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László Andor

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

'New Skills for New Jobs for a More Competitive Europe'

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Spanish Presidency Conference 'New Skills for New Jobs for a More Competitive Europe'

Barcelona, 8th April 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

The inconvenient truth is that Europe is not sufficiently skilled.

However, today, more than ever, skills matter. The crisis has speeded up the pace of change in our economies and societies. In these difficult times, investing in skills will help to redirect Europe to recovery.

Skills make a difference to people's lives. Better skilled people are more likely to land a good job, stay healthy and they are less likely to become poor.

Better skills are fundamental to helping the EU become more innovative and prosperous. They bring more and better jobs, new business and greater competitiveness.

The EU and Member States' leaders are now considering new directions for the EU over the next ten years. The Commission's proposal - Europe 2020 - is our plan for a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe.

Europe 2020 focuses on the key areas where action is needed: knowledge and innovation, a more sustainable economy, high employment and social inclusion. And upgrading, individuals' skills will contribute to all of these areas.

I think we can agree on what we need to do:

  • We need to up-skill and doing it in urgently. However, injecting more skills into the labour market alone will not have the economic effects that we seek.

  • This is because we need also to better match skills to the various needs of the job market. We naturally know that skills are driven by business needs and growth.

  • We need to anticipate future challenges and opportunities and look at how these affect the skills and jobs of tomorrow.

Up-skilling, matching and anticipating – we could make this our mantra!

What is rather more difficult is how to do it.

  • How do we balance the skill needs of employers and the skill needs of individuals?

  • How do we promote equal access to skills and learning, recognising that people have different needs, situations and goals?

  • How do we better match skills with existing jobs and new jobs?

  • What incentives do we need to invest in learning?

I hope very much that we will manage to find some innovative responses to these questions during this conference.

Before handing over to my colleague, Commissioner Vassiliou, I'd like to talk about how the EU supports the New Skills for New Jobs agenda.

The European Social Fund plays a considerable role in supporting activities related to New Skills for New Jobs. Over the last decade we have funded activities responding to each of three priorities:

  • Firstly, better anticipating skills needs for individuals and institutions;

  • Secondly, better linking the world of education and training with the world of work;

  • Thirdly, modernising public employment services to provide more individual guidance and information to job seekers.

Europe 2020 provides an excellent opportunity to advance the skills agenda. Through the strategy, we plan to launch seven flagship initiatives to promote smarter, more sustainable and inclusive growth. New Skills for New Jobs contributes to each flagship initiative, while one in particular, 'an agenda for new skills and jobs', places skills at its heart.

This autumn, we will publish a Communication on the achievements of New Skills for New Jobs so far and on future activities. It will also examine the role of New Skills for New Jobs within the Europe 2020 strategy.

As part of this initiative, the Commission has proposed to launch the European Skills, Competencies and Occupations taxonomy, or ESCO. ESCO is a multilingual dictionary linking skills and competencies to occupations.

It responds to changes in the way people are recruited nowadays, because employers attach far more importance to the competencies and transferable skills of job seekers than to their formal qualifications. ESCO responds to this shift and will improve the matching of skills and jobs.

Continuous cooperation between the labour market and education and training providers is crucial to avoid skill and competency mismatches. ESCO will help improve their dialogue by providing a common language for occupations, skills and competencies.

ESCO will inform training providers of the new skill requirements of the labour market. They can then adapt their curricula to meet the needs of learners wanting to acquire the right skills for emerging jobs. ESCO will thus help anticipate skills needs at EU level.

As ESCO will serve such a wide variety of groups, the Commission is inviting all stakeholders to contribute to the development of this common language.

Today is an opportunity to discuss how to support upgrading, matching and anticipating skills. I am pleased to see so many of you today, prepared to share your experience to help develop policies that will make a difference.

I am particularly pleased to see here today some of the experts who recently wrote an independent report for the Commission on how to make the EU the most highly skilled region in the world. I am also looking forward to your contributions to our debate on how we can give Europeans a chance to become job shapers rather than job seekers.

I hope that by 2020, we'll have an EU:

  • Where people are confident, creative, innovative and have an appetite for learning new skills.

  • Where employers are able to access a highly skilled workforce that is increasingly developing its key competencies.

  • An EU built on the talents that every person has the right to develop. A Europe of opportunity and fulfilment.

This is a powerful and challenging vision. With your help I hope we will realise it.

Thank you.

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