140. The Task Force views this new set of basic skills
as "indispensable" as they provide "a platform
for enabling individuals to adapt to changing circumstances during
their careers and throughout their lives" (op. cit.,
p 8). The Task Force criticises the fact that "systems for
initial education are still often based on the premise that what
is learned in initial education will be sufficient to last a lifetime",
they say that this is "a notion which no longer corresponds
to reality" (op. cit., p 8). They suggest that the
aim should no longer just be to enable individuals to enter the
labour markets, but to improve the long-term employability of
people by equipping them with the skills necessary to adapt to
changing circumstances. Teaching transferable skills and the ability
to learn will allow people to take advantage of further opportunities
in the labour market. In short, from the Task Force's point of
view, the aim should be to enhance people's occupational mobility.
141. The CBI agreed that we "need flexibility
in skills, so that we both have a trained workforce but also a
workforce that is used to the idea of moving around and having
different careers but also using their skills in all sorts of
ways" (Q 104). The skill needs of the labour markets are
constantly changing. For instance, the Commission predicts that
the number of ICT jobs in the EU will grow from the current figure
of 10 million to about 13 million in 2003."
The Task Force reports that "the estimated number of unfilled
vacancies is expected to rise from 2.23 million in 2001 to 3.67
million in 2003. Moreover, the Task Force report states that "80%
of today's skills will become obsolete in 10 years, while over
that time 80% of the labour force will possess outdated skills
without lifelong learning." (op.cit. p 7). There is
therefore a need to promote a skilled and adaptable workforce.
142. The Task Force reports that, since mid-1999,
"business surveys have increasingly reported production constraints
due to shortages of labour". They affirm that it is therefore
crucial "to tackle the skill shortages and mismatches which
are holding back economic development and therefore job growth"
(op. cit., p 10).
143. The witnesses were clear that, in order to
increase occupational mobility and fill these skill gaps, the
teaching of basic skills has to be coupled with the provision
of life-long learning. It is therefore welcome that the Government
announced that they are keen to "use, in terms of the labour
market, all the resources which are available, whatever the age
of people" (Q 51). It is important that people in employment
have an opportunity to develop their skills. The Committee urges
the Commission to ensure that Member States implement specific
proposals and initiatives to address this issue.
144. Member States need to ensure that all people,
and not just those leaving formal education, are skilled. The
CBI wants to see "career development and progression [open]
to all of those employees who have the potential to grow in the
group and for the betterment of the group". Developing the
skills of those already in the labour market is of fundamental
importance. They consider that those who do not recognise this
and thereby fail to take account of the potential of the full
spectrum of their workforce will be "seriously missing a
trick" (Q 61).
145. One of the simple reasons for this is demographics:
Europe has an ageing population (Q 165). In response, the European
Parliament asserts that "mobility must embrace all age groups"
(op. cit., p.7). It will become increasingly important
to retain older workers in the work force, or even bring them
back from early retirement. As a result, the Government say that
it is essential "to encourage active ageing policies which
will allow people to stay much longer in the labour market and
indeed to remove some of the disincentives to remaining in the
labour market" (Q 51). Retaining workers will be particularly
important in the future as the European labour force is set to
contract (CBI, p 18). Indeed, Professor Schmidt considers that
Member States should "think afresh about the issue of the
mandatory retirement age and about the typical age to exit the
labour market" (Q 170). Lifelong learning will play a crucial
role in retaining older workers. The Commission says that "continuing
to update skills during working life to respond to the changing
needs of the labour market is critical if older workers are to
be kept in work longer. [
] Change in financial incentives
leading to later retirement may be counterproductive if older
people do not upgrade to the skills needed".
Despite this, the Committee is disappointed to note that the Commission
report that "little progress has been made across the European
Union in turning lifelong learning into a daily reality for most
146. Another reason to ensure that all people are
equipped with basic skills that are recognised and transferable
is that as the Task Force explains "the share of women and
older workers in the labour force will need to increase very significantly
to achieve the full employment targets of the Lisbon strategy"
(op. cit., p 6).
147. The Task Force also notes that migrant workers
would benefit from specific support "given the significantly
higher share of third-country nationals [that is, nationals of
countries outside the EU] who belong to the group of unskilled
manual workers (35% as compared to 17% for EU citizens) and their
concentration in sectors where low-skilled workers are still needed
(manufacturing, constructions, hotels and restaurants)" (op.
cit., p 11).
148. Therefore the Committee considers it important
to retain older workers in the work force and supports the targeting
of lifelong learning and training initiatives at older workers,
as well as third-country nationals and women.
149. In order to increase occupational mobility the
European Union will have to address the fact that occupational
mobility is low amongst the low-skilled or unskilled workers in
Europe. It is important to enable all people, especially those
at the lower end of the labour market, to gain recognition for
what they have learnt.
150. Lifelong learning should therefore include the
whole spectrum of formal, non-formal and informal learning.
Recognition of informal and non-formal
151. When talking about mutual recognition, witnesses
were keen that the Commission take into account "not only
degrees and diplomas" (Q 133). The Commission acknowledges
that the recognition of informal training "is extremely important
in career development" and was keen for "the validation
of qualifications" that arise from such work (Q 213). Skills
and knowledge gained at work or in other non-formal environments
outside formal education and training need to be demonstrable
in order to encourage the least mobile to become more so. This
would enable people, and it largely affects women but also the
self-employed, to turn into a credential work done, for example,
in the voluntary sector, or in the community, perhaps even in
152. The mutual recognition of such qualifications
is important, as it would allow people to enter additional training
at an appropriate level in a Member State other than that in which
they acquired their basic training. This would permit people to
enhance their skills wherever they are, wherever they come from,
whatever stage they are at.
153. One important current difficulty is that the
different forms of learning are not linked, so currently there
is only a weak link between formal education and what is learnt
in economic and professional life (non-formal learning). Eurocadres
believe that "in the future this link should be made more
important". They say that "there is a need for this
link" (Q 144).
154. Eurocadres called for an open "reference
system" based on "accredited criteria" that could
be gained from activities across the spectrum of learning. Key
for those groups who are currently least mobile (especially older
workers, women, and low-skilled workers) will be the "recognition
of professional experience". Eurocadres also support establishing
a system that attempts to recognise "nonformal qualifications".
The credits will not (necessarily) be for the purpose of continuing
studies, but will enable people to have the experience they have
gained (academic, professional or otherwise) recognised in professional
life. Systems recognising professional experience do exist across
Europe, but they are not well known and are not very often used
(QQ 133, 139, 144, 146).
155. Indeed, the Commission's Communication "Making
a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality" (COM (2001)
678 final) makes clear that massive progress remains to be made
in developing an EU-wide system of lifelong learning. The Communication
states that it is important to value all forms of learning; the
Commission hopes that learning of all types can be identified,
assessed and recognised. However, the Task Force concedes that
there are "few tried and tested means of assessing and validating
such skills; this constitutes an important barrier to occupational
mobility" (op. cit., p 11). The Committee welcomes
the additional staff working paper on working practices and indicators
(SEC (2001) 1939) as a tool for the dissemination of good practice
and calls on Member States to follow the example of the models
156. The Committee is also in favour of the Commission
developing an overarching transparent framework for the
assessment and recognition of non-formal and informal learning.
Since this affects a wide range of interests, it will be important
to involve both the traditional social partners of employers and
trade unions and the various non-governmental organisations and
pressure groups with interests in this area.
15 Other research also suggests that the job for life
only ever applied to a very small percentage of the labour force
(cf. Meadows, The Flexible labour market: Implications for
pension provision (NAPF: 1999). Back
For a detailed explanation of this position, see the CBI's report
Creating a Europe that works: A study of labour market flexibility
(CBI: 1999). Back
In 1999, the working group chaired by Sir Claus Moser found that
in the UK "roughly 20 % of adults-that is perhaps as many
as 7 million people-have more or less severe problems with basic
skills, in particular with what is generally called 'functional
literacy' and 'functional numeracy': 'the ability to read, write
and speak in English, and to use mathematics at a level necessary
to function at work and in society in general'" (Improving
Literacy and Numeracy: A fresh start, p 3). Back
COM (2001) 678 final, p 23. Back
COM (2001) 116 final, p 7. Back
The Commission Communication on lifelong learning defines "adaptability"
in this context as the capacity to adapt to new technologies,
new market conditions and new work patterns (COM(2001)678 final,
p. 31). Back
COM (2002) 9 final, pp.11-12. Back
COM (2002) 14 final, p.10. Back
The Commission defines 'Formal learning' as "learning typically
provided by an education or training institution, structured (in
terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support)
and leading to certification". It defines 'non-formal' learning
as that which is "not provided by an education or training
institution and typically does not lead to certification. It is,
however, structured". It defines 'informal learning' as resulting
from "daily life activities related to work, family or leisure,
it is not structured and typically does not lead to certification".
The Commission further note that whilst "formal and non-formal
learning are intentional from the learner's perspective, informal
learning is, in most cases, non-intentional (or 'incidental'/random)"
(COM(2001)678, pp. 32-33). Back