Connecting education, labour market and society

On 20-21 October the European Education, Training and Youth Forum met to discuss Connecting education; the labour market and society: delivering the New Skills Agenda for Europe. This initiative’s goal is to “ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is available to people in the European Union. It will aim at making better use of the skills that are available; equip people with the new skills that are needed - to help them find quality jobs and improve their life chances”.

The changing nature of the world of work caused by the switch from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, as well as technological changes lead many people to undergo several transitions in their lives. The result is that people are continually seeking to gain additional knowledge, skills and competences. Broader learning opportunities, both outside and within formal education settings, are necessary in order to address these needs. While aspiring to improve skills levels and promote key competences, it is essential to not focus solely on people`s employability, but also on their chances in life as active citizens within fair, inclusive and sustainable societies.

The question of inclusive education was of a focus of the Civil Society Day co-organised by Lifelong Learning Platform and DG EAC prior to the Forum by the European Commission to gather the expertise and messages of Civil Society Organisations. During the opening panel, Conny Reuter SOLIDAR Foundation Secretary General, pointed out in his remarks the crucial role of education as a mean for integration and inclusion that should be perceived as a public common good. Quality education should be provided to everyone, as unfortunately in many cases “segregation of society starts at preschool, with inequality of access to knowledge and development of talents”. Additionally, Mr. Reuter stressed the role of education in building inclusive democratic societies, and the civil society organisations’ contribution.

Civil society organisations, especially those providing lifelong learning and educational opportunities are the ones who are usually the closest to the learners, reach out to socio-economically deprived individuals and those who are far from education. Through the work of volunteers, social workers, educators and trainers who work with them, they are being offered a stepping stones for integration, personal development and to find ways to employment and participation in society. As stated in the presented Skills Guarantee proposal by the European Commission, there is a tremendous need to work on access to flexible pathways for adults including elements such as skills assessment; tailored educational offers and validation. SOLIDAR Foundation echoes the message of Evarist Bartolo, Maltese Minister for Education and Employment, who at the opening of the European Education, Training and Youth Forum raised the point that Europe has to come back to its policies of growth, not austerity, should we want to take people out of poverty and exclusion. We need to create decent jobs, accompany education with supporting social and economic measures, and address the issue of social justice when fighting inequalities.