European Year of Skills in 2023

Education trade unions have the right to play an important part in the European Semester initiative, a central tool of the EU to give signals to Member States which areas of social and economic policies governments should focus on. Education trade unions can and should have an impact on this process and accordingly, the Country Reports produced may reflect the views of education trade unions.
ETUCE and its member organisations are getting ready for the Spring Package 2023 of the Annual Sustainable Growth Survey of the EU (ASGS): ETUCE has set out its priorities to promote the professional well-being of teachers and trainers, as well as the attractiveness of the teaching profession.

ETUCE considers, that the European Commission should focus on the following topics when formulating its Country Specific Recommendations:

  • public funding for modern equipment in education institutions;
  • full digital literacy of teachers, trainers, and all workers to ensure an equitable digital transition and the quality of education in the post-pandemic period;
  • decent working hours, decent salaries, and paid leave for teachers, trainers, academics and researchers;
  • access to occupational health and safety services for teachers, trainers, academics and researchers;
  • increased professional autonomy of education staff and meaningful involvement in policymaking of education trade unions and teaching professionals;
  • access to continuous professional development including formal, informal and non-formal learning for teachers, trainers, academics and researchers.

Europe needs a sustainable approach to skills, knowledge, and competences, requiring the upskilling and reskilling of the working population. The Recovery and Resilience Facility is supporting the digital transformation of education and training, but much still needs to be done to close the digital divide. This year’s Social Scoreboard shows a significant decrease in young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and disparities in digital skills. Unfortunately, the European Commission’s approach to digital skills development continues to rely on the wide role by private players in the education sector, which does not guarantee transparency and accountability of investment.

The European Year of Skills in 2023 which includes a dialogue on digital education and skills, does not mention any specific measures for the education sector and its workers. ETUCE believes it is urgent to take action to reverse the trend in European education systems, which has seen a shortage of teachers and a decrease in the attractiveness of the teaching profession due to reduced public investments. The Joint Employment Report also highlights teacher shortages, especially in science, technology, engineering, mathematics subjects as well as in disadvantaged areas, and how they negatively impact on the quality of education. However, the current efforts by Member States to address the issue are still insufficient.

Education trade unions should address the following:

  • ensure that education trade unions are directly involved in the consultation process;
  • aim to intervene effectively in the key stage of drafting the Country Report;
  • take a more strategic approach and set out key demands rather than just react to what comes from the European Commission and national governments;
  • do not miss out on issues and arguments raised by the European Commission that can help with the political arguments at national level (even if in some countries the Semester is felt as an “intrusion” in domestic affairs);
  • aim at integrating European semester work into other work and campaigns streams of the union;
  • aim at opening up the process where relevant and possible – using themes such as health spending or housing, that might connect with the public.