Skills and training
29 Mart 2023
‘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
Where are the shortages, where are the workers? The drivers behind labour shortages in Europe and how to tackle them
Measures to tackle labour shortages: Lessons for future policy
EU lack of labour won't be solved by skills alone: Improving job quality is key
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, outlining targets 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.
The Commission has dedicated 2023 as the European Year of Skills, aiming to raise awareness around skills and the need to improve and develop skills to address skills shortages, while also helping people to get the right skills for good quality jobs through reskilling and upskilling.
This supports the EU initiatives already underway to support skills and training. 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 links 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 aimed 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. Cedefop is currently responsible for producing EU skills intelligence.
- European Commission: The European Pillar of Social Rights in 20 principles
- European Commission: European Year of Skills 2023
- 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 intelligence
Eurofound’s work on skills and training links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on a Europe fit for the digital age.
- About Eurofound: EU priorities: Working for a strong social Europe
- European Commission: A Europe fit for the digital age
Eurofound provides extensive knowledge about skills in the European workplace, including information on training, work organisation and job design, job quality 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, job quality 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 Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021 examines job prospects and workers’ opportunities to use their knowledge and skills in their work, as well as opportunities to develop skills through training and for career advancement. It also looks at access to and demand for training during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Survey: European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021
- Publication: Working conditions in the time of COVID-19: Implications for the future
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 has examined skills shortages and skills strategies in European establishments for sustained business performance.
- Survey: European Company Survey 2019
- Publication: Fostering skills use for sustained business performance: Evidence from the European Company Survey
- 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. 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
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Eurofound’s data collection has expanded to include the EU PolicyWatch database of national-level policy responses. 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. It incorporates the database of support instruments that are available to companies that are restructuring and the staff affected. It includes measures on skills and training development.
- Database: EU PolicyWatch
- Article: Building resilience after COVID-19: EU measures to protect jobs and promote skills
- Publication: COVID-19: Policy responses across Europe
Eurofound’s European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) database on restructuring related legislation 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.
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: Digitalisation
- Publication: The digital age: Implications of automation, digitisation and platforms 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)
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.
- Topic: Work organisation
- Topic: Innovation
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.
- Topic: Ageing workforce
- Topic: Sustainable work
Key outputs over the years
- Labour shortages in the EU are limiting production and services delivery in several sectors and the fight for talent is particularly acute in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands. As drivers of these shortages vary by sector, occupation and region, measures to address them must respond in different ways, ranging from developing skills, making certain sectors and occupations more attractive, activating underutilised labour, and better matching supply and demand – Findings confirm that tackling labour shortages is not just about skills.
- Measures to make use of existing labour are especially important in ICT and in the context of the green and digital transition where skills mismatch is the biggest driver of shortages. With rapidly evolving technological developments and the growing need to identify future skills needs in a greening economy, joint efforts between governments, social partners and training providers will be critical to identify existing skills needs and forecast future ones. The 2023 European Year of Skills is an important opportunity to promote effective and inclusive investment in training across Europe.
- 70% of EU neighbouring country respondents reported a lack of sufficient access to education and training programmes. Educational and training systems offer huge potential through upskilling and reskilling for job seekers and those with lower skills, notably through public employment services. The 2023 European Year of Skills will be an important opportunity to promote effective and inclusive investment in training across Europe.
- Most workers do not work in an environment that supports the development of their skills. Furthermore, close to half of workers reported that they did not have enough opportunities to use their skills and knowledge in their work. This emphasises the key role that companies play in supporting the development of a skilled workforce. The 2023 European Year of Skills can make a significant contribution to raising awareness about these challenges.
- Close to half of employees (45%) receive some type of training paid for or provided by their employer. The shares of younger (16–24 years) and older (aged 56 years and over) women who receive training (34% and 40%, respectively) are smaller than the shares among their male counterparts. Training opportunities continue to differ by occupation, with the highest skilled receiving more training.
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (593)
- Ongoing work (2)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
France: Occupational personal accounts take effectMakale 29 Mayıs 2017
United Kingdom: Mixed reactions to the new apprenticeship levyMakale 23 Mayıs 2017
United Kingdom: Mixed reactions to the new apprenticeship levyMakale 23 Mayıs 2017
Bulgaria: More backing needed for pilot dual-track vocational education and trainingMakale 28 Nisan 2017
Social mobility in the EUPublication 19 Nisan 2017
Poland: Government enacts radical education reform despite oppositionMakale 23 Mart 2017
Denmark: Tripartite negotiations – staged approach seems to be workingMakale 15 Şubat 2017
Luxembourg: Latest working life developments – Q4 2016Makale 25 Ocak 2017
Hungary: Short-term solutions to the issue of labour shortagesMakale 24 Ocak 2017
Mid-career reviews key to longer and healthier working livesNews 17 Ocak 2017
Related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 - Data visualisation - Skills, discretion and other cognitive factors
- 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: EU PolicyWatch
- Database: ERM restructuring related legislation
Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.