Speech - European skills and qualifications classification goes live
European Commission - SPEECH/13/853 24/10/2013
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European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
European skills and qualifications classification goes live
Conference launching the classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations
Brussels, 24 October 2013
The EU set itself the goal of reaching a 75% employment participation rate by 2020. The current economic situation makes this extremely challenging as the number of jobseekers has have risen by 10 million since the start of the crisis, from 16 to 26.5 million today.
Youth unemployment and increasingly long-term unemployment are posing severe challenges for Member States and citizens across the EU.
But being here today with you makes me feel hopeful.
We have been working on the classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) since early in my mandate, and here we are, launching the first version.
All of you are interested in ESCO for different reasons. Some of you want to improve education or training offers. Some of you want to help people find a job and make the right career choices. Some of you want to improve working conditions.
But what you all have in common is your desire to reverse today's negative unemployment trends.
ESCO alone will not remedy unemployment in Europe but it will improve the functioning of European labour market and help us to bring more people into jobs.
What I really like about ESCO is its focus on skills and competences that may be relevant for a number of different jobs.
A strong skills base and an ability to put skills and competences to productive use are key if Europe is to successfully compete with emerging economies.
While for a long time the main competitive advantage of emerging economies was low labour costs, today’s competition is increasingly the quality of human capital and the way it is used in the economy.
Time magazine recently reported that in just one decade, the number of university graduates in China has risen from two million in 2003 to seven million in 2013. According to OECD projections, China’s share of the global talent pool of people with tertiary education will increase from 18% in 2010 to 29% in 2020. On the other hand, the United States and the European Union together would account for just over one quarter. Europe cannot afford to let its skills potential go to waste. We need to keep investing in skill formation and also in the efficiency of matching between the skills supply and companies' needs. We need to do this at all levels of skill.
How will ESCO work?
ESCO will help us to avoid under-utilisation of our skills potential in four different ways.
First, ESCO can improve skills intelligence instruments, such as the EU Skills Panorama. This will help policy makers and education institutions to better understand and anticipate what skills the labour market needs.
Second, ESCO can help employers to better understand the skills of the European workforce and make use of their employees’ talents in a more effective way. This will not only lead to higher quality jobs and a higher satisfaction of employees, but also to productivity improvements.
Third, ESCO makes it easier for employment services to match labour supply and demand. ESCO will enable employment services from different countries to work together by establishing one common language on skills and competences.
Fourth, ESCO will help jobseekers to understand which skills are needed by employers; which new career opportunities can be an option for them and what additional training they might need. Jobseekers and people helping them will be able to better understand the changing needs of the labour market, which is important given the often fast pace of economic change.
To illustrate this, I would call upon your imagination for a while. Please, take a short moment and try to imagine the financial department of a manufacturing company 1975. Try to imagine the desk of a financial assistant with the typewriter, the phone with a dial plate, the books and folders, the hierarchical organisation of the company.
Now, try to imagine the work of a financial assistant in the same company in 2013: The open-plan office in which teams collaborate; the desk with laptop and smartphone; the financial accounting module of the enterprise resource planning system.
The time span between these two imaginative examples is the working life of one person. A financial assistant starting to work on the desk in 1975 with the tools of that time would be close to retirement now. This shows how important lifelong learning is; how many new things one person has to learn in the course of his or her working life.
In many cases lifelong learning is learning on the job. The beauty of ESCO is that it allows us to consider additional work experiences and related skills when carrying out matching across Europe.
ESCO also contains a description of the labour market realities in 2013 and as these realities continue to change for many occupations, the required skills will be changing too.
The way forward
The work on ESCO is therefore a continuous task. Together with stakeholders, the Commission will continue to maintain and improve the classification. We will ensure that it is regularly updated to keep pace with the changes on the labour markets and in education.
For the work on ESCO we have taken a new path – and I believe a successful one. While the Commission is coordinating its development, ESCO is jointly advanced by all stakeholders.
Instead of developing a classification in Brussels and trying to impose it on all users, we asked all stakeholders to work together with us.
ESCO is therefore developed by those who need it. I believe, it is therefore well in line with the needs of the market. Of course, we invite you and all other stakeholders with an interest in ESCO to continue working with us, to further improve it.
While the Commission is playing the co-ordinating role at European level, ESCO can only be successful throughout Europe, if you and your colleagues work towards a successful implementation on national and regional level.