Study sheds light on Europeans’ future skills requirements

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European workers will have to “re-skill” in coming years as technological and organisational changes push up the demand for increased qualifications, even in the most elementary jobs.

A forecast conducted by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) concludes that demand for skills is also being driven by the ever-growing services sector, which is expected to generate more than 13 million new jobs by 2015. 

Meanwhile, it predicts that over two million jobs will be lost in primary sectors such as agriculture and another half a million in manufacturing. 

According to the study, services are where the “real growth” is. Transport, distribution and tourism are expected to create 3.5 million additional jobs, while business and various services “offer the best employment prospects in the medium term, generating nine million new jobs by 2015.” An extra three million jobs are expected to be created in education, health and social work.  

According to Education and Training Commissioner Ján Figel’, the forecast – which is based on a projection of current trends – gives “a clearer idea of where skills deficits are likely to occur in the years to come” and allows young and old to assess their training needs for the future job market. Moreover the Commission, together with Cedefop, has tried to shed light on future and emerging skills needs “to prevent skills mis-matches in the future,” said Commission spokesman John MacDonald. 

According to the director of Cedefop, Aviana Bulgarelli, the results of the study reveal the sectors in which employment will grow and decline and are therefore crucial for policymakers “to understand where to invest in the mid-term perspective”. In particular, the fact that “people living in traditional manufacturing and agricultural areas have to be re-skilled for employment in other services” is a challenge for policymakers, added Manfred Tessaring from Cedefop.

In addition to the increased need for skills in the services sector, the results show that “the demand for high skills has not yet peaked.” Already some 38% of Europeans, 80 out of 210 million, work in highly-skilled, non-manual jobs and the proportion is expected to rise further, whereas jobs for workers with low qualifications are expected to decline by 8.5 million. 

Changes in skill requirements will, according to the Commission, have “serious implications for employment” as a shrinking workforce implies workers in all occupations will need to be replaced, while these new workers will need higher qualifications to perform ‘the same job’. 

The results of the forecast will be presented in full in a Cedefop conference on “Skills for Europe’s future” later this week. The European Business Summit (EBS 2008) will also dedicate, on 22 February, a workshop on education to discussing the links between Europe’s talent pipeline and innovation.

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