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.