place, employees have the right to ask to negotiate directly with the company on how to develop their professional skills.

Ireland: Review of apprenticeships

In January 2014, the Irish Department for Education and Skills published a comprehensive review of the system of apprenticeships, undertaken by an independent group chaired by Kevin Duffy, chairperson of the Labour Court. The group proposed a number of recommendations including the expansion of apprenticeships to new business and industrial sectors, a process in which employers are key actors as they should identify suitable occupations for new apprentices. Regarding existing apprenticeships, the review group recommended the continuation and adaptation of programmes over time. The curricula for trades should be examined and updated and, where feasible, common modules established across apprenticeships. Literacy, numeracy, mathematics, science, and information and communication technologies (ICT) should be integrated into courses.

Spain: Skills mismatch

In February, the Spanish General Secretary of Universities presented the report Data and figures on the university system of Spain 2014, which shows that one year after their graduation, 23.5% of university graduates are working in jobs requiring a medium skills level and 28.4% are working in jobs of low skills level (manual skills). Only 48.1% work in jobs where a university degree is a requirement.

Germany and Belgium: Vocational training on the decline

On 7 February 2014, the German Federal Statistical Office, Destatis, reported that some 2 million people had participated in vocational training in 2012, a decrease of 2% on the previous year. The Flemish Education Council (Vlaamse Onderwijsraad) registered that 6.8% of working people participated in vocational training in 2012; this fell to 6.4% in 2013. In the ‘Flanders Pact 2020’, the Flemish government and the social partners agreed to work towards 15% of employees per year having vocational training.

About this article

This article is based mainly on contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents. Further resources on skills, learning and employability issues can be obtained from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) and European Company Survey (ECS).

For further information, contact Jorge Cabrita: jca@eurofound.europa.eu

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