The European Commission has prepared a new “Skills Agenda for Europe” in order to guarantee that people develop a wide range of skills from an early age and make use of human capital in Europe to increase employability, competitiveness and growth across the EU.

For the Commission, it is important that young people acquire a wide range of skills at an early age of their life since this will help them to find work, be active and gain confidence. The reason is clear. In 2025, 50% of companies will need highly qualified individuals and only 10% will require those with elementary skills.

According to different studies, 70 million Europeans lack adequate reading and writing skills and have limited numeracy and digital skills. This puts them at risk of unemployment, poverty, and even social exclusion. Although the school dropout rate has fallen to 11%, 87 million people of working age have not completed upper secondary education in the EU. On a positive note, the percentage of those finishing tertiary education continues to improve, reaching 38%.

In addition, while a large number of Europeans, especially young qualified ones, work in jobs that do not correspond to their level of training, very few people have the entrepreneurial mentality and skills required to start their own business and to continue adapting to the new requirements of the jobs market. In addition, according to the report, 40% of European employers can’t find people with the right skills to help them grow and innovate.

Given this situation, the new Skills Agenda prepared by the Commission proposes to Member States a series of actions to improve their citizens’ quality of knowledge and their relevance to the labour market, such as increasing the level of knowledge, promoting transversal skills and finding ways of anticipating the needs of the employment market.

Specifically, the Commission proposes 10 actions to be carried out over the next two years:

  • Help low-skilled adults to acquire a minimum level of reading, numeracy and digital skills and to progress towards an upper secondary qualification.
  • Review the European Qualifications Framework so that qualifications are easier to understand and all skills available in the European labour market can be used better.
  • Bring together Member States, education and industry to develop a large pool of digital talent and to ensure that individuals and the workforce in Europe have adequate digital skills.
  • Prepare a plan for sectoral cooperation in skills to tackle the shortages existing in specific economic sectors.

The remaining actions will be launched between this year and 2017:

  • Support the early identification and creation of skills profiles for those requesting asylum, refugees and other migrants.
  • Review the Europass framework, offering people better tools to present their skills and obtain useful real-time information on skills needs and trends that may help with career and learning choices.
  • Make Vocational Education and Training (VET) the first option for improving the opportunities for these students, increasing the possibilities of work-based learning experience and making people more aware of good labour market outcomes for those with VET.
  • Review the recommendation on Key Competences to help more people acquire the core set of skills required to work and live in the 21st century with a special focus on promoting entrepreneurial and innovation-based mindsets.
  • Introduce a graduate tracking initiative to improve information about how they get on in the employment market.
  • Analyse and exchange best practices on effective ways of avoiding brain drains.
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