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European Skills in Demand

March 31 2010 - According to CEDEFOP (The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) most of the projected 8.5 new jobs created in Europe over the next ten years will be in knowledge- and skill-intensive occupations, including high level management and technical jobs.

Despite the economic crisis, which CEDEFOP estimates has cost the EU some 10 million jobs, slow recovery over the next ten years will bring the total number of jobs close to the 2008 peak of 235 million. Around 80 million job opportunities will become available by 2020, including jobs vacated through retirement or job-changing.

The demand for skilled non-manual workers will grow significantly, but the types of job will be different with marked reductions in conventional office jobs and increases in service work, including security, catering and caring. Many manual jobs will disappear as technology changes the nature of work. The net result is projected as a rise from 29% of jobs requiring high-level skills in 2010 to 39% in 2020. Correspondingly, the percentage of jobs requiring low levels of skill will drop from 20% to 15%.

Balancing high-level skills and suitable job openings

In the long run, there is a need for more people with high-level skills, but the balance between people with available skills and suitable jobs will vary. This is particularly evident at the moment as recruitment of young people has been taking place at a low level because of the recession.

A recent CIPD survey of 700 graduates in employment in the UK conducted by YouGov found that 59% of employees who graduated in the last two years were not working in a field or profession related to their degree subject. Additionally, among graduates not working in a field related to their subject:

  • 58% said this was because they were unable to find a suitable job
  • 28% said that their degree did not equip them with the skills needed for the workplace
  • 21% said that they chose a new career path after finishing their degree
  • 24% had since decided to postpone the start of the careers entirely

The CIPD has queried the British Government's continued expansion of enrolment on university degrees, and the new 75% target for young people to be educated up to degree level, given the results of this study and the contraction of the UK job market.

According to Tom Richmond, Skills Adviser at the CIPD:

"Our survey findings suggest the Government's target of 75% of young people achieving a degree or equivalent level qualification is counter-productive and should be urgently reviewed. As rising youth unemployment threatens to create a 'lost generation' of jobless young people, the rising number of students unable to work in jobs related to the subjects they studied at university threatens to create a 'disillusioned generation' of graduates, unable to find graduate-level employment but still saddled with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

"If this is the situation today when our graduation rate is 39% then the consequences for future graduate job prospects look bleak indeed if there really is an attempt to nearly double the numbers of graduates in the UK. To compound this, the recent announcement of an extra 20,000 university places in this year's Budget makes the creation of a 'disillusioned generation' even more likely.

"Government should focus on understanding the needs of learners and employers, as well as providing young people with better information about the realistic employment prospects and salaries typically available for holders of degrees in different subjects. This will help ensure there is a better link between demand for, and supply of, graduate jobs.

"The Government also needs to spend more time and effort developing and promoting the new vocationally-based diplomas for 14 to 19-year-olds to ensure that more young people have the key skills to enter the workforce at age 16 or 18, rather than encouraging such a high proportion of them to study for degrees. Our survey suggests this over promotion of university or equivalent level study could leave many without the knowledge and skills that will genuinely help them find graduate-level work and apply it in the workplace."

According to CEDEFOP, their research 'suggests that formal overqualification is not a problem per se. But under-utilisation of skills and competences is certainly a potential problem for individuals, employers and society as a whole.'

Employer training across Europe

According to another of CEDEFOP's recent reports, Employer-provided vocational training in Europe: Evaluation and interpretation of the third continuing vocational training survey, training investment by companies had actually dropped by 27% per employee in 2005 compared to 1999. Also, almost two-fifths (39%) of EU enterprises in the EU did not provide any continuing training for their employees, either in 1999 or 2005. CEDEFOP consider that the situation may have worsened during the recent economic crisis.

Some countries are doing better than others with Eastern Europe gaining ground but Western Europe worsening. Slovenia has showed the greatest improvement, rising from a low level of performance to a borderline high performance. France retained its high level of performance, but the other high performers in 1999 (the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland) had worsened significantly by 2005. The Czech Republic had joined the ranks of the high performers by 2005. Belgium and Germany, both medium performers had slipped a little.

Amongst the low performers, Romania, lowest of all in 1999, had improved in all dimensions, and Spain and Portugal had also improved. But Greece had gone backwards between 1999 and 2005, placing it last in the EU-27.

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