Europe’s engagement on skills development

28 February 2018

Technology is changing the way people live, work and do business. Digitalisation and automation are framing our future. This creates new and exciting opportunities, but at the same time challenges. Many of today’s jobs did not exist a decade ago. New jobs in the future will require new skills. We need to ensure our workforce is ready to reap the benefits of change. Because our capacity to continue driving innovation in Europe will to a great extent be determined by how much we invest in people and their skills.
Today more than 30 million workers form the backbone of the manufacturing industry in Europe. They make the world-class products that keep us ahead of other global competitors.

Manufacturing, together with other key sectors like renewables and green technology, have the potential to drive innovation. But in a fast-changing world, the question of which skills are relevant, and how to anticipate these skills needs is crucial. Without the people with right skills they cannot reach their potential.
That's why, in 2016, I launched a "Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills" under the new Skills Agenda for Europe. This initiative focuses on closing the skills gaps in key economic sectors. Industry-led partnerships will map skills needs and trends in their sector which are holding back growth. The idea is to develop new curricula that address gaps and ways to boost development of the skills needed.

Additive manufacturing and 3-D printing is one of the 11 sectors that we have identified to implement the Blueprint. This sector requires multidisciplinary teams formed by people with highly diverse backgrounds and skills sets that are at the heart of the race for global competitiveness and leadership. Additive Manufacturing and 3D-Printing sector, one of the most disruptive advanced manufacturing technologies, is expected to have an economic impact up to EUR 200-500 billion annually in 2025.
Setting up a sustainable Erasmus+ Alliance on skills development between key industry stakeholders in the sector and education & training will be an important step. We know from the past what difference European cooperation can make. European cooperation brings new ideas and approaches to national reform processes, not only at political but also at the grass-roots level. Business and industry anyway think in terms of transnational supply chains and not in national ones. European sectoral cooperation on skills can adjust education and training to this reality. Growing automation of manufacturing processes will require all industry workers to have increased technical skills. Workers will need to acquire skills in digital techniques, computing, analytical thinking, machine ergonomics and manufacturing methodologies. By educating and training our students and labour force we will ensure that Europe stays at the forefront of disruptive technologies.

I am pleased that CECIMO, the European association for the additive manufacturing industry, is a strong ally in defending the added-value of EU-funded initiatives on education and training issues by being actively involved in European funded projects on entrepreneurial skills in the machine tool industry and developing vocational training and apprenticeships in 3D-Printing.

Marianne Thyssen
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility