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European year of skills: empowering workers to uphold digital transition


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Irene Bellomo, Member of the European Year of Skills Taskforce, European Commission (DG EMPL)

Agnes Roman, Senior Policy Coordinator on Education policy and Advisor on Education & Training policy, ETUC

Brikena Xhomaqi, Director, Lifelong Learning Platform



The European Year of Skills is the occasion to spotlight current challenges in the world of work. Even before Covid-19, the field was undergoing a deep change led by shifts in workers’ expectations and labour market needs on digital and green jobs. On 27th April Policies & Practices online event addressed this topic with experts of the field. 


Better skilling strategies for the green and digital transitions

Europe is in the midst of two profound transitions that are reshaping the labour market. In that context, skills play a crucial role to correct mismatches and tensions and can provide workers with tailored skills for better jobs. Thus, the aim of the European Year of Skills is to set a common European impulse to upskill and reskill workers for new digital and green jobs.


A consistent and ambitious skilling policy at the EU level will lead to a strong economy powered by workers with digital skills, boost innovation, jobs and improve the European competitiveness on the global market, explained Irene Bellomo, member of the European Year of Skills Team at Commission’s DG EMPL. One of the EU headlines target for 2030 is to achieve least 80% of citizens with basic digital skills. The Commission aims to have at least 20 million ICT experts employed in Europe by 2030.


“Our goal is to make sure that we tackle the labour shortages and to develop better skills and better competencies in specific sectors such as care workers, but also (...) on digital and on climate change”, stressed João Albuquerque, Portuguese MEP. One of the strongest assets on this field is the European welfare system, he added.

As these evolutions are arriving, citizens and workers need the tools to adapt and keep up with the new realities in order to ensure a just transition. On that point, Brikena Xhomaqi, director of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP), noted: “many of the research at the moment indicates that in between transition and in the fast-developing societal changes, the transversal skills, adaptation skills or problem-solving skills are key to succeed”.


Holistic policies to ensure job retention, motivation and well-being at work

Agnes Roman, advisor on education and training policy at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) discussed other aspects of the world of work that must be considered in skills strategies. Indeed, in some sectors, labour shortages are “linked to bad working conditions, low wages, precarious contracts, disrespect of workers’ rights not existing or very few work life balance, very few training and career development”, she said. Therefore, skilling initiatives must also address well-being solutions and motivation at work.


Taking workers’ needs into account is not a burden but rather an opportunity for companies. Both Ms. Xhomaqi and Ms. Roman stressed that on the one hand companies can take advantage of further investing in the training of their employees and, on the other hand, skills strategies are an opportunity to create quality jobs with good working conditions in all sectors and regions as well as improve job advancement.


Is motivation and well-being only limited to the workplace? No, according to Ms. Xhomaqi: “having individuals and employees that are personally fulfilled has a positive impact not only on the company but also in general in the society”, a position shared by the room.


Emphasizing current skilling and inclusion policies

Implementation of skilling strategies is not starting from scratch, a broad variety of them already exist and will be improved during the European Year of Skills. The European Skills Agenda is the European Commission’s main strategy in force on Skills for the period 2020-2025. The aim is to help people, education and training institutions, other providers, and businesses to develop more and better skills and put them to use by strengthening sustainable competitiveness, ensuring social fairness, and building resilience to react to crises. 


For instance, trade unions offer guidance workers who are explaining specifically to unmotivated and low skilled workers what kind of trainings are available. 

LLLP’s main proposal is the creation of individual learning accounts. Thanks to this tool European citizens would have the chance to acquire new skills through education and training. Citizens would also benefit from financial support from public authorities or companies.


For ETUC and the European Commission, this year is also the occasion to count on social partners to discuss about providing effective access to quality training to all workers.


Achieve gender equality at work, thanks to skilling

To achieve the objectives of the European Year of Skills, the gender scope is key agreed the three panellists. While skills policy encourages reskilling and upskilling for all, women are one of the target groups of the European Year of Skills with the objective of activating more women to the labour market. The Women in Digital Strategy, the Digital Education Action Plan and the Digital Decade aim to make digital skills and careers more attractive for girls and women. EU funded projects support this objective, Ms Bellomo explained. For instance, the project “Girls Go Circular” aims to equip 40,000 schoolgirls aged 14-19 across Europe with digital and entrepreneurial skills by 2027 through an online learning programme about the circular economy.


Brikena Xhomaqi completed Bellomo’s intervention supporting effective solutions that can improve gender equality such as “individual learning accounts, training, vouchers and other incentives that would target specifically women to acquire digital skills”.


Agnes Roman, ended reminding the remaining challenges on work-life balance, crystal ceiling for management positions and equal pay for women. 



Tuesday 28 November, 2023





Policies & Practices