The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa made the following statement on a pilot reform project related to the Portuguese vocational education and training system in preparation of the future EU Reform Delivery Tool:
"The Government of Portugal and the European Commission are committed to promoting jobs, growth, investment and social fairness.
Important reforms have been carried out in Portugal in recent years to restore economic growth, tackle unemployment and achieve sustainable competitiveness. The European Commission is supporting the momentum across Europe, notably through the European Semester of policy coordination, the roll-out of the "Juncker Plan", the use of European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as thanks to the technical support provided by the Structural Reform Support Programme.
As part of the roadmap for deepening Europe's Economic and Monetary Union presented in December 2017, the European Commission proposed the creation of a Reform Delivery Tool at EU level for the period post-2020. To prepare for it, the European Commission has proposed that a pilot phase would run over 2018-2020.
In this pilot phase, EU Member States would be able to make voluntary use of the performance reserve of the European Structural and Investment Funds for the purpose of budgetary support to reforms. The European Commission proposed a change to the relevant EU legislation to this effect.
In this context, the Portuguese authorities are ready to spearhead a pilot reform project in order to address one of the major structural problems of Portugal: the skills gap. This project is in line with the Portuguese National Reform Programme, the Country-Specific Recommendations for Portugal and with the initiatives launched under the New Skills Agenda for Europe, notably the Council Recommendation on "Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults". Such project is also consistent with the Portuguese National Skills Strategy, which is being developed with the technical support of the EU and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The aim of this pilot reform project will be to significantly improve the Portuguese national vocational education and training system, including adult education, hence to contribute to address the skills challenges of a significant share of the Portuguese labour force and thus also enhance the competitiveness of the economy. This will be done through a comprehensive set of measures aimed at: i) improving access to adult education and training; ii) improving the quality and relevance of learning programmes, and; iii) improving the sustainability of education and training policies and their governance structures.
The pilot reform project is complementary, in scope and focus, to the training programmes launched to improve the qualifications of employed and unemployed adults, which are co-financed by the European Social Fund for the period 2014-2020. A specific focus of the initiative will be to broaden access to education and training and to promote digital skills. New flexible learning pathways should be promoted to ensure the effective delivery of training programmes and the business sector will also play a role in the organisation and development of education and training schemes.
Today, the Portuguese authorities and the European Commission agreed to kick start their discussion on this important pilot reform project. This pilot reform project should translate in the identification of a set of reform commitments and a timetable for implementation. Ahead of the entry into force of the relevant EU legislation allowing for the introduction of the pilot phase of the Reform Delivery Tool, the Portuguese authorities and the European Commission will mobilise funding available under existing EU instruments. The European Commission will also seek to provide the necessary technical support for the realisation of this pilot reform project. Both sides will also use this pilot reform project to test the merits and functioning of the future Reform Delivery Tool."