A festival of skills

9 May 2023

This Europe Day, the European Year of Skills Festival kicks off activities that run from today through to 8 May 2024. With a focus on upskilling and reskilling, the European Year of Skills promises to put skills at the heart of EU policy debate and address current and potential skills shortages in Europe.

The ambition is to boost the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and realise the full potential of the green and digital transitions in a socially fair and inclusive manner. At the same time, the proposal aims to reduce inequalities and segregation in education and training, while ensuring that there are quality jobs for people at the other end.

With an estimated four out of ten adults lacking basic digital skills, the European Commission’s website claims that the European Year of Skills will “provide a new momentum to reach the EU 2030 social targets of at least 60% of adults in training every year, and at least 78% in employment.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission announced, “We need much more focus in our investment on professional education and upskilling. We need better cooperation with companies, because they know best what they need. And we need to match these needs with people’s aspirations” .

Cities have an important role to play in making the ambition of the Year of Skills a reality. City authorities know their local strengths, and where challenges arise across different sectors.

The up-skilling and reskilling of workers is at the heart of active labour markets and recovery policies promoted by cities. To deal with the impacts of Covid-19 cities took common actions adapting their public employment and training services to an online, or hybrid format, as well as developing digital job-matching tools to link unemployed people to staff shortages in emerging sectors.

Many such examples related to Covid-19 are collected here in Eurocities policy briefing on employment and recovery of the labour market.

The changing requirements for specific jobs and the shifting constitution of the workforce has created challenges for cities in areas such as mobility. For example, a lack of public transport drivers and technicians has led to some cities having to reduce public transport services, which in the long term could have implications for the local environment and social inclusion.

Cities are also investing in countess other areas, such as training in public canteens, with positive implications for the environment through food waste reduction and the population through an improved diet. Urban agriculture is increasingly professionalised and recognised. For example, there is an Erasmus funded skills programme for urban vertical farmers.

And cities do their part to work with the long-term unemployed and to actively support marginalised groups, such as in this example from Vienna whereby 2,200 people over 50 have been helped into employment since 2019:

The European Year of Skills also aligns with many existing EU agendas, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, on which Eurocities has led a political initiative since 2019 to highlight the active work of cities in areas such as education, training and lifelong learning, and promoting equal opportunities.

Many examples of how cities are supporting social rights can be found via the dedicated Inclusive Cities for All website.

With this in mind, Eurocities is highlighting cities’ work around skills throughout the year, as was already demonstrated at the Eurocities Economic Development Forum.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer