European Vocational Skills Week: jobs for the future through VET, in the midst of a pandemic

Vocational education and training (VET) is a form of skills-based learning that plays a crucial role in lifelong learning. It gives young learners the initial skills they need for a fulfilling career and provides adults with the means to upskill and reskill throughout their working life.  And it’s a key part of Europe’s post-pandemic recovery.

Vocational education and training equips people with the knowledge, skills and competences for specific occupations or more broadly on the job market: it is an important tool for protecting livelihoods and stabilising the economy. Today, more than ever, Europe must rally together to reinforce VET and build a more efficient, secure and prosperous future for all Europeans. This is an opportunity to take a fresh approach to VET, making it more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital age and green transition.

COVID-19 has forced many of us to adapt and learn to work in new ways. But perhaps one reality this crisis has laid bare is our need to innovate and stay competitive. Or, as the OECD points out, we need to increase the resilience of our companies and make them more disruption-proof.

Europeans must have better access to lifelong training. This right to continue learning throughout life is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. And it is a fundamental part of this Commission’s agenda over the next five years.

On 1 July 2020, the Commission put forward an ambitious agenda to guide COVID-19 recovery efforts in employment and social policy, which focuses on skills and VET. It includes a Communication on a European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. This proposes 12 EU actions to support partnerships for upskilling – the improvement of existing skills – and reskilling, or training in new skills, thus empowering lifelong learning.

The World Economic Forum says the COVID-19 economic shock has broadened the skills gap and that there is now an urgent need to close it. That’s why I am an enthusiastic advocate for VET. VET has helped millions of people around the world to ‘earn as they learn’. But it is so much more than that.

VET can boost your skills for the job you currently have, but it can also prepare you for an entirely different job or career. It also provides an alternative to university education.

A myth persists that VET is exclusively a training programme for traditional manual labour jobs. This is an outdated stereotype. Many of our VET graduates are experts in their profession, whether as teachers, nurses, computer programmers, CEOs, graphic designers, product designers… The list is endless.

We need to act now to secure jobs, especially as we move quickly towards sustainability and a greener future. Millions of employees could be displaced in the labour market and in society, as we adopt technological change such as artificial intelligence, automation and digitalisation.

It is never too late to learn how to adapt to this new world. That is why I invite you to take part in European Vocational Skills Week 2020, from 9 to 13 November. This year’s Week theme is VET for Green and Digital Transitions. As part of the week, Vice-President Schinas, Commissioner Breton and I will host an event on 10 November to launch the new flagship initiative: the Pact for Skills. The Pact is a new commitment and approach to upskilling and reskilling of employees that will help Europe meet COVID-19 challenges and deliver on the ambitions of the recovery pathway, the EU Industrial Strategy and the green and digital transition.

The fifth edition of the Week is organised in close cooperation with the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union and will be fully digital due to COVID-19 safety measures.

This is Europe’s moment for deep and real transformative change, through VET actions that address a radically changing social and economic environment.

Nicolas SCHMIT, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights


● Published on 11.11.2020 ● Last edit 11.11.2020●