European Ministers confirmed their support for the Opening up Education initiative at the recent Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council meeting. The recently approved Erasmus + programme will provide support to initiatives related to open education.
The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council met on 25–26 November, 2013, which brought together Ministers from across Europe to discuss numerous issues related to youth and education. The meeting included a public debate on Open Educational Resources and digital learning.
Image: Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council press conference
The debate kicked off with a guest speaker, Ms. Uschi Schreiber of Ernst and Young, who emphasized the need for “digitally natural” staff in the workforce. She reminded the audience that in many countries in the world, modern technologies are already fully integrated into the education system and that in this regard, European higher education is lagging.
Professor Azzone, Rector of the Politecnico de Milano, argued that online learning should support traditional learning, not replace it. He suggested that given the high cost of developing an online course (around 100.000 EUR) and the low completion rate (12% for online courses versus 70% for in-class courses), MOOCs and online courses should not yet be fully embraced as a new mode of learning.
Image: European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and Dolores Christina, Minister of Education and Employment of Malta
Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou reiterated the goal of making every European classroom digital by 2020. Currently, 50% of children have never had any contact with digital learning. Most EU states have already implemented some form of digital learning initiatives at the national level, but there are ongoing constraints such as copyright and infrastructural issues that require attention. Some ministers argued that the scarcity of data on MOOCs at this point makes it difficult to make informed policy decisions.
The Council adopted conclusions on Effective leadership in education and conclusions on the global dimension of European higher education. The former calls on member states to make educational leadership more attractive by according more autonomy to educational institutions and leaders. The latter outlines three areas of importance in the internationalization of higher education: student and staff mobility; the internationalisation of curricula and digital learning; and strategic cooperation, partnerships and capacity-building.
The Erasmus + programme was also recently adopted by the European Parliament, and is expected to be formally adopted by the Council in early December for a January 2014 start. The programme will benefit from a funding increase of over 40% compared to the programmes it replaces. Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 will be key funding sources for initiatives related to open education and digital learning.
How have European countries developed their policies and measures to tackle today's unemployment challenges? Can European governments and other labour market stakeholders learn from each other? Where are the real sources of good practice and inspiration for employment strategies moving forward? These and other related questions will be discussed at the first ever Dissemination Seminar of the Mutual Learning Programme (MLP).
The seminar will provide an opportunity to showcase and discuss the rich lessons and insights shared by government institutions in working towards the goals of the European Employment Strategy in the context of the MLP.
The activities of the MLP in 2013 have included a combination of ‘old’ and new activities, from the well established and highly successful Thematic Events and Peer Reviews, through to the organisation of novel Learning Exchanges and the launch of an innovative Database of Good Practice.The MLP has also covered a wide range of policy areas, responding to EU policy priorities, as well as specific national interests: youth unemployment, service vouchers, green jobs, apprenticeships, partnership-working, employer relations and undeclared work are just some of the topics that have been touched on this year.
The seminar will welcome individuals and organisations who are interested and have a stake in labour market issues, including EU institutions and other international policy organisation, Member State government representatives, social partners, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions.
Eduworks is an EU-wide project that supports the comprehensive investigation of labour market matching processes. The project involves a network of institutions where training across disciplines and levels will take place.
The objective of Eduworks is to train talented early-stage researchers in the dynamics of labour market matching processes. The project, with a budget of 3.6 million Euros, is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of matching supply and demand between education and employment. Eduworks brings together researchers from several academic disciplines, namely: Labour Economics, Sociology of Occupations, Human Resource Management, Lifelong Learning.
Increasing segments of the demand side and the supply side of the labour market are digitized, ranging from job sites and CV’s on Facebook and LinkedIn to extensive databases with job descriptions and related skills demands. These developments have led to knowledge management and educational challenges.
Specifically, Eduworks will focus on the matching processes at three levels under the overarching theme of knowledge management for labour market matching:
- Individual level fit between job demands and candidates’ abilities
- Meso-level employers’ demands for occupational skills versus occupational dynamics
- European and national level labour supply and demand matches and mismatches
Knowledge and skills have a huge impact on life chances, particularly in countries that are shifting towards a knowledge-based economy. Just in terms of income, the average hourly wage of workers with advanced literacy and cognitive skills is 60% higher than workers with low-level literacy skills. A recently released study by the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies shows how adults acquire, maintain, and lose skills over a lifetime.
The OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) surveyed about 166 000 adults in 24 countries and sub-national regions on literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in technology rich environments. The countries with the highest average scores were Japan and Finland. On the other end, Spain and Italy scored lowest, with 27 to 30% of the population lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Nonetheless, the biggest differences in skills proficiency are within, not between, countries. The study found that in almost all of the participating countries, at least one in ten adults lacked the most basic literacy or numeracy skills. Similarly, in most countries at least one in ten adults had never used a computer. In a world where the ability to process new information and keep up with constant innovations is crucial to success, people who lack these basic skills are clearly at risk of exclusion.
The PIACC highlights the importance of lifelong education. “For skills to retain their value, they must be continuously developed throughout life. Lifelong learning opportunities are relevant for workers in both high-skilled and low-skilled occupations.” According to the study, adults with advanced literacy skills are three times more likely to participate in adult education than those with only very basic literacy skills.
The study makes a number of policy recommendations, such as ensuring the accessibility of life-long learning and developing more links between the world of education and the world of work. Another recommendation is to recognize and certify skills proficiency. A current EU project dealing with the classification of skills and competencies responds to this recommendation. The European Skills/Competences, Qualifications, and Occupations (ESCO) classification system will be launched on 23-24 October 2013, putting in place a common terminology that can be used at the national and international levels.
The PIACC website features an interactive data visualization tool that lets viewers compare their country to other countries and to the OECD average on a number of indicators. In addition, it allows users to download the entire survey publication and certain datasets.
How do digital technologies transform the way we collect, organize, visualize, and exploit evidence to inform future learning? The 12th International ePortfolio and Identity Conference (ePIC 2014) has opened a call for contributions on the topic of Evidence-Based Learning.
Emerging technologies and tools have created new opportunities and methods for the collection, interpretation, and use of evidence in the learning process. Innovations such as Open Badges, xAPI, Learning Analytics, MOOCs, and Open Data are now contributing to our understanding of technology-supported learning.
In this context, Evidence-Based Learning covers two different and complementary perspectives. Firstly, the use of evidence can help educators to optimize their practice. Secondly, the exploration of newly available types of evidence could lead to transformative innovations in the learning experience.
ePIC 2014 aims to form a complete picture of the technology landscape wherein current ePortfolio initiatives are being built, and to understand how evidence collected in this environment can be used to transform future education. Authors are invited to submit an abstract that relates to the following issues:
- Evidence: how wide is the range of evidence we can collect to plan, support, assess and improve learning processes, as individual learners, professional educators, education leaders, employers and policy makers?
- Collection: what are the methods and technologies at our disposal to collect this potential much wider range of evidence?
- Trust: how to insure and verify the validity of evidence collected?
- Visualisation: how to represent collections of evidence to make informed decisions?
- Interpretation: how good are we at making sense of this range of evidence?
- Practice : how the answers to the preceding questions should impact professional practice?
- Technologies : how the answers to the preceding questions should impact ePortfolio and ePortfolio-related technologies?
The launch event for the new European Skills/Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) classification system will be broadcast live 23-24 October, 2013. Viewers will learn about a new common language for job seekers, employers, and educators to share information.
The labour market is changing. Traditional occupations are on the decline and employers now seek people with specific skills that can be applied in different contexts. How do students prepare themselves for this kind of job market? How do employers describe what they need to candidates in different countries? How do job seekers know if they're properly qualified for the position they're interested in? The ESCO classification aims to make it easier for employers, job seekers, and educational institutions to exchange information.
ESCO identifies and standardizes a comprehensive list of skills, qualifications, and occupations in an open format that can be used by anyone. This has promising applications in online job portals, where job postings and CVs will be interchangeable between different IT systems and between countries/languages.
The ESCO classification will be made available to the public for the first time at the upcoming ESCO conference, where the ESCO portal will be launched. The event will be broadcast live, so if you can't make it to the Hague on 23-24 October, you can still learn about the ESCO terminology and its applications through an online video stream.
European Skills/Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) is a classification system that will ease communication between educational and labour market actors. The ESCO launch conference will make the classifications publicly available for the first time. The ESCO online portal will be launched simultaneously.
Operating in 25 European languages, ESCO offers an opportunity to further European cooperation in these policy areas. ESCO has been jointly created by European and national stakeholders and the European Commission.
Realising the full potential of ESCO requires that the classification system is linked with national systems. Practical applications based on ESCO will be shown to demonstrate its value. The conference offers an opportunity for delegates to discuss the value of ESCO at the national level, and to exchange ideas with colleagues from more than 30 European countries.
A wide range of stakeholders will take part in the conference: members of the ESCO management bodies, public and private employment services, representatives of employment and education ministries, international organisations, social partners, education and training actors as well as private experts.
For those who cannot attend the conference in person, it will be broadcast as a live webinar!
Student presentations about the state of the labour market in Europe in selected countries. Presentations accompanied by video recording.
Since the financial crisis began to hit labour markets in 2008, Europe has lost more than 5.6 million jobs. In its Communication “Towards a job-rich recovery” the European Commission states that “recovering this lost ground is only possible if the EU returns to sustained economic growth, which in turn requires European industries and services to retain or regain international competitiveness. In this respect, the capability of industry and services to compete and evolve is becoming increasingly dependent on the innovative and effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT).
Despite high levels of unemployment, ICT skills shortages have been identified. The mismatch between skills available and the needs of the labour markets concern all Member States, but affect them to varying degrees. Remarkably the demand for ICT practitioners continues to grow by around 3% a year, with labour demand outstripping the supply. Depending on the scenario to become reality there could be up to several 100,000 vacancies by 2015 unless more is done to direct more young people into computing degrees and retrain unemployed people.
In this context industry-based training and certification is part of the solution to reduce skills shortages and mismatches and thereby unemployment in general. However, we are currently faced with some strong inhibitors and constraints to make this happen. Starting a career as ICT practitioner or advancing a career towards those areas of highest demand is constrained by the fact that the ICT certification world remains un-transparent with thousands of different certificates, ranging from technical ones (almost every ICT provider offers some), those offered by foundations in information management to high end certificates. Moreover they seem to live in a parallel universe to that of vocational and higher education.
The lack of transparency and quality labelling is a challenge to human resources departments in their (cross-border) recruitment processes and curricula developers interested in providing side entries for interested individuals and organisations, but most of all to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) searching for talent and very importantly also to ICT practitioners currently lacking orientation and guidance in deciding on and taking their next career step.
Progress towards solutions
Several European initiatives, involving in particular the CEN Workshop on ICT Skills, have been trying to address this issue by developing standards for competences (European e-Competence Framework) and ICT job profiles. The results of the project to be presented at this conference constitute a further step towards guidance and orientation through the certification world. Using the European e-Competence Framework it developed a European e-skills quality label, services and tools to foster transparency and guidance towards quality in the market of industry-based training and certification as it
- Provides means to distinguish different types of certification and training (by quality labels and industry-based certification and training courses against the e-Competence Framework),
- Collected and disseminated empirical information and evidence about demand and supply of e-skills in Europe to provide interested parties with an overview of areas with high demand for e-skills to better match e-skills demand and supply,
- Provides a service and tool for focused further development and certification of one’s own e-skills or those of staff members to support better job placement and recruitment in companies. For this purpose a prototype of an online landscape, self-assessment tool and web portal is offered to stakeholders interested in the further development and enhancement of the prototype towards a fully-fledged service for operation in the job placement, recruitment, e-skills further development and certification market.
At the conference leading stakeholders will discuss how industry-based training and certification can contribute to reduce ICT skills shortages and unemployment. Solutions for achieving greater clarity and orientation support through the ICT education and training landscape together with latest data on ICT skills demand and supply developments and forecasts (2012 – 2020) will be presented. Possible interactions with employment agencies and recruitment / staffing industry will be shown.
A proposal for a pan-European quality label together with criteria, processes and structures for ICT industry training and certification will be presented. The first prototype of an online support tool for ICT practitioners and stakeholders such as human resources managers will be demonstrated. These will allow stakeholders to better anticipate e-skills needs in EU labour markets and put them in a position to swiftly act upon. Recommendations for actions and governance will mark the end of the conference.