20 Oct 2020

A European digital upskilling and reskilling programme

  • By 2025, 90 per cent of people who are without formal education should be regular internet users. At the moment 67,8 per cent of people with low or no education use the internet less than once a week.
  • By 2025, Members States and companies across Europe should have completed retraining of 20 per cent of the workforce, leaving only 32 per cent of workers in need of reskilling. Currently an estimated 52 per cent of workers need some form of reskilling.

COVID-19 has intensified the need for reskilling the European workforce. Workers in a range of sectors – such as tourism, manufacturing and healthcare – have seen their jobs radically change in the past few years, and this has accelerated during the pandemic. 

All Europeans must be able to see themselves as a part of the future job market and digitalisation should leave no one behind. Beyond employability, basic digital skills are also essential to empower citizens to take advantage of e-government services and participate fully in modern democracies. 

Learning new skills has the double positive effect of supporting people in their employability and allowing our businesses to gain skilled workers, so that both can take advantage of the opportunities afforded by digitalisation. 

Member States need to invest heavily in this area in the coming months and years to ensure that those made unemployed by COVID-19 can bounce back into the labour market.

Several initiatives are already in place, such as the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalitions, but they are often underfunded and understaffed. We propose to invest heavily in national coalitions, gathering all initiatives under one hat in each member state. We also propose to add demands to the coalitions to professionalise management and institutionalise at board level the collaboration between the EU, governments, the private sector, unions and education providers, and collaborate directly with the “Digital Hubs” being set up in each region.

Another idea is to introduce vouchers and loans to promote adult vocational training, aimed at employees and/or employers to contribute to qualified training programmes. The priorities of such trainings should be digital upskilling, a tailoring to the labour market’s needs in each sector and region with proven methodologies that would ensure maximum effectiveness.

Part of the solution will also be to identify, scale up  and replicate existing public-private partnerships among all stakeholders. In “Part II – Case studies”, we offer some examples. Member States should dedicate funding to these sector-specific digital upskilling programmes. Europe’s support – for example, through the newly proposed European Digital Education Hub – will be essential to provide harmonised guidance to national and regional authorities and promote the same pace of digital upskilling throughout Europe.

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