European Commission logoWhat is ESCO?
ESCO is the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations. It identifies and categorises skills and competences, qualifications and occupations relevant for the EU labour market and education and training, in 22 European languages. The system provides occupational profiles showing the relationships between occupations, skills, competences and qualifications. ESCO has been developed in an open IT format and is available for everyone to use free of charge.
What is the added value of ESCO?
To help bridging the gap between the world of education and training and the labour market, the European Commission is developing ESCO. By introducing a standard terminology for occupations, skills, competences and qualifications ESCO can help education and training systems and the labour market to better identify and manage availability of required skills, competences and qualifications. Its multilingual character facilitates increased international transparency and cooperation in the area of skills and qualifications.
What can ESCO do?

  • Facilitate the dialogue between the labour market and the education/training sector.
  • Allow employment services to exchange relevant labour market information across borders.
  • Facilitate geographical and occupational mobility through semantic interoperability.
  • Boost online and skill-based job-matching.
  • Help employment services in the shift towards a skills and competences-oriented approach.
  • Help describe qualifications in terms of knowledge, skills and competences.
  • Enable the development of innovative career guidance services.
  • Ultimately: getting more people into jobs throughout Europe!

How does ESCO support other European initiatives?
ESCO supports initiatives developed by the European Commission aimed at making labour market and education systems more transparent, stimulating mobility and creating opportunities.

  • EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal
    This online portal allows public employment services to share their vacancies at a European level and reach out to workers beyond national borders.
  • Erasmus+
    The Erasmus + programme enables (young) Europeans to study in another Member State and bring new skills and competences back to their country of origin.
  • The European Qualifications Framework (EQF)
    The EQF aims to increase the comparability of levels of qualifications across borders.
  • Europass CV
    This multilingual tool provides a European template for the description of the holder's skills and competences and qualifications.

How can ESCO enhance online job matching?
Job matching is increasingly carried out on the web, allowing for a more efficient approach. Not only does online job matching provide job seekers with a wide range of relevant opportunities, it also helps employees to identify new career paths and show what transferable skills they have between occupations.
Job matching based on skills and competences
Extracting the relevant information from online job vacancies and CVs is only the first step. For successful job matching based on skills and competences, it is also necessary to analyse and interpret this information correctly. ESCO's structure of three interlinked pillars can help IT systems achieve this. ESCO will enable IT systems to transform a jobseeker's work experience and qualifications into a likely set of skills and competences. This way ESCO helps create a more precise picture of the skills and competences of a person that could be used directly for job matching. Based on these conclusions, the IT system can more accurately and transparently match jobseekers to job vacancies or employers to potential recruits.
Enabling mobility
To employ the best person for the job regardless of where they are from, employers need to call on a wider pool of candidates. The EURES Job Mobility Portal is a key tool in enabling this. It hosts more than one million job vacancies from all over Europe, almost as many CVs, and thousands of registered employers. It helps those who wish to find a job abroad and offers European employers a variety of services and information covering every aspect of recruiting from other European countries. Using ESCO to improve semantic interoperability will allow EURES' services to be fine-tuned, making them more relevant to the current demands of the labour market. By highlighting mismatches between CVs and vacancies, ESCO can help identify skill gaps and learning/training opportunities.
How will ESCO support education and training?
ESCO, as a standardised terminology, will make it easier to describe how occupations, skills, competences and qualifications are linked and interact with each other. The 22 languages of ESCO will facilitate cooperation between countries and will support the mobility of learners between countries and systems. ESCO developments reflect the on-going shift to learning outcomes currently taking place across Europe. The learning outcomes approach states what a jobseeker knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. It offers an alternative to the traditionally strong emphasis on learning inputs (where a qualification is judged according to time spent in education, subjects studied and the location of the learning). These learning outcomes are commonly defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences, thus sharing the basic terminological principles underpinning ESCO. This shared terminological core will facilitate the dialogue between labour market and education and training stakeholders. The introduction of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) has been a trigger for a shift to learning outcomes. The linking of national qualifications frameworks (NQF) to the EQF is expected to be completed by 2014, thus signalling that the learning outcomes approach has been broadly accepted as the basis for future European cooperation in the area of education and training. ESCO will complement the EQF and be fully compatible with it.
How can I get involved?
Shaping ESCO into an up-to-date, practical tool can only be done from the bottom up, through the active involvement of people from the education and training sector as well as from the labour market. Feeding into the development of classifications are: employers' organisations; trade unions; employment services; education institutions; training organisations; European sector skills councils and networks as well as government bodies.
DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and DG Education and Culture – supported by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) – jointly coordinate the development of ESCO. They currently support the development of ESCO through the ESCO Secretariat which is responsible for the daily management and technical implementation of the project.
ESCO is managed and supported by several bodies:

  • The ESCO Board is made up of senior representatives from the stakeholders most directly concerned and provides the project with strategic guidance.
  • The ESCO Maintenance Committee consists of technical classification experts. It develops the methodology for the development of ESCO together with the ESCO Secretariat and monitors the quality of the final product.
  • The Sectoral Reference Groups are composed of sectoral experts from the labour market and education and training sectors. In total, 27 Sectoral Reference Groups develop the content of ESCO by defining occupational profiles, sector specific skills and competences and qualifications for their sector of the economy.
  • The Cross-Sector Reference Group consists of experts in employment and education, related standards and classifications and an up-to-date knowledge of relations between education and training and the labour market. It deals with transversal skills and competences, the consistency of the skills and competences pillar and its relation to the qualifications pillar.

If you would like to get involved in the ESCO project please use the contact function of the portal.
About ESCO (PDF)
ESCO Booklet (PDF)
ESCO Glossary (PDF)
ESCO key concepts (PDF).