Co-ops respond to new European Skills Agenda

The agenda aims to ensure that people have access to lifelong learning opportunities and the right skills to find jobs

On 1 July the European Commission published its new European Skills Agenda – a strategy to develop skills and ensure lifelong learning for European workers.

Cecop, the European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives, expressed interest in the agenda, welcoming the commitments around skill development as a fundamental part of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The agenda features 12 actions to unlock investment and ensure people have the right skills for jobs and access to lifelong learning opportunities. These include a new Europass Platform; improving the enabling framework to unlock member States’ and private investments in skills; and rolling out the European Universities Initiative, which will see universities form transnational alliances and deepen co-operation.

The agenda’s objectives include increasing the participation of adults aged 25-64 who have been in learning during the last 12 months from 38% in 2016 to 50% in 2025. Another target is to increase the participation of low-qualified adults aged 25-64 in learning during the last 12 months from 18% to 30%.

The Commission also aims to expand the share of unemployed adults between the ages of 25 and 64 with a recent learning experience from 11% in 2019 to 20% in 2025. Increasing the share of adults aged 16-74 with at least basic digital skills is another target, with the Commission aiming for a 70% rate by 2025, up from 56% in 2019.

Nicolas Schmit, commissioner for jobs and social rights, said: “The skilling of our workforces is one of our central responses to the recovery, and providing people the chance to build the skillsets they need is key to preparing for the green and digital transitions. It gives everyone the possibility to benefit from new opportunities in a fast-moving labour market.”

In a statement on the agenda, Cecop noted that despite offering high quality jobs, some worker co-operatives face challenges recruiting employees, particularly in rural areas.

“Cecop recognises that the European Commission shows concern for the special needs of SMEs when it comes to a skilled workforce. The digital transition will require skill development in SMEs, but SMEs are also facing challenges in attracting young graduates. Specifically, worker co-operatives need to be presented as attractive, as value-oriented employers at universities, within economics and business management curricula, and in vocational training,” it said.

The apex also argued that worker co-operatives enabled worker-members to acquire management and decision-making skills due to their specific business model, based on worker ownership and control.

“The introduction of the ‘Pact for Skills’ will create a meaningful platform to address these concerns. The proposed support of national efforts to overcome skill mismatches in the labour market will be crucial in the implementation of the agenda,” it added.

According to CECOP, social co-operatives also play an important role by providing employment training, and inclusion for vulnerable members of our society, offering apprenticeships and work integration for disadvantaged groups.

The confederation says worker co-operatives “have a crucial role to play in the preservation of European industrial capacities without shifting production abroad, as they are rooted in their local communities”. The apex concluded by calling on the Commission to reflect the skill development role model promoted by co-ops in the future planning and implementation of the European Skills Agenda.

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