Low-skilled adults are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to take part in training and are over-represented among the group of long-term unemployed.
Eurostat data show that from 2008 to 2013, EU-27 unemployment rates generally appeared to be levelling out; the same could be said for older workers, for women and, to some extent, for young people. However, rates for people with low educational qualifications continued to rise, reaching almost 20 %.
There were also around 25 million unemployed adults aged 25-64 in the EU in 2011. Of those, around 10 million were low-qualified, 11 million had medium qualifications and around 4 million had a high qualification. Furthermore, low-skilled unemployed people are over-represented among the long-term unemployed, many of whom work in declining occupations and sectors.
Against this background, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Integration commissioned European Employment Policy Observatory to examine the situation with regard to the learning opportunities provided for this group. It presented the following recommendations:
- Maintain a stable national policy to support training, with stable funding,
- In terms of governance, ensuring greater cooperation and coordination at policy level remains crucial, since national policies still appear fragmented, with inadequate links between the relevant ministries and national institutions responsible for employment policy and education and training. There is perhaps a role here for the national coordinators for adult learning, as part of implementing the European Agenda for Adult Learning.
- Individualised measures achieve the highest impact so individualised approaches and self-selection need to continue to be emphasised. Self-employment training should also be included in the options where appropriate.
- Training for unemployed people should aim to maximise the use of employer-based provision.
- Emphasis on training measures should continue to be directed at occupations with shortages on the labour market, especially for those farthest from the labour market who have most to gain from practical employment-related skills.
- Skills-need forecasting is crucial in improving training effectiveness,
- Ensuring validation of non-formal and informal prior learning and certification of learning outcomes is very relevant for low-qualified adults, because learning often happens outside formal education.
- Training measures have rarely been evaluated in a rigorous way that includes longitudinal research over a reasonable timescale and analysis of the net effects, for different types of measures and for the different groups often targeted within the same measure.
- There should be increased focus in monitoring and evaluations on the effects for different target groups. More systematic monitoring and evaluation of the effects of policies and measures on the employment and income of different target groups (low skilled, long-term unemployed, elderly, etc.) is needed to inform the adaptation of the type, content and format of training programmes and increase training effectiveness.
On 25 June 2015, a seminar was organised, in Brussels, to present and disseminate the results of the EEPO review. The seminar brought together a good mix of stakeholders from employment and education and training services, who stressed that:
- Employer involvement is crucial - the most successful schemes combine institutional training with practical training.
- Provision of personalised training is a key approach to delivering effective training, in particular where the individual is engaged in choosing his/her training path.
- Research based on trends in labour market and workplace developments point to a demand for higher quality and higher levels of skills than in the past. Even demands on so-called “low-skilled or low-qualified” workers are increasing.
- There are groups of people among the unemployed who, because of their long distance from employment, are at particular risk of long-term unemployment and inactivity. For them, bridging the gap back to employment is a specific challenge.
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Martina Ni Cheallaigh works at the European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Integration, in the Vocational Training and Adult Education Unit. Since, 2011 she has been responsible for implementing the European Agenda for Adult Learning. She has wide experience at European level, particularly in the fields of vocational training and lifelong learning.