Urban skills mismatch and development of 21st century skills

24 December 2019

On 14-15 November, EUROCITIES working group on employment met in Ghent to learn and exchange views on Ghent’s strategic approach on tackling the skills mismatch and develop 21st century skills. The city has shared its practice with 20 participants form 9 cities (Bristol, Lille Metropole, Madrid, Lyon, Barcelona, Gijon, Stockholm and Twente). The discussions were focused on the key challenges, success factors and lessons learnt in tackling skills mismatch and developing 21st century skills.

Ghent’s initiatives to address the skills mismatch

Ghent is part of the Interreg project ‘Skills Navigator’ (January 2018- December 2020) which aims at tackling the skills mismatch in the harbour regions of the Flemish-Dutch Delta in close cooperation with the employers. Despite a high number of job vacancies, the unemployment rate of the regions remains high. Skills Navigator is a big partnership consisting of 14 organisations as full partner (co-financers) and other interested actors. Three cities have an active role in the project – Ghent (leader), Antwerp and Rotterdam.

During the meeting, the participants had the opportunity to listen to an in-depth presentation of Ghent’s strategic approach. They introduced to a ‘Cost Calculator’ that Ghent has developed in order to show employers the costs of waiting for an employee that completely fits the profile instead of hiring and train someone that not “check all boxes” for the job within the company.

Except for the ‘Skills Navigator’ and the ‘Cost Calculator’, participants also listened to presentations on the importance of the North Sea Port as an economic entity for Ghent and labour market developments. The participants also had the chance to visit the Volvo Ghent in the North Sea Port, to take part in a -do-it-yourself session in the context of a simulated work environment and learn about the digital ambassadors project. Participants also listened to a presentation of the TEO (Teaching Each Other) learning platform. On the platform, everyone can start to acquire the skills needed for getting a job at Volvo Cars in Ghent in the future.

The main lessons learnt mentioned by cities

1. It is cheaper for an employer to train a person within the company instead of waiting for a candidate with all the right competences;

2. According to Ghent’s mapping of 21st century skills employers are searching for, to have basic communication skills are essential for being competitive on the labour market;

3. In the long run, digitalisation will lead to 3.7 new jobs opened for every job lost in Belgium.

Bristol, Lyon Metropole, Madrid, Rotterdam, Netwerkstad Twente and Scalda Terneuzen showcased their work

Five other cities and one company presented their practices in which the skills mismatch between demands and offer of labour are being resolved with the employers as key actors. During the meeting the cities had the possibility to gather feedback from the participants on what could be improved and gather more ideas on how to develop following practices:

  • Bristol: Bristol’s local initiative ‘Bristol WORKS’ aims to make quality experiences of work and apprenticeships available to every young person, particularly those who face the greatest challenges in relation to accessing learning, skills and employment within the City. Bristol WORKS is a mayoral priority that is building an innovative and preventative education, business and community partnership which looks to broker and facilitate opportunities to develop the skills of the future workforce and to develop clear post 16 pathways for all young people.
  • Lyon Metropole: The Metropole has created a metropolitan house for employment integration (MMI’e) with 23 members which aims at taking concrete action towards companies as part of the initiative of the ‘charter of 1000’ taken over by the State in 2019 throughout the national territory, by supporting principals so that their public order can generate working hours for the public in integration and by better coordinating the action of local actors.
  • Madrid: Madrid launched in 2018 a pilot project to face LTU of older professionals in Madrid. The project consisted of a training framework based on ‘training pills’ to build 21st century skills, such as complex problem-solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, negotiation and critical thinking. The ‘pills’ were focused on dynamic activities where participants learn by experimenting with new technology, design tools and prototyping.
  • Rotterdam: ‘Bootcamp Skills Navigator’ helps in young people to develop right basic knowledge and skills during 5 weeks to 3 months boot camp.
  • Netwerkstad Twente: ‘Twents Fund for Craftmanship’ in an initiative of the municipalities in the regional labour market Twente. The objectives of the program are to promote modern craftmanship at secondary vocational education level, boosting life-long learning and development, stimulating intersectional mobility and cooperation and involve the training and schooling offer in Twente.
  • Scalda Terneuzen: Industrielab brings employers, student, teachers together to enter into a dialogue about technological innovation in the industry. A company takes on the role of ‘client’ in the learning process of young people. The company introduces an innovative issue that the students must answer in multidisciplinary teams.

Strategic approach to tackle the skills mismatch and develop 21st century skills

The visiting cities exchanged views on the success factors and challenges of Ghent’s strategic approach. The common key aspects identified as success by the participants were:

  • Definition of 21st century skills in the context of the area where the companies are;
  • Good commitment by large companies in the region;
  • The ‘Cost Calculator’ – formula that shows the employers the cost of waiting for the perfect candidate contrary to hiring and training someone with less experience;
  • Work with private companies on different training models like Volvo’s Academy TEO learning platform;
  • Employer arrangements – 37 initiatives that target young people.

The identified challenges were:

  • Reaching out to long-term unemployed and get them to know how they can benefit from the Ghent’s practice;
  • Develop a common vision shared by all stakeholders;
  • How to work more with small and medium size companies.

Site visit to Volvo Car Academy – upskilling, reskilling and preskilling programme

The meeting included a site visit to one of the companies from the port area. Volvo Car Academy has presented their ‘Teaching Each Other’ Programme which aims at upskilling, reskilling and pre-skilling candidates in a fast, efficient and effective way. The use the concept of ‘learning vacancy’ as a way for learning about technical skills, as well as practical training in the Volvo Car Academy. The participants have the chance to experiment a session of practical training that is usually provided for the candidates.

The WG Employment has also discussed the working plan and objectives for 2020. During the business meeting the group also elected the new leadership:

– chair – Belen Garcia Diaz (Madrid)

– vice chair – Shoresh Ibrahim (Stockholm).

You can find all the presentations and documents here: