Picture: European Commission

In her 2022 State of the Union address, European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen has announced that 2023 will be the European Year of Skills. On October 12, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a decision, which has been submitted to the evaluation of civil society stakeholders in a call for evidence. The Commission’s proposal is subsequently to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Below is CECOP’s reaction to the Commission’s proposal.

CECOP supports European Commission’s proposal for the European Year of Skills 2023 and its overall objective “to further promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling thereby boosting competitiveness of European companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, realising the full potential of the digital and green transitions in a socially fair, inclusive and just manner.”

CECOP welcomes the fact that the activities of the Year will promote both skills policies and investments, as low level of investment is one of the main barriers to skill development.

CECOP particularly welcomes the recognition that “The social economy can play a decisive role as it is an important proponent of socially fair and inclusive digital and green transitions and a key driver of social innovation, including in the field of reskilling and upskilling.” It is commendable that the Year will build on the Action plan for the social economy and the Proximity & social economy transition pathway. In addition, policies for skills development should be coordinated with the various Skills partnerships established under the Industrial Strategy, such as the Skills partnership for Proximity & Social Economy in which CECOP is a partner.

In addition, we would like to highlight the following:

  • Upskilling and reskilling must be available to all sectors and workers including vulnerable categories of workers. Social economy enterprises including worker and social cooperatives must receive special support and policy attention as inclusive and effective training providers. Provision of education and training to their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees is one of the key cooperative principles. A recent CECOP study shows the significant investment of Spanish and Italian cooperatives in training, whereby they invest in training significantly more than organisations with other legal forms. Work integration social cooperatives are specifically created to assist vulnerable workers with integration in the labour market.
  • While it is true that SMEs, especially those located in remote and rural areas, face some of the most serious challenges in attracting skilled workforce, the challenges are often even higher for cooperative SMEs.
  • We commend the proposal to promote cooperation among companies and training providers, among other stakeholders. In addition, education curricula should include information on social economy business models, in particular cooperatives, which currently remain relatively unknown to people receiving business education.
  • It is important both to develop skills for digital jobs, and to raise the overall level of digital literacy in the workplaces.
  • Specific attention should be given to digital and platform economy. While these businesses may already attract a digitally educated workforce, the workers’ data management and work conditions remain a concern. The cooperative governance model ensures open and transparent data management and high quality of employment in the digital platforms. Measures on supporting the use of digital technologies, including financing mechanisms, should favour the cooperative governance model.
  • Cooperative entrepreneurs must be able to benefit from support schemes in relation to the green and digital transition, notably via the Digital Innovation Hubs.
  • We encourage European Commission to implement a study on barriers and obstacles for business transfers to employees and workers buyouts at national level and stress that in addition to saving economically viable activities, they save jobs and sometimes very local skills.
  • Trainings in relation to cooperative management and democratic governance should be supported also with a specific focus on women, youth and other underrepresented groups.
  • Measures should be implemented to support SME support structures, including the cooperative ones, since they often act as training providers for skills development.