Investing in education as a tool for sustainable growth

The European Commission in its Investment Plan puts a strong emphasis on job creation, as a fundamental factor for further growth of Europe’s economy. To reach this goal, the links between education and labour market shall be strengthened, by advancing the skills intelligence – better understanding of evolving needs and so called skills mismatches. The challenge remains in anticipating in the market needs, so people can be empowered and supported in development within their chosen careers. Moreover there is need to facilitate the development of not only the skills in demand such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or entrepreneurial skills, but also social and civic competences, that are needed to foster well engaged citizens.

Statistics show that around 50% of adults are in the low skills trap and in low-paid jobs, to advance in work they need to participate in up-skilling. Participation in lifelong learning, education and training, or continuous Vocational Education and Training (VET) is the springboard to better prospects. Therefore there is a need to invest in skills policies not only because of its close alignments with the labour market but also to enable citizens to participate in the society and support their wellbeing. However, the findings of the SOLIDAR’s desk research ‘Building Learning Societies: Investing in Education and Lifelong Learning’ show in the last year’s 19 Member States cut their education expenditure costs and six did it by more than 5%. The most visible consequences of cuts in investment in education impacts the quality of education as resources are decreased and well as access to education and lifelong learning and number of placements and opportunities. Furthermore the level of education and lifelong learning inequalities is the highest amongst people in socio-economic vulnerable situations and most apparent for those with migrant background.

As investing in people skills development is foreseen to be a key element in supporting and shaping the sustainable growth agenda, in SOLIDAR’s opinion EU and Member countries should intensely support the investment in people through education not only by acknowledging the political commitment but by dedicating more funds to education and lifelong learning policies and supporting the development in particular of low and medium skilled people.