skilled labour

Much of Europe is suffering from chronic unemployment - over 25 million men and women are out of work across the EU, including 5.2 million under 25s. Yet a recent study found 27% of employers have entry-level vacancies they are unable to fill because of a lack of candidates with the right skills. Such data suggests there’s a serious need for a rethink in education and training to equip the young and jobless with skills that the market requires.

Forecasts show over a third of jobs available in the EU by 2020 will require tertiary-level education qualifications, while just 18% will be low skilled. Sectors like biology, information technology, health, finance and engineering are among the areas where young talent is most needed. But there are also gaps for skilled manufacturing labourers, care workers, mechanics.

What is the best way to ensure job seekers get the skills in demand? Does Europe put too much emphasis for university degrees in subjects with little practical application, instead focusing on technical education? Should other nations look to the German example where kids often combine apprenticeships with academic learning to acquire real hands-on knowledge?

A contributor calling himself IgnoRantJack suggested students should think carefully about future job opportunities before selecting their course of study:

“I pass no judgement, anyone who is capable should be able to get a degree, but unfortunately we all have to take into account the whims of the market, perhaps before doing a degree it is now more important than ever to ask the question ‘what job will it get me’.”

Writing from France, Curtis asked what the EU is doing to counter the shortage of skilled labour that persists amid today’s high unemployment. We put his question to Laszlo Andor, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Here’s his response:

 What do you think? Does Europe need to rethink its education system to prepare young people for the world of work? Should there be greater investment in retraining to ensure older workers are equipped for new jobs? Is immigration the answer? Should Europe do more to emulate countries like Canada, Australia and the United States and import the skilled labour that companies need? Give us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Oleg Shpyrko

39 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Francesco Camonita

    Yes!! And it’s about time to think about common education policy plus a EU dedicated subject! If you want to get people closer to Europe you must teach them what it is and what it does!!

  2. Stefanescu Dan

    ce mă sperie pe mine e că încă nu aveţi un răspuns.oricum şomajul a apărut datorită altor factori

  3. Levente Biro

    Most important is the school must be teach leasons for real life: developing aptitude for the present work market, psihology for everyday life, medicin for yourself and others; about sex, about love, time managment, knowyourself, environmental lessons about how can a simple person protect and contribute for a better healthier environment, how to manage problems with the others like anger etc., legislation, how to develop good and fair relationship with the others, arts for socializing, communication ….And is very important for the teachers to help students to find and develop this aptitude on their own way not just to memorise.

    • Paul X

      I would disagree 100%

      There is far too much of this “life skills” garbage in education these days, then people go on to university to get a degree in knitting or some obscure “…..ology” subject and wonder why they cant get a job?

      One of the biggest shortfall in skilled people is in engineering and unless you live in some backwoods forest miles from civilisation then engineering has an input in nearly everything you do in your daily life. Education should get back to basics and teach people useful real life principles on how this planet works and what mankind does to it …..e.g. maths , physics & real sciences.

      I’ve never had a home economics lesson in my life but I can cook pretty well…..I bet there are plenty of trained cooks who haven’t a clue how electricity makes their ovens work

  4. Pierre Samu Tandorf

    The education systems need to harmonized to have a single eduaction system in the EU with equal opportunities for everybody, no matter what area or member state you’re from.

  5. Jaume Roqueta

    We would need to debate the EU position in the Israel-Palestinian conflict first and then we can debate in things like this. Which kind of education will give a EU wich is blind to war and crimes? I dont want any education from the people that cuts in healtcare, give the money to banks and say nothing when USA or ISrael is killing people. I prefer to belong to a poor country that following that game

  6. Kalin Zahariev

    The jobs crisis among young people leads to erosion of skills and less competitiveness on the jobs market. A key measure is the curricula revamp: introducing problem-solving, financial literacy, self-learning, critical thinking, creativity, digital literacy, and communication skills. More of my thoughts on avoiding the cost of no skills here: http://martenscentre.eu/blog/avoiding-cost-no-skills

    • proactive

      @Kalin, there is no magic in education either!
      1st time job seekers are faced with the chicken or the egg syndrome!
      Employers seeking experience- experience need employment- what now?

      Switching to imagination mode: “Emergency labor legislation”! Example:

      Make them exempt from any existing labor legislation, minimum wages & union influence for a limited period for any such job seeker willing to work and able to negotiate with an employer directly.

      This would remove a great risk for any employer- and let the employee demonstrate & prove his worthiness during such “exempt period”. Even if somebody offers to work for free for a short period of time, as long it was agreed between a willing job seeker & a willing employer. Prove your determination to work & to succeed- you will succeed!

      Do politician have imagination? One size does not fit all!

  7. Joshua Ioji Konov

    The EU should straiten up its priorities: stop subsidizing the have and start promoting and maintaining economic policies by using the invisible hand to boost small and medium businesses and investors’ market activities…, than employment will pick up and prosperity will come back to Europe…

  8. Stefanescu Dan

    sunt prea multe tipuri de educaţie ,fiecare tip aflându se în opoziţie cu celelalte ! Care să fie de bază!?Sistemul Bolşevic,Fascist,Catolic,Ortodox,Britanic(rigid) .Germanic(perfecţionism)!? Criza a arătat că defapt multe sunt educaţii greşite ori deeducaţii sau needucaţii !

  9. proactive

    The EU is busy o.k. but too complicated & lethargic due too much past socialism!

    The only “remaining jurisdiction” of member states- with the support from the EU- is in culture, tourism, EDUCATION, vocational training, youth and sport.

    The EU does assist- e.g: Erasmus+, is an EU-funded program (promoting mother tongue + 2 languages)- or:

    http://www.eua.be/fileadmin/user_upload/files/Publications/Doctoral_Programmes_in_europe_s_universities.pdf

    Since the EU is aware of 27% vacancies, why not inform those who need to know besides using employment agencies? Known future demand in Biology, IT, health, finance and engineering must be twinned with the Governments education departments & biggest EU economic sectors & companies which are in oil/ gas/energy, Automotive, Financial Services etc. If it is known that 34% requires tertiary education, 18% lower skilled & 50% in skilled manufacturing laborers, care workers, mechanics etc- EU politicians & Members states please act!

    Stop corrupted oligarchs/politicians to establish themselves with the help of the 1%! They are the leeches- not entrepreneurs!
    http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-ex-pm-s-daughter-takes-legal-route-to-riches

    Europe has all the skills! Find them in the pool of unemployed, make them, train or re train them, give them a chance- make it a condition to global companies to hire & not fire! Importing or immigration is absolutely unnecessary & the easy way out for the greedy extreme neo liberal global economy. It is a No, No!

    Where is Europe’s silicon valley? Where is EU legislated ease of entry into entrepreneurial inspired business opportunities for eager risk takers? The EU is supposed to be an “economic union”- so please just promote that & ACT! Use all the available paid apparatchiks under EU’s command!

    Don’t ask us ordinary citizen who only know half the stories! EU & members do your work!

  10. ironworker

    It’s not about skills, it’s about outsourcing jobs. Why bother wasting time in college or university for an IT degree knowing from the very beginning that an indian fella from Mumbai will do the same work successfully for half money ? And that’s going on and on for any trade you might think of.. Before asking why there so much unemployment in Europe, you should ask yourself if Europe workers are ready to compete against asian counterparts in term of work hours over time plus benefits.

    • proactive

      Not quite! Hopefully, European know how, innovation and skills will pioneer, develop & produce clean energy or the coming future intelligent robots & much more first, before anybody else.

  11. ironworker

    The westerners can repalace indian or any asian high skilled professional with easterners.

  12. Bart Thomaes

    Economy and work need long-term strategies who are less dependent on local and regional politics or the politic of a land. Education is one of them, but there are many other factors who response by a global and coordinated European approach can answer the challenges of today in jobs, employment, international economy, financial world,…

  13. Raluca Pasarica

    There is a need to restructure the school curriculum entirely and build it in such a way that young people’s curiosity is fed in a constructive way.

    Off the top of my head, I would have a debate class where students would have to look into current affairs and express their opinions on matters happening in the world, directly influencing their future. I would introduce exchange programs as part of the high-school curricula so that teens can go out and see the world, get involved earlier in volunteering, discover and develop hobbies that might just turn into jobs in the future.

    Also, the curricula as a whole needs to be adapted to the 21th century needs: Intro to Finance, Digital marketing, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Human Rights and many more.

    Having studied abroad, I can attest to the fact that there is a fundamental gap between educational systems in Europe and that issue needs to be addressed if we want to make progress.

    I am still pondering over it, but perhaps it’s time that education became an exclusive competence of the EU and in that way a pan-EU system can be built (without minimizing national values) towards harmonizing the future of the generations to come.

  14. Darcy Brás da Silva

    I don’t think European Union needs to import skills as main target for solving the lack of skills. We must provide an environment that allows thriving and skilled people will come by themselves. (of course we should have means to taking those that do come).

    Provide Incentive for both government and companies to take non related degree, and more junior entry level positions. This will allow for long term employment (since people will grow in that company) as well as providing a reorientation of needed skills. Markets change way to quickly to require senior level and degree for all positions. Heck most of them want years experience even when getting a 2x year old graduate.

  15. proactive

    The only “remaining jurisdiction” of EU member states- (albeit with support from the EU)- is in culture, tourism, EDUCATION, vocational training, youth and sport.

    The above statistics show more or less what is needed- even per category & %! Since the EU is open for global business it is also exposed to the global village, its demand, supply & competition in resources and labor.

    The EU core members have one of the highest global living standards but also the highest living costs on earth. The only way to survive is by remaining and increasing its lead in innovation, inventions, cutting edge technologies, quality products and than protecting its intellectual property from the prying eyes of the US & NSA, China & others. The world’s brain sits in Europe- the capital in the US and the hands should be transferred back from China to eastern & southern Europe. No immigration needed- only a handful inventor’s, innovators, Einstein’s, increase entrepreneurial spirits, create silicon valleys & liberate the EU Council.
    Europe has all it needs at home. Go figure it!

    Europe should export its production facilities to its future underdeveloped members & not to China/India to create jobs. Global scavenger US with its biggest corporations are waiting to swallow everybody by hook or by crook than hires and fires at will!

    One should learn from the American dilemma:
    http://www.tni.org/article/misguided-us-economic-policies-drive-many-mexicans-come-here

  16. Rudi Spoljarec

    For sure . Bring back all kind of labour to Europe . Come back. From China, India , Malesia. Make everything at home . With good quality and higher price , real price , made on economic values. Not one-day-lasting products. Conclude: education is neccessary : economical and technical.

    • proactive

      @Rudi,- yes, it would make good sense to bring back enough factories (labor) to a still underdeveloped Europe to counter unemployment at home first! Needed is a will by the EU Council, lawmakers & unions to allow “flexibility” in its labor legislation. Than convince companies that the labor component in the underdeveloped EU states is “attractive” (cheap & productive) enough to come or remain in the EU- guaranteeing their global competitive edge against others like the US- who ruthlessly exploits the global situation instead. Competition is the word! The east/China has masses of global production facilities!

      It shows, one EU rigid system is unsuitable for a still unequal EU! Either change the system or accept hardship & suffering!

    • proactive

      @Rene, further/more training is often offered by a “go ahead” employer- adding value to his business & to his employees!
      Adult education is voluntary, needs self-motivation & aimed to either advance one’s own career or general knowledge! A hint:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adult_education

  17. @petergottwald

    In my opinion it is necessary to stop your robbing in 170 governments of the countries in the world, robbed of your worth several trillion euros every day. You already is in financial debt of over several quadrillion euros. You are here today threatens the existence of Europe. You first must ensure the ability of future existence of European civilization, then your decision will have some future value. Today, depending on your strategy come just extreme financial crisis or destruction of nuclear weapons. In the future, could any government on the planet go to you and ask you a few quadrillion € debt. This is future of Europe. THIS IS HIGH PROBLEM. Me twitter is @petergottwald

  18. Teodorescu Dragos

    Definitely the european educational system need to be up date in order that the study programmes have a direct reflection in the job market. Many bachelor and masters programmes need to be cancel.

  19. proactive

    Obviously not much interest shown on this subject!

    To alleviate unemployment & skills shortages immediately why not consider the following:

    Any EU member government may create a special category of enlightened “emergency labor conditions” which are exempt from any existing labor legislation, minimum wages & union regulations for a determined period of say 6-12 month for any such willing job seeker. Labor laws have unfortunately become EU laws & hinder diversity, flexibility & independent decision making of members. One size fits all- it does not!

    This would remove a great risk for any employer- and let the employee show & prove his metal during such “exempt period”. Even if somebody offers to work for free for a short period of time, as long it was agreed between a willing job seeker & a willing employer. Just to show & prove his determination to work & succeed!

    In education there is no magic either! Provide caring education for the future (which is a governmental responsibility), learners to respect teachers, students to stay focused, disciplined and just study. It is suggested that there is a correlation between prospering economies and strong teaching systems.

    See who ranks best:
    http://www.ncee.org/programs-affiliates/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/

    Why Finland ranks so high:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Finland

  20. S.K

    Remove barriers that prevent people from getting a higher education, recreate what a secondary school education is about, make secondary schools based on what society needs, medical, IT, Office, Engineering etc., so that when these young people get a degree in Secondary School they can go and work right away, rather than having to waste more years learning a trade after Sec School which as we know many dont achieve.

  21. Kevin

    I think you answered your own question , too much focus was/is put into higher education instead of trade and engineering skills along with vocational training . The German policy would seem the way forward .
    I would add that companies are not going to train young people in skills the company needs when they can cherry pick staff from another country. That being a downside to open borders and free movement.

    • Marcel

      Another reason this ‘open borders/free movement’ nonsense ought to be abolished immediately. It benefits rich corporations and hurts the middle class in countries that are on the receiving end of this ‘free movement’.

    • Marcel

      I don’t see how that is a reason why you should get access to my wallet.

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