Education is the first step to harness talent


Improving quality and investing in education should be  the first step to harness talents in Europe’s Regions.

The European Commission (EC) has presented a Communication on Harnessing Talent in Europe's Regions. This Communication, published on 17 January 2023, draws targeted measures to promote and retain talent in underdeveloped regions, turning them into more attractive locations. The underdevelopment occurs especially in rural regions: large differences exist between these and the capital regions, as young people tend to be more attracted to the latter, due to the concentration of universities, better jobs, and economic opportunities.

The focus of the new policy of the European Commission is mainly on those regions which show an accelerated  decrease in their working age population and a low share of university graduates, as well as on regions experiencing a significant departure of young people. The first group of regions experience a lower share of university graduates compared to the EU average, thus not being able to compensate for a decreasing labour force with highly skilled workers. Furthermore, the rate of young people neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) is significantly higher in these regions (at 19%, compared to the EU average of 13%). Too many young people do not complete upper secondary education and are left with poor employment prospects.

In other regions, the lack of career perspectives causes a vicious circle as it may discourage young people from attaining higher education and lead some to seek career opportunities elsewhere, which causes that the rate of unemployment (15-34) is 14.6%, significantly higher than in the EU (11.1%). These disadvantaged regions are not attractive for highly qualified people to live and work in. The European Commission highlights that these regions are affected by several factors, such as underperforming labour market, lower adult learning rates, poorer social outcomes. Therefore, the policy of the Commission is to promote the development in these regions by improving education systems, public services and provision of quality jobs.

ETUCE welcomes that the European Commission’s Communication calls for investments in education, training and lifelong learning. However, the Commission Communication aims to develop close cooperation between regional authorities, social partner organisations, employment services, and education and training providers, with the main purpose of ensuring that education and training efforts focus on the labour market relevant skills  needed in a particular region. In this regard, ETUCE believes that quality education should not only focus on labour market skills, tackling skill mismatches and boost competitiveness across EU but also, on building key competences to improve the quality of life and on democratic citizenship.

The Communication refers to the importance of granting equal access to quality services and infrastructure, such as access to internet, which became more essential since the COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, the Commission suggests to deploy several EU funding instruments to improve the digital connectivity in rural and remote areas to facilitate the remote education and training which could contribute to reduce the skill gaps. In this regard, ETUCE believes that although it is indeed essential to provide schools, students and teachers with digital equipment, quality education and fight against early school leaving can be achieved only  by in-person relation between students and teachers to better support the individual needs of students.

Education trade unions agree to take an effective role to support education systems and teachers role within these underdeveloped regions, in line with the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In order to achieve that the teaching profession is also attractive in the disadvantaged regions, attractive salary, working conditions, and social benefit need to be discussed with the teachers’ trade unions.

The Communication can be downloaded here: Communication on Harnessing Talent in Europe's Regions