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European Vocational Skills Week
News article19 September 2018Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion2 min read

Making Adult Learning Work for the Future


New technologies, globalisation and population ageing are affecting the type and quality of jobs that are available, and the skills required to do them. In many countries the number of manufacturing jobs, for example, is decreasing. New jobs requiring new combinations of skills, such as data scientists or social media managers, are emerging in their place. For everyone to benefit from these changes, adult learning systems must be ready to support people in acquiring the skills needed for this changing world of work.

Are we ready?

In many countries adult learning lacks focused political attention and resources. Symptomatic for this is the relatively low participation in adults in learning activities: only 41% of adults in OECD countries take part in job-related adult learning in a given year, according to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Those adults who would benefit most from up- and reskilling, such as those with low basic skills, participate even less frequently.

In times of rapid changes in the workplace, it seems likely that more adults need to participate in adult learning in the future to keep their skill updated. Future-ready adult learning system will need to target underrepresented groups and provide them with more opportunities to improve their skills. Raising participation rates in adult learning goes hand in hand with offering learning opportunities that are relevant to the individual and the employer, innovative and of high quality. Further, for adult learning systems to be future-ready, they must be financed adequately and sustainably by those who benefit from increased skill levels, including governments, employer and individuals (depending on capacity). More generally, partnerships and coordination between the different stakeholders involved is key in adult learning systems, which often consist of a range of sub-systems with different actors, objectives and activities.

While all countries will have to step up their efforts to make their systems work for the future, the challenge is more urgent for some countries than others. Low adult skill levels, demographic and structural change, and skill imbalances are increasing the pressure on adult learning systems to get ready for the future.

Joining the debate

In the context of this year’s EVSW, the EC and the OECD have joined up to discuss how to make adult learning work for the future in your country. We are interested in your views on the topic and there are many ways to join the debate:

  • Share if and how you plan to develop your skills in the future, so that we can design adult learning policies that work for you. Access here.
  • Exchange with other adult learning practitioners in three webinars in September and October. The webinars will provide insights from latest OECD research on adult learning policy and practice. Further two adult learning practitioners will share what they think works - or does not work - in adult learning.

    -Webinar on engagement and inclusion in adult learning: 26 September 2018
    -Webinar on relevance of and innovation in adult learning provision: 10 October 2018
    -Webinar on partnerships and financing in adult learning: 24 October 2018

  • Join the discussion on the 8th of November in Vienna, where the EC and the OECD will host a forum on how to make adult learning work for the future. Participants will hear how megatrends shape future skill needs and how adult learning systems can help individuals, firms and economies harness the benefits of these changes.