Covid is a chance to upskill and reskill workforce

Vocational and educational training will play a crucial role in shaping our future EU economy, says Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
Covid is a chance to upskill and reskill workforce

The right to life-long learning is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, so says Nicolas Schmit. Picture: Stock

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.

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 life-long 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 on 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 for 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 V

ET 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, which ran earlier this month was all about these challenges and how we can turn them into opportunities.

This year’s Week theme was VET for Green and Digital Transitions. Organised in close cooperation with the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it was fully digital and therefore widely accessible.

European Vocational Skills Week

This is an annual event where local, regional or national organisations showcase the very best of vocational education and training (VET).

VET is a path to a more fulfilling personal and professional life. European Vocational Skills Week is a platform to make VET’s potential more widely known, and an opportunity to exchange information and good practice across Europe and beyond.

The fifth edition of the week earlier this month was a 100% online event organised by the European Commission in cooperation with the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

A series of partner activities took place digitally across the EU. Anyone, anywhere could join in these activities.

This year’s theme was VET for Green and Digital Transitions, in line with the Commission priorities of a “European Green Deal” and a “Europe fit for the digital age”.

The overall objectives of the European Vocational Skills Week

Showcase the many ways VET can help young people and adults to ‘discover their talent’ and prepare today for Europe’s economy of the future.

Demonstrate to employers the enormous benefits of investing in human resources by supporting the initial training of young people, as well as the upskilling and reskilling of adults, particularly in a post-Covid-19 world.

Validate the choices people make when they choose VET, by showing its competitive value.


The employment rate of recent VET graduates in Europe is 78.9 % (2019). Source: Eurostat.

10.8 % of Europe’s population aged 25 to 64 participate in adult learning (2019). Source: Eurostat.

60 % of VET graduates find their first long-term job within a month of finishing their studies (80 % after six months) (2018). Source: Eurostat

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the existing digital skills gap, and new inequalities are emerging. Source: European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilienc.

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