European employers are concerned about the growing skills mismatches and labour force shortages in a majority of Member States. If left unaddressed, this worrying trend will have a negative impact on innovation and productivity, both in highly innovative industry sectors and other services sectors, some of which are already confronted with the challenge of attracting motivated and competent workers.
To address this pressing issue, cross-industry and sectoral employers are issuing this statement to call on policy-makers and social partners at all appropriate levels to prioritise measures designed with the purpose to reduce labour shortages by improving skills matching across European Member States.
Around 13 million new jobs have been created since 2014, but many vacancies are left unfilled and many employers are facing difficulties finding the people with the skills they need.
This recent trend has exacerbated the pre-existing structural labour market challenges caused by population ageing, and skills provision that is not sufficiently connected with labour market needs. Overall, skills mismatches are the major determinants of labour shortages. In particular, STEM skills – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – are increasingly required by employers across a broad range of sectors, to varying extents, and with digitalisation this will only intensify. Additionally, specialised professional skills are required by companies in a number of sectors that are facing a scarcity of qualified workers.
Digitalisation of the economy further stimulates these changes. Not only is there the emergence of new jobs that require new skills, but existing jobs are profoundly transformed, with some tasks disappearing and some new tasks being added. Additionally, a key challenge across sectors and different work levels is the lack of basic digital skills. Achieving a better link between skills training and innovation is also key to ensuring that European companies have the competitive advantage they need to attract customers and grow.
In this context, employers call on policy makers and social partners at EU and national levels to work together to improve the situation. This means focusing on the following 7 priorities:
- Reform education and training systems to increase their structural capacity to provide basic skills to the whole workforce and to cater for the growing needs for human / soft skills across the economy, as well as to facilitate the faster updating of curricula and qualifications in response to new and rapidly changing occupations.
- Putting in place a new EU VET strategy for 2030 is an important priority for the next months, to which employers will continue to contribute. There is no time to waste to respond to the growing challenge of re-skilling and up-skilling the workforce. The reduction of the half-life of knowledge, driven by rapid technological change, requires more than ever that societies, employers and workers co-invest in lifelong learning - LLL - to improve and sustain our
- Strengthen cooperation between business, schools, vocational schools, professional colleges and universities. A key challenge in many countries is to introduce more vocational training elements into high school and university courses as well as a stronger focus on learning outcomes in higher education.
- Foster the role of sectoral social dialogue to ensure a more relevant use of the available resources in the interest of employers and workers. Financial incentives and other forms of investment pooling can also play a positive role, particularly for SMEs, which struggle to find the resources and expertise needed to embrace digitalisation. Sectoral social partners can also play an important role in changing mindsets in society and campaign to promote the benefits of a “life-long-learning culture”, in the shared interest and responsibility of employers and workers.
- Develop concrete initiatives to close the digital skills gap, such as by fostering the attainment of STEM skills at various levels of education, and through different education and training pathways.
- Promote labour mobility across Europe and within the Member States: Freedom of movement of workers plays a positive role in addressing growing labour shortages
- Develop a renewed EU policy framework for third-country legal migration: Legal migration can play an important role to reduce the impact of labour shortages on businesses. Employers call on the European Commission and on Member States to renew the European policy framework for legal migration. The Commission should also consider ways in which a better understanding of third country qualifications could be achieved, including, inter alia, in relation to the European Qualifications Framework - EQF.
The European dimension can be helpful in supporting mutual learning between Member States and social partners. In particular, EU financial resources can play a positive role in supporting better skills and job training and matching, as well as to support education and training systems to adapt to digitalisation.
To add value, European policy initiatives need to be well-targeted and streamlined, avoiding the risk of inefficient, multiple, fragmented and uncoordinated tools and activities. This has been a weakness in the past, particularly in the fields of education and training.
Involving social partners at an early stage will be crucial to avoiding resources being used in a way that fails to meet the real needs of employers and workers across Europe.