In a labour market heavily impacted by Industry 4.0 and SDG commitment (2 million employments will be created by the latter), and the rise of soft skills as a new area of interest in terms of qualifications, differences between skills offer and demand have widened. The context of the COVID-19 outbreak must also be noted, affecting the need of resilience as a fundamental skill; as the Commission has already stated, upskilling and reskilling programmes to protect workers from unemployment and loss of income to avoid permanent effect will be an essential tool to mitigate the effects of the crisis, with 59 million jobs at stake and those without university degrees in a higher risk (short-term job risk is highly correlated with level of education, McKinsey & Company, April 2020). Therefore, there is a crucial need for education and training systems to identify, anticipate and teach skills that are suitable for future needs, rather than to catch up with technological, demographic and environmental changes after they have happened.
For all these reasons and with the objective of aligning the education and training provision with regional smart specialisation strategies (S3), the Stride for Stride project (funded by Erasmus+) will work on building up the concept of Regional Skills Ecosystems.
A long-term vision
The #S4stride concepts builds on previous regional cooperation initiatives that have been developed in the context of the EARLALL network’s Skills and Labour Market working group and external collaboration with international organisations (European Commission, OECD) since 2018:
- S3 Peer-Learning Workshop by the European Commission (September 2018)
- Stride for stride conference (October 2018)
- “Building regional skills ecosystems” workshop at the European Week of Regions & Cities 2019 (October 2019)
- OECD Local Development Forum (December 2019)
- EARLALL’s Building Resilient Skills Ecosystem initiative (2020)
A multi-stakeholder approach
#S4stride follows the quadruple helix model to build strong and inter-connected skills ecosystems to boost economic development and a high life quality for citizens through skills provision management. Key actors considered from a regional point of view are:
- The regional administration
- Education providers (with a focus on Vocational Education and Training, VET)
- Companies and employers
- Citizens, represented by civil society organisations (CSOs) and NGOs
The #S4stride partnership comprises 6 regional authorities, a local authority, a research institution and two VET centres, but a whole range of actors will be involved in the exchange of best practices.
Regions at the core
The development of regional skills ecosystems is triggered by active regional authorities that boost cooperation among regional actors and different governance levels.
A regional perspective for skills challenges mapping and forecast is of utmost importance to tackle the new opportunities that industry 4.0, SDGs and soft skills relevance are already opening in Europe. Regions allow a closer contact with citizens and are in a privileged position to assess territorial economic, labour and well-being needs, including lifelong and lifewide learning opportunities.