An information deficit about future skill needs in Europe has been recognised for some time. Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and other European organisations have been repeatedly approached with requests for better information on this issue. With the free movement of labour resulting from the opening up of labour markets across the continent, much hope has been placed on the role of increased mobility across European countries to help to reduce unemployment.
At the same time, the occupations, skills, competences and qualifications which will be in demand in the future European labour market are not very well identified. Finding better ways to obtain information on future skill needs in Europe, including joint European action, has become a priority. Pan-European skill needs forecasting will not replace existing national forecasting systems. It is a voluntary exercise intended to complement, rather than replace, national forecasting.
In 2005 the European Commission, through Cedefop, set up an Expert Workshop in Cyprus under the Skillsnet banner. This focused on the feasibility of developing Pan- European occupational forecasts on a consistent basis. In November 2006 a follow-up workshop was held, hosted by IER. The workshop formed part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of IER. The event was organised in partnership with Cedefop and the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) at Maastricht University. The workshop at Warwick represented the next major step in developing Pan-European occupational forecasts, presenting projections developed by IER in collaboration with Cambridge Econometrics (CE). The workshop reached a general consensus on the desirability of producing Pan-European skill needs forecasts on a regular basis.
All experts reconvened in follow-up workshops in 2007, in order to discuss these issues further. This included presentation of the scenarios developed by the IER/CE team as part of a project funded by Cedefop. It provided an opportunity for individual country experts to comment on the preliminary results. The final results of the medium-term forecasts of occupational skill needs in Europe project were presented in a workshop in the autumn of 2007 and to a wider audience in Thessaloniki in February 2008.
In 2008/2009 the IER/CE/ROA team undertook a companion project focusing on the Supply of Skills. This work was discussed at workshops arranged by Cedefop under the Skillsnet banner in June and December 2008 and are to be published in June 2009.
The same team with the addition of Alphametrics embarked in 2008 on a longer term programme of work to develop and extend this approach under the New Skills for New Jobs initiative. Full details can be found on the Cedefop website.