Skills and training
20 July 2021
‘Skill’ has various meanings. At the level of the individual, it means the person’s current level of competence or performance at a certain task; alternatively, it refers to a task a person can perform to a satisfactory level.Read more
‘Skill’ has various meanings. At the level of the individual, it means the person’s current level of competence or performance at a certain task; alternatively, it refers to a task a person can perform to a satisfactory level. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) defines skills as the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. Skills can be described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments). At national level, policymakers refer to the skill levels of a population; the level, type and numbers of qualifications are typically used as proxies for the skill level of a given population. Training is the process of enhancing employees’ skills, attitudes and knowledge so as to improve competence levels. Vocational training, including apprenticeships, may also constitute part of the publicly provided education system.
Achieving an appropriate match between skills and tasks, as well as creating opportunities for developing skills and competences are important dimensions of quality of work and employment. Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Employability is a combination of factors, such as job-specific skills and transversal skills, which enable individuals to enter into employment, stay in employment and advance in their careers.Read less
Sustained labour market participation is supported by the first key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights which outlines the importance of maintaining and acquiring skills to ensure ‘equal opportunities and access to the labour market’.Read more
Sustained labour market participation is supported by the first key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights which outlines the importance of maintaining and acquiring skills to ensure ‘equal opportunities and access to the labour market’. It states that everyone has the right to ‘quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market’. As further outlined in the European Green Deal, reskilling and upskilling will enhance employability in the green economy via measures such as the Skills Agenda and Youth Guarantee.
The European Commission adopted the first Skills Agenda for Europe in June 2016, designed to make the right training, skills and support available to people in the EU. Building on this, on 1 July 2020 the Commission adopted the new European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. Its 12 actions focus on objectives for improving existing skills and training in new skills over the next five years. Four indicators were selected to allow monitoring and statistical analysis with targeted increases to be reached by 2025. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of digital skills and competencies in ensuring business continuity, as well as in providing education and training remotely. The Commission is now placing skills at the heart of the EU policy agenda to help achieve a sustainable recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
Also on 1 July 2020, the Commission launched the Youth Employment Support package which is structured around four strands that will provide a bridge to jobs for the next generation. The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on a ‘Bridge to jobs’ reinforces the Youth Guarantee launched in 2013. This initiative will link in with the needs of companies to provide the skills needed, particularly for the green and digital transitions, alongside developing transversal skills, such as entrepreneurial and career management skills. The package also includes a proposal on vocational education and training, a renewed impetus for apprenticeships and additional measures to support youth employment.
On 8 June 2020, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on reskilling and upskilling as a basis for increasing sustainability and employability, in the context of supporting economic recovery and social cohesion.
The Commission, along with EU Agency Cedefop, launched the EU Skills Panorama website in 2012 to present information on short- and medium-term skills needs, skills supply and skills mismatches in the EU. It aims to improve the EU’s capacity to assess and anticipate skill needs to make education and training systems more responsive to labour market needs and to better match skill supply and demand.
- European Commission: The European Pillar of Social Rights in 20 principles
- European Commission: Skills Agenda for Europe
- European Commission: Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET)
- Council of the European Union: Council conclusions on reskilling and upskilling as a basis for increasing sustainability and employability
- European Commission: Commission launches Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation
- Cedefop: Skills Panorama
Eurofound provides extensive knowledge about skills in the European workplace, including information on training, work organisation and job design, and skills mismatches. Skills and training needs are also featuring in research on the digital age and platform work.Read more
Eurofound provides extensive knowledge about skills in the European workplace, including information on training, work organisation and job design, and skills mismatches. Skills and training needs are also featuring in research on the digital age and platform work.
Data collection on skills and training
Based on analysis of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) data, Eurofound has established a set of job quality indices, representing different dimensions of job quality, one of which is skills and discretion. This index measures the skills required in the job. It also studies the opportunities workers may have to understand and influence the way work is performed, as well as the possibilities available to develop their job-related skills through training. The EWCS data confirm that access to training provided by the employer has been increasing over time.
- Survey: Sixth European Working Conditions Surveys: 2015
- Publication: How does employee involvement in decision-making benefit organisations?
The European Company Survey 2019 (ECS 2019), jointly carried out by Eurofound and sister agency Cedefop, collected information on workplace practices with regard to work organisation, human resource management, skills use and skills strategies, direct employee participation and social dialogue. The overview report of the ECS 2019 examines skill requirements and skill match, as well as workplace practices on training and learning. Based on ECS 2019 data, research will look further at skills shortages and skills strategies in European establishments.
- Survey: European Company Survey 2019
- Publication: European Company Survey 2019: Workplace practices unlocking employee potential
The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) collects data on educational attainment of respondents, as well as how they rank the quality of education in their country in terms of facilities, expertise of educators and curriculum. Analysis of this data provides evidence on access to education and training systems across the EU and users’ assessment of the quality of those services over time. The EQLS also looks at digitalisation in health and social care services, the gaps in skills in using e-healthcare, as well as the inequalities in access to services.
The European Jobs Monitor (EJM) also analyses shifts in the employment structure in the EU, examining where jobs are being created and lost. It assesses these shifts using various proxies of job quality, such as wages and skill levels. With this data, Eurofound has also collaborated with Cedefop in its skills forecast up to 2030 to identify how wage structure and job tasks are changing. Recent analysis also explores the impact of computerisation on the task profile, and hence skills needs, of jobs.
- EMCC: European Jobs Monitor
- Cedefop: Skills forecast: Trends and challenges to 2030
- Blog: Are computers making work more routine and less social?
Measures to support skills development
Eurofound’s European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) maintains a database of support instruments that are available to companies that are restructuring and their staff affected by it. It includes measures on skills and training development. The database on restructuring related legislation also provides information on regulations linked to the obligation on employees to undertake training as well as on employers to provide skill development plans or training.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Eurofound’s data collection has expanded to include a database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch. The database provides information on initiatives introduced to cushion the effects of the pandemic including measures to support businesses to get back to normal by enhancing training and employability.
Digitalisation and skills in the labour market
The digital shift, amplified by COVID-19, is having an impact on labour markets and the employment distribution between occupations, as well as on the content and quality of work and its organisation. Digitalisation in the workplace is having an impact on skills needs and training requirements. Eurofound’s research on the digital age and platform work looks at opportunities and challenges of technological change for the future of work and employment, including training and skills development. Eurofound has developed a platform economy repository bringing together information on the subject, including a dossier on skills use and skills development in platform work.
Research on game-changing technologies also looks at the how these can transform production processes and employment, including the implications for skills use and skills development. Additionally, a pilot project on the future of manufacturing, mandated to Eurofound by the European Commission, also explored the challenges facing national and company apprenticeship systems.
- Topic: The digital age: opportunities and challenges for work and employment
- Publication: Game-changing technologies: Transforming production and employment in Europe
- Topic: Platform work
- Platform economy repository: Platform work: Skills use and skills development
- EMCC: Future of Manufacturing in Europe (FOME)
- Webinar: Future of work
Work organisation and innovation
Research has examined innovations in work organisation and explored the links between these innovations and the potential benefits for employees and employers. Innovative work organisation systems that increase employee autonomy and motivate employees to fully use and further develop their skills are more likely to result in beneficial outcomes for employees and employers. Moreover, as these work organisation systems are aimed at unlocking employee potential, they are more likely to generate ideas for innovations in products and processes.
Youth and NEETs
Eurofound has carried out extensive research over the years on the social and employment situation of young people in Europe, particularly those not in employment, education or training (NEETs), and analysed measures to increase their opportunities for employment, apprenticeship, traineeship and continued education, such as the EU Youth Guarantee.
With an increased emphasis on lifelong learning in employment policy, the Skills Agenda aims to help people ‘build their skills throughout life in an environment where lifelong learning is the norm’. This is particularly important in the context of population ageing and the need to keep older workers economically active and in work longer. Eurofound’s EQLS 2016 examines the quality of European society, looking at for instance participation and community engagement, as well as involvement in training and lifelong learning to encourage active citizenship. Based on EWCS 2015 data, research on working conditions of workers of difference ages explores issues around access to training for older workers. Research has also looked into the role of governments and the social partners in keeping older workings in the labour market, as well as national policies that help to achieve sustainable work.Read less
Key outputs over the years
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (577)
- Ongoing work (1)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
Related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: European Company Survey - Data visualisation - Skills requirement and skills match; Training and learning
- Data: European Working Conditions Survey - Data visualisation - Skills, discretion and other cognitive factors
- Data: Platform work: Skills use and skills development
- Database: COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch
- Database: ERM restructuring support instruments
- Database: ERM restructuring related legislation
Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.