Commission launches ‘Opening up Education’ to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities

More than 60% of nine year olds in the EU are in schools which are still not digitally equipped. The European Commission on 25 September unveiled ‘Opening up Education’, an action plan to tackle this and other digital problems which are hampering schools and universities from delivering high quality education and the digital skills which 90% of jobs will require by 2020. 

To help kick-off the initiative, the Commission on 25 September launched a new website, Open Education Europa, which will allow students, practitioners and educational institutions to share free-to-use open educational resources.

European Commission Launches Copyright Licensing Initiative

The European Commission has launched an initiative called “Licences for Europe” aimed at promoting copyright licences, as a next step in maintaining traditional copyright in light of new digital technologies.

Europeans “need content. Rich, vibrant online content is a big part of that digital economy,” Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, said in a speech announcing the initiative on 4 February in Brussels. “[T]hat’s what ‘Licences for Europe’ is about – helping you capture all the benefits of a connected, competitive continent. Ultimately, I want Europeans to enjoy a wide choice of lawful digital content, wherever they are: and for that content to be rewarded.”
“So we are launching this initiative to show technology and copyright can go together,” she said. She predicated the initiative on her past message to the copyright industry that it must change to meet the digital age, not the other way around. She pointed to Spotify in Sweden as an adaptation that has led to almost no music piracy in that country.

New strategy to boost creative growth and jobs

The European Commission’s (EC) new strategy, reflected on the Communication on « Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU », aims to increase the competitiveness and export potential of the cultural and creative sectors, as well as to maximise their spill over benefits for other areas such as ICT and innovation. 

The European Commission is calling for a range of actions to promote the right conditions for the cultural and creative sectors to flourish, involving all actors from the local level up to the regional, national and European levels. These actions focus on skills development, access to finance, promotion of new business models, audience development, access to international markets and improved links to other sectors.

The European Commission’s Communication “Rethinking Education”

European education and training systems continue to fall short in providing the right skills for employability, and are not working adequately with business or employers to bring the learning experience closer to the reality of the working environment. These skills mismatches are a growing concern for European industry’s competitiveness, says the most recent Communication of the European Commission, appealing to EU Member States to set actions. 
The Communication underlines the importance of tapping on the potential of ICT for education and teaching and highlights the need to develop transversal skills (such as problem solving, team work etc. often also referred to as soft skills) and entrepreneurial skills as they not only contribute to new business creation but also to the employability of young people. 
In this respect, the Communication emphasises at several instances the importance of languages. In a world of international exchanges, the ability to speak foreign languages is a factor for competitiveness. Languages are more and more important to increase levels of employability and mobility of young people.
Further education in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is needed if Europe wants to compete with countries like Brazil, China and India that spend more on high skilled STEM education than the USA, Japan and UK together. 

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn: « Knowledge is the currency of the global economy. »

The European Commission has announced the final and biggest ever set of calls for proposals for research under its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In total, €8.1 billion will support projects and ideas that will boost Europe’s competitiveness and tackle issues such as human health, protecting the environment and finding new solutions to growing challenges linked to urbanization and managing waste. The funding – which is open to organizations and businesses in all EU Member States and partner countries – makes up the lion’s share of the EU’s proposed €10.8 billion research budget for 2013. This announcement comes just days after EU leaders emphasized the importance of research and innovation in the Compact for Growth and Jobs.
European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: « Knowledge is the currency of the global economy. If Europe wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support the research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs, now and in the future. The high level of competition for EU funding makes sure that taxpayers’ money goes to the best projects that tackle issues that concern all of us. »

Key Enabling Technologies to boost European growth in jobs

The European Commission has today called for a European effort to boost Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). The global market in KETs, which comprises micro- and nanoelectronics, advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems, is forecast to grow from € 646 Billion to over € 1 Trio by 2015.

Rapid growth in jobs is expected, too. In nanotechnology industries alone, the number of jobs in the EU is expected to increase from 160,000 in 2008, to around 400,000 by 2015. The European Commission tabled its strategy today to boost the industrial production of KETs-based products, e.g. innovative products and applications of the future. The strategy aims to keep pace with the EU’s main international competitors, restore growth in Europe and create jobs in industry, at the same time addressing today’s burning societal challenges. As a matter of fact, Europe is a global leader in KETs research and development with a global share in patent applications of more than 30%. Despite this, the EU is not translating its dominant R&D base into the production of goods and services needed to stimulate growth and jobs. This is why the Commission calls for a European effort to boost KETS.

Sustainable growth: for a resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy

The EC and Member States are investing dramatically to overcome the economical crisis and ensure that its economy grows again. In this sense, the EU needs to improve its productivity and competitiveness. It must  maintain its early lead in green solutions, especially in the face of growing competition from China and North America. EU targets for sustainable growth include:
– Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. The EU is prepared to go further and reduce by 30% if other developed countries make similar commitments and developing countries contribute according to their abilities, as part of a comprehensive global agreement.
– Increasing the share of renewable in final energy consumption to 20%.
– Moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency including in a key sector such as ICT.

Green ICT in Germany : 300.000 direct jobs per year

The building renovation programme for energy efficiency in Germany has already mobilised €100 billion in investments, reducing energy bills, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions and creating around 300,000 direct jobs per year, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The drive for revamping Europe’s building stock has already had a profound impact on employment even if much remains to be done to fulfil the promise of green jobs, experts warn.
Speaking at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Leterme said the shift to green jobs will not happen without a related effort to adapt workers’ skills and training.
« Green skills appear to be hugely needed, » he said. « But there is no need to reinvent the wheel, » Leterme added. « Most of the green skills that new market entrants will require can be met through incremental enrichment of educational and training programmes. » Experts in the property management sector confirmed that the jobs market for green skills was still largely underdeveloped. “There is a lack of professionalism in Europe,” said Laura Lindberg, Public Relations Manager for global property professional body RICS. “It is extremely important…to take into consideration what we have – a lack of skills and professional training which needs to be better understood,” Lindberg added.
“There is interest out there, but I don’t think people are rushing for it, they are being cautious at this time. There is a trust issue,” said Martin Russel of RICS London.
He added, however, that on balance, the market in Europe for energy efficiency accreditation has been picking up and as long as there is enough demand there will also be an economic rationale for professionals to regain their appetite.

Challenges and trends in skills and career development of the European workforce

Register now for the first European Business Forum on Vocational Training dedicated to « Challenges and trends in skills and career development of the European workforce. »
At the seminar Companies´approaches to skills development of both adult workers and young people will be reviewed.
Here are the 5 workshops of the Forum
Setting targets for competence development – how do companies identify skills needs
– How can good market information acquired by companies be shared with education and training providers to address immediate and future skills needs?
– What are the advantages of companies cooperating with competitors and small businesses in networks (or other fora e.g. skills councils) which address skills concerns?
– How can enterprise-education partnership and cooperation be improved to meet future skills requirements?
– What steps can be taken at EU level to ensure better fit between the skills needs of businesses and education/training provision?
The use of training in competence development – which strategies companies adopt
– Will the trend for competence development over hiring new talent continue?
– Why does formal training generally constitute the smallest percentage of competence development? Is this the most effective approach?
– Are large companies best placed to provide technical training internally or can external providers develop technical training to meet the needs of large enterprises?
– What are the main advantages and drawbacks of the identification and nursing of talent?
– How can fruitful partnerships between stakeholders be established in order to create more effective formal learning for competence development and innovation?
– What could be the role of ICT-supported learning, including the use of social media?
– What can be the role of EU?
The use of work-based learning for competence development
– Which types of skills are best dealt with in work-based learning? Why?
– Do people really learn by doing – or do they just reinvent the wheel or develop sub-optimal solutions?
– To what extent is the focus on work-based learning fueled by the economic crisis and the need to cut costs?
– What are the most important challenges associated with a competence development strategy focused on work-based learning?
– How can the HR department best support that work-based learning is effective?
– How can work-based learning be improved by the use of ICT?
– How can work-based learning be improved through cooperation with partners outside the company? Which partners? What type of cooperation?
– What can be the role of EU?
Role of companies in promoting youth employment

– What are the challenges for companies concerning transnational placements of own apprentices? And for companies considering taking on a foreign apprentice for a placement?
– How do economic incentives affect companies’ willingness to take on apprentices?
– Which factors prevent companies from taking on apprentices?
– Which are the most important challenges in the cooperation between companies and vocational schools on apprenticeships?
– What can companies do to improve the situation concerning apprenticeships?
– What can schools do?
– How best to overcome the paradoxes related to supply and demands of apprenticeship places
– Which financial incentives should be available?
– What support is needed for in-company trainers?
– What can be the role of the EU?
Role of the EU in supporting vocational education and training
– How to strengthen the engagement of companies in EU actions? What are the critical factors, the ‘to-do’ and ‘not-to-do’ aspects?
– What do companies gain from taking part in activities such as Sector Skills Alliances and under what conditions do the benefits out-weigh the costs? Examples?
– What do companies gain from hosting mobile trainees and what conditions are needed for these benefits to be felt?
– What communication channels would be most effective to reach companies and convince them to engage in international learning mobility?

New programme paves the way for innovative thinking

The European Commission has put forward a proposal to develop a new instrument – the Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI) – which will support employment and social policies throughout the EU.

The new programme will be used to help tackle some of the EU’s most pressing issues, such as high unemployment rates, poverty and social exclusion, and the ageing population.

The PSCI will integrate three existing Commission-managed programmes: PROGRESS, the programme for employment and social solidarity; EURES, which delivers European employment services; and the European Progress Micro-finance Facility.

Bringing these three instruments together under one umbrella will increase their effectiveness and allow the Commission to improve policy coherence across the board. The new-set up will also ensure that employment and social policies make an even greater contribution to Europe 2020, the EU’s overarching strategy for economic growth.

In addition to strengthening policy coordination, capacity building and the sharing of best practice, the PSCI will make it possible to test innovative actions. The ultimate aim is for the most successful of these pilots to be “up-scaled” and receive financial backing from the European Social Fund (ESF), which provides finance to projects that support employment and social integration in the regions.