Marielk. The most recent skills forecast provided by CEDEFOP is highlighting that European competitiveness might in the long run be threatened by a skills mismatch. The article indicates that while currently facing large rates of unemployment in many parts of Europe,  the EU can expect 8 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020, in addition to the ca 75 million that will be made vacant through retirement.
This means also that the matching of demand and the available workforce becomes increasingly important. Christian Lettmayr, the director of CEDEFOP commented on this as: “Concerns over possible mismatches should not discourage people from seeking higher qualifications. A highly-qualified workforce is one of – if not the – most important factor for Europe’s competitiveness.”
While this is difficult to disagree with, this might be meager consolation for the students entering higher education who in Europe increasingly cover the costs of their studies. Obtaining a high level of student loan, accompanied with a labour market that cannot accommodate graduates from certain fields, it becomes important for students to make the right choices.
As the sectoral forecast indicates – studying science, technology, maths and engineering would be a safe bet, provided that these sectors face shortages even in the current climate of high unemployment rates. And as Alena Zukersteinova from Cedefop’s skills team suggests: avoid jobs that would imply routine and low-skilled labour. However, while shortages in science and technology are not a new issue in many European countries – one could also argue that trying to deal with this issue on the higher education level might not be sufficient and this calls for a more comprehensive thinking of education as a whole.
The forecast indicates that
between 2010 and 2020 Europe would face a 27% increase in the demand for high-skilled qualifications and a similar decrease in the low-skilled qualifications – putting further pressure on higher education institutions in Europe. This comes at a difficult time, provided that available public funding and general affordability of higher education amongst students has been decreasing in a number of European countries, as indicated by the recent HESA report.
However – this report again highlights the potentially central role of higher education seems to take in these debates of societal and economic challenges Europe is facing. Does this also mean we are facing more sectoral coordination and in general more European involvement in higher education? Provided that higher education has traditionally been seen as a national responsibility (even in the context of building the European higher education area), this calls also for an in-depth discussion of what in essence is a national responsibility and what can and should be done on European level, and consequently: what kind of instruments are possible, effective and appropriate.
See also on the blog: The Skills Dilemma, Data and results from the skills forecast, Multiplier les compétences transférables, Employability: university education isn't just about developing skills, Skills: the global currency of the 21st century, Europe’s skill challenge, Skills Monitoring in European Regions and Localties.