Our commitment today: preparing the workforce for tomorrow

In the next 10 years, about 100 million workers in Europe will need reskilling, as over 20% of their tasks will be automated or digitised.

Andrea Fabra Fernández

Andrea Fabra Fernández Follow

Reading time: 4 min

Much has been said about the need to reskill and upskill current workforces but time to act has come. Investing in Europe’s employability is crucial if we want to reach the desired prosperity.

In the next 10 years, about 100 million workers in Europe will need reskilling, as over 20% of their tasks will be automated or digitised. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation. In the European manufacturing sector alone, the crisis has put at risk almost 8 million Jobs, mostly impacting people with primary and secondary education.

Challenges faced by companies and individuals require new and urgent approaches to avoid risks raised from labour markets that have been radically transformed. Traditional formulas to tackle them do not work anymore in this digital era.

As Telefónica advocated in its Manifesto for a New Digital Deal, policy makers need to actively shape this digital revolution by adopting adequate policies to prepare and guide people through it.

ERT report

In this respect, the European Round Table for Industry (ERT) has recently published a report about Reskilling in European Industry: Preparing the workforce for tomorrow”. The ERT has a long history of promoting competitiveness and prosperity by cooperating with policy makers and other stakeholders and has been essential in strengthening Europe´s place in the world.

“A great Digital Deal is needed to establish a new dialogue between governments, civil society and the business community. This Pact must start by improving people’s lives, that is, by promoting training and education”, José María Álvarez-Pallete

José María Álvarez-Pallete is one of the 55 members, between CEOs and Chairs from Europe´s largest companies in the industrial and technological sector, that takes part in the ERT.  All of them are strongly committed to boost an open and competitive region through promoting sustainable growth and jobs for all. Their first-hand expertise, experience and recommendations can certainly offer support to the European Commission´s priorities in this area.

The abovementioned  report addresses current market failures that impede the reskilling offer to grow in quantity, quality and effectiveness. Significant obstacless in the current ecosystem, such as  the lack of data to adjust to the market needs, the absence  of accurate systems to forecast skills gaps; the limited impact of reskilling programmes (estimated to reach maximum 10.000 placements annually) or the EU  programmes’ inconsistency (scarce and/or inexistent programmes in certain European regions) hamper the implementation of successful reskilling programmes across the value chain.

The ERT highlights the following features as the key for a successful outcome:

  • Public and private partnership to address the complexity and scale of the challenge Europe is facing.
  • Cross-sectoral method open for all economic sectors. People can be trained for a job opportunity in other areas of the economy or they can be attracted from other sectors for a job in industry.
  • Pan-European view. Although transnational mobility of workers may be enabled, EU priorities, including industrial policy, must be directly supported.
  • End-to-End (E2E) approach.  Reskilling based on an individual’s current skills set and directed towards a defined new occupation or job opportunity.
  • Funding. Dedicated funding is necessary to enable the creation of a reskilling ecosystem.

ERT reskilling

In a future where living up to 100 years old will probably be the norm, reshaping not only educational systems to adequate them to the new labour market demands but also individual´s attitude towards education is also going to be crucial.

In order to keep skills up-to-date it is necessary to stimulate lifelong learning as the new educational goal. Learning should no longer be something that you do at a specific institution for a specific period of time to obtain a certification. To thrive in this VUCA world people must learn to be continuously self-motivated lifelong learners and technology has become one of the best allies to reach this objective.

Digitalisation also represents an enormous opportunity for people with disabilities to engage better with others because innovation is making available connect, products and services that previously were not accessible for all.

So, as societies´ better resource is people and their skills, the release of a European Skills Agenda is an opportunity to put people at the heart not only of the ongoing digital but also of the green transition that will bring new occupations.


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