Collaborating with regions and cities is crucial for a more highly skilled labour force and commercial innovation, says Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions.
He made the comments at the Changing Skills for a Changing World conference, which concludes round 4. of the Torino Process – the ETF’s flagship evidence-based evaluation tool for vocational education and training policy reform.
‘There is a dire need for continuous training and innovation, for constantly reinventing the teaching and learning processes, especially in the context of the digital turn,’ he told 300+ stakeholders from ETF partner countries, across Europe and beyond.
He emphasised the implications for local and regional government are ‘considerable’ because cities and regions often have ‘responsibility for education, training and employment.’
Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, highlighted the importance of investing in people as a cornerstone for the future of Europe as well as broad cooperation.
‘For too long we talk about how important it is to work in partnership but struggle to move out of our echo chambers,” the Commissioner noted before underlining that the European Commission’s New Skills Agenda, a blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills, ‘puts together actors who might otherwise not find themselves in the same room – to work on practical and forward-looking shared solutions.’
President Markkula welcomed the New Skills Agenda as ‘important’ to efforts to narrow the skills gap in Europe. He also praised the ETF for its efforts to work with local and regional government in the EU member states and partner countries.
Working in partnership
The ETF and the CoR – the EU’s political assembly of regional and local representatives – have a long-standing cooperation with local and regional authorities in the Eastern Partnership region: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. And through the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly.
Local and regional politicians from these countries identified economic development – including youth employment – as their preferred priority for collaboration with the EU, under the revised European Neighbourhood Policy adopted in 2015.
In this regard, President Markkula says ‘economic and social development at local and regional level has a better chance to succeed when working on a decentralised system, where action was taken at the local level, the closest not just to citizens but also to the economic and social specificity of a given region.’
He continued: ‘The local level is becoming increasingly important in implementing skills management and often has a more innovative approach, even though local innovative capacities often suffer from weak institutional support.’
The importance of the skills agenda is being amplified by the current process of decentralisation in Ukraine, he added.
‘Vocational education and training, and more precisely, market oriented vocational training opportunities for business development is a priority area of cooperation with the new amalgamated communities in Ukraine.’
Find out more about Ukraine’s move towards decentralisation in #VET in the Country Story section here.