Migrants’ skills might not be the first thought to come to mind in the current times of mass migration as governments and institutions across the world are seeking to better manage migration and the hosting, settlement and integration of migrants in societies and economies. This is in part due...
Migrants’ skills might not be the first thought to come to mind in the current times of mass migration as governments and institutions across the world are seeking to better manage migration and the hosting, settlement and integration of migrants in societies and economies. This is in part due to media attention which often is fixated on a negative rhetoric regarding migrants. However, multilevel and bilateral agreements are being implemented across the globe, including in the European Union, between sending and receiving countries of migrants to ensure mutual benefit, not least of which for migrants themselves through the development of their skills and employment opportunities. This month the ETF’s communication campaign focuses on the skills dimension of migration to coincide with International Migrants Day taking place on 18th December as an important opportunity to highlight the work being done on this crucial element of migration.
The European Union works to ensure that migration takes place in a safe, regular and sustainable manner. Indeed, itsNew Pact on Migration and Asylum proposes to strengthen and deepen comprehensive, tailor-made and mutually beneficial partnerships with key countries of origin and transit. To improve cooperation with key partner countries and facilitate legal migration to the EU and mutually beneficial mobility, the Commission is launching Talent Partnerships (first in the EU’s neighbourhood region, the Western Balkans, and in Africa).
The EU’s aim is not to encourage migration or to attract only high-skilled migrants to the detriment of sending countries by contributing to brain-drain. Rather, the objectives are to provide support at a systemic level whereby migrants are able to use and develop their skills for and through gainful employment. This is particularly important in new and emerging sectors in the context of the digital and green transition where specific skillsets are required without which they could be excluded. Read this month article on the EU's Strategy for the Danube Region Strategy for a unique example on how this is being done.
Enhancing migrants' potential and labour market participation contributes to economic development and recovery of the host country and potentially the country of origin either through remittances or where returning migrants can apply newly acquired skills and experience gained abroad. Indeed, next year will be the European Year of Skills and developing those of migrants is a top priority.
The EU’s Talent Partnerships are also intended to support the wider building of skills intelligence around concerned migration countries, labour market development, enhancement of the vocational education and training sector, integration of returning migrants. and strengthening of the diaspora network.
Within the remit of the EU's external relations and its role as a global actor the ETF works to build an integrated system to harmonise and link skills recognition systems between the EU and partner countries in the EU’s neighbouring regions and within countries themselves.
This building of skills intelligence informs the policy advice which the ETF gives to partner countries and shares with EU institutions and Member States, and more broadly with other international organisations as part of the United Nation Network on Migration in the pursuit of migration policy goals supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The ETF partners include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNESCO, UNHCR and the International Labour Organization with which an e-learning course on the skills dimensions of labour migration to policy makers and practitioners was jointly delivered earlier this year.
Studies and reports produced by the ETF focus on the triangular relationship between migration, human capital formation, and labour markets as in "Use it or lose it!" the ETF's in depth report, featured below, that explores the situation between the EU and the Western Balkans based on research and analysis carried out in the Western Balkan countries in 2020–21. Individual reports are also available (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and the Western Balkans). Additionally, as part of the human capital development systems’ assessment, policy responses and good practices related to the skills dimensions of migration were explored in a number of ETF partner countries in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe in 2021 (Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, Tunisia and Ukraine).
More specifically, the ETF works with countries in the EU neighbourhood to support the necessary skills requisites for migrants including the recognition of qualifications, validation of skills and competencies and prior learning by sharing EU tools such as the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), the New Europass and the EU Skills Profile Tool. Moreover, the ETF has been building skills profiles of migrants within partner countries and across partner countries to improve policies for skills development mechanisms in countries of origin.
The ETF has also recently produced a comparison report (soon to be published) of the Ukrainian Qualifications Framework and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) to facilitate the integration of Ukrainian refugees in Europe. This report feeds into the ETF’s initiative to create a network of national qualifications databases that exchange information on qualifications and 'speak' to each other which is the focus of a subsequent article in this edition of Learning Connects.
A network of national qualifications databases: recognising skills, increasing opportunities
Skills, qualifications and credentials which demonstrate expertise and competence are the gateway to new opportunities. They signal the knowledg...
Skills, qualifications and credentials which demonstrate expertise and competence are the gateway to new opportunities. They signal the knowledge that people possess, enabling them to find decent work as well as explore new study and training opportunities, both at home and abroad. For individuals, qualifications are ‘passports’ to new horizons and possibilities. For countries, they are the foundations of a mobile and flexible workforce, skilled and ready to face the challenges of the future. But what happens if the skills and qualifications of one country are not recognised by another?
The European Training Foundation (ETF) has extensive experience in working with the EU’s neighbouring regions to support the development of qualification systems that are aligned to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). As Arjen Deij, ETF’s Senior Expert on Human Capital Development and Qualifications points out,
‘Institutions and authorities are recognising the need to move away from paper-based qualification systems to digitalised systems which facilitate consistency and comparability, both nationally and internationally.’
‘As we see the internationalisation of labour markets, the advance of digital technologies and an increase in migration, being able to recognise another country’s qualifications has never been so important.’
And it is this idea that is at the heart of the ETF’s initiative to create a network of national qualifications databases that not only exchange information on qualifications but also 'speak' to each other.
‘Such a network would enable the translation and comparison of everybody’s qualifications so that they could be understood by different systems and institutions anywhere in Europe,’ explains Deij.
This, in turn, would strengthen trust across EU and non-EU countries, and boost mobility and lifelong learning.
It is, indeed, a compelling idea. The development of a network of national qualifications databases would build upon existing tools to create a standardised yet rich and flexible 'common language' that can be tailored to the needs of individual countries and institutions without sacrificing the diversity of information about their qualifications.
As part of the proposed network, all countries will be able to 'translate' their qualifications, demonstrating how different qualifications relate to one another. Over time, more qualifications translated, and greater interactivity will help to connect learners and workers with better study and job opportunities.
‘We will, in effect, be developing a skills and qualifications “ecosystem”, ever-expanding as more and more countries get involved.’
There is a sense of urgency to start the development of this network, given that the global drivers of recent change, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the impact of climate change, have resulted in a greater number of people crossing borders, looking to expand and improve their horizons.
‘The number of people worldwide living outside their countries of origin is at a historical high. We need to put the skills dimension at the core of migration, making sure that migrants’ skills are recognised and valued, and that they are provided with the new skills that they might eventually need.’
In addition, the European Union has nominated 2023 as the European Year of Skills, making the timing of this planned project even more pertinent. In her annual speech in September 2022, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, noted that the lack of relevant skilled staff is a huge challenge for companies, especially as they need to adapt to the challenges and opportunities posed by the digital and green transitions. Deij reflects on this,
‘More and more institutions everywhere recognise the need to ensure a cohesive and collaborative approach to qualification systems. A network of national qualifications databases will help address this need.’
The ETF is uniquely placed to make this network happen. With nearly 30 years of experience in human capital development and providing policy advice to help partner countries make meaningful reforms to their education and labour market systems, the ETF can assist institutions and policymakers in their involvement in this network.
‘The implementation of this network will ensure a harmonised approach to qualification recognition and will reduce the risk of individual countries dedicating limited resources to creating stand-alone systems. By providing technical expertise and guidance to Commission Services, EU neighbouring countries and EU member states, we can make sure we move forward all together,' explains Deij.
‘We have the vision and can foresee the real tangible benefits of this network, both for individuals and countries.’
The call to action is clear, as Deij concludes.
‘As soon as the relevant EU institutions agree the funding, we can get countries involved in this initiative and forge ahead in an efficient and coherent way. This will enable all citizens across Europe and the EU’s neighbouring regions to create value and fulfil their aspirations, wherever life takes them.’
“Use it or lose it!” The ETF’s deep dive into migration, human capital and the labour market in the Western Balkans.
The ETF’s 2021 publication, “Use it or lose it!” aims to understand the impact of migration on the skills pool and skills utilisation in the six...
The ETF’s 2021 publication, “Use it or lose it!” aims to understand the impact of migration on the skills pool and skills utilisation in the six Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). It is an in-depth assessment of the relationships between migration, labour market dynamics and human capital development, and shines the light on how the characteristics of the labour markets and education systems affect migration flows, and vice versa.
Emigration has long been a reality in the six Western Balkan countries but the numbers have steadily increased in recent years, ranging from almost half of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, to one-fifth in Montenegro (2020). Reasons to move are better employment and earnings prospects, as well as better education and life prospects. Emigration has affected both the low-educated and the highly educated and Albania, in particular, suffers the impact of ‘Brain Drain’, where the highly educated account for around 40% of the total emigration quota.
The report also looks at education, as the mismatch between the skills acquired in the education system and those needed in the private sector grows ever bigger. With young people making up the lion’s share of emigrants from the region, it indicates that schools and other institutions have not been sufficiently successful in adapting curricula and programmes to meet the skills demanded in the labour market.
At a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented levels of migration, this report provides in-depth analysis and policy recommendations intended to assist with the proactive management of migration, strategies to create a highly productive workforce, and policies to narrow the gap in economies and labour markets between the six western Balkan countries and the main destination countries.
‘A Cascading Identity’
The EU’s Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), founded in 2011 with the support of European Commissioner Johannes Ha...
‘A Cascading Identity’
The EU’s Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), founded in 2011 with the support of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, is the most intriguing and heterogenous of all the macro-regional strategies. A middle-child, sandwiched between the births of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR, 2009) and the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP, 2015), the EUSDR brings together fourteen countries in radically different stages of economic development and membership status – nine are EU Member States, four are candidate or potential candidate countries and one is a country of the European Neighbourhood: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Germany (represented by the Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria regions), Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine (represented by the four south-western regions, Chernivetska, Ivano-Frankiviska, Odessa, Zakarpatska).
There are vast economic divergences across the region. The Danube flows from some of the wealthiest nations in the world (Germany and Austria) to some of the continent’s more impoverished peoples (80% of Europe’s Roma live in the Danube basin, a total of 5.2 million). The river – so often a symbol of the boundaries between Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine – is now like a belt trying to wrap some of the widest and thinnest waists. “It’s an interesting geometry”, says Georgios Zisimos, Head of the ETF’s Policy Advice and EU Programming Unit.
By almost every statistical criterion, the differences between the participating countries are stark: many western countries have witnessed a clear trend towards immigration whereas Moldova saw a net migration rate of -9.3% in 2018. The relevance of the manufacturing sector as an economic driver varies vastly between countries: industry in the Czech economy accounts for 36% of economic added value; in Baden-Württemberg 40%; in Montenegro, it’s less than 20%. ‘There’s a cascading identity that changes along the river,’ says Erja Kaikkonen, Head of the ETF's Policy and Public Outreach Department. One third of the EU population at risk of poverty lives in the Danube Region, and yet it’s also an area which represents undeniable opportunity: between 2010 and 2018 the increase in GDP in the area was 32% compared to an EU-28 average of 24%.
Softness and Skills
Roland Hanak, working out of Austria’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy, has been a priority area coordinator since the very outset. His understanding of ‘strategy’ is deliberately counter-intuitive.
“When you think about that word, ‘strategy’, you might think about the origin of the word in a military context. A good strategy is when you have certain means and you use them in a clever way. But when we started this Danube Strategy, we were faced with ‘three no’s’: no new money, no new legislation and no new institutions. And that would proclaim a strategy without means.”
So the strategy was forced to be ‘soft’. When you talk to people about the EUSDR, the words which recur repeatedly are ‘reciprocal’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘collaboration’. The Strategy is not an ideological imposition but a creation of relationships. Relationships are hard, rarely reducible to concrete targets, investment returns and outright victories. But the freedom afforded by no funds and no institutions meant that, according to Roland Hanak and Jörg Mirtl,
the Strategy’s ‘“soft” character… in reality often proves to be a considerable advantage, as this very openness can make things happen without the constraints that are often to be found in more formalised contexts and formats.’
The stated aim of the Strategy is
to provide ‘people with jobs in an ever-changing world of work, to cope with the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation in the labour market and in education, and to work towards an inclusive Danube Region, where the basic needs of everyone, including marginalised communities, are met and high standards and core values of living together and social justice are upheld.’
Given that definition, it’s clear that skills have always been central to the vision. As João Santos, from the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission, has said this month:
‘We cannot have ambitious regional strategies if we don’t have the skills.’
2023 is planned as the European Year of Skills and 43 Centres of Vocational Excellence have already been founded in the Danube Region. Pioneered, advised and mentored by the ETF, these clusters of industrial centres, vocational schools, training colleges, engineering hubs and logistics pinch-points are transmission vehicles for excellence. Requiring the cooperation of many moving parts – ministries, municipalities, companies, chambers of commerce, third sector partners, development agencies, public employment services and research institutions – the creation of such spaces hasn’t been simple. As Hanak wearily wrote in the document celebrating the first ten years of the EUSDR, ‘macro-regional strategies have created a lot of bureaucratic exercises, red tape and navel gazing.’ But construction academies were established in Serbia, Croatia and Moldova; in Moldova, a financial-sector certification centre was set up on the same principles. School curricula have been modernised and digitalised. Qualifications have been compared and standardised.
In all this, the river itself isn’t only symbolic.
‘It’s important’, says the ETF’s Ulrike Damyanovic Senior Human Capital Development Expert, who has supported the Danube Strategy since 2011, ‘because in all macro-economic strategies you need natural resources. The Danube means life, energy, horticulture, agriculture. Everyone talks about energy and water-supply, and the Danube as a source of both can become vital.’
Since green skills and social inclusion are the current focus of the Strategy, the waterway gains relevance by fashioning itself as a means of green transport and tourism, sustainable irrigation and as a guarantor of biodiversity. One of the Strategy’s many ground-level projects is organised by the Danube Sturgeon Task Force, attempting to protect one of the river’s most regal fish which is now endangered by our human greed for caviar.
The eTwinning project – offering exchanges between school staff in 43 countries – has been very active in the EUSDR, with 419 teachers having taken part in Danube Region conferences between 2013 and 2021. As well as high-end industrial strategies, there have also been dozens of school-based projects to forge a sense of shared destiny: the creation of a compendium of old recipes, satellite mappings of favourite places in the Danube basin, comparisons of healthy and unhealthy lifestyles and so on.
The EUSDR has certainly been stress-tested this year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine represented a humanitarian and economic hit to the country which is currently President of the Strategy (the baton passes to Slovenia in 2023). Nadija Afanasieva, Director of the Ukrainian Institute for International Politics, says that the Danube family has been an important forum in which to communicate the country’s needs: ‘We could present our needs to an international audience, issues connected to emigration, education, psychological support, adaptation…’
Suddenly the EUSDR finds itself on the globe’s hottest geopolitical fault line as issues of energy resilience, inflation and supply-chain chaos are reverberating throughout the continent. There are labour supply problems in many western European countries, and mass-unemployment in eastern ones. Whilst brain- and muscle-drain is a serious challenge within the macro-region, it’s recognised that there are reciprocal and complimentary needs within the participating countries.
‘Companies everywhere can’t find people’, says Ulrike Damyanovic, ‘and that is problematic. If you cannot do your harvest, if you don’t have workers, it’s a complex issue. But we try to sit around a table and see how we can do this better: exchange staff, perform forecast exercises, ensure better education and skills development…’
‘It’s not purely idealistic,’ says Jürgen Schick, from the Austria’s Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and another coordinator of the EUSDR since its inception. ‘The region has a big geo-political focus for Austria, for instance in in economic terms. A democratic and stable region is of course important to Austria as it is to other countries in the region.’ The EUSDR has, he wrote last year, ‘an important integrative and cohesive function’.
So is the real strategy the bringing of new countries under the broad, inclusive EU umbrella?
‘Of course,’ smiles Hanak, ‘the European idea of cohesion should help everybody. Here there are such big differences in a relatively small area and you can see the consequences when there is no trade…’
According to Afanasieva, over the past decade, the EUSDR has inevitably led to a convergence of practice.
She points to the creation, ‘from zero, of Ukraine’s internal audit structure. We understood that Ukraine didn’t have a European level of financial-control bodies. It was an opportunity to understand how the financial resources of the European fund are controlled and it’s a step towards, hopefully, European funds being made available to a candidate country.’
Jose Manuel Galvin Arribas, ETF’s Senior Human Capital Development Expert & thematic coordinator of vocational excellence, recognises that the area faces strong headwinds:
‘There is an energy crisis, there are economic and ecological crises, there are geopolitical tensions. But when you get a region together and you manage to coordinate voices and reconcile interests, you really can make progress at learning. The challenge is whether there’s progress on policy learning, if the Danube region can reconcile national leaders.’
In the first decade of its existence, the EUSDR has attempted to forge a Danubian identity, creating a sense of cohesion and shared destiny along the iconic river. The ambition has been to create a skills reservoir that could flow where needed, increasing inclusivity and innovation. Like water itself, the strategy is both soft but also strangely powerful.
The number of people worldwide living outside their countries of origin is at a historical high. The drivers for migration are many and va...
The number of people worldwide living outside their countries of origin is at a historical high. The drivers for migration are many and varied. Forced migration can be caused by traumatic events, such as conflict and climate change. Voluntary migration can enable people to seize new work and study opportunities, helping them to fulfil their aspirations. Whatever the reason, the skills and knowledge that migrants have can make a huge and positive impact on communities and economies.
Take a look at the 4 facts as we shine the spotlight on migration and what it means to some of our partner countries and regions.
DARYA, the EU’s new regional project in Central Asia, focuses on skills development for young people and is aimed at strengthening local labour markets. Given that rates of migration among young adults are significant in the region, for example more than 20% in Kyrgyzstan (2021), it is hoped that the project could help reduce the number of people having to migrate to find decent work.
According to the research network Arab Barometer, 48% of Lebanese citizens are seeking to leave their homeland for better opportunities abroad, with corruption, security and political instability cited as the main reasons (April 2022).
Since Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has received the largest number of people fleeing war since World War II. As of 18 November 2022, there are 7.84m Ukrainian people who have migrated to neighbouring countries
In Albania, the highly educated account for almost 40% of emigrants (2012–19), hence the very significant problem of ‘brain drain’ in the country.
Podcast #22 - Myths about career advice
Career guidance can be referred to in many different ways. You might have heard of ‘career counselling’, ‘career development’, ‘career mana...
Career guidance can be referred to in many different ways. You might have heard of ‘career counselling’, ‘career development’, ‘career management’, ‘careers information, advice and guidance’, ‘vocational counselling’ or ‘vocational guidance’.
Whichever name it goes by, the objective of career guidance is to help people of all ages manage their careers and guide them in making the educational, training and occupational choices that are meaningful for them.
But, in reality, are career guidance services doing a good job?
❓ Are our parents best placed to advise on career choices rather than advisors?
❓ Should career guidance services start working earlier to help young people think about their career choices?
❓ What are the most important aspects to consider when deciding on a career?
❓ How often will we change our professions during our lifetime and can career guidance support each change?
Listen to the new episode of the Skills Factory where we will answer all these questions, debunk some of the most common myths about career guidance and discover what it means to be a professional career advisor. Joining us is Liana Amiraghyan, a career guidance advisor from Armenia and Florian Kadletz, an expert in career guidance from the European Training Foundation.
International Migrants Day - 18 December 2022
Follow the ETF across all its social media channels on Sunday 18th December as we recognise Int...
International Migrants Day - 18 December 2022
Follow the ETF across all its social media channels on Sunday 18th December as we recognise International Migrants Day, a day that aims to challenge prejudices and raise awareness of migrants’ economic, cultural and social contributions.
Living, working and COVID-19 in the EU and 10 EU neighbouring countries – a Eurofound and ETF fact sheet
Look out in December for the publication of the full findings of the Eurofound and ETF joint survey exploring living and working conditions and the impact of COVID-19 on citizens in the EU and in 10 EU neighbouring countries.