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Allow everyone to “acquire new skills”

As the health crisis accelerates the digitization of the world of work, European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit looks back on the skills needed for the job market of tomorrow and how the European Union can shape digital change without social distortions.

As the health crisis accelerates the digitization of the world of work, European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit looks back on the skills needed for the job market of tomorrow and how the European Union can shape digital change without social distortions.

(ASdN with Thomas Klein) – On the one hand, 40% of European employers say they cannot find employees with the skills they are looking for. On the other hand, the youth unemployment rate is increasing. How do you explain the obvious gap between the skills available and the demands of the labor market?

Nicolas Schmit – “This discrepancy is not new in itself, you will find it everywhere in Europe, including Luxembourg. The reasons are varied and start in school, and sometimes even before. We are witnessing an increasing polarization of the labor market, with a decline in average qualifications. Highly skilled people are increasing sharply and the share of low-skilled and unskilled workers is also increasing.

The problem is exacerbated by digitization and the effects of the current crisis, which is further accelerating technological change. The problem is particularly important in the digital sector. It is estimated that one million positions in Europe cannot be filled.

Various studies assume that digitization and automation could render some existing job profiles obsolete. How do you assess the danger for the labor market?

“We will definitely have job losses. The OECD, for example, says that 10 to 15% of existing jobs will disappear. But there will also be new jobs resulting from digitization. As change is extremely rapid, it is of course difficult to prepare people for jobs that do not yet exist.

Concretely, what does this mean?

“We need a whole new concept of how training should go and be organized. Even more than before, we must offer employees the possibility of training and acquiring new skills. This helps to combat the uncertainty and fear of many people in this time of transition.

Young people are the first victims of this crisis.

Nicolas schmit

What skills will be needed to survive in the labor market under these conditions?

“There are key skills which are simply necessary, such as a good level of language and mathematics, but also, increasingly, basic knowledge in the field of digitization. But there is also a need to encourage soft skills such as creative thinking and teamwork.

To what extent will the current crisis accelerate this development on the labor market?

“We are currently going through a difficult period, especially for young people in Europe. They are the first victims of this crisis, because companies naturally hire and train less. And this of course has almost dramatic consequences, especially in countries where youth unemployment was already very high.

To what extent can the European Union (EU) accompany and support this process?

“The European Commission does not want to intervene in the education systems of the Member States and determine how they should be organized. But we can help show where the main challenges lie in the future, what are the proven solutions and what successful practical approaches could perhaps be adopted by other countries. Then, we will provide financial support to promising initiatives and thus create appropriate incentives. This applies to public education systems, of course, but also to businesses.

A 750 billion euros fund to modernize the economy.

Nicolas schmit

There is already a gap today between those who have access to digital education and those who risk being deprived of it. How can we prevent certain groups of the population from being left behind because of technological change?

“For people who are losing out in the workforce, digitization can be a disaster. On the other hand, it is also a loss for the economy and society if we do not use existing talents for social reasons. Thus, if we do not recognize this social dimension of technological change and if we do not invest in ensuring equal access to technology for everyone, there will be many losers, which could tear our societies apart.

Can you give concrete examples of instruments with which the EU intends to stimulate investment in the development of new skills?

“More than 20% of the European Social Fund budget can be used to train and reorient people. Second, in relation to the crisis, we have launched a major program. A 750 billion euro fund is thus intended not only to put the economy back on track, but also to modernize it.

The “Professional Skills Week” takes place this week. How can such events help meet these challenges?

“We will organize around 800 events in Europe, which will bring together apprentices, entrepreneurs and representatives of educational establishments, professional chambers, etc. to discuss the future of vocational education and training. Through these events, the EU can help breathe new life into national systems, as officials can exchange views on what works particularly well in Germany, Sweden or Romania, for example, and thus learn from each other. “


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