PRESS RELEASE: International bodies and practitioners support lifelong learning as a key response to the crisis

The ETF and UNESCO, together with the ILO, EBRD and UNICEF, joined forces for a five-day discussion on the future of lifelong learning, with a focus on skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era

Turin, 25 June 2021Around 1500 participants from 60 countries took part in a major online event organised by the ETF in partnership with UNESCO and with the collaboration of the ILO, EBRD and UNICEF. Entitled "Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era", the conference aimed to take stock of progress and looked forward to next steps in making education and training fit for current and future challenges.

While showcasing examples of good practice from around the world, the event created a forum for reflection on international experience in building lifelong learning systems. It also confirmed priorities for future cooperation against a backdrop of current global challenges and the new opportunities that the green and digital transition brings.

“Over the past five days, together with all our partners and participants we examined the practice and preconditions for bringing innovation to system change. We agreed that lifelong learning and skills development should become an integral part of economic and social transformation, and should put the learner in the centre by leaving no one behind. The ETF is fully committed to supporting these developments and moving towards a greener society,” said Cesare Onestini, ETF Director.

“Young people have borne the brunt of this crisis – their education and training must be prioritised in the recovery. This conference has demonstrated the power of partnership to make this happen,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.

“Establishing an effective lifelong learning ecosystem is a joint responsibility, requiring the active engagement and support of governments, employers and workers, as well as education institutions,” added Sangheon Lee, Director, Employment Policy Department, ILO.

“As we build inclusive and sustainable societies, we must include young people in policy and as actors for change. Together, let’s ensure they have the skills and connectivity to safely contribute ideas,” commented Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe & Central Asia.

An international engagement for shaping a better future

The conference was addressed by European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, who highlighted the connection between the European Skills Agenda that he champions, supporting policy reforms in EU neighbourhood countries. The Italian Minister of Education Patrizio Bianchi contributed to the discussion in light of the Italian presidency of the G20, and stressed the global dimension of this challenge and the need for coordinated action.

High-level contributions outlining visions from countries neighbouring the EU were brought by Branko Ružić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia; Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Georgia; Bora Muzhaqi, Deputy Minister of Education, Albania; Nurlan Omurov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Kyrgyzstan; Dukagjin Pupovci, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Kosovo; Artur Seletskiy, Deputy Minister of Education and Science on Digital Development, Digital Transformation and Digitalization, Ukraine.

Five days to transform education in a lifelong learning perspective

The first three days of the conference comprised an opening event enriched with key questions and ideas, followed by six sessions with themes of importance to a transforming world and an emphatic move towards lifelong learning:

  • Adapting to changing skills demands
  • New forms of learning
  • The role of actors in lifelong learning systems
  • Monitoring and adapting to change
  • Ensuring skills for all
  • Supporting the green transition.

The final two days were devoted to a high-level event attended by representatives from the EU and its neighbouring countries, European and international political leaders, multilateral and international organisations, think-tanks and the private sector. The series of events explored what comprehensive and effective lifelong learning systems might look like, and how we can build them.

A spotlight on the best green skills stories

During the closing ceremony on 25 June, the ETF unveiled the three winners of the first Green Skills Award from Palestine, Turkey and India. The examples of good practice in education, training and skills development that support the green transition were chosen from the 11 finalists by a public vote. The ETF received 134 applications from 39 countries and over 23,000 votes from all over the world.

  • Palestine, the most popular project, is the story of 20-year-old Ghada Zaki Krayem, a young student at the Gaza Training Centre. Her case highlights the need to tackle both inequality and climate change at the same time, through an innovative scheme to train young people as solar power technicians. Designed to help reduce reliance on external sources of energy, the project aims to harvest the natural power of the sun over Gaza to produce electricity for local use. It is run by the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) with the backing of Germany's overseas aid organisation GIZ.
  • Turkey, ranking second, is the story of teacher Selcuk Arslan, from the Ataturk Vocational and technical high-school, who emerged for raising awareness on the impact of online learning on the environment. During the pandemic, they organised online activities with students using coding, gamification and animation to learn about their own impact on the environment as well as solutions for areas such as smart agriculture.
  • India, in third place, is the story of the PSS Central institute of vocational education in Bhopal, which proved to be outstanding in introducing green skills into the curricula. The institute promoted the inclusion of green skills as a key component of employability skills, with an initiative that covers 10,893 schools, and supports students in preparing the skillsets required for green occupations in the future.


The European Training Foundation is the EU agency supporting the countries of the EU neighbourhood to reform their education, training and labour market systems. It works with policymakers and practitioners to support reform, promote evidence-based approaches, document change, provide analysis and stimulate debate to anticipate new skills needs.

More information   

Media enquiries and interview opportunities

Daria Santucci, Press Officer, daria.santucci@etf.europa.eu, +39 366 9639638

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