Education is more than a collection of formal qualification certificates! Against the background of a digitalising labour market, qualification and competences are again gaining more attention at European level, namely within the framework of the ‘New Skills Agenda for Europe’.


70 Million Europeans have difficulties with reading or writing. Combined with a lack of digital skills, these individuals are often exposed to an above-average risk of poverty. On the other hand, almost half of adult employees feel that they cannot make full use of their skills in their current job, while 40 % of European employers find it difficult to find adequate employees to match vacancies. In June last year, the European Commission presented a proposal on a New Skills Agenda for Europe to effectively tackle these issues.


The Commission proposal attempts to cover the entire spectrum of the current qualification issues. The proposal focusses on the requirements of adults with low qualifications. Yet, at the same time, the ten-point-package also includes secondary and tertiary education, digitisation and lifelong learning. The corresponding Draft Report by the European Parliament welcomes that informal and non-formal acquisition of skills is also taken into account besides formal education. The rapporteurs point out that a holistic approach is needed given the rapidly changing job requirements. Hence, EU citizens shall be equipped with the necessary key competencies for lifelong learning from the earliest age possible, such as critical thinking, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, well-founded decision making and social responsibility. Thereby, education shall become more practice-oriented to facilitate the transition between education and labour market for young people. Education is, however, not only regarded as economically advantageous, but also as a path towards personal development, individual fulfilment, active citizenship and thereby as a path to social cohesion.


In order to successfully implement such a comprehensive project, cooperation of many different actors is essential and social partners, too, are playing an important role. From the AK's point of view, the indented changes of the 'New Skills Agenda for Europe’, especially, the focus on adults with low qualifications as well as the emphasis of learning at the workplace are welcomed. That said, it is also important that these efforts do not increase social inequalities. Hence, already existing differences with respect to gender, migration experiences or different forms of schools, have to be kept in mind to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the changes currently under discussion.


Further information:

AK Wien: Policy Paper: Education 4.0 (German)

AK Wien: Digital Change - Fair and Just

AK Europa: Improving educational opportunities, modernising education systems!

AK Europa: European employment initiative for the integration of refugees into the labour market