Brussels, 13 February 2013
Youth unemployment and skills focus for Education Council (15 February)
The fight against youth unemployment, currently nearly 24% in the European Union, will be at the forefront of discussion at the Council for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport taking place in Brussels on 15 February. Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will underline the importance of modernising education and training systems to ensure young people are equipped with skills needed by the job market. Education Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on investing in education and training in response to the Commission's Annual Growth Survey and Rethinking Education strategy. David Puttnam, chairman of the Open University in the UK and a renowned film producer (Chariots of Fire, Midnight Express) will participate in a debate on 'education and skills for jobs, stability and growth', along with Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's deputy director for education. The Irish Presidency will also report on the latest state of play on the negotiations over Erasmus for All, the new programme for education, training, youth and sport which will start in 2014.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "The European Commission is mobilising all possible means to help Member States tackle the scourge of youth unemployment. Our youth initiatives are targeting funding where it is needed most and programmes such as Erasmus help young people to gain experience and skills which boost their employability. We are also developing new initiatives such as the Alliance for Apprenticeships, promoting entrepreneurship education in schools and through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, and we will soon unveil a new strategy on Opening up Education which will encourage schools and universities to embed ICT and open educational resources in learning and teaching."
The Commission will present its strategy on the Alliance for Apprenticeships, promoting high quality work-based learning across Europe, at the WorldSkills competition in Leipzig in July. This year will also see the rollout of the new 'Entrepreneurial University Guiding Framework'. This self-assessment tool will help higher education institutions to develop entrepreneurial 'eco-systems' and become engines of innovation. The aim is to expand this approach in the future, tailored to the specific needs of schools and vocational education providers.
Considerable progress has also been made on Opening up Education, a joint initiative by Commissioner Vassiliou and Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. The aim is to make education more accessible through technology, by scaling up use of ICT in education and access to high quality open educational resources.
Representatives of trade unions and business organisations have been invited to present their views during the working lunch following the meeting. Discussions will also draw on a paper produced by the Irish Presidency which spotlights skills weaknesses and mismatches that prevent Europe from achieving its full potential.
The Commission is working closely with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in the area of education. An example of this closer cooperation will be seen later this year with the publication of the first adult skills survey, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC).
Commissioner Vassiliou will participate in a press conference with Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, in the Council press room at around 2:30.
The Commission launched its Rethinking Education strategy in November 2012, with the aim of supporting Member States in their efforts to improve education and training systems and equip young people with skills that will improve their job prospects. It also offers insights into how investments in education can be targeted to maximise their impact in times of financial austerity.
Rethinking Education underlined the need to improve basic skills such as reading and writing, and for more emphasis to be attached to developing knowledge and skills in IT, entrepreneurship and foreign languages. The Commission has proposed a new benchmark on foreign language skills to help Member States measure progress in this field.
The strategy also highlighted the need to reduce early school leaving and the number of low-skilled adults. Remedies include early identification of low achievers, individualised support, easier access to lifelong learning and validation of competences acquired outside the traditional education system. All reforms must be supported by well-trained, motivated and entrepreneurial teachers. Coherent and well-resourced systems for both recruitment and career support are crucial.