Labour markets in Europe are changing at a fast pace, requiring people to adapt and constantly develop their skills and qualifications if they want to remain employable. Companies increasingly struggle to find people with the skills they need. Beyond basic competences and trade-specific skills, digital skills are gaining in importance in many economic sectors, as are social and interpersonal skills.
The European Commission has been designing and implementing skills strategies in the past years, focusing on understanding and developing skills. Each year the Commission formulates policy recommendations to Member States through the process of the European Semester, with a strong focus on dual learning and apprenticeships. It has also developed tools and funding opportunities to support national actions.
In July 2020, the European Commission presented a new European Skills Agenda which sets quantitative objectives for upskilling and reskilling to be achieved within the next 5 years. It then proclaimed 2023 as “the European Year of Skills” to provide a new momentum to reach the EU 2030 social targets of at least 60% of adults in training every year, and at least 78% in employment.
The private employment industry is committed to developing the skills and qualifications of workers. Starting with its own employees! In the agency work sector, bipartite training funds have been established to facilitate the upskilling and reskilling of agency workers and help them find their next work opportunity.
As for the services that the private employment industry provides, career guidance, training and coaching are typical activities offered by career management firms. The private employment industry is also fostering social innovation in the area of skilling and learning through innovative apprenticeships schemes.
The World Employment Confederation-Europe is ready to partner with all stakeholders to implement the European Skills Agenda. In its position paper, the organisation points to the actions where the knowhow of the private employment services sector would be particularly useful (skills intelligence, vocational education and training, STEM and transversal skills, adult learning and skills for life and individual learning accounts). The World Employment Confederation-Europe also underlines the importance of unlocking investments and building on the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality for the Agenda to be successfully implemented.
As Europe started to recover from the Covid crisis, its labour markets have been facing significant skills and labour shortages. The issue became of growing predominance and concern for employers and policymakers across Europe as those shortages risk hampering economic growth and job creation while also limiting labour market participation. According to the World Employment Confederation-Europe’s analysis, those shortages are actually largely linked to mismatches between supply and demand and the situation can be addressed by fostering labour market reforms building on four interconnected pillars. In a Strategic Issue Paper “Making Better Matches”, released in August 2022, the World Employment Confederation-Europe sets out how the private employment services sector can contirbute in each of these four pillars and make some policy recommendations that should enable the private employment services sector to fully play its role, and therefore should further improve labour markets in Europe.
The issue remains of critical importance in 2023, proclaimed as the European Year of Skills. Throughout the year, the HR services industry will continue to contribute to policy debates on skills and inclusive labour markets demonstrating how career management services, direct recruitment and agency work services contribute to a better matching of skills with labour market needs and help to reduce labour shortages.
Social innovation practices for training in the agency work sector have been surveyed as part of a research project conducted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and the Catholic University of Leuven/HIVA, as part of the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue for temporary agency work.
The research draws up lessons learned from the implementation of these practices and analyses factors for upscaling and replicating them in other sectors. The World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa also adopted joint recommendations as follow-up of this project to further foster social innovation in Europe.
For further examples of how the private employment industry is re-inventing ways of learning, visit our “Social Innovation Stories” database.