Why attend the ETF Conference "Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era"

Why attend the ETF Conference "Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era"


From 21 to 25 June 2021, the European Training Foundation is coordinating a major international conference on the theme "Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era". Organised in partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF, the ILO and the EBRD, the event will address the challenges of a world in transition. The fourth industrial revolution, digitalisation and the green transition are all transforming the way we work and how we live. As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates those trends, this conference will examine the ways in which our jobs are changing, and the skills we need in order to do them.

After a short opening session, six thematic sessions will offer a deep dive into the key challenges, as we adjust educational and training systems to face this new reality. Over the last two days of the conference, a high-level event will bring together policymakers, experts, practitioners, employers, international organisations and representatives of civil society, to draw conclusions and reflect on the solutions to put in place.

At a web event on 2 June, six ETF experts presented a sneak preview of the subjects to be discussed in each of those thematic sessions. Alastair Macphail kicked off the proceedings by outlining the key questions that will be addressed at the first session, "Adapting to a changing skills demand". How is demand for skills changing, under the influence of such global drivers of change as globalisation, automation, Artificial Intelligence and climate change? How can education and training systems help people to navigate that changing landscape? The session will provide a lively and interactive context for discussion, fuelled by the findings of diverse ETF studies into contemporary trends.

After focussing on what we need to learn, discussion at the conference will shift towards how we should be learning it. Jolien van Uden explained how the second session - "New forms of learning" - will focus on how to create positive learning experiences. In a fast-changing world, we are all lifelong learners. Yet some of us enjoy learning more than others. To ensure that everyone is equally motivated, we need to create meaningful and engaging learning environments, offering relevant content in authentic contexts. By exploring inspiring practices like dream machines, theatre-as-learning and augmented reality, the session will examine the challenges we face and outline potential solutions.

A third session - on the "Role of actors in lifelong learning" - will discuss how learning should be organised. Siria Taurelli explained that the shift from existing models of education and training towards a lifelong learning approach can only take place if it involves all the parties concerned, from individuals and state institutions to non-state bodies like chambers of commerce, social partners and civil society. Partnerships are essential: all these stakeholders need to develop new frameworks in which to cooperate. In parallel, the diverse needs in play will require an increase in both financial resources, and non-financial ones such as expertise.

In this shifting environment, how can we determine whether our actions are effective, and if change is moving in the right direction? Mihaylo Milovanovitch explained how the fourth session - "Monitoring and adapting" - will address three key questions. What data are relevant to track progress? How can we build an inclusive and trustworthy monitoring process? How can we use the results of that process to adapt and improve our planning? Researchers and representatives from international organisations will share their experiences and insights in these fields.

The fifth session - "Skills for all" - will examine how we can involve everyone in learning and ensure that no one gets left behind. Cristina Mereuta explained how the quality and relevance of skills are key parts of that process. Themes will include how to foster accessible and beneficial opportunities for learning, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated remedial actions, and the impact of digital and green transitions on reskilling needs. In the current context, access to training and education is a challenge all over the world. This session will explore how we all need to move away from a linear vision of education towards more flexible pathways, in which we learn in different contexts at different stages of life.

Finally, Anastasia Fetsi presented the sixth session: "Supporting the green transition". The unsustainable environmental impact of the way we live has created a need for education and training, to support the transition towards a clean, circular and carbon-neutral economy, in line with the EU's Green Deal. For that green transition to succeed, it has to engage with people. It has to supply the skills necessary to apply new, eco-friendly technologies in different workplaces. It has to supply skills that help people innovate, interact and communicate, and to become more aware of the impact of their actions. And it has to focus on values and mind-sets, encouraging us to change our habits and act as responsible citizens of a sustainable planet. Developing robust lifelong learning systems is an integral part of that process.

After the presentations, a question-and-answer session gave a foretaste of the debates that will take place at the conference. Questions from the international audience raised subjects that included engaging learning environments, how to monitor change, and how to persuade governments, societies and employers to invest more in learning. It was a reminder that discussions on lifelong learning are taking place all over the world. This international conference aims to bring them all together, and - in so doing - to help define our common future.


All the Thematic Sessions will be streamed on Facebook. 

You can attend them by using the links below.

Thematic session 1: Adapting to a changing skills demand, 21 June, 10.30 CET


Thematic session 2: New Forms of Learning, 21 June, 13.30 CET


Thenatic session 3: Role of actors in Lifelong learning systems, 22 June, 9.00 CET


Thematic session 4: Monitoring and Adapting, 22 June, 11.30 CET


Thematic session 5: Skills for All, 23 June, 9.00 CET


Thematic session 6: Supporting the Green Transition, 23 June, 11.30 CET


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