Skills development must respect holistic education – ETUCE’s views on the European Skills Agenda


Yesterday the ETUCE Committee adopted an ETUCE position paper entitled “Skills development must respect holistic education” which is the reaction of 131 education trade unions on the European Commission’s new policy package on a Communication on a "European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience", a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET) and a Communication and proposal for a Council Recommendation on Youth Employment Support: a Bridge to Jobs for the Next Generation.

The policy package tries to find arguments for an enhanced focus on the “right skills” needed by the labour market to reduce the unemployment rate. We remind that education, including VET, should not aim only at the always changing labour market. Instead, the European Commission should put more emphasis on implementing the European Pillar of Social Right to make quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning as a right to all learners and teachers and to preparing the students for participating fully in society. Education on social and democratic values and citizenship including freedom, tolerance, intercultural dialogue, equality and the fight against discrimination and radicalisation need to be put into the focus especially in the social and economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon Europe.

The ETUCE position also emphasizes that while the policy package focuses on skills development within the green and digital transformation of education and the labour market, education trade unions regret that it does not put enough emphasis on supporting teachers. Teachers have been playing an essential role in ensuring that education continued during the school lock downs in the COVID- 19 crisis. They did this under extraordinary circumstances, thanks to their tremendous adaptation effort, and often to the detriment of their own health, safety, and well-being. The education trade unions request that active support for teachers and trainers should be an important message of the Skills Agenda and the VET Recommendation to ensure that teachers are well prepared and upskilled to the digital and green transformation of schools and institutions and they are well trained on key competences related to their subject area and transversally.

Education trade unions remind that developing green skills and competences needs to be linked to social and environmental responsibility and to creating a green school culture. This would change the traditional way of how schools and institutions are run and enforce democratic school management and collaborative leaderships between school leaders, teachers, students and parents. Effective social dialogue with the education trade unions and the reinforcement of collective bargaining are essential prerequisites to guarantee adequate salaries, pensions and good working conditions match the increased demands for quality learning and for an attractive and rewarding teaching profession. The ETUCE position paper underlines that investing in the teaching profession means investment in quality education and in the well-being of all citizens.

As Europe is experiencing record drops in its Gross Domestic Product and it is moving towards a new deep recession, ETUCE calls on the European Commission to firmly take action to reach the goals of the policy package on the need to rebuild public education investment.

The ETUCE position can be found here