The European Year of Skills a.k.a. facing the urgency of the unexpected

Let’s redesign the overall European approach to education by making the upskilling and reskilling of all working-age adults the norm.

Article by Paolo Montemurro

Still fresh are the memories of the European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018) and, day after day, clearer is becoming the effects of its contribution to the sector’s policies at both European and national levels. Well, this year we have another great opportunity, that of making the upskilling and reskilling of all working-age adults the norm, redesigning the overall European approach to education.

Why 2023 is the year of skills

If the world is changing at a never experienced before pace, continuously posing new threats, working only on its infrastructures is no longer sufficient. Most of the European and national political programs that have attempted to deal with the energetic crisis, the climate menace, the global turmoils, and societal outbreaks, seemed to have left out one essential actor of all these mechanisms: the human being, lacking provide him/her with the right skills to imagine new ways out!

For this reason, in 2022, the European Commission adopted the proposal to make 2023 the European Year of Skills as a response to the most recent challenges and opportunities brought to the labour market. 

Helping people to get the right skills for quality jobs and helping companies to ad-dress skills shortages, supporting changes in the design and production system, is what this Year is all about.

How? By showcasing skills development opportunities and activities across Europe, by fostering easier recognition of qualifications across borders, by bringing organisations and people together to share their experiences and insights, and setting out how EU initiatives and funding possibilities can help.

Working on the upskilling of cultural and creative professionals 

At Materahub, the theme of skills is not new at all; on the contrary, it constitutes the founding pillars of our organization. 

For the last 10 years, we have worked on the upskilling of cultural and creative professionals, with a special focus on entrepreneurial competencies, concurrently experimenting with the sector’s specific expertise in other industries. This dualistic approach to skills, which implies that competencies do not belong only to one sector, a decade ago was rare also in Europe.

Yet, nowadays, even if we still swing across the hurdles of the formal education system, more and more organizations are working on the overlapping of sectors’ competencies and hybridization as a method for instilling innovation. Whether this shift was instigated by the Covid crisis or not is not easy to tell, yet flagship initiatives such as the New European Bauhaus, the Pact for Skills for the Cultural and Creative sector, the launch of the Green Comp, and the new KICs have certainly extended the list of key competencies to work upon and hence the number of the actors involved in the requalification of the European skills workforce. 

In the beginning, we were just explorers, with little scientific backup and a great deal of stubbornness. Nevertheless, the determination of those few produced that ground of experimentation where data could be collected and then used as a sup-port for channeling European cultural and educational policies.

Working at the forefront of innovation, after 10 years we are certainly more conscious but not less determined to demonstrate how certain skills, often those called soft or transversal, cannot be considered optional to face today’s complexity

Learning how to learn

If I was a university provost or a primary school director, if I was in the position to recommend what skill we’d need in the future, today, I would say the capacity to learn how to learn, regardless of the content, as an approach to be always ready to reach out for specific educational needs according to personal life necessities and contextual circumstances. A drastic change of perspective that overturns the idea of the traditional schooling system from a forcing scheme one is obliged to follow in a certain period of his/her life, to a concrete help to face casualties and anticipate future skill gaps.