No time to lose: EU focuses on vocational skills to deliver green transition

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas (L) and EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit . [ EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS LENOIR / POOL]

The European Commission is helping member states, companies, and workers to prepare for the massive effort of the green and digital transitions via a number of initiatives and platforms, with a particular focus on the labour market and vocational training. Commissioners Nicolas Schmit and Margaritis Schinas provide more details.

Nicolas Schmit is the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights. Margaritis Schinas is the Commission’s Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life.

In these difficult times, the EU is committed to supporting people fleeing the war in Ukraine to integrate into the European labour market, should they wish to. The EU and its member states stand ready to help them map their qualifications, undertake vocational education and training, and find apprenticeships and jobs.

At the same time, we all agree that there is an urgent need to reach climate neutrality in Europe and across the world. This requires mammoth efforts from citizens, companies, and entire industries in some cases.

It also means that many workers will need to make the leap from jobs in traditional, fossil fuel-based industries to emerging green sectors and “green jobs” across all sectors where we are facing skills shortages.

In the construction sector, for example, we expect the European Green Deal to create 487,000 new jobs in the EU by 2030. Out of these, almost 70% will be created for skilled manual and non-manual workers, who typically have a vocational education and training background (VET).

VET, through its close links to the labour market and work-based learning elements, can help workers reskill in these new green technologies and make job-to-job transitions.

The Commission is supporting member states in transforming their VET systems to make them fit for the green transition.

One example is via Erasmus+ funding which is helping to build Centres of Vocational Excellence. They bring together a wide range of local partners to develop “skills ecosystems”, contributing to regional development.

Already underway are GREENOVET, the European VET Excellence Platform for Green Innovation, EPLUG, the European Platform for Urban Greening, and 3LOE, Professional Excellence in the Green Economy.

The Pact for Skills is another way the Commission is helping companies and workers to prepare for the green and digital transitions. By creating a forum for all partners to discuss current and future skills needs and set up partnerships, the Pact is playing match-maker for Europe’s talent supply and demand.

So far, over 600 organisations have pledged to provide the right skills for 6 million people, and that is just the beginning.

Our target for 2030 is for 60% of all adults in the EU to participate in training every year. member states can make use of EU funds to invest in reskilling and upskilling of the workforce, in addition to initial education and training.

European Social Fund Plus funding can help member states to modernise their VET systems and make them fit for the green transition, by updating their VET programmes to include emerging skills needs.

From 16-20 May 2022 across Europe we celebrate the sixth annual European Vocational Skills Week. To find out how to get involved, and what vocational education and training can offer you, visit our website. There is no time to lose.

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