This article is part of our special report Upskilling Europe: The path to a green and digital future.
Today, the green and digital transitions are reshaping our way of life, work and interactions – and the COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically accelerated most of these changes.
Nicolas Schmit is the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights.
The impact of the pandemic on the labour market prospects for millions of people in Europe has made it clear: we need to turn the green and digital transitions into opportunities for everyone, to ensure recovery from the crisis.
This can only be done if people in Europe have the skills to harness the transitions, which means unprecedented efforts to upskill and reskill the workforce. The right to lifelong learning is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. It allows adults to learn new skills and develop their careers throughout their lives, and it is at the core of Europe’s recovery efforts.
Vocational education and training (VET) can play a decisive role. VET has helped millions of people around the world to ‘earn as they learn’. But it is so much more than that. It gives young learners the initial skills they need for a fulfilling career and provides adults with the means to continue learning and training throughout their working lives.
Vocational education and training will be an essential tool to help young people and adults acquire the skills needed in the labour market and find quality jobs, especially after the Coronavirus crisis. It is time to take a fresh approach to VET, making it more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital age and green transition.
The European Skills Agenda from July 2020 proposes key actions to support upskilling – the improvement of existing skills – and reskilling, or training in new skills, thus empowering lifelong learning.
The ambitious agenda includes a first-ever comprehensive policy framework for VET at EU level. Whilst VET systems are diverse across Member States, our principles and objectives are aligned. VET should:
- cater to the skills needs of both young and adults,
- be reactive to the needs of the labour market and ensure active participation in society,
- be integrated into economic, industrial and innovation strategies,
- and at the same time VET programmes should embed social and environmental sustainability.
The time to act is now. The move towards digitalisation, sustainability and a greener future will impact all of our jobs.
The European Vocational Skills Week 2020, from 9 to 13 November is all about these challenges and how we can turn them into opportunities. This year’s Week theme is VET for Green and Digital Transitions. Organised in close cooperation with the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it will be fully digital and therefore widely accessible. I very much invite everyone to join in.