Policy blog on youth, skills, and employability

ESCO: A common language for the job market

If you have ever found difficulties understanding what skills a job requires, the tasks an occupation implies or the academic qualifications required for a job application in a foreign country; we have good news for you. Last week the European Commission launched the first version of ESCO, a multilingual classification that identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations in a standard way. This standardization creates a common language that helps jobseekers to find the job that best matches their skills.

ESCOESCO, which is the acronym of European classification of Skills, Competences, Occupations and Qualifications, has been developed by the European Commission to create a shared understanding of these fields in the European countries. The classification is available in 26 languages (the 24 EU languages, Icelandic and Norwegian) and includes 2,942 occupations and 13,485 knowledge, skills and competences. In the future, the countries will provide more information on qualifications.

With ESCO, a Finnish student, for instance, can easily understand what he needs to be a food biotechnologist in Italy. He can also describe his skills, competences and qualifications in his CV in a way that employers understand. Employers, on the other hand, can find easily the profiles that are best suited for the position they are offering. If job seekers and job providers share a common language, also educators and trainers can adjust the descriptions of their programmes to this terminology.

Therefore, ESCO helps bridge the communication gaps between different countries and between the world of work and the world of education and training. The standardization will be also useful for employment services because the information about job vacancies, candidate profiles, CVs, skills passports, training opportunities and career pathways will be more easily exchanged.

Have you already checked the essential skills and competences needed for the occupation you would like to have? Did you find any skill you should upgrade?


The role of youth work fostering entrepreneurial learning

Taking the future into their own handsThe importance of entrepreneurial learning has been accentuated in the past 10-15 years across the European Union. European and national policy makers have launched initiatives to promote entrepreneurial skills in the population as a way of fighting youth unemployment. Now, the European Commission has published ‘Taking the future into their own hands’, a study that explores how youth work contributes to the development of entrepreneurship. It is an opportunity to reflect on what has been done in this area and decide further steps.

State of the situation

Looking at what has been done, the study finds out that entrepreneurial learning is often seen by youth work organisations as a by-product or a spin-off of other activities more than the main focus. Youth workers are normally not sufficiently aware of their own contribution to entrepreneurial learning and entrepreneurial competences acquired by youth are rarely validated and recognised (in spite of the existence of tools for validation).

The study looked into 140 initiatives that illustrate how entrepreneurial learning can be integrated into youth work and found that non-formal and informal learning approaches in youth work are well suited to fostering entrepreneurial competencies. It also highlights that the most successful initiatives are those that employ these approaches in partnership with other stakeholders. A good approach to entrepreneurial learning is to combine it with initiatives addressing societal challenges.

The last finding of the research is that EU programmes contribute to promoting entrepreneurial learning, but these programmes are deemed inaccessible by many stakeholders. Organisations participating in the study stated that the administrative burden is an important barrier when applying for EU programmes. Others still have limited knowledge about the opportunities that European funding provides. Therefore, if the EU programmes are to play a more significant role in promoting youth entrepreneurship across Europe, a more explicit focus on youth work and entrepreneurship is needed, along with a reduction in the administrative burden.

Policy recommendations

Looking forward, and taking into consideration the results of the research done, the study delivers concrete recommendations for policy makers. At EU level, a broad approach to entrepreneurship should be promoted and made visible, especially among youth workers and young people. In this sense, the dissemination of EntreComp framework plays a major role.

The Erasmus + programme – the most important programme supporting youth entrepreneurship - should increase its visibility among youth organisations, loosen its formal requirements for small organisations and focus more on the sustainability of the projects. EU institutions could fund the scaling up and spreading of good practices of entrepreneurial learning in youth work.

At national, regional and local level, entrepreneurial learning should be considered a trans-sectoral issue and included at all levels of formal education. Policy makers are invited to loosen the bureaucratic requirements of entrepreneurial learning programmes, allow more room for experimentation and understand the fact that not all youth work activities can have a measurable learning outcome.

The study states that programmes organised by youth organisations should be adapted to local contexts, target people with different backgrounds and use the communication channels used by youth. For these organisations, it is important to establish partnerships with other NGO’s, educational institutions and businesses. In this way, if they seek more information on learning materials and best practices already available, they will optimise their resources and will increase the impact of entrepreneurial learning in youth work.

If you want to learn more about the study ’Taking the future into their own hands’, you can read the executive summary or the complete final report.

DigComp 2.1: eight levels of proficiency and examples of use of digital competences

DigComp 2.1A few weeks ago, the European Commission published DigComp 2.1, a new version of the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. The main novelty of this version is that it includes eight proficiency levels and examples of use.

The framework, first published in 2013, is a detailed description of all competences that are necessary to be proficient in digital environments. It is structured in five areas and propose 21 competences that define the digital competence of citizens.

The version 2.0, published in 2016, updated the competence areas and the competences of each area, developing a conceptual reference model, new vocabulary and streamlined descriptors. It also included examples of how DigComp is used at the European, national and regional levels because, since it was first released four years ago, it has become a reference for many digital competence initiatives.

DigComp 2.1 continues the update initiated by DigComp 2.0 adding new proficiency levels and examples of use. The three proficiency levels of DigComp 1.0 are now eight. The first six levels are linked to the ones identified in the first version (foundation, intermediate and advanced) and the seventh and eighth are new highly-specialised levels.

Each new level represents a step up in citizens’ acquisition of the competence according to its cognitive challenge, the complexity of the tasks they can handle and their autonomy in completing the task. This more detailed range of levels supports the development of learning and training materials. It also facilitates the creation of assessment tools.

DigComp 21

The examples of use have been updated and contextualised in two different scenarios: employment and learning. The first competence (Browsing, searching and filtering data, information and digital content) has examples for every level. The rest of competences have examples for only one level. The levels illustrated vary along the report, so at the end, all competence levels have some examples. These examples help readers understand the progression in the acquisition of skills and support the implementation of the framework.

If you want to find out more about this new version of DigComp, you can download it here. But first, let us explain you how we see it. This framework is not made to be read from beginning to end, but to be consulted or referred when needed. It is more like a dictionary - a common base to grant understanding between different actors. So download it, understand it and think how you could apply it to your own initiatives.

We also warn you that DigComp 2.1 does not include the knowledge, skills and attitudes dimension, so if you want to know more about it, you will have to download DigComp 1.0.

For a better and more inclusive education in Europe

On 30 May, the European Commission published a communication on School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life. This document sets out the European strategy to support high quality, inclusive and future-oriented education. The Communication stems from the identification of key challenges in education: student’s difficulties to develop some basic competences, problems to promote equity and social mobility, and the need to equip young people with the skills they will need in a digital world. Creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurial mind-set are seen as complementary to basic skills and knowledge.

The Communication establishes three main areas of action to face the above challenges: 1) raising the quality and inclusiveness of schools; 2) supporting excellence in teachers and school leaders; and 3) improving the governance of school education systems.

Raising the quality and inclusiveness of schools

Inclussive schoolsSchools need to support all learners and respond to their specific needs, especially referring to gender gaps, pupils with disabilities, students that do not speak the language of instruction, and ethnic minorities. All young people should acquire the eight key competences for lifelong learning established by the European Union in 2006. Connecting lessons with real life experiences and introducing digital technologies in the classroom could enhance this learning.

Cooperation with other social actors can also lead to a more inclusive education. Education must be a shared effort of society as a whole. Cooperation between schools, local institutions, community organizations, business and universities will enrich the learning experience of young people. The involvement of the parents is also essential to tackle bullying and other forms of violence.

To increase the equity of education, the Commission highlights the importance of early childhood education and care. There is evidence of better performance at high levels of those children that have received early childhood education. However, participation in early childhood education and care remains problematic in some European countries due to participation, affordability and quality reasons.

To help states developing better and more inclusive schools the Commission commits to:

  • Make the Erasmus+ programme more accessible.
  • Promote the participation in the schools community eTwinning.
  • Develop a self-assessment tool on digital capacity for schools.
  • Promote best practices in STEM.
  • Support policy experimentation on multilingual pedagogies and diverse classrooms.
  • Implement education provisions for people with disabilities.
  • Support member states in providing high quality early childhood education and care.

Supporting excellence in teachers and school leaders

Excellent teachersTeachers are the heart of excellent education. However, there are staff shortages and a decline in the prestige of the profession in many countries. Governments should provide different incentives: for example, salary rises and better career prospects. This would attract better qualified candidates to the profession. Selection and recruitment processes could be improved to identify the most suitable candidates and attract professionals with different profiles.

Teachers’ education requires more attention. Countries should provide classroom practices before starting a professional career, offer special support during the early stages and develop Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for those already working.

On the teachers’ side, it is important to be open to peer collaboration and team working. Digital technologies can enhance collaborative environments and help overcame barriers to participation.

School leaders also need further support. Today, in some countries, school leadership positions are considered unattractive because school leaders do not receive the support they need. Supporting them and increasing their autonomy may have positive impacts on students’ achievements, teaching quality and staff motivation.

To support teachers and school leaders, the Commission will:

  • Offer expert seminars.
  • Simplify the access to teaching experiences abroad through Erasmus+.
  • Develop online communities and resources for school professionals.
  • Produce joint comparative data on school staff.

Improving the governance of school education systems

Governance of schoolsThe Communication remarks that the effective use of the resources allocated to education – around 3% of the GPD on average – is key to settle a high quality education. With similar levels of investment in education, some countries achieve better results than others do, so it is important to learn “what works” from each other. Investment must focus on infrastructure (including digital infrastructure and connectivity) and on human capital.

A good combination of school autonomy and accountability lead to a more effective use of resources. Flexibility allows schools to adapt their financial resources to their specific needs and local context. Accountability guarantees quality.

To improve the governance of education systems, the European Commission will:

  • Provide technical support to those countries that will ask for it.
  • Propose a report on the effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure in school education.
  • Develop targeted policy guidance.

The role of the European Commission

Along the Communication, the Commission reminds at several points that education reforms are on the hands of the member states and the European Union can only play a supportive role. Its main contribution is sharing knowledge, data and best practices between countries. In addition, it also offers financial and technical support through programmes like Erasmus+, European Structural and Investment Funds, and Structural Reforms Support Service.

The Communication states that improving schools education will require close cooperation. To boost it, the Commission will organize an Education Summit in early 2018 to trigger a discussion on the future of European cooperation in education.

The European employment divide

Employment opportunities for young people in Europe vary greatly from one region to another and, despite the economic recovery of last years, the situation is quite critical in some areas. The data from Eurostat reveals that there are still 16 regions with youth unemployment rates above 50%. They are located in Greece, Spain, Italy and France.

Youth unemployment EuropeThe hardest European place to find a job in Europe is the Spanish city of Melilla, where 7 out of 10 young people are unemployed. It is followed by Ceuta (63.3% youth unemployment) in Spain too, Calabria (58.7%) in Italy, Andalusia (57.9%) in Spain, and Sicily (57.2%) and Sardinia (56.3%) both in Italy. The list continues with the French overseas territory Mayotte (54.5%) and three Greek regions: Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (53.4%), Thessaly (52.7%), and Central Greece (52.6%).

The reality of these places contrasts with many German regions where youth unemployment is almost non-existent. Swabia (4.3%), Upper Bavaria (4.6%), Tübingen (4.6%), Weser-Ems (5.6%), Freiburg (6.0%), Detmold (6.1%), Karlsruhe (6.2%), and Stuttgart (6.5%), all in Germany, are the European areas with lowest youth unemployment.

The average unemployment rate for young people aged between 15 and 24 in the EU was 18.7% in 2016, compared to a 20.3% in 2015 However, this average reflects very disparate situations. Unemployment is a common problem for young Southern Europeans, while something almost exceptional for those living in the North.

Greece, Spain, Italy and Cyprus have the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe. In these countries, more than one third of the youth cannot find a job. On the other side of the coin, in countries such as Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Netherlands just one out of ten youngsters – or even less – is unemployed. This circumstance generates huge differences in life perspectives of youth.

Other unemployment figures

The North-South employment divide tends to remain constant in other stages of life. The general unemployment figures published by Eurostat show that the territories with higher unemployment rates in Europe are located in Greece, Spain and France. In these regions, around 25-30% of the active population cannot find a job. This is ten times more than in the areas with best employment figures, where only 2-3% of the population is unemployed. Most of these regions are in Germany, followed by some in Czech Republic, Hungary and United Kingdom.

Unemployment rate in Europe

The North-South divide tends to appear also in the long-term unemployment, although in this case some of countries vary. The regions with lower long-term unemployment rate are located in Sweden, United Kingdom and Denmark, while those with higher figures are in France, Greece and Bulgaria.

Long-term unemployment in Europe

If you want to check more data on unemployment, you can visit the Eurostat website. We would also like to invite you to write your opinion here. Do you think that there is an actual European divide in employment terms? Does it extend to other areas of our lives? Should the European Union take more actions to reduce the high unemployment rate of some regions?

European Solidarity Corps: solidarity at the core of the fight against youth unemployment

In December 2016, the European Commission launched the European Solidarity Corps, a scheme to create new opportunities for young people willing to engage in solidarity activities. Since then, more than 27,000 Europeans have registered in the programme and the first volunteers and workers have already arrived to the ground.

The idea behind this project is to reduce young unemployment by providing young people with valuable experience working on solidarity project. The benefits of this initiative are twofold:  participants develop valuable skills and acquire experience at the start of their career; and they contribute to fill a societal need.

Any European aged 18-30 can participate in the programme. To register, it is necessary to complete a profile (with your personal data, areas of interest and background) in the European Solidarity Corps website and subscribe its mission and principles, which are based on values such as solidarity, human rights, tolerance and justice. Once registered, participants enter a pool from which organisation can select candidates to work on a project for a period of 2 to 12 months. The activities are usually framed in the areas of education, health, social integration, environmental protection or prevention of natural disasters.


The corps offer two different ways to get involved: volunteering and occupational activities. Volunteers do not receive payment for the work they do, but a compensation for their expenses such travel costs, accommodation, meals, medical insurance and pocket money. Occupational activities include job placements, traineeships or apprenticeships. In these cases, participant sign a contract in accordance with the national law and receive a salary.

The scheme builds on already existing EU funding structures, so it does not require new funding. The cost are covered with resources from programmes such as Erasmus + or the European Regional Development Fund.

Wary welcome

The expectations for the European Solidarity Corps are high. The European Commission expects 100,000 young people to join the initiative by the end of 2020. However, the scheme has already received some criticism since its launch four months ago.

MEP Petra Kammerevert said that “new ideas need fresh money” and asked for “allocating the Corps its own funds, not diverting money for it from well-functioning and established programmes" as Erasmus + and Europe for Citizens. For others, the European Solidarity Corps is just a rebranding of the European Voluntary Service, a programme to volunteer abroad with more than 20 years of history. “The new European Solidarity Corps expand and renew the current European Voluntary Service […] From the point of view of the content, I don´t find significant novelties,” said MEP Teresa Giménez Barbat.

The most critics fear that the voluntary positions will replace quality jobs. “Volunteering should not be used as an excuse to replace real quality jobs with unpaid job”, warned Luis Alvarado Martínez, the President of European Youth Forum, in a recent debate on the European Solidarity Corps. MEP Tania González Peñas was much harsh on Twitter. “This aims to be a farce that replaces paid and professional work for free volunteering”, she wrote. She also disapproved that voluntary positions will be funded with “money allocated to fight youth unemployment”.

What do you think about the European Solidarity Corps? Do you like the idea? Do you agree with the criticisms?

Get help to cover the extra expenses of finding a job abroad

Your First EURES JobIf you are a young person looking for a job in Europe, probably you have heard about EURES and its database with job offers. But did you know that EURES offers financial support to find a job abroad?

Through the programme Your first EURES job (YFEJ), the European network of employment services helps you to cover the extra expenses of looking for a job (or a traineeship) in another European country. This includes an interview trip, language courses, recognition of qualifications, relocation expenses, and subsistence allowance for trainees and apprentices. Participants can also benefit from pre- and/or post-placement training, monitoring support, and welcome support in the country of destination.

Who can benefit from the programme?

Any national and legal resident of an EU country, Iceland or Norway aged 18 to 35. There are no limitations regarding experience or qualifications, which means that you can apply with or without previous experience, and with any level of education.

How do I register to the programme?

You just have to contact any YFEJ employment service and follow the registration procedure – it can vary from one country to another. To benefit from the financial support, your job placement must be under the YFEJ scheme and the recruitment process must be carried out by a YFEJ employment service. Of course, the offer has to be for working in a foreign country.

The job placements offered under YFEJ scheme can cover any jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships that have a minimum contractual duration of at least 6 months (for jobs and apprenticeships) or 3 months (for traineeships).

Jobseekers who found work placements in other countries through other organisations are not eligible for financial support. To be entitles to receive economic support, you need to be  registered in YFEJ before beginning the recruiting process. Therefore, we recommend you to sign up as soon as possible.

What if I am an employer and I want to offer my position through YFEJ?

All businesses or other organisations established in the eligible countries can participate in the YFEJ scheme and benefit from the recruitment, matching and placement support of the employment services. In addition, small and medium-sized enterprises can also receive financial support if they organise an integration programme for the newcomer.

Education and entrepreneurship: key issues for Europe’s digital future

Last month, the European Commission published a paper that urges European leaders to endorse several measures to make the Digital Single Market a reality as of 2018. The eight measures proposed in Advancing Europe’s digital future: Digital Headlines were published as an advance of the Digital Day, an event that put Europe’s digital challenges and future in the spotlight on 23 March as part of the official celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

Two of the issues tackled in the European Commission’s document are the support to startups and the learning of digital skills, both of them very connected to I-LINC platform.

Support to startups

The Commission recognizes that the startup situation has widely improved during the last years and European soil is now a fertile territory for new technological companies. In 2015 alone, close to 500 deep tech startups were created. However, there is still room for improvement, especially regarding their growth. Too few of them become global successes and generally this is due to market fragmentation and a lack of growth capital.

Number of deep tech startups

In this context, policy makers are invited to ensure that successful startups can grow in Europe rather than being slowed down by fragmentation or even moving to other continents.

Learning of digital skills

Digitalisation is changing our society and the way we work. All sectors of the economy, from farming to science, are becoming digital, which means that e-skills are becoming crucial for all workers. However, around 36% of the European work force has insufficient digital skills.

The EU has more graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics than ever before, but they still might not be enough to fulfil all the vacancies. The estimations foresee that 700,000 ICT positions may remain vacant in 2020 due to a lack of skills. The demand for high ICT skills grows fast and in ten years two million high-qualified jobs have been created in Europe.

Employment of ICT specialists in the EU

While technology creates high-qualified jobs, it also jeopardizes medium routine-tasks that can be done by a machine. At European level, the demand for this type of workers fell by 8% between 2002 and 2014, and the tendency is similar in other developed countries such as United States and Japan.

To successfully face these changes of the labour market, Europeans must be digitally equipped. The Commission remarks on its paper that the European Union, member states and social partners must promote the learning of digital skills. It calls for a combination of life-long learning, re-skilling and redistribution policies to ensure that nobody is left behind due to digital illiteracy. Technology offers new employment opportunities, but it can also lead to a further polarised society if we do not extend digital literacy to all citizens.

If you want to read all the recommendations made to European leaders to succeed in Europe’s digitalisation, you can find them on Advancing Europe’s digital future: Digital Headlines.

Up to 6,000 paid internships to boost digital skills

At the Digital Day celebrated in Rome on 23 March, the European Commission announced a pilot project to offer paid internships in digital fields such as cybersecurity, big data, quantum, artificial intelligence, web design, digital marketing, software development, coding or graphic design.

Digital skills internshipsThe internships will last 4-5 months and will be open to graduate students from all disciplines willing to acquire experience in fields that are demanded by companies - not necessarily from the ICT sector. The Commission plans to train up to 6,000 young people between 2018 and 2020, with the first internships starting in the fall of 2018. The trainees will receive a stipend of around €500 per month.

The initiative will built on existing European Union programmes and networks such as the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, but it will be open to any company working in the digital field. So far, we do not know much more about how students and companies can join to the project. The Commission will provide more details in the following weeks. 

It is important to remember that this a pilot project, so if it success, it will have further development. The purpose behind it is to fill the gap between the skills of the job seekers and the needs of the labour market. Despite the current high rates of unemployment in Europe, companies find difficult to recruit ICT professionals and the estimations say that there will be around 700,000 ICT unfilled positions in the European Union by 2020. Therefore, this programme may have large potential.

You can read all the information published up to date on the European Commission’s website

Debate on digital jobs and skills at the Digital Day

On 23 March, the European Commission and the Republic of Italy organised a Digital Day in Rome that brought together stakeholders to look at Europe's digital future. The event, part of the official celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, put the digital transformation at the centre of European agenda. The potential to improve peoples' lives that coal and steel had six decades ago, today it is represented by digital technologies.

In the afternoon, a conference called ‘Impact of digital transformation on jobs and skills’ analysed how digitalisation is changing our labour market. The Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip opened the discussion and stated that he was expecting to leave the debate with some policy recommendations. The suggestions were numerous.


The most repeated idea during the conference was the need to change education plans. Our society is evolving much faster than ever before and kids starting school today will have jobs that do not exist nowadays. Therefore, we cannot teach them specific tools and procedures to repeat during all their working life – as we have been doing so far. Especially because at the time we define new skills and begin to teach them, they are already outdated. Youth need to learn how to learn and develop an intellectual base that will allow them to evolve and adapt to new situations. As Jorge Schnura, co-founder and chief operating officer of source{d}, said “it has to be something that goes with you all your live.”

Stefano Scarpetta, director of the Employment Division at the OECD, summarized the idea as it follows: “there is an urgent need to look at the education system, look at the life-long learning, look at the labour market and social policies and start making the changes now, not waiting to discover what kind of job our economy will need. This job will require some foundation skills, soft skills and formal digital skills for sure.”

To teach children the appropriate skills, we need to educate educators first, reminded Laura Quintana, vice-president of Cisco, and the Finish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri.

Diego Piacentini, the Government Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Digital Champion of Italy, highlighted that, in addition to education, we should also develop digital competences in the governments. “How can a non-digitalised administration lead by example?” he asked. 

Managing the loss of jobs

New technologies create new employment opportunities, but they also destroy existing jobs. For example, the job with most workers in US now is truck driver, and taxi driver is the third one. Both of them are likely to disappear due to the development of self-driving cars, so countries have to begin to think what to do with all people that will lose their job in the near future.

The social consequences of digital transformation will depend on how it is managed. Stakeholders agreed on the important role that security systems will have to play in assisting citizens that lose their job. Vili Lehdonvirta, associate professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, suggested that social welfare systems will also have to adapt from the current binary notion of employed/unemployed to a more flexible labour market.

Enrico Giovannini, professor of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, tackled the issue of matching skills with jobs. As an example, he pointed out that enrolment in statistics and data science courses is rocketing is US over the last 5-6 years, whilst the small amount of courses offered in Europe is “embarrassing.” To monitor the needs of labour market he proposed to create a quarterly European survey on vacancies that would tell people where the jobs are being created. 

Women in STEM

The Finnish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, one of the few women present in the panel discussion, said that to increase the female presence in the digital market it is necessary to begin from the education. A research showed that Finnish girls are very interested in STEM at the age of 11 and 12, but they lose the interest three years after. To avoid it, she asked for a more practical way of teaching. She also proposed tutoring for students to help them to plan better their own education.

If you want to discover more ideas proposed during the conference ‘Impact of digital transformation on jobs and skills’, you can watch the entire debate here. 

On 15 and 16 June, stakeholders will continue discussing Europe’s digital future in the Digital Assembly 2017 co-organised by the European Commission and the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in Valletta. Stay tuned! 

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