Europe needs to bridge gap between education supply and labour market demand

25 July 2013, Last updated at, 14:59 EEST
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author: eu2013.lt

Bridging the gap between skills supply and demand was a clear focus of the second day of the Informal meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council in Vilnius, as EU research ministers discussed what skills are needed now and in the future to ensure EU competitiveness in the field of science and innovation.

“In order to solve the problems in the current EU labour market and ensure Europe's competitive future, we need to do three things – to match skills supply and demand, to get research and business around the same table  and to make full use of the science and innovation potential. It undoubtedly is of crucial importance, as it would enable us to close the existing gap between the two separate worlds of education and labour market”, says Lithuanian Minister of Education and Science Dainius Pavalkis, today chairing the meeting of EU research and innovation ministers.

During the meeting, higher education and business experts along with the research policy makers shared ideas on how to map and develop currently lacking skills and better match skill supply and demand, as well as how to promote competitive skills in the field of science and innovation.

The numbers suggest that there is a growing gap between supply and demand in the European labour market. Although there is an enormous amount of unemployment in Europe, the evidence also shows skill shortages, with certain sectors and regions lacking employees to fit their needs. For example, Europe faces up to 700.000 unfilled ICT jobs.

In total, there are around 2 million job vacancies across the EU, despite high levels of unemployment. In addition to the ICT sector, European labour market needs biologists, pharmacologists, medical doctors, nurses and engineers. Europe also needs 800.000 researchers.

The meeting was addressed by European Commissioner for Research Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn who pointed out that skills are one of the core priorities of EU as Innovation Union.

Giving an analytical overview on skills for science and innovation, professor Marijk van der Wende of Amsterdam University College noted that students  continue to choose high unemployment fields. According to the analist, the right mix of skills should combine STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and 21st century skills: creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, information, IT, and media literacy, social and cross-cultural skills, leadership and responsibility.

„The structure and design of education programmes should incorporate generic skills and be formulated with direct engagement with employers and enterprise where appropriate“, speaking from the university point of view, said Mary McNamara, professor of Dublin Institute of Technology, member of the steering committee of the European Universities Association.

Presenting the business perspective, Algimantas Markauskas, Vice President of Vilnius Biosciences Center of Excellence and Baltic Commercial Operations, Thermo Fisher Scientific, expressed the view that in today’s world education, science and business should act as one integral system.   

“Europe needs a rethink on how education and training systems can deliver the skills needed by the labour market. We need to get young people to study STEM subjects, as well as more actively choose research careers”, said Lithuanian Minister of Education and Science.

EU research ministers agreed that in the field of science and innovation one of the major challenges for Europe is to provide a more attractive environment for creative and innovative researchers and making European researchers more mobile.

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