The EESC will consider an opinion on the labor market and the role of skills in increasing productivity, with a focus on SMEs

An opinion on "Supporting labour market developments: how to maintain employability, boost productivity and develop skills, especially in SMEs" will discuss during its plenary session on 22 February 2023, in Brussels, The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The main speaker will be Maria Mincheva - vice-president of the BSK and member of the EESC, "Employers" Group.

2023 is the European Year of Skills, and it couldn't be more relevant. According to the European Investment Bank, 77% of firms report the limited availability of skills to be an impediment to investment. What can Europe do to provide the European economy with the right skills for future labour market developments?

There is no doubt that skills are key for successful green and digital transitions, however the list of challenges is long. If we do not manage to implement modern, comprehensive skill strategies at national and sectoral level, the skills mismatch we are already experiencing today will be exponentially greater in the future.

Member States need to include skill development in their national growth plans. They must be constantly up to date with industrial research and economic development to make sure their skills plans match up with the innovations happening in the technological, digital and green fields. Skills anticipation has an enormous role to play in this regard.

In order to keep up with labour market dynamics, we need to create the opportunities for people to learn and further develop their skills. To make this work, sufficient investments need to be allocated to financing education and training needs. Only then will we be able to keep up with the growing demands for digital, green and cognitive abilities, but also those related to soft skills. The key word here is "meta-skills", which means being able to adapt to fast-changing working environments, and rapidly acquiring new skills.

In fact, one of the most important challenges in the future will be ensuring equal access for all age groups to lifelong learning. Individuals must keep up to date with new technologies in order to guarantee their employability at all stages of life.

Similar to the digital transition, the green transition will also have a vast impact on the labour market. The cultural development that the green transition will entail will also require skills to be adapted, as mentioned before. In short, to manage the green transition well, we need workplaces with the right environment, and people with the right skills.

For SMEs, these challenges are disproportionately bigger, as they do not have the same resources to invest in staff training as other larger companies, and might lack expertise to attract talent. This is why SMEs need more financing opportunities when it comes to skills. Furthermore, it would be beneficial to encourage networking, cost-sharing for skills research, and cooperation in skills development.

The context that local communities offer to SMEs is equally important. Regional employment systems, local administration and access to new technologies, innovation and services of canters of vocational excellence can vastly affect how well SMEs can adapt to changing labour market needs.

Social partners also play an important role in providing support so that SMEs can access skill development mechanisms. For example, their expertise is needed for tailoring dual training schemes and work-based learning to SME needs.

The skills we have will determine Europe's future. We have to get it right for all of us – for our businesses and for our workers of all ages. 

Date: 21.02.2023

Source: Bulgarian Industrial Association

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