The Upskilling Pathways strategy presents an ambitious skills strategy that has enabled adults in Europe with low(er) basic skills to have their skills assessed, receive tailored learning provision and have their learning outcomes validated.
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Upskilling Pathways needs to put learners at the centre

The European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) welcomes the European Commission’s Public Consultation on Upskilling Pathways. Adopted by the European Council in December 2016, the Upskilling Pathways strategy presents an ambitious skills strategy that has enabled adults in Europe with low(er) basic skills, according to policy targets, to have their skills assessed, receive tailored learning provision and have their learning outcomes validated. EAEA has collected feedback from its members on the state of the implementation and the impact of the strategy.

Download and read EAEA’s feedback to the public consultation.

Feedback from EAEA members, based on the survey conducted for the EAEA Country Reports 2021, shows a varied picture of implementation. Upskilling Pathways has prompted national strategies to focus on basic skills and validation of skills acquired through non-formal and informal learning. However, it has had some detrimental effects on adult learning in some countries where funding for adult learning has been channelled from larger target audiences to the narrower target group of persons considered to have low(er) basic skills; thereby also narrowing the focus of adult learning and education in general. 

Upskilling Pathways do not always seem to reach the most vulnerable target groups, for instance women who are inactive in the labour market and older workers (e.g. in Hungary). The general figures on participation in adult learning also do not allow any conclusions to be drawn on whether previously “inactive” groups are brought into learning through Upskilling Pathways. A number of countries also note that there is a lack of infrastructure to implement the Upskilling Pathways. Guidance measures are not sufficiently available everywhere; however, they would be in a central position to address target groups with low skills.

What emerges is that those countries that have integrated Upskilling Pathways into a broader lifelong learning strategy are most likely to reach the target groups and build innovative upskilling programmes. Furthermore, those countries that succeed in involving other stakeholders, e.g. labour market services, but also social partners, are more successful in upskilling. EAEA members argue that Upskilling Pathways requires a holistic approach that needs not only the education sector but also the active engagement of employers, social services, labour market services, etc. in order to reach key target groups and make progress in the implementation of the strategy.

EAEA would like to highlight some key recommendations for the broader and better implementation of the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation.

Financing:

  1. Prioritise and invest in ALE, basic skills, and outreach in a systemic and stable manner. 
  2. Quality requires sufficient funding for investments in ALE infrastructure, initial and further training of adult educators and adult learning staff.
  3. The Recovery and Resilience Fund must be an additional source of funding and should not replace pre-existing financial supports. 
  4. Provide funding and support learning within communities, cities and regions. 

Governance:

  1. Strengthen the governance of adult education and basic skills through national lifelong learning strategies. 
  2. Ensure adult education and basic skills are linked to existing social inclusion and outreach strategies. 
  3. Strengthen non-formal education and learning structures. 
  4. Provide incentives and support for the professional development of adult educators through cooperation with relevant higher and further education institutions.

Cooperation:

  1. Put learners at the centre, involving them in consultation and decision-making processes. 
  2. Reinforce cooperation between ministries, sectors, institutions and services of different fields. 
  3. Ensure cooperation between civil society and non-formal learning providers. 

Inclusion:

  1. Analyse and remove barriers.
  2. Ensure that priority target groups can access learning opportunities free of charge.
  3. Adopt and promote inclusive language in both policy design and implementation. 
  4. Facilitate the involvement of health and social care practitioners in the design and day-to-day implementation of inclusive Upskilling Pathways. 

Skills addressed:

  1. Ensure that Upskilling Pathways include skills that help learners thrive not only as workers, but also as active citizen. 
  2. Provide language learning and mobility opportunities to everyone in the EU, including migrants and refugees. 

Text: EAEAPhotos: Shutterstock

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