Education and training are 'an investment, not a cost'
Boosting employment in the EU means adapting education and training to changing times, says Silvia Costa.
The economic crisis and the technological revolution have radically changed the way work is produced and organised, how society is structured and our cultural relations. As a result, we have to come to expect different responses from educational programmes and from social and economic players.
We are aware that if we fail to invest in human resources and adopt a lifelong learning approach in order to be competitive and cohesive, there will be no sustainable, long-lasting development. It is essential that we ensure that the skills required for new jobs, not just in the IT sector but also for creativity, active citizenship and entrepreneurship education, are continually updated, and that university, research and business 'knowledge partnerships' are encouraged.
"The gap between education and training and the job market is one of the main causes of youth unemployment, and it needs be addressed"
On the European front, we all agree that there are a number of issues that must be addressed, and which have been clearly outlined by the parliament. First, we must tackle the excessively high drop-out rate in education. Second, there is still a relatively small number of young people who have been through higher education or who have a degree. Third, EU citizens have inadequate language skills, which is a significant obstacle to mobility. Fourth, lifelong learning is not yet in place, nor is it available to all. And lastly, educational and training programmes are not yet accessible to all, and are currently unable to provide the skills and expertise people truly need in order to find a job.
In response to the current crisis, a number of countries have cut their education, training, culture, research and development budgets. These are areas that are of immense importance to the EU - they are our most important raw materials, sectors that should be thought of in terms of investment, not cost. It is therefore essential that member states and the EU invest more in these vital areas, so that they can contribute to sustainable economic growth and greater creativity. It is also important to identify virtuous educational models based on dual education and apprenticeship programmes, and provide them with sufficient funding for young people to have access to the jobs market. This was outlined by the 'dual education: a bridge over troubled waters?' study that was recently presented to parliament’s culture and education committee.
The gap between education and training and the job market is one of the main causes of youth unemployment, and it needs be addressed. We must develop new models of governance in order to promote dialogue and partnership between the various stakeholders - national, regional and local government bodies, civil society, universities and businesses. If the plan to introduce a European professional card to facilitate the free movement of professionals within the EU is implemented in the not-too-distant future, the qualification and credit recognition process will have to be accelerated.
Greater efforts are required so as to set up a European system for certifying and recognising knowledge, knowhow, skills and expertise acquired abroad, as well as qualifications and both formal and non-formal education. I would like to draw attention, in this regard, to the immense added value of the Bologna process guidelines, which require implementation. In addition, we must enhance the international dimension of a European doctoral programme, to launch a genuinely European doctorate.
Furthermore, we need to prioritise entrepreneurship education; through the exchange of best practices, we should discuss how to develop an 'entrepreneurial mentality' among young people in schools. Entrepreneurship needs to become one of the most important skills for European citizens to have, and should include a mixture of multidisciplinary building blocks such as creativity, teamwork, problem-solving skills and risk management. This is why we need to equip teachers and trainers with the appropriate training so that pupils are able to develop this mentality right from their early school years. At the same time, educational institutions must develop and implement innovative approaches and educational models to adapt to a changing society.
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