Ambitious EU drive to boost youth employment and skills

Today, 1 July 2020, the European Commission announced an ambitious package of measures to boost youth employment, vocational education and training and skills development as essential pillars of the post-Covid recovery plan for Europe and the transition to green and digital economies.

One initiative is Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation. Young people have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, explained: “At the best of times getting your foot on the jobs ladder is difficult. And these are not the best of times.”

Youth unemployment is generally double the average, and in times of crisis it rises at twice the rate. Young people in work tend to have less secure working conditions and are more likely to be laid off. “It is more important than ever that we help the next generation of Europeans to thrive and get on the jobs ladder, especially at this time of crisis” said Vice-President Dombroviskis. “We are proposing clear and specific ways forward for our young people to get the professional chances that they deserve.”

The Youth Employment Support package includes a reinforced Youth Guarantee, extended to young people under 29 with a stronger focus on vulnerable groups; a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training aiming to make systems more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital and green economy; a reinforced European Alliance for Apprenticeships; and enhanced EU funding for youth employment through the Next Generation EU recovery plan and other existing instruments.

These resources will fund initiatives such as: start-up grants and loans for young entrepreneurs, mentoring schemes and business incubators; bonuses for SMEs hiring apprentices; training for new skills needed on the labour market; capacity-building for public employment services; career management training; and investment in digital learning infrastructure and technology.

A second initiative is a European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. “Europe needs a skills revolution” said Commission Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas. “One that is inclusive and leaves no one behind.”

“This is a proposal for good times and bad times” he added. It aims to address the immediate economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis and to support green and digital transitions. Accompanied by demographic trends, these are transforming how we live, work and interact. People need skills to thrive in this new environment, to retrain in a new skill or improve their existing skills to adapt to a changing labour market. The Skills Agenda aims to improve the relevance of skills in the EU to strengthen sustainable competitiveness, ensure social fairness and build resilience.

It involves 12 actions:

  1. A Pact for Skills
  2. Strengthening skills intelligence
  3. EU support for strategic national upskilling action
  4. Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training for sustainable competiveness, social fairness and resilience
  5. Rolling out the European universities initiative and upskilling scientists
  6. Skills to support the green and digital transitions
  7. Increasing STEM graduates and fostering entrepreneurial and transversal skills
  8. Skills for Life
  9. Initiative on Individual Learning Accounts
  10. A European approach to micro-credentials
  11. New Europass Platform
  12. Improving the enabling framework to unlock Member States' and private investments in skills

Achieving the ambitious targets of the Skills Agenda will hinge on mobilising funding from EU, national, regional, local, public and private sources, and bringing all stakeholders – governments, social partners, businesses, communities - together to deliver. This is the purpose of the Pact for Skills, which will be launched in November 2020.

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The skilling of our workforces is one of our central responses to the recovery, and providing people the chance to build the skillsets they need is key to preparing for the green and digital transitions. It gives everyone the possibility to benefit from new opportunities in a fast-moving labour market.”

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