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EU Focus on Place Based Approaches to Nurture Talent

Edited on

23 August 2022
Read time: 3 minutes

The iPlace project acts like a seeker of positive outcomes and good practices to stimulate cities to rethink how to innovate and grow, to inspire and attract the whole range of talent, including from the farming, industry, social innovation, IT, artistic, creative and human sciences areas.

Transformation requires new skills and talent

The rapid shift towards a climate neutral Europe and digital transformation is changing the way we work, learn, take part in society and lead our everyday lives. Europe can only grasp these opportunities if its people develop the right skills. The Covid 19 pandemic has also had a profound impact on millions of people in the EU have lost their job or experienced significant income loss.

The challenge for European cities today, is to stimulate job creation but at the same time to improve the added-value and social and economic wealth produced by the jobs created. This is a complex challenge that cannot be addressed by traditional means. It’s more than creating employment, it’s about attracting and retain, adapt or convert talents into the present and future needs of the local economic and social fabric. The integration between the qualification of talents and the provision of an ecosystem that can attract and realise the potential of such talents, is at the very core of European policies that intends to stimulate projects and innovative solutions in the next decade.

The European Skills Agenda

The five-year plan of the European Skills Agenda intends to help individuals and businesses develop more and better skills which, when to use, will strengthen sustainable competitiveness, ensuring social fairness, and building resilience to react to crises (for example based on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic).

Talent management requires a vertical and horizontal integration at city level. To achieve that requires a strong partnership between the government, academia, R&D Centres, social organizations and enterprises where all stakeholders, including civil society, will be called to action. The European Skills Agenda includes 12 actions organised around four building blocks. All of them are opportunities for cities to nurture talents. The new Skills Agenda introduces a totally new momentum, focused on skilling for a job. It combines a European Pact for Skills which brings together all stakeholders with a heavily increased EU budget, as proposed by the Commission, and ambitious quantitative objectives by 2025.

Cities can play a critical role in the new Skills Agenda by stimulating collective action, mobilising business, social partners and stakeholders, to commit to working together, in particular within the EU's industrial ecosystems and across value chains. Cities can also define clear strategies to ensure that skills lead to local jobs. Cities can help citizens to build their skills throughout life in an environment where lifelong learning is the norm. Cities can facilitate access to significant financial means to invest in skills and finally, cities can contribute to setting ambitious objectives for up- and reskilling to be achieved within the next 5 years.

Concretely, cities can assume a leading role for some of the 12 flagships of the Skills Agenda:

  • A Pact for Skills: by mobilising local ecosystems for more and better opportunities for people to train, and to unlock public and private investments across industrial and skills ecosystems.
  • Strengthening skills intelligence: by collecting and putting available 'real-time' information on skills demand, including at regional and sectoral level, using big data analysis of job vacancies and making it widely available.
  • EU support for strategic national upskilling action: by contributing to national skills strategies and joining forces with national public employment agencies to realise them. This can be coupled with a more strategic approach to legal migration, oriented towards better outcomes in attracting and keeping talent.
  • Vocational Education and Training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience: by contributing to a fresh approach that will make vocational education and training more modern, attractive for all learners, flexible and fit for the digital age and green transition.
  • Rolling out the European Universities initiative and upskilling scientists: by engaging in long-term alliances with higher education institutions and pushing them to develop skills for researchers to solve societal challenges.
  • Increasing STEM graduates and fostering entrepreneurial and transversal skills: by developing the right conditions, in terms of incubators, innovation hubs, experimenting places and others to encourage young people, into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and to strengthen support for entrepreneurs and the acquisition of transversal skills like cooperation and critical thinking.

European Union funding for skills development

To play an active role, cities local authorities must develop capacity to unlock investment in skills. At national and EU level, public funds can act as a catalyst for investing in people's skills. To implement the actions and meet the objectives of the Skills Agenda local public funds needs to be put in place, and this pays off: 1 euro invested in up- and reskilling returns at least 2 euros in revenues or savings.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility, powered by €560 billion in grants and loans, provides Member States with ample opportunities to fund up- and reskilling. Throughout the 2021-2027 period, the European Social Fund Plus, with a proposed budget of €86 billion, will remain important for national up- and reskilling activities.

In addition, the proposed €24.6 billion of Erasmus will contribute to skills development and fund some of the actions outlined above, such as the European Universities, the Centres of Vocational Excellence and the Blueprints for sectoral cooperation and skills. The European Regional Development Fund and InvestEU can further support Member States' investments in 'high social impact infrastructure' for education and training.

In the context of the green transition, the Just Transition Fund, with a proposed total budget of €40 billion, will support the reskilling of workers. The public sector loan facility, expected to mobilise between €25 billion and €30 billion can also invest in skills.

The ceiling of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has been proposed to be doubled to support training for workers and the self-employed who are made redundant in mass industrial restructuring.

Creating a local environment for skills development

In this era of transformation, many inhabitants will need to acquire new skills and move to new jobs in a different sector of economy. More will need to upskill to keep their job in a new work environment. For young people, entry in the labour market could be very challenging.

What’s interesting is that movers between jobs and young adults often decide on a community before they decide on a job. That is, they’re attracted first by lifestyle and social vibrancy, and then they find jobs in the surrounding community. There’s a kind of virtuous cycle, with businesses naturally being drawn to cultural activity and population growth, which serve to attract even more skilled people.

City managers can work together with employers to setting up local offices in the most vibrant communities to seek for talent, by creating environments – including workplaces – that are attractive to workers. Many, clearly value cultural diversity, a climate of openness to new ideas, a feeling of pride in place, and the chance to enjoy to a certain kind of lifestyle, whether it’s connected to outdoor sports, arts, entertainment or other factors.

Written by Miguel Sousa, Ad hoc expert