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.

In March 2022, the European Commission launched a public consultation on improving adults’ basic skills that centres on themes regarding upskilling and reskilling. The consultation is based on a 2016 Council Recommendation on “Upskilling Pathways: New opportunities for Adults”. The European Commission’s intent is to gather views on the EU initiative that aims to help low-skilled adults develop new skills through learning opportunities to support its evaluation. The evaluation will then look to assess the implementation of the Recommendation and progress made towards raising low-qualified adults’ literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and draw implications for the future.

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.

In its Europe 2024 Vision Paper, the World Employment Confederation-Europe calls on EU policies to empower EU citizens to build their career path by implementing these policy actions.

Skills and training are also of key importance in the context of the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the World Employment Confederation-Europe calls for a focus on the recognition of prior learning, the validation of non-formal and informal learning and a renewed focus on apprenticeships and dual learning. The European framework of the EU Skills Agenda should provide the framework for reforms of national education and training systems, equipping workers with the skills needed in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. A special focus should also be laid on allowing workers to move from declining to rising sectors through targeted training schemes fostering occupational mobility.

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.

In March 2022, the World Employment Confederation-Europe contributed to the public consultation on adult learning, expressing how adult learning, life-long learning and a combination of work-based on training-based learning are most suited to equip adults with the skills needed to succeed on the labour market. As training and adult learning facilitating upskilling pathways are organised in several European countries by sectoral social partners and in the context of collective labour agreements, the World Employment Confederation-Europe is convinced that EU policy initiatives in this area must be guided by the common, European challenges such as the digital and green transition, while at the same time reflecting and building on the different, national training and labour market models, respecting diversity and promoting mutual learning.  

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.

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